Friday, May 29, 2020

1d20 Character Archetypes for USR Tequendria.

The Eye by Alex Mitchell

Several years ago I wrote a pseudo-review for Tequendria, a Dunsanian Fantasy RPG. In it, I more or less yapped about the things I thought were neat about the game without really adding anything constructive or meaningful. That was perfectly on-brand and remains so, but I've recently acquired a copy of the system which Tequendria runs on- the Unbelievably Simple Roleplaying system. So, I decided to take a crack at making something for the game. Drawing upon Dunsany, Cthulhu Mythos, and a lot of Clark Ashton Smith, I've made a 1d20 character archetype table usable for Tequendria.

 d20 Archetype
 1Acolyte of Nasht & Kaman-Thah
 2Adventurer of Uzuldaroum
 3Auburn Bard of Klarkash-Ton
 4Dim-Dweller of Carcosa
 5Disciple of Eibon
 6Druid of the Averones
 7Drummer of Skarl
 8Executioner of Mung
 9Handler of Pitsu & Hobith
 10Huntsman of Zesh
 11Inquisitor of Yhoundeh
 12Kindler of Gribaun & Habaniah
 13Mountaineer of Mhu Thulan
 14Page-Turner of Trogool
 15Ruffian of Dylath-Leen
 16Time-Shadowed of Yith
 17Trader of Leng
 18Voormi of the Eiglophians
 19Waste-Walker of Bodrahan
 20Weaver of Atlach-Nacha

Acolyte of Nasht & Kaman-Thah

You are servant and devotee to the duumvirate high-priest deities and comedic duo who guard the entrance to the Dreamlands. Your duties have taken you beyond the wall of sleep, and you now walk through the waking world, which feels more like the dream to you.

Starting Specialisms
  • Dream Lore (Wits)
  • Diplomacy (Ego)
  • Occult Lore (Wits)
Starting Equipment
  • 1d6 x 10 shards
  • Wine-colored robe
  • Candles
  • Soothing tea
  • One Step, Not Seventy- When you go to sleep, you and any companions of your choosing may instantly enter the Cavern of Flame leading to the Dreamlands.

Adventurer of Uzuldaroum

You were raised on tales of the splendors of old Commoriom, and bore witness to the Zhaum-infested squalor it has fallen into. There are so many great and terrible things worthy of legend out there, including your own destiny.

Starting Specialisms
  • Tactics (Wits)
  • Boasting (Ego)
  • Athletics (Action)
Starting Equipment
  • 3d6 x 10 shards
  • Copper helmet
  • Old maps
  • Abreast of Adventure- When you are in a settlement and you speak at least one of the languages spoken by its populace, you can learn about nearby points of interest and danger on a Wits test of 4+.

Auburn Bard of Klarkash-Ton

You studied the ornate, bewildering, and occasionally ribald works of the ancient Atlantean priest. You have donned the reddish-brown cloak that honors those drowned old vestments, and gone out in search of more cosmic oddities and distressing beauties.

Starting Specialisms
  • Ancient Lore (Wits)
  • Storytelling (Ego)
  • Friendly (Ego)
Starting Equipment
  • 2d6 x 10 shards
  • Dogeared copy of the Commoriom Myth-Cycle
  • Inkwell and pens
  • Auburn hooded cloak
  • Compelling Prose- Once per day you can use a selection of the ancient bard's prose to captivate and distract a small audience for up to one minute with an Ego test of 7+.

Dim-Dweller of Carcosa

You were born in that dismal city on the lake, but escaped its fickle nobles and their xanthous monarch. The things you have witnessed and lived with as part of daily life back home can shock and horrify others.

Starting Specialisms
  • Occult Lore (Wits)
  • Unsettling (Ego)
  • Sailing (Action)
Starting Equipment
  • 2d6 x 10 shards
  • Cloudy vial of Hali water
  • Yellow handkerchief
  • Antique stringed instrument
  • Born to Strange Tides- You can see perfectly through smoke, fog, and clouds.

Disciple of Eibon

You never met the Tsathagguan sorcerer-priest, but you once read an excerpt from the Book of Eibon. That is good enough to keep most people from bothering your study, either by spell or by virtue of them not wanting to be caught anywhere near you when an inquisitor shows up.

Starting Specialisms
  • Magic Lore (Wits)
  • History Lore (Wits)
  • Religion (Wits)
Starting Equipment
  • 1d6 x 10 shards
  • A page of the Book of Eibon written from memory
  • Mummified wand
  • Bat fur robe
  • Peephole to Cykranosh- Once per day you can open a small portal into Cykranosh, the Saturnian realm of Hziulquoigmnzhah. It is not big enough to enter, but you may use it to ask one question of a Yhdeemian priest with a Wits test of 7+.

Druid of the Averones

By shadowy arts better left unmentioned and forgotten, you and a small number of your tribe escaped the advance of the pillaging Rómhánacha into Averonia. You are lost and alone, in strange and unwelcoming places, far from a home you can never return to.

Starting Specialisms
  • Religion (Wits)
  • Stealth (Action)
  • Nature Lore (Wits)
Starting Equipment
  • 2d6 x 10 shards
  • Oak and mistletoe
  • Sickle
  • Old toadskin book
  • Moon Door- Once per full moon under the night sky you can open an opaque door through the Aether. Upon entering, you find that it leads to a destination of your choosing with a Wits test of 10+. If you fail the test, it leads you and everyone who enters Somewhere Else.

Drummer of Skarl

Disciples of the enigmatic drummer who stands apart from the gods. They may drum for hours or even days without rest. It is their solemn duty to keep MANA-YOOD-SUSHAI at rest, and they are the sworn enemies of His priesthood.

Starting Specialisms
  • Ancient Lore (Wits)
  • Drumming (Ego)
  • Endurance (Action)
Starting Equipment
  • 1d6 x 10 shards
  • Drum & mallets
  • Bottled thunder
  • Lulling Rhythm- After 5 minutes of drumming, you can put someone in a deep, restful sleep.

Executioner of Mung

You are a servant of the Lord of all Deaths. He is a busy god, tirelessly wandering the world ensuring that life is unfettered from hands and feet at its appointed time. You don his grim visage and root out those who have evaded the Sign of Mung.

Starting Specialisms
  • Intimidating (Ego)
  • Death Lore (Wits)
  • Athletics (Action)
Starting Equipment
  • 1d6 x 10 shards
  • Skull mask
  • Deep black cloak
  • The Sign of Mung- You wave your hand before someone, just as Mung, Lord of all Deaths does when sundering life from bodies. Once per day, you gain a +2 to Intimidating. You do not need to intend to kill the target.

