Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Koilotheism: Walkers of the World Beyond

 When a world ends, there are often survivors.

Despite the scale and severity of the destruction that the death of a god can cause, a few generally escape unscathed thanks to sheer, callous luck.

Most die shortly thereafter, either in mourning or on the hellish march into the wastes.

A few live on past that point, thanks to the cruel hand of fate. It becomes their lot then to throw themselves upon the cold mercy of another hollow god-beast's passengers, in the hopes that they be welcomed into the fold.

Some people, for whatever reason, do not elect to prostrate themselves in the path of thousands of tons of rampaging stone.

Instead, they set off on their own path. They become the Walkers of the World Beyond.

Who?

Any castoff can become a Walker, though some are more likely than others.

The most likely candidate for the unlucky life of a Walker is a Watcher.

Watchers are the people most exposed to the outside world, spending the majority of their lives in the crags and tunnels of their god's rocky skin. In some communities they are treated like professional soldiers deserving of regular cycles between leave and active service. In others, they are considered a separate caste of people who should rarely, if ever, enter their god's Hollow.

Regardless of context, Watchers are always in possession of the best knowledge of the wastes around their god-beast. They know the paths, the limited resources, and the dangers- the many, many dangers. If a god falls and the Watchers avoid being crushed, or if some other upheaval leaves them without a home, they become the most able and perhaps even willing to brave the World Beyond.

Far less likely are the common folk: Hollow dwellers. The passengers who rarely if ever leave the placid confines of their god's empty mind are, overall, ill-equipped to handle the physical or psychological challenges of existence outside of what is both figuratively and literally their whole world.

This does not completely preclude them from survival in the wastes, of course. The incalculable widths and depths of a god's unconsciousness hosts many diverse dreamscapes and societies. If the powers that be in a particular koilos has deemed it fit, the Murmurers have helped sculp desolate landscapes which are not a terribly far cry from those of the World Beyond. And if the nation is a sharply stratified one, rest assured the least affluent and most persecuted groups will wind up in those parts. In this unlikely way, survivors are forged in the furnaces built by those who hold them in such contempt.

Rarest of all Walkers are individuals with some talent for the Murmur and the Hum.

Normally, this high sensitivity to the Hum directly leads to a Murmurer's death from the psychic backlash of of a god-beast's demise. Their deaths are often very loud, and very explosive, and can easily lead to chain reactions which cause even greater destruction. This can explain--though far from justify--a fraction of the bondage and scrutiny Murmurers are often held in.

Some survive the death of their god and vessel, and though most are killed either as consequence or out of fear of Dissonance, it is at least possible for a Murmurer to set out into the Wastes. To what end is unknown.

The only group who has essentially no chance of survival outside of one's koilos is one who was literally born of it. The practice is rare, and requires a highly skilled and controlled tradition of Murmuring, but mortal life can be harmonized into shape from the Hum of a god. These beings act like mundane humans in every way, and are often treated as equal persons- not that that is saying much, depending on the koilos. Some may be slaves, others kings. They can even reproduce after a fashion resembling that of humans, though their children are also concocted from the psychic energy of their originator.

The major difference is that when these Godborn die or leave home, they leave behind no bodies. They dissipate into their base elements on the spot and rejoin the koilos, accompanied by a vague and forlorn-sounding susurration.

When a god dies, every one of its godborn is simultaneously extinguished. Large populations of them can often lead to god deaths of truly explosive proportions, their shockwaves able to be felt across the wastes.

Where?

Anywhere but here.

Resources are excruciatingly scarce in the World Beyond. Where vegetation and potable do water exist, they are not likely to remain for very long. Life is like a fickle rodent, poking its head out of one of dozens of holes leading to its burrow. This can be an especially jarring discovery to anyone whose god-mind provided all sustenance, or even suspended its passengers' need for it.