Handler of Pitsu & Hobith

You have lived around animals all your life, and they say the favor of the gods who stroketh the cat and calm the dog is upon you. Whether they be for battle, beauty, or burden, you know how to raise, handle, and train all manner of beast. Yet there are still so many more creatures out there to meet.

Starting Specialisms
  • Athletics (Action)
  • Reflexes (Action)
  • Animal Lore (Wits)
Starting Equipment
  • 2d6 x 10 shards
  • Tamer's whip
  • Folding chair
  • Animal treats
  • Friend to All- After 1 hour of interaction, you can befriend any mundane animal.

Huntsman of Zesh

You are at home in the sweltering jungle holdouts, with a spear in your hand and a tracking compy at your feet. But the advancing ice sheet is wiping out the last vestiges of dinosauria, and you must find new grounds in which to track and hunt and feel alive.

Starting Specialisms
  • Endurance (Action)
  • Survival (Wits)
  • Tracking (Wits)
Starting Equipment
  • 2d6 x 10 shards
  • Declawed riding raptor
  • Dinosaur leather jacket
  • Trophy feathers
  • Mimic Calls- You can perfectly mimic the sounds of most birds and reptiles after hearing them.

Inquisitor of Yhoundeh

You are a hunter and priest of the grim elk-goddess, whose sworn enemy is Tsathaggua and whose husband is Nyalathotep. You root out heresy and foes to her cult, ensuring that none may contest her power- certainly not any foul sorcerer.

Starting Specialisms
  • Religion (Wits)
  • Interrogation (Ego)
  • Occult Lore (Wits)
Starting Equipment
  • 2d6 x 10 shards
  • Holy symbol of Yhoundeh
  • Manacles
  • Torturer's kit
  • Sniff out Heresy- After 5 minutes of study and scrutiny, you can tell if someone is lying about matters of religion, lore, or faith.

Kindler of Gribaun & Habaniah

You were touched by fire at a young age. It didn't leave you traumatized or burned- not badly, at least. Instead, it left you with a deep and profound respect for the liminal gods who turn wood to ash and lord over the transitory embers. There are deeper secrets yet unlocked within the lapping tongues of flame- dear flame.

Starting Specialisms
  • Firemaking (Wits)
  • Endurance (Action)
  • Nature Lore (Wits)
Starting Equipment
  • 1/2/3d6 x 10 shards
  • Flask of oil
  • Stoking blowpipe
  • Bundle of firewood
  • Turn Wood to Ash- After 10 minutes of work, you can start a warm fire almost anywhere, no matter how wet the fuel is.

Mountaineer of Mhu Thulan

Your rugged homeland has become an icy frontier thanks to the unrelenting advance of the glacier from beyond Polarion. With the ice sheet come many unspeakable horrors, and fighting off or at least avoiding them has become the main focus of daily life among the mountain tribes.

Starting Specialisms
  • Climbing (Action)
  • Survival (Wits)
  • Monster Lore (Wits)
Starting Equipment
  • 1d6 x 10 shards
  • Heavy fur hat
  • Sign of the White Sybil
  • Nipping flask of alcohol
  • Cragborn- For any test of balance or vertical movement, reduce the difficulty by one step.

Page-Turner of Trogool

You traveled south of south, to the Rim of the Worlds beyond which lies only the Beyond. There, you witnessed Trogool who is neither God nor Beast, turning the pages of night and day. Now you bear a lesser tome out into the worlds, to record all that is seen in preparation for THE END.

Starting Specialisms
  • Ancient Lore (Wits)
  • Writing (Wits)
  • History (Wits)
Starting Equipment
  • 2d6 x 10 shards
  • A decreasingly blank tome ending in 'Mai Doon Izahn'
  • Black ink and glue
  • Peel Back the Margins- Once per week you can peer back into the black pages of the unreturning past for a single piece of random, forgotten lore.

Ruffian of Dylath-Leen

You are a tough who frequents the wharves and taverns of the black basalt port-city. You work hard, play harder, and fight hardest in the dark streets of that thin-towered place. Others might find you uncouth, but you know what it takes to survive.

Starting Specialisms
  • Gambling (Wits)
  • Athletics (Action)
  • Intimidating (Ego)
Starting Equipment
  • 2d6 x 10 shards
  • Dirty coat
  • Dice
  • Thagweed pipe
  • Black Galley Breeze- You are not affected by noxious and revolting smells.

Time-Shadowed of Yith

Your day was progressing as normal, until all of a sudden it was five years later and you woke up in a poorhouse for the mentally ill. The only explanation for it is recurring dreams of alien vistas among primordial jungles, and a cyclopean cylinder-library of frightening age and size.

Starting Specialisms
  • Ancient Lore (Wits)
  • Investigation (Wits)
  • Unsettling (Ego)
Starting Equipment
  • 1d6 x 10 shards
  • Maddened scrawlings
  • Torn straightjacket
  • Empty scroll case
  • Trivia out of Time- Once per day, you can recall a minor snippet of eldritch, forbidden knowledge learned during your cushy captivity in Pnakotus with a Wits test of 10+.

Trader of Leng

You are one of the denizens of strange and far-off Leng. The lords of the moon have deigned you worthy of representing their interests abroad, and so you have been garbed to hide your hooves and horns, and taught to smile in such a way that does not reveal your too-many teeth. Wealth awaits.

Starting Specialisms
  • Bartering (Ego)
  • Jumping (Action)
  • Appraisal (Wits)
Starting Equipment
  • 3d6 x 10 shards
  • Ruby dust
  • Ivory flute
  • Lumpy turban, tiny shoes
  • Piping at the Moon- During a clear night under a full moon, you can play a hideous song by flute which attracts the attention of a passing Black Galley on an Ego test of 7+.

Voormi of the Eiglophians

You are a howling, three-toed, umber-furred Voormi. Your kind are feared, reviled, and hunted for sport. Your mountain warrens have been ransacked, your people driven to the four corners beyond the high crags. But you have survived on less than nothing before, and you will not settle for it again. Father Toad watches over you.

Starting Specialisms
  • Climbing (Action)
  • Jumping (Action)
  • Cave Lore (Wits)
Starting Equipment
  • 1d6 x 10 shards
  • Bone totem
  • Filthy waistcloth
  • Eyes of Voorm- Generations of living underground have honed your senses to the subterranean world. You can see perfectly in the dark.

Waste-Walker of Bodrahan

You hail from the City of Caravans' End, yet its surrounding deserts are your home. You were raised on the tales of camel drivers and elders in the markets, and you have sought out the wonders of the Desert of Deserts ever since. Mirthless Ranorada calls.

Starting Specialisms
  • Survival (Wits)
  • Desert Lore (Wits)
  • Endurance (Action)
Starting Equipment
  • 2d6 x 10 shards
  • Cerulean headscarf
  • Extra-large waterskin
  • Walking stick topped with an eye
  • Desert-lashed, Sun-kissed- You are not affected by mundane heat.

Weaver of Atlach-Nacha

You were caught in scintillating strands one night, while crossing over into dream. Rather than wrapping you up and divesting you of your bodily fluids, the Spider-God(dess) seeded your brain with eggs of inspiration that hatched into textile brilliance. You make works of silken beauty now, and find yourself unable to resist weaving deeper and more licentious webs of deception across the world.

Starting Specialisms
  • Weaving (Wits)
  • Seduction (Ego)
  • Stealth (Action)
Starting Equipment
  • 3d6 x 10 shards
  • Caged spider
  • Drop spindle set
  • Silken vest
  • Dreamcatcher- You can see, sift through, and steal dreams from a sleeping creature by waving a piece of your own weaving over their head (or other equivalent appendage).

Monday, May 18, 2020

Goblin Brain: Swagbucks is the Dark Souls of Data Theft.

Wow. It's weird watching half of the planet suddenly adjust almost perfectly to your lifestyle and schedule. Everyone is staying indoors to the point that socialization, days of the week, and even sunlight are foreign concepts. How's it feel in my world? Regardless, I hope that all of you are safe and sanitized out there, dear Burrowers.

I hear stocks are skyrocketing for xylospongia and votive statues of Cloacina lately, if any investors are listening.

I've been making changes in my existence as well, lately. I honestly can't remember if I have or haven't mentioned it on the blog previously, but for a few years now I've been combating my perpetual unemployment with internet surveys and consumer marketing offer nonsense. Or at least, I was. As of a few weeks ago, I can say with a mixed but mostly positive bag of emotions that I have finally quit SwagBucks.

To those of you who know what that is, you can probably stop reading/listening to this post right now.

To you lucky masses who've never crossed paths with it, I have a story to tell you. is an American rewards portal and customer loyalty program operated by a bunch of soulless husks who go by the name of Prodege, LLC. Prodege has had several projects past and present, but Swagbucks is by far the biggest. Think of it as a relic of the early 2000s internet ad revenue boom which has been struggling to adapt and survive ever since that busted. Swagbucks is a website where you earn SwagBucks, shockingly enough.

They're a virtual currency that can be spent through the site store for various rewards, the biggest attraction being store gift cards of varying sizes. You can also spend them to play the minigames hosted on the site, which include periodic spin-the-wheel and bingo games that give you more SwagBucks or other rewards to spend elsewhere.

One SwagBuck is equal to approximately one cent in US dollars, which means that the site really should have been called SwagCents instead. Or maybe they could have worked in some kind of obnoxious pun like the currency being SwagCents and the site being SwagSense. Ehh?

Gods, I hate myself...

Okay, so, SwagBucks are basically the in-game currency used to fuel micro-transactions in an online game, if for a moment you'll bear with me in stretching the definition of "game" to include mind-numbing drudgery through endlessly repetitive tasks amid thousands of other bored, apathetic non-entities. It's like a generic MMORPG with no action bars and fewer errant messages about dancing naked in Goldshire- well, ideally fewer.

You earn SwagBucks by doing the offers on the site, which include anything from printing coupons, to signing up for websites, to watching "curated" video playlists, to taking aforementioned surveys. And, excluding certain once-every-few-months offers where you can make double or more back on a ten or twenty dollar purchase, they are all of them hellishly frustrating and underpaying. Every last one of them is an exercise in Sisyphean futility, because it seems like the entire site is designed from the ground up to frustrate you into quitting.

Coupon and signup sites frequently fail to communicate a completed task back to Swagbucks for the promised reward. Playlists stretch themselves out longer and longer until you have to have your  browser focused for an hour or more just to earn two cents. Deals with third-party sites will hold your earned SwagBucks for ransom until a certain time passes, usually to prevent people from cancelling subscriptions, but then find some other way to invalidate your claim on them. The so-called "team" competitions turn the normally placid subreddit into a truly frightening pit of vitriol and middle-aged, suburban entitlement. The mini-games are more rigged than the prices offered by Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler. The offers to download and play mobile games up to X level or building upgrade often have time limits on them that make actually accomplishing the offer impossible without spending more money on in-game boosts than one would make through Swagbucks doing the offer F2P. The weekly trivia game is hosted by a rotating group of company members who act as the closest thing to a human face for all of Swagbucks, so naturally they all have that kind of detached, desperate-to-appear-excited look that people get when there's a gun pointed at them just out of frame. The site's own apps consume so much processing power that they can overheat your phone, and in fact I had to retire one phone because the non-removable battery started to swell and expand to the point that the screen and volume buttons got pinched by the warping chassis until they malfunctioned and forced whatever inane pop culture news drivel they were currently displaying up to max volume- which in the depths of my cynical paranoia I also believe to have been the site's intent.

I've used the word very sparingly ever since I read the TVTropes article about it, but by far the most egregious problem is with the surveys.

Swagbucks only produces and controls a very tiny number of surveys. The vast majority of them are trawled in from their partner sites all across the internet, which means that information is decentralized and disjointed in the worst possible way. When you click on a survey in the list you're sent to the site where it's hosted, where you usually have to give your pertinent information- age, gender, state, household income, employment, family members, etc. Ideally, the site then takes that information, decides if you're a good match or not, and then either sends you to take the survey proper, or back to the landing page for more surveys.

Of course nothing is ideal in this world, and it's far more likely that you'll be pushed forward into a survey that you have nothing meaningful to contribute to. This usually ends in your disqualification (unless you get real good at making things up on the fly). That would be fine, if not for the fact that surveys will often disqualify you at the very end, once you've already answered everything and are expecting your pittance of twenty SB or so.

Even if you aren't a car owner, your survey on cars and vehicle shopping habits is dragged out to 99% completion before they yang the rug out from under you. They then, presumably, take all the information that you have them and sell it somewhere else, because my email account was perpetually flooded by things I had never signed up for- don't worry, I was "smart" enough to use a dummy account. Then you get thrown back to the landing page with nothing but a one or two-point disqualification bonus to sooth your virtual walk of shame.

Disqualification points for failed surveys sounds like a saving grace, and for a while it was- it really was. I still look back fondly on the balmy days when I first started using Swagbucks and I could make as much as five dollars a day off of disqualification points. I would just plug away at the list, control+clicking hundreds of them into separate tabs and then going through the one or two pages of preliminary questions they asked before booting me. It slowed my browser (and the rest of my decade-old computer) to a crawl, but it felt good and pretty handily reached my daily earning goals- did I mention that this place has Frigging daily quests?