Living outside of a koilos therefore calls either for ceaseless itinerancy, or impeccable conservation- oftentimes both. Fortunately, the world is utterly massive. There is always new and unknown land to venture into. Unfortunately, all of it is almost uniformly desolate with the same few pockets of solace amid deserts, crags, brackish seas, and stranger landscapes. Whatever ruined the World Beyond was truly massive--almost incomprehensible--in scope and intensity.

Perhaps the best path to follow, or at least one that is as good as any other, is one left by others. There are hints and suggestions across the world of former habitation, of the migration of foot-people. Sometimes a strange landmass sighted in the distance by Watchers is actually a shelter built by Walkers. More explicitly (and tragically), unfamiliar human corpses sometimes turn up in the wake of a koilos after it has rampaged over a hill or crag.

If the lucky ones are learned from, perhaps they might guide you somewhere. They might even lead you to a crossroads of wanderers, where words and goods are exchanged far more freely than between passengers. The hardest lesson for many new Walkers to learn is that the stranger from over the horizon might not be your enemy.

Why?

People tend to have purpose thrust upon them in this world. They may be psychic nourishers of the koilos, protectors of a god-beast, rulers or administrators, or Murmurers. Everyone fits- everyone is forced to fit. Those who don't, simply cease to be.

When a person who has spent so long as a vessel for their station in life finds themselves suddenly emptied of it, they tend not to react positively. Many of them crack, and few who do ever uncrack. But those who either keep themselves together, or cobble a semblance of themselves back together, often attack this new crisis with a vigor they never knew themselves to possess. They have to acquaint themselves with novel new forms of purpose, such as staying free of old bonds, or living for oneself for once. Freedom--true, awful freedom--often leads to profound changes in a person.

It can be as intoxicating as the certainty and security of a slowly grinding hierarchy.

Other, more grounding motivators also exist. One is highly unlikely to survive the World Beyond alone. Whether they are cemented by blood, suffering, or coincidence, families are a rare and precious resource that few are willing to part with once they get a taste.

More rarely, this familial bond extends further outward. It dulls a bit, intensity sacrificed in the interest of broad reach. But the communities it creates are unlike any that exist anywhere in any koilosphere. They grow to fulfill needs and strike a delicate balance between forces in a very direct and approachable fashion, unlike the distant hierarchies of home. Here, you won't be executicated--that is, excommunicated from the governing religious body in an overwhelmingly lethal manner--just for hashing out a disagreement with the spouse of one's neighbor, or similar banal acts.

Communities out on the wastes are never large- just a few dozen individuals pushing the envelop on how large a population can be sustainably scavenged for. But they offer the rarest and most vexing sensation in the world to those who struggle alongside them: hope. Hope for normalcy, hope for the land, hope for the future, or even just a vague and ill-defined infection of it.

Dissonance

Not all who wander are lost, but all those who stay behind absolutely are.

As brutal as the march into the wastes is, staying behind when a god dies is often far worse.

When a god dies, its mindscape quickly tears asunder and shunts the vast majority of its contents out onto the dead earth. That does not mean that they cease to be, however. Fragments of a god's psyche can and do persist long after it has died. They are no longer contained within a placid mind, and they tend to bleed out of the cracks in the dead beast's titanic corpse over the ensuing centuries. Godborn unlucky enough to die in the explosion can languish this way, starving and dwindling as they haunt the area like specters.

These fragments are often highly erratic in nature, able to influence nearby phenomena and people to devastating effect. They are like palpable waves of fever dream washing over the sand and rock. This unrestrained deific energy will pool wherever it can, and mortals have always been excellent vessels. The person does not need to have previously attuned to the god, nor do they need to demonstrate any sensitivity to the Hum at all. The dying echoes will fill in whatever it can until that is all that is left.

So it is that Resonance becomes Dissonance.

The most obvious evidence of a dissonant area is the way the land warps and changes. Sand twists around itself and rises up into glassy horns. Rock crumbles and grows spongy. The air dances around and loses all uniformity, with complete vacuums accompanying highly localized fog banks or storms.