Unfortunately, my success with disqualification farming was kind of a bug. I don't know when the site implemented it, but around the time they realized that they were bleeding money (by which I mean actually having to award some of it semi-regularly), Swagbucks implemented a five-disqualification maximum per day. Yet, somehow, this limit did not automatically apply to every account. Their janky site was set up in such a way that some accounts were limited, while others were not, and it only gradually became the case for all new accounts to come under the limit. This limit also reduced the points earned from disqualifications, so when my account was eventually, inexplicably given the limit all of a sudden, I was staring at a max of five cents per day.

Fortunately, I had already exploited the ever-loving crap out of the bug by creating three separate accounts to get DQs and do playlists with. I had three different machines running all day every day, sometimes overnight to collect as much of that sweet, sweet SB as I could. In this Dark Souls world of painful victories and data theft, I was the one lobbing firebombs at the Capra Demon from outside its fog wall. I was the one using the stump next to the Giant Seed tree to jump up onto the Pickle-Pee roof to grab a Covetous Silver Serpent Ring before I even hit the High Wall of Lothric. My monthly participation bonuses were in the teens, and at the height of my success I was earning over a thousand dollars a year.

Yes, I know, that's a hell of a lot of work to put into not working.

Eventually the limit was applied to all three of my accounts, and then from there my options for surveys and offers dwindled to stark nothingness as the site went through another months-long contraction, at which point I finally had the sense to rein it in a little. I continued to use the site after that point, but not with the same wasteful hyper-focus as before. I tried my hand at freelance around that time, and while I definitely made less money overall, I opted for the fresh hell instead of the old, stale one.

Last month (at the time of this recording), I finally quit Swagbucks entirely. I used the last of my SBs to purchase a few more Visa digital cards, and then I deleted all of my remaining accounts. I was in such a hurry to be free of it that I didn't even check my profile page to see how many bucks I'd accrued over the years- though whatever number it was would have been a dubious honor to know, in hindsight.

I wish I could say that I did this just as I made some sort of personal breakthrough and got a minimum wage job in fast food customer service or some other prestigious American institution, but no such luck yet. My writing is still... serviceable, kind of? So I'll see where that takes me for the time being.

Sunday, April 5, 2020


The Masib people have been dead for over two thousand years.

While it is possible that small numbers of them fled into the Oron'er Mountains and lived among their distant kin there, the distinct Masibi culture is undeniably extinct- Haraal made sure of that.

The westward push of the Haraalians culminated in the Battle of the Masibi River, where the ascendant emperor's army dammed up the river's headwaters. This is seen by some as a link to the old Ersuunian methods of control through riverine despotism.

This maneuver both deprived the Masibs of water and use of their sailboats for battle or evacuation, and allowed Haraal's cavalry to cross the muddy riverbed and attack the uncooperative river people on both banks. Those who were not cut down were rounded up. Many were given over as hostages and slaves to high-ranking Ersuunian warriors and personal allies of Haraal, but many more were herded into the riverbed.

The only known facet of Masibi religion is that they venerated their river. Just as it gave life to them, it took it away, for they believed it was the gateway to the afterlife. They were known to set their dead adrift downriver on tiny rafts which often made it all the way out to sea despite the tumultuous rapids downriver. Haraal was aware of this practice, and decided to end the massacre with a bit of poetic flourish, as so many heroes are wont to do.

So he kept the surviving Masibs huddled and pinned upon the silt, his lancers lining the riverbanks to keep them from escaping. By the time they heard the roar of the river surging forward after the dam had been broken, it was too late to flee. Every remaining Masibi man, woman, and child was swept away in a current that was said to have struck their bodies with the force of a stampede of wild horses.

A regional myth from southeastern "highland" Nambar references a day when thousands of drowned bodies were found floating down a river after a local god was angered, but it is unknown if this is more than an eerie coincidence.

Regardless, the Masib people are dead. But their relics still survive.

Many trophies were taken as part of the conquest, and by some faint luck several specimens were not melted down, repurposed, or otherwise destroyed. They became collector's items and curiosities destined to collect dust in display cases for centuries at a time until, at last, they began to trickle into Deneroth. Again, they languished in obscurity in the archives and storage rooms of so many moneyed hobbiests, but at least here they began to be taken notice of by more academic minds, now and then. Eventually a call went out when someone with enough clout and interest in material culture offered to purchase any verifiable Masibi artifacts and retain them at the ITU.

Forgeries, deliberate misidentifications, and simple mistakes meant that this collection was swollen with unrelated specimens for several generations, but over time it was narrowed down based on what little is known or able to be reconstructed about the Masib people. Precious few items remained in the end.

I saw one of them in the Grand Archive, once. I even held it.

It was a dark, lozenge-shaped piece of heartwood about the size of a small dinner plate. The wood was flat on one face, with a bowl-like depression on its obverse. Many smaller indents filled the space. These carvings created a complex series of patterns, images, and scalloped shapes which were filled and surrounded by dozens of tiny, inset pieces. Ridges of whitish shell like little mountain ranges were most visually prominent, but much of the face was dominated by swirling lines of colored beads. Pieces of metal or precious stone were also visible, where they hadn't been pried off ages before.

This thing was a ghomta, or "rememberer's friend". It is the only instance of the language which the Masibs spoke that we know of, for not even the original name of the river they lived beside is known.

The ghomta was a sort of mnemonic device used to aid a speaker in telling a particular story, or cycle of stories, or a set of laws. The Masibs were a pre-literate people, like many of the tribes of the Oron'er Mountains today. They relied instead on memory to keep their rich oral tradition alive, and items like this ghomta helped facilitate that.

Every piece on a ghomta was coded with significance that every storyteller would have been trained to understand. A certain border motif might evoke the presence of a god in a given story, while a series of red and black beads indicate where two major characters in an epic met or had a confrontation. The speaker would hold a ghomta in their lap and trace it with both hands as they spoke, each part meant to jog the memory of a person who had worked to memorize these stories since their early childhood. Yet the tradition was expansive enough that even professionals required memory aids like the ghomta. They apparently took many different forms, but only a handful of bowl-types have ever been found.

A storyteller was at a disadvantage without their ghomta, but a ghomta is absolutely nothing without its storyteller. The connotations and deeper meanings to each piece and motif on a ghomta was not actually recorded in them- without having knowledge of the stories they aided in telling, they could not be read. Indeed, to say that they were ever "read" is inaccurate.

I held the ghomta in my hands one day, during my second freshman year. I was still struggling to learn Liturgical Ersuut, and a mistranslated footnote sent me on a wild pig hunt through the wrong part of the archive. But even after I realized I was in the wrong place, I had to sit down with this thing. I had to place it in my lap, and run my fingertips over its worn old surface. I stared at every little detail, as well as the spots and blotches of discoloration from hand oils, where other hopelessly lost undergraduates had held it and tried to puzzle through its meaning for a term paper.

I never wept harder in my entire life, than I did then.