Just as the land is altered, so too is the mind of anyone who dwells overlong in those places. Of course Dissonance doesn't turn anyone it pools within into a raving, violent lunatic. As evidenced by the wars between and within dogmatic passenger cultures, startling violence is and has always been the expertise of the terribly sane.

What it does, is greatly warp one's mindset into something that is not conventionally human. There is a reason most Murmurers are kept under such excruciatingly tight control by their communities- prolonged exposure creates quirks. Context, both for the self and the rest of the world, gets greatly shaken up by immersion in Dissonance. This alien worldview makes interfacing with more hidebound societies impossible, leading the latter to shun the former at large.

Not all see it as heresy or madness, however. Some, mostly the mobile Walkers, regard it merely as a byproduct of trying to stay put- a minor issue not of their concern, to be given little more than distant pity. Others, such as residents of the precious few permanent settlements that survive and even thrive in the wastes, see it as a form of enlightenment. Some go to great lengths, going on pilgrimage to seek out the graveyards of fallen gods where Dissonance is still strong.

What would happen if a talented Murmurer communed with such a location is not known.


Hidden Grave by Kevin Hou

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Lamplighters: Darkness

"Intan, shine your spotlight over toward that mass over there please."

"What the hell is that, Doctor?"

"An umbral mass that is undergoing the final stages of absorption."

"What did it used to be...?"

"It could have been a cow. Or a freight train. It gets difficult to tell. Come this way now, please."

- Radio chatter from a routine field work assignment at the Elu Igwe Land Reclamation Front


 "All that is, is kith and kin. All is stardust. As moon reflects sun, we reflect moon.

Darkness gave way to light, absconded with it, and shall yield it again soon."

"Prayer against the Dark", Kith of the Moon


The human instinct to fear the night once served a valuable role in self-preservation.

Now, with darkness ever-present and deepening, it is perhaps humanity's greatest distraction and detriment.

Learning to temper one's fear of the dark with a healthy amount of something else--stoicism, hate, prayer, professionalism, the list goes on--is a vital lesson that no one grows up without. Even in the heart of a settlement's pallite processing facility, the dark is never very far away. Exhausting, miserable vigilance is the only way forward, even if "forward" only leads to a slightly more delayed death.

Of course, one can't get along with plucky determination alone. One has to know the enemy.


Qualities of Deeper Darkness

Everyone learns about the mechanics of that which perpetuates the Long Night differently. Some lucky enough to receive a formal education are taught about its dangers in the form of lectures and texts. Most learn more informally from parents or other community members growing up. A few learn firsthand, and a few of those even survive.

Deeper Darkness (DD) is a phenomenon that breaks most previous understandings of physics, thermodynamics, and a slew of other fields in ways that are still being accounted for, decades after its first appearance. This has not stopped certain, more practical pieces of information about it from becoming common knowledge today, fortunately. What little is known about is as follows:

It is Spontaneous

DD does not appear to stem from any single source. Any shadow, if left undisturbed by light for a long-enough period of time, has a chance of generating a patch of DD. Controlled experiments with pallite cannons have concluded that the probability of DD generation increases exponentially over time until it reaches 1.

The speed of this increase varies considerably depending on circumstances that are not fully understood yet, but which likely include preexisting local DD density- this is why it can spread rapidly in trackless wilderness, but is relatively manageable when it appears in an untouched storage room in a populated area.

On average, DD can manifest anywhere from minutes to weeks in a darkened area. Shining a light upon a darkened area, even a low intensity one, is sufficient to reset the clock on generation so to speak. Only sustained, direct bombardment by high intensity light can dispel DD once it has accumulated in an area, however. Exact brightness varies, but a general rule of thumb is that the ideal "scrubbing" light has a high enough luminosity to blind operators without proper protective equipment.

The task of keeping every surface within a space illuminated or scrubbed regularly enough for it to remain habitable is a major preoccupation of the vast majority of human beings at present. Pallite light arrangements need regular maintenance, and demands for energy efficiency encourage the use of claustrophobically small spaces with sparse furnishing. Major settlements often have enormous custodial departments specially trained to remove and prevent domestic DD deposits.

It is Palpable

Describing DD as "caking" over things or requiring "scrubbing" is not an elaborate extension of metaphor. It is an actual, physical thing. It can be interacted with in a range of ways, including not only the visual, but also the tactile, olfactory, and (highly discouraged) gustatory senses.

Observing samples of DD for full knowledge of its physical properties is a challenge, because the light-absorbing properties of DD renders almost all known areas of the spectrum unable to penetrate its aura or 'halo' of anti-illumination. This halo of darkness extends beyond the physical body of a DD sample by anywhere from several millimeters to meters, depending on size and relative strength of its steeping. Pallite is one of the few forms of lighting known to penetrate the halo and reveal what is underneath.

Prolonged exposure to pallite causes DD to deteriorate over time. (Un)fortunately, the world is in no short supply of DD samples, and most lab technicians need only walk a few meters beyond their settlement's safety fences to obtain more.

DD in its natural state superficially resembles a severe mold infestation growing upon any surface. Large, spot-like structures radiate outward into smaller and smaller blotches in uniform fractal patterns, forming a pulpy, fibrous carpet that ranges in thickness between a few millimeters and several centimeters deep.

It is tough and slightly spongy to the touch, difficult to damage in any meaningful way with small arms. It is also extremely flame-retardant, mitigating the effectiveness of controlled burn methods used for containment.

The color of DD is so uniformly black that it looks more like a hole in reality than a physically present thing. This is due to the fact that it absorbs ~99.9998% of all light across the visible and most of the invisible spectrum.

Prolonged exposure to pallite causes DD to stop expanding, shrink, and 'die' so to speak. Its halo diminishes, and its spongy growths become weak and brittle, like a dry old insect hive. Larger structures slough apart, and with enough concentrated illumination, any trace of it other than leftover scars will sublimate into apparent nonexistence.

The general consensus is that DD has a smell, but what exactly that smell is depends upon the observer. Some accounts describe it as one or several smells of rot and decay, burning plastic, bleach, or a particularly cloying, artificial fruit candy scent, among others. These smells may be due to the breakdown of the matter that DD has grown over, rather than a product of the DD itself.

Dubious reports claim that DD tastes like the color purple. Subjects who taste or ingest a sample are rarely able to articulate the flavor more fully than that before rapid infection and fractalization sets in.

It is Mobile

DD 'grows' at a constant rate unless checked by pallite illumination. It can attach to and spread over any surface, whether organic, inorganic, living, inanimate, or artificial. Some of this new mass can be accounted for as previously belonging to thing which DD has broken down, but most appears to be continued spontaneous generation of matter.

Like the rate of spontaneous DD generation, the speed of DD growth is highly variable depending on environmental conditions. Growth is fastest within the halo of an existing mass, and slowest within an area of shade that is entirely surrounded by pallite.

Minor domestic growth can be managed on a daily or even weekly basis, but objects left unattended within areas of wild dark are rapidly enveloped. Caravan vehicles that have gone dark have been observed to become caked within a matter of hours.

Lingering pallite radiation seems to slow the growth of DD. This is supported by evidence of Lamplighter lamp-wagons taking days to fully succumb to envelopment, even after running out of pallite fuel. Pallite miners and Lamplighters themselves, living or dead, have been known to possess a sort of "resistance" to DD growth, remaining incorrupt after hours of prolonged exposure with minimal protective equipment.

DD particles suspended in the water or air large enough to sustain DD can also turn into micro- or macroscopic orbs of darkness, ensuring that danger and limited visibility are three-dimensional and omnipresent within areas of sufficient steeping. Drinking water must be run through pallite filters, as does air in any facility with extensive ventilation shafts that could house patches of darkness.