There are no more Masibi storytellers. They all died over two thousand years ago. Their voices are eternally silenced. We have a piece of their vibrant history right here, at our very fingertips, but we will never be able to know what it says. No one is left alive to make sense of its weathered beauty.

We will never know what they thought of the world.

We will never know what they named their beloved river.

We will never know the stories they told their children around the fire at night.

What did they say? What did they learn? What did they love, and hate, and use as an excuse to celebrate and drink when dark days were upon them?

It is right here, and yet it is gone.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

The God of Dust

((In honor of World Rat Day, which is apparently a real thing, I thought I'd slightly tweak and then finally implement a little idea I came up with a long time ago.))


"Three garbs have We- dust, cobwebs, and skin of flea. Long is Our tooth, for we hide from the blinding torches of truth."
- A snatch of skitterrhyme scrawled above a waste receptacle slot in the Basilica of the Blissful Calculation (Dormitory #12).

"[...] Lastly, all members of the Dutiful Staff and Most Enlightened Faculty are encouraged to remain alert, as you doubtless have been without need for admonishment nor reminder, of the traces of queer murine totemism which have of late infiltrated the Lower Colleges..."
- Agendum 261, CMOE DIX.

"Is this what the kids are into these days? Inventing gods? Incorrigible."
- Senior Editor Onsaro Adelbramp; Provost of the Board for Historical Ordination, Associate Vice-Dean of Affairs for ITU Publishing, and clueless old dodderer.

The Ivory Tower University, despite its pledge to pursue universal "truth" is not exempt from creating its own myths, folklore, and an urban legendarium murky and tantalizing enough to keep even the most exhausted undergraduate study groups riveted during cramming season¹. There is nothing wrong with myth-making by itself. In fact, I would consider it something of a sign of a healthy community- it means that their society is still thinking, dreaming, and being creative. However, certain myths sometimes lead one to wonder just what in the world that community was dreaming about when it thought them up.

A favorite example of mine is the God of Dust & Lost Things, popular among the residents of the Lower Colleges. The God of Dust is, when dignified with the attention of our resident theogonists, designated as a "small" god- both figuratively and literally speaking.

Its influence is said to be limited to the area in and around the ITU campuses, though some especially smitten young students claim that its reach even extends into the lower city and the world beyond. It exists where dust, dead insect husks, shed skin cells, and other detritus of the ages accumulate, dwelling in shady corners and forgotten storage rooms. When it takes a physical form, it is said to be fond of appearing as a small black rat with a skeletal head and tail. In this form, it finds and steals away any small, half-interesting item which anyone has ever lost. The god's warren somewhere deep below the university is said to be snarled with enormous stacks of knickknacks, bits and bobs, odds and ends, and a veritable ocean of lost change in denominations that are no longer recognizable, let alone acceptable as legal tender.

The god is lonesome, but not lonely. It has no altars, no priests, and no proper worshipers. Only the occasional undergraduate gives lip-service and offerings to it in the desperate hope that it will bring back some item which they have lost. This is done by leaving another item of minimal but equal value in a small, dark corner somewhere and then returning to the spot a few days later. The desired item is rarely left in its place, if any at all is given. It is unclear if the god has difficulty understanding human reasoning, or if some bored individual makes the rounds at night, looting places where the skeletal rat is believed to dwell. Sometimes it does seem to work, however, and this serves to reinforce a less-than-joking belief in Ol' Dusty. Rough, sketchy, and discreet images of rat skulls denote popular sites of invocation across campus.

One side effect of the playful, surreptitious "veneration" of the god among young undergraduates is the proliferation of a form of poetry known as Skitterrhyme. Skitterrhyme was originally a type of praise poetry directed at the God of Dust. The earliest recorded ones jokingly extol its "virtues" such as doing absolutely nothing with its massive yet useless hoard, or boring holes in the walls to keep tired academics awake at night. They displayed an extremely rudimentary rhyme scheme and virtually nonexistent meter, but over time the arrhythmic style became more sophisticated and mathematical. The words themselves also began to be coded with meaning, until finally the staccato hymns began to be used to gossip and share secret messages in public. There are about a dozen different cyphers for skitterrhyme today, spread out across the various dormitory houses of the ITU.

A popular story is that the god presides over an entire court of lost and little things, some of which could be the cast-off remnants of other, forgotten gods.

It is both the creator and ruler of a race of animated dust bunnies, who hold the god in distant reverence while going about their lives collecting dander and evading the brooms of the indefatigable but woefully underfunded Custodial Corps, which is often the butt of jokes among the student body- and the faculty, for that matter. The dust bunnies are believed to know the secret of how to summon and gain the permanent favor of the god, but none have ever been found living to question.

The ultimate enemy of the God of Dust is said to be a great, desiccated sparrow corpse which was reanimated by the spirit of the wind, to blow all dust away forever. Sparrows, alongside squirrels, are a ubiquitous and often very annoying sight around the university, so it is somewhat of a natural antagonist to set against this strange underdog.

The earliest attested references to the God of Dust & Lost Things is from an encyclical reminding members of the university staff and faculty to report any and all instances of skitterrhyme or unsanctioned and/or ironic religiosity to the old Committee for Mythological Ordination. This encyclical was published a few years before the committee was disbanded in the wake of Article 921, which de-problematized certain rites in the interest of expanding minority religious freedom on campus. Because this publication dealt with an informal belief in or at least playful acceptance of the God of Dust which was so entrenched in the Lower Colleges that the excruciatingly blind upper councils took note of it, it is safe to assume that the god had existed for at least a few decades before that point, placing its origin as far back as one hundred and fifty years in the past, at the time of this writing.

I personally suspect that the legend was created, or at least greatly contributed to, by our small but consistent body of exchange students from Serminwurth. While it is presumptuous of me, I can think of no other city that affords such respect to the rat without trying to ascribe any sort of lofty, unrealistic ideals to it.

¹ Which is to say, all semester ever semester.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Crypt-Cities: The Greenherders.

Islands of Green in a Sea of Death

You wouldn't expect there to be much of a rapport between Nomads and Holt-Dwellers. Their borders were fluid yet haphazard and cause for tensions for centuries, and that was before the curse of the Awakened gripped the land, before your kind started shambling about and the soil started to die beneath their feet.

And for the most-part, no, they are not on very friendly terms.

But that didn't stop a handful of them from working together when the world began to die.

At first, it was just a couple of the Dwellers who were desperate to move to a healthier tract of forest. The old growth had been dying away, allowing the Nomads to expand their grazing territory. The green-wardens bought their way into a traveling band, who brought with them dozens of wagons laden with plant life. Pots, sacks, and entire troughs of rich, black earth housed hundreds of shoots, sprouts, saplings, and other young green lives desperately trying to grow. When the waste-wanderers dropped them off at their destination, they were given a few choice specimens in payment.