Atmospheric conditions and prevailing winds permitting, clouds of airborne DD particles have been known to form and blow across the land, distributing DD across a very wide area. This phenomenon is known by the unoriginal but sufficiently ominous moniker of darkstorm. Darkstorms are extremely dangerous, and are one of the leading causes of settlement compromise and loss of reclaimed territory. They resemble sandstorms or blizzards of black snow, and have been known to consume entire kilometers of illuminated land in a few hours.

It is Corrupting

Deeper Darkness does not fit most definitions of what constitutes a living thing. Some have compared it to a slime mold or even a virus, but it does not reproduce or depend upon hosts, nor does it "eat" in any conventional manner, regardless of what it seems to do to living tissue that it absorbs.

Regardless, it sometimes behaves like a living thing, or perhaps a force of nature that trends toward an end goal of expansion and absorption. Considering its antagonism toward the human species (alongside just about everything else in the world), it is all too easy to ascribe a malevolent intent or intelligence to the darkness. The topic is subject to extensive debate across many fields, and is beyond the scope of this piece.

When DD interacts with matter, it breaks it down into its most base elements and adds those elements to its own mass. At some point in this process, those base elements are converted into more pure DD. Even after being subject to illumination, no trace elements of absorbed matter can be found where a DD sample had once been. How exactly this conversion process occurs is not known.

Living tissue is not spared by this process. It breaks down all the same, causing severe damage to any organism infected with DD as it expands across and throughout the body. Bodily trauma is inevitably fatal unless the infection is quickly neutralized by pallite illumination and radiation bombardment. Survivors are known to bear deep, sprawling, fractal-shaped scars which are prone to act as sites for spontaneous generation, and therefore reinfection.


Early stages of DD tissue damage.
Subject I-82 of the Lavada Project.
Limb later amputated to prevent spread.

Infection can occur from prolonged bodily immersion in darkness, or from direct contact with DD, even under controlled conditions. Ingesting contaminated food or water, or breathing air with darkstorm particles in it, can lead to a far rarer form of internal infection.

The exact effects of internal infection are poorly researched compared to pallite poisoning at this time, but is believed to be rapidly and uniformly lethal, with organ failure the leading cause of death- euthanasia at the first sign of alveolar or lymphatic fractalization is recommended by the ethics boards of most leading medical institutions.

Darkness does not always kill, at least not immediately. Sometimes the rate at which it breaks down a host animal is slow enough to afford the organism hours or even days of in-tact motor functions and at least some mental faculties.

The near-universal violence and aggression displayed by these individuals can likely be attributed to mental stress caused by intense, nonstop pain. Their tendency to seek out sources of light may be rooted in a lingering association of light with safety, despite the fact that immersion in light causes harm once enough of the body has been assimilated. Their resultant efforts to smother light sources can therefore be interpreted as a misguided attempt to reach that safety.

The fact that infected organisms rarely attack one another, and instead make concerted efforts to attack uninfected individuals using a vast array of spontaneous mutations and bodily abnormalities, up to and including destroying light fixtures from afar, is not so easily explained.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Endlings & Terminarchs

Elves are a dying breed.

In fact, you could say they are already dead- the name "elf" certainly is, at any rate.

Those withered, rail-thin people were never the most vigorous. One of the reasons for their exceptionally long lifespan is that they acted upon the world with an almost geological slowness. Sure, they're hasty compared to a treant or an earth elemental, but they could outwit either handily- for their minds ran faster than a human's, allowing them to play every scenario out dozens of times before they commit to a single, stubborn course of action.

Some believe that they exist in multiple points of time or existence at once, and their slowness to act is a consequence of rallying those disconnected facets together.

Looking at them now, one could be excused for believing that they barely exist in our universe at all.