Over time, more nomads gave more holt-dwellers transportation and protection, particularly when an entire community was suddenly cut off from the rest of a forest by sudden natural or unnatural disaster. Some were small affairs, while others saw entire trees uprooted and safely replanted. Something of an understanding formed between the two peoples, and cultural exchange grew deeper.

It isn't entirely clear when the plants started walking themselves.

Maybe some of the old wood-shapers started to meddle in few fields of esoteric knowledge, or maybe they'd always had access to it.

What is known is that a few hundred years ago, the transitional grass belt became populated by mixed bands who herded both animal and plant. Simple words, lassos, and crooks were enough for the beasts, but it took a special kind of magic to coax a shrub into uprooting itself and squirming forward under direction on roots like so many clumsy, twisting legs.

Over time their art was honed and perfected. Soon, trees could drag themselves along by their roots. Before long, entire groves would walk or stumble at the lead of these Greenherders. They were far slower than draft animals, but comparatively implacable so long as they had water to store and good soil to root in at the end of a journey.

It was a natural conclusion of the process to weave them together. Roots not needed for movement were made to knit themselves together into vast meshes which could hold and bear the weight of good soil. Specialized roots bored deep into the earth to tap increasingly hard-to-find groundwater reservoirs. Over time this practice was strengthened until earth, stone, other plants, and even pools of water could be carried by these increasingly large agglomerations of flora.

They could even be inhabited.

Rather than subjecting them to the harsh wastes, the herders loaded their animals up onto a bed of animated earth before every major migration. The dead, human or beast, began to be buried amid those groves so that their every element could benefit their nascent ecosystems. Villages were built on the backs of those groaning forests, entire generations living and dying within view of a wasteland which they were almost able to separate themselves from entirely.

But as the earth continued to wither and resources stretched thin, the greenherders split up. Their bands ranged far and wide, each adapting to the strange and unique hardships of the region which they ultimately found themselves in, following the old paths known only to the Nomads. Roots dug deeper to pursue the fleeing water reserves. Vines as fine as hairs with fingers like cilia cling fiercely to soil for fear of losing a grain. People once at the forefront of a sociable, trans-cultural exchange have become reclusive and wary.

Now, it is vanishingly rare to see more than one or two of these walking green islands in a lifetime.

But when you do, it can be such a sight.

walking island by CoconutMilkyWay

Rot Blossoms

In their quest to become as resource-efficient as possible, a few more unorthodox innovations were made by the greenherders. Simply feeding the dead to the land is rather tame, after all- even if the idea is horrifying to the Awakened.

Their botanists hazarded to guess that a whole body could be made to benefit nature just as much as all its parts. So, they cautiously adapted plant life which could root itself directly in dead flesh without waiting for fungi and other decomposers to break it down first. A few relatively minor mishaps occurred in which calipers and pruning sheers became surgery implements and personal grooming tools, but before long the greenherders enjoyed hauntingly beautiful success.

Cropped from an image by Lora Zombie

A myriad of different plants were raised to grow from decaying flesh, but over time the umbrella term of "Rot Blossom" caught on and stuck. Normally innocuous elements of greenherder islands, Rot Blossoms have taken on quite a different character among the pained, raspy whispers of the Awakened worldwide.

You know them well, don't you? Bet you hate to hear someone confirm that all of the rumors are true, huh? Quit your knee-knocking and pay attention before you break a joint.

Yes, Rot Blossoms can infest the Awakened.

Your flesh may be animated, but it is most certainly decayed. And the slower rate at which you decay actually makes your kind an ideal bed for some of them. They can take root and lazily drain the nutrients from you until there is nothing left of a husk, unable to move as it overtakes your entire body in its sweetly sick tendrils, left to wait for some unlucky scavengers to happen upon you and start the whole cycle over.

Of course these aren't the ones to be feared. You can simply avoid their little boring seeds, or rip a sprout out long before it could suck you dry, resulting in minimal damage to your carcass.

No, you need to fear the ones with minds of their own. The ones released into the wastes by accident, never intended to be used on the Awakened- and therefore the ones without any well-known guards against them. The ones with the same walking-roots as the titanic green islands, but on a minute scale. The ones whose seeds can fly in on the wind, land on your shoulder, and then worm their way into your ear canal. It's just a few finger-widths of wriggling from there before they hit your rotten brain.

That's when the fun starts.

It can take over what little is left of your motor functions from there- subtly at first, of course. You'll think it's you deciding to go this way instead of that, or to lie down in the sun with your head tilted just so, despite never having done so before. But over time its control will grow more overt and difficult to resist without inflicting massive, potentially debilitating trauma upon your own skull.

By the time the first buds erupt from behind your death mask to bloom in the parched air, you'll be powerless to do anything about it.

If you're lucky, you'll have fallen for its intoxicating presence by then, and won't really mind.

What's that? 

Of course you will still be conscious.

Not even burning to ashes can fully kill you, so why would a little decomposer-turned-parasite?

With no heed given to the ever more agonizing pangs of the Need to find a crypt-city, it will lead you far astray. But it won't force you to do it alone, oh no. It knows an ambulatory host is better than a still one, and it has no use or interest in healthy, living bodies. So it will make you bring it to other Awakened, in order to grant its seeds to them. And other Awakened will come in search of you in turn, either to destroy you if they have the sense to, or to join you, damn that alluring reek.

There are tales of truly pungent flower beds tucked away in the ruins of the world; rumors of fallen crypt-cities overgrown with this aberration of nature.

Rot Farm Skeleton by Maciej Kuciara

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Records from the Court of the Smoldering King: Inis Fjall, a Camfeyn Setting.

The contents of these tablets were set in stone in the 1st year of the reign of Nöldra Iron-Ashed, the Smoldering King. Brightly may he reign.

The one who here puts runes to face and feda to corner is the púca named Gulba.

Let it be known that she serves loyally, and willingly.

Long were the King's travels above ground- far longer than for most fey-kind, and in particular for troll-folk. In this time, he learned much which he now desires to share with his formerly recalcitrant kin. For he is wise and compassionate despite the hardship his people have inflicted upon him, and he knows well how we languished under the rule of the capricious princeling.

The King, in his humility, wills it also that the full story of his ascension be made known- for too long have the nobles of the Unseelie Court of the Scintillating Gyre schemed, conspired, and blamed the deaths of their predecessors on unrelated forces.

The veracity of these facts is sworn to by Gulba the scribe, may her luck be taken from her elsewise.

Now begins a chronicle of the events leading up to and following the ascension of the Smoldering King.

Let it be known that the skógtroll named Nöldra was exiled from the Court of the Gyre 187 autumns ago this day as punishment for the deaths of 11 other fey, for which he was found responsible.

Let it be known that before his removal from the princedom, Nöldra was made to wear a shirt of mail forged from cold iron rings.

Let it be known that Nöldra was expected to die in exile, the cold iron shirt forever searing his flesh and denying him rest and regeneration.

Let it be known that the skógtroll now known as Nöldra Iron-Ashed did not die, and instead slew and deposed on this day Prince Dímaín the duine sídhe, last of his house.

Let it be known that this was done by way of a crown of cold iron, which burned the prince to ashes after he was deceived into donning it by the exile, who feigned supplication.

Let it be known that no soul in the court of Prince Dímaín lent aid to the dying prince as he ran screaming.

Let it be known that some among the late prince's courtiers laughed as he died.

Let it be known that Nöldra Iron-Ashed declared himself king, took up this crown once he had wrenched it from the princeling's scoured husk, and now wears it smoldering upon an unflinching brow.

Let it be known that King Nöldra Iron-Ashed now calls to his side Hallvardur the Many-Faced as his chief adviser and jester, as Prince Dímaín had done before.

Let it be known that Prince Dímaín's death mask has been cast and added to the collection of Hallvardur the Many-Faced.

Let it be known that King Nöldra Iron-Ashed now bestows upon the late Prince Dímaín the posthumous title of "Silver-Gilt", and that laughter returns to the courtiers of the Gyre, now louder.

Now ends the chronicle of the ascension of the Smoldering King.

Now begins his address to the fey of the Court of the Scintillating Gyre.

Troll King by Eoghan Kerrigan

"Know, O Beloved Ones, that I am not king by divine right. I am not king by rule of law. I am not king by vote or consent. I am king by seizure and bloodshed, as every ruler of this court has been since the mists first receded from the land. I have done nothing to earn your trust, or your obedience. I do not expect either. I do not expect to rule long, regardless.

So I will welcome your knives, if and when you brandish them against me.

I will welcome them, and then I will put you to a burning death.

For I am king, by strength of will and grim vision. And I will drag us all kicking and screaming into the light, lest what I have foreseen come to pass.

The world above these roots and burrows is changing. No doubt you have heard the rumors.

The selkies of the southern coast have made war upon the interloping jötnar of the broken tors, who have been pushed from their land by several flocks of sluagh from the west. The Seelie Court of the Pierced Hart has ceased all trooping, and has shut its silver gates after a recent hunting procession disturbed the cairns of several draugar.

Indeed, these events may sound like small news by themselves. But taken together, they reveal the imbalance we have been thrown into. These events and others have been plaguing our kind more and more regularly, and the need has come again to take stock of the world, and reckon the passage of time as mortals do.

For the manlings of Inis Fjall are also in a great hurry these seasons. I have heard the whispers in their homes, and seen the turmoil in their cities. I have watched them rip open the breast of the island with their tools, and I have watched them seize from it so many lumps of the killing-ore.

The humans are mining iron at an ever-greater pace.

Calm yourselves, Beloved Ones. This is not cause for fear, but cause for action.

We know not if this iron will remain cold, or if it may yet be worked to turn against their fellows. There is anger and resentment between the ones who are named Jarl. The lowland sowers of the earth look with a hungry gaze toward the hills of the red hideaways. The whale-roads bear strange ships to shore.

Our home is fast-approaching a turning point, and we will not survive if we choose to remain hidden. Look into my brow-stones and know the truth that I speak when I say that we may need to stand beside the mortals before the end.

Calm yourself, court of the Smoldering King! I command you to quiet! You forget yourselves.


I have ascended into the trackless wilds of my kin's genesis. The dwellers under root and rune have been casting their bones for seasons, yet only recently have they begun to portend doom. The arms of the Drummer are growing tired, His mallets heavy in his white-knuckled grip. Soon He Shall Rest, and with the end of his playing will come the Hunting Time.

You all know what will happen in the event that this comes to pass.

Emptiness and Silence will awaken.

I do not wish to break the pact that my people made at the Bleak Dawn. But I am king now, and a lord must also protect his subjects. I will do all that is in my power to avert this mighty doom before it reaches our people, and you will serve me in doing so. There is much to do, and Soon Skårl Shall Rest.

I summon now the heads of your clans and families, great and small, so that they may muster together here, and in sight of the throne which anchors us, talk of what is to come."

Now ends the address of Nöldra Iron-Ashed, the Smoldering King.

Now begins the First Mustering of the reign of Nöldra Iron-Ashed, the Smoldering King.

Copies of this and other pertinent chronicles shall be cast out to every distant hollow of the court of the Gyre, so that all may know the gravity and veracity of our lord's words.

It is the will of the Smoldering King to enumerate these and other events for the benefit of all fey-kind. The world of mortals is fast-changing, and we must be prepared lest the tide sweep us away.

For Soon Skårl Shall Rest.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Furt Digs Into Incursion: Halls of the Goblin King

Despite my anxiety toward OSR RPGs and my recent tendency to wilt in the face of choices with meaningful consequences in video games, I am no stranger to the genre which is about as close as you can get to a midpoint between those two: roguelikes.

Sparse in visuals, slow in pace, and startlingly sudden in killing your characters, these semi-randomized permadeath dungeon crawlers have been around for over forty years now. There are plenty of variations on the formula by now, but they generally share a few things in common: you wander through procedurally-generated dungeons in search of an important something on the bottom floor, and when you die you lose nearly everything.

I'd become at least dimly aware of their existence in the early 2000s thanks to video game pop-cultural osmosis, but I stayed far away from them because it all felt too obtuse and cumbersome for me. Also, I might have been turned off by my completely mistaken impression that the original Rogue was a semi-hard science fiction game.

It wasn't until I was beginning high school that I became interested in giving one a shot. Somehow, I completely stumbled past Rogue, Angband, Nethack, ADOM, and pretty much every other big-name roguelike on the internet with little more than a glance, and wound up picking a fairly obscure title as my first foray into the genre.

The bane of my mid teen years. And my eyeballs.

Incursion: Halls of the Goblin King, released in 2007, is unique among roguelikes for how heavily it is inspired by Dungeons & Dragons. Of course most roguelikes ever since the first have been inspired by D&D and other high fantasy sources to some degree, but (to my knowledge) only Incursion rips mechanics right out of the d20 3rd Edition ruleset.

You pick a species and class combination, choose feats, distribute skill points, and rely upon a whole bunch of simulated die rolls which use the six classic ability scores, plus the addition of a seventh Luck stat. This makes the game a bit more complex than the average roguelike, and even gives you an illusion of control- if you can survive the early levels long enough, you can start to get your own personal character build online.

Since 90% of my experience with D&D has been through building characters to fit concepts, I find that last part very enticing.