They resemble mummies more than anything, with bony extremities, sunken faces, leathery skin of a bruised, pale blue color, and torsos that leave little of their bone structure to the imagination. When they have hair, it is long, thin, wispy, and grey. Among those who still have functional eyes, yellow is the most common color- and they always seem to resemble the eyes of someone who is screaming. Distinguishing sex characteristics are almost wholly withered away, not that they had much of a use for them- they reproduced by some other means which is now lost to them, and it can never be regained.

They are loathe to speak of how this happened- they are loathe to speak in general, really. It may have been a curse, or a deal with some entity that came back to bite them. perhaps they were rendered infertile epochs ago, and only managed to get along by abusing a nonrenewable ritual resource plus borrowed time.

The youngest elves were born millennia ago, and they have already pushed their species' life expectancy with preservative magic. Now their life energy is stretched thinner than common sense is across aristocrats. It is only a matter of time, and none know that more keenly than the elves themselves, rapid minds left to race within their slow, ambling bodies. It is a hellish experience, not unlike a waking coma at times.

In their melancholy they renamed themselves the Endlings, and the youngest among them is their leader in futility- their Terminarch. The Terminarch is the most spry among them, relatively speaking, and they deal with matters requiring the most urgency. Other than that, there is little to the office- they primarily bear the burden of being the assumed last to die, and the immense psychic guilt that knowledge carries with it.

They walk in the most desolate parts of the world now, seeking out a secluded place where they might preserve the memory of their people before lying down to rot.

Or perhaps they seek out a way to liberate themselves from their wretched bodies- either through the release of death, or something more transcendent.

There might be some wisdom in seeking them out while they yet live, assuming they will hold audience with you- and that you have the patience to wait and listen to them speak in what is simultaneously the slowest and most frantic manner.

Ascendent Counselor by Andrew Jones

Monday, June 15, 2020

Koilotheism: Hollow Gods

Mind Palace by u/jdbugs


It was once a common thing for one to carry one's own god, or even gods, with them on their travels through the unmarred world. Sometimes this takes the form of carrying small images or symbols of said gods, and other times it involves merely carrying them in prayer. Today, both are quaint and old-fashioned at best, and blasphemous at worst.

It is of course absurd to think of anyone carrying a god with them. On the most basic level, they are simply far too big to carry, being hundreds to thousands of times the size of even the largest and strongest people. But the more important reason is that it is the gods who do the carrying. Such is the proper nature of things.

Whether it is on two legs, four, countless, or even none at all, the gods trudge across the wastelands like indefatigable barges, carrying their worshipers with them wherever they go.

Some of their mortal supplicants stand upon their backs and shoulders, or in the cavities across their bodies, surveying the world for dangers which their single-minded god cannot be bothered to perceive in its endless march. Far more live within them- not only within their stony, corporeal forms, but within their infinitely more capacious minds.

Every god has a vast, psychic landscape which puts so-called "mind palaces" to utter shame. They possess matter, laws, and physics, or can be made to possess them through the combined efforts of gods and their passengers. They can be tamed and expanded, made to hold entire villages, towns, cities. Thousands of generations live and die within the confines of their gods, with no thought or worry for the dead World Beyond, and with only a few prayers offered to the troubled Watcher folk who straddle the inner and outer realms as their ceaseless guardians.

These hollow gods do not eat or drink or sleep. They are sustained by the thoughts and prayers of those who live within them, and in return they sustain them. Those who are born able to Murmur may commune with the god's placid, droning Hum, which permeates its entire mind and being. Sometimes an understanding is formed. Other times, guesses and misgivings have led to centuries of internal conflict and dogmatism. It is a symbiotic relationship that can tilt toward commensalism or parasitism more easily than one might expect.

When two gods meet upon the wastes, they rarely register one another's existence. Rarer still do they interact directly, which is generally for the best. The titanic, animalistic battles between these beings have sundered and rearranged continents, to stay nothing of the populations stored within them.