The importance of building one's character can lead to the same wonky imbalance as in D&D 3E, of course. Mundane and half-casting classes begin with survivability or some neat tricks, but quickly fall behind with the exception of rogues, who can get by on magic items and backstabs alone. While the game does a surprising job of mitigating the power of wizards, druids are mighty on such a terrifying scale that some guy even wrote a guide on doing literally anything with them and soloing the game handily.

Once inside of the miniature megadungeon, you're faced with many of the classic challenges: monsters, traps, hunger, and your fellow sapient adventurers, who may be friendly, hostile, or completely indifferent to your presence. An unseen town above the dungeon offers you a bit of respite, including an inn to rest at and a store to buy equipment from. You can even choose to retire a character to it permanently, in case you ever decide "screw it" and quit while you're ahead.

The caves are pitch black, and characters without dark or infravision will need a whole lot of torches or other light sources to see what they're doing. Health doesn't regenerate naturally, and sleeping in the dungeon eats through your food while leaving you open to ambush. Stealthy or invisible enemies are common, and it isn't unusual for something out-of-depth to get the jump on you very early in a run. Other than a scattering of eight potions in the first room of the first floor--five healing and three short-range teleports--nothing is guaranteed for you, and anything can be taken away by a successful disarm or sunder check.

Combining these aspects together gives Incursion a surprisingly foreboding, oppressive atmosphere for a game made entirely out of ASCII visuals. When you enter that first room, a text box describes to you the bloody remains of your fellow adventurers strewn about the floor, and you can rest assured that you will join them before long.

But until that time comes, you have the damp, cold solitude of the dungeon halls in which to contemplate how you'll handle your next messy, hectic clash with the dungeon's denizens. Detailed descriptions pop up with each new chamber you discover, giving glimpses into what this ancient mega-structure was once used for.

As with a lot of roguelikes, the plot is pretty bare-bones: you are one of many adventurers who has come to an out-of-the-way cave complex after hearing about an army amassing deep below ground. Your job is to descend to the lowest level of the dungeon and kill the eponymous Goblin King.

No, not that one.

Incursion makes up for this by having the beginnings of rich setting lore. Most of it is front-loaded in the descriptions of races and deities during character creation. The entries can be pieced together to illustrate the fantasy world of Theyra, which has already seen a lot of trouble, but is on the cusp of yet another nasty prophesy coming true. I really like a couple of the snippets of lore provided this way.

One of the gods of Theyra is a being known as Kysul, the Watcher Beneath the Waves. It is an unfathomably vast, tentacled consciousness from a doomed world, capable of shattering sanity with a glimpse of its true form and spawning countless aberrations upon the material plane by mere incident of its existence.

It is unknowable. It is terrifying. It is Lawful Good.

Kysul is a being of limitless, if alien, compassion, and it wants to protect the world which it has adopted as its own. It knows that its appearance is dreadful, and so it conceals itself to mortals, even its own clandestine clergy, which operates with all the trappings of a stereotypical cult but puts the utmost emphasis on ethical conduct, both with regards to doing its work, and with initiating its new members into Kysul's mysteries.

All of the tropes of cosmic, eldritch horror are neatly subverted in this big, slimy teddy bear of a god that just wants to make sure its home world's fate isn't shared by others. Theyra's backstory references some mages starting a war when they made pacts with horrors from beyond the pale. Perhaps Kysul has known their ilk before.

It's still thoroughly alien to the natural order of the game world, however, and both angels and demons count Kysul among their enemies. Lizardfolk, who have their own alien mindset in this world, regard it with some measure of respect and have been known to work alongside Kysul. It also appears to be fond of speaking in antiquated, flowery language, if its cleric intro is anything to go by.

"Seek now thine antediluvian progenitors that in sunken cities for eons have lain."

Another neat couple of details are about the playable orcs, because of course I had to insert my agenda into this article somehow.

The orcs of Theyra are peoples who are just throwing off the yoke of generic, villainous minionhood. They've been bred as stupid, burly slaves for centuries by demons and unscrupulous humans. But they recently initiated a slave revolt in Mohandi, an empire whose lands included the entrance to the goblin caves. The orc rebels freed all of the slaves in Mohandi, "good" races included, and now play a large role in the economy and politics of the formerly expansionist empire from within a number of anarchist communes. They've also developed their own gunpowder weapons, which is an accomplishment not even the technologically advanced but extremely hidebound dwarves of the setting can boast of.

The patron goddess of the orcs is Khasrach, who is also venerated by goblinoids goblin-speaking peoples. She is the Goddess of the Blood, and for good reason. She is fiercely protective of her children, as well as violent and demanding of blood sacrifice. Centuries of her peoples' debasement has twisted her into a vengeful and sometimes savage goddess. The bark she gives at the beginning of the game when you choose to play as one of her faithful pretty well illustrates her general mood:

"Smite now your slave-chains with the primal fire of my wrath!"

Khasrach is basically what you'd get if every orcish mother goddess dumped their chauvinist husband and then decided to help her people seize the means of production.

Presumably after hiring a couple of babysitters.

She isn't locked into this savagery, however. Her profile leaves open the question of whether or not enough change in the outlook of her people could transform her and bring her back to the more levelheaded, spiritual state of being she enjoyed in ancient times.

Recreation of the goddess is one aspect of an orcish cultural movement which seeks to rediscover the primeval society and values of their people, pure and free of influence from fiends or other species. This neo-tribal movement is currently vying for political dominance with the more cosmopolitan city orcs and stereotypical/traditionalist marauding orc hordes, and only time will tell who winds up on top and what that means for their people.

Or, actually, time won't tell. The game is actually sort of dead.

Surprise! This was actually a Things I Wish They Did More With post this whole time!

Development of Incursion slowed to a halt a few years after its first unfinished release, and it languished for a while until the creator finally admitted that they were doing other stuff and wouldn't be continuing the project. Fortunately they released the source code for the game, and someone else picked it up long enough in 2014 to patch some bugs up and convert the game to use libtcod instead of an outdated version of Allegro.

I have no idea what those last few words mean, but they feel important.

No one has stepped up to continue proper development of Incursion, though. The game's site has gone down and requires use of the Wayback Machine to access, the wiki is only partly filled out, and the Google Group used by its community hasn't seen any significant activity in the past two years as of this writing. The TVTropes page on the game, of all places, is the best source for information and download links today.

Incursion is effectively dead, and its envisioned full version, Return of the Forsaken, will likely never see realization.

Even so, I reinstalled the game a few days ago to take a couple of unsuccessful stabs at it. Being frozen in time with no end doesn't discourage me from playing as much as it would another game. It was a neat, odd idea that was executed with a lot of hiccups, and that's enough for me to appreciate. I can romp through and die every once in a while without too much worry.

I do wish the game could get a graphical tileset, though.

That little chump wrecked me, by the way.