More often, their worshipers make forays into the space between them, and deal with one another on behalf of their walking gods. Communication, diplomacy, and an understanding of difference are profoundly rare and precious gifts in the world, but even with all three, these meetings can turn tense or hostile. Most end with each party hurrying home to instruct a blinded and nailed Murmurer to tell their god to change its course away from the other.

Sometimes an understanding is reached, and news about the wider world is shared: news of recently dead gods and their shunted-out refugees baking in the sun, of lands recently made too dangerous even for gods to walk, of the almost unheard-of arrangement made to form a Procession between gods, or even Harmonic Communion.

Gods do not die on their own, but when something does kill them, the effects are immediate and disquieting. Most passengers do not survive the collapse of the god's mind, and of those who do escape the ordeal without becoming bloody smears with a sprinkling of stardust, most will die within the first few days of exposure to the World Beyond.

In these most trying of times, it falls to any surviving Watchers to lead these refugees away from their mountainous, broken wreck of a former benefactor. After generations of protecting their gods and its occupants, they are the few who know how to get along in the marred world. Any former passenger who tries to carry a piece of their god with them is punished severely.

When a column of bedraggled pilgrims ends its trail of exhausted dead at the feet of another god, the remaining passengers are absorbed into it if they are fortunate. It can be a profound or traumatic experience depending on the exact beliefs they hold. They are given a corner of their new god's consciousness to dwell within, and are often treated as second-class citizens until their first children are born there. Some truly ancient and durable gods have patchworks of peoples from other, fallen minds. Such a wealth of diversity in background and experience is rarely acknowledged.

The former Watchers and Murmurers of the dead god, as well as the more recalcitrant passengers, are executed or encouraged to commit ritual suicide, again depending on dogma.

The idea of exiles, surviving Watchers, or even whole congregations excavating and scratching out a living amid the crags of their dead gods and other stretches of the wasteland is unspeakably taboo, but not entirely unknown.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

1d6 Backgrounds for TROIKA!

After incorrectly comparing Tequendria to it, I bothered to actually read through some TROIKA!, found it interesting, and decided to make a few backgrounds for it! Don't hold your breath on a full d66 table anytime soon, though. I was barely able to squeeze out enough gonzo for six.

... Side note, "squeezing out gonzo" sounds like something that should get my blog flagged as adult content.

Anyway! Enjoy. I took the custom background rules to heart and tried not to fret too much about balance, which is usually my Achilles' Heel after a lifetime of enjoying tinkering with character builds.



 d6 Background
1Derro Biomass Reaver
2Flowerbed Troll
3Goblin Pioneer
4Longfolk Pruner
5Very Lost Orc
6Zood Knight


Derro Biomass Reaver
Your world's atmosphere drained away millennia ago, forcing you and your kind deep below the crust, where your stature and sanity both shrank in equal measure. Now, you travel the spheres seeking out the choicest flora, fauna, and stranger forms of life to bring back home for the re-terraforming effort.

Possessions
Catabolizer (Damage as Pistolet).
A Map of some of the Crystal Spheres.
 Oversized Goggles.
A Tank of Unidentifiable Organic Goo.

Advanced Skills
1 Acrobatics
2 Astrology
1 Awareness
1 Catabolizer Crafting
2 Catabolizer Fighting
2 Mathology
1 Reaving Barge Pilot
2 Trapping

Special
Your signature weapon zaps at organic targets with tongues of black and green lightning, splitting cells into base elements and collecting them in a melange of goo in a tank on your back. Stamina lost to your catabolizer takes twice as many points of healing to recover, and the weapon leaves telltale fractal scars. You can repair and maintain your strange disintegration weapon with the relevant Advanced Skill. If you lose your catabolizer, you can only get a replacement from another derro.


Flowerbed Troll
Trolls are said to inhabit every climate across the hump-backed sky, including the spaces between crystal spheres. You are a placid, vacant-eyed flowerbed troll, loamy and always smelling of petrichor and sweetly rotting fruit. You still hunger for flesh, but you learned long ago that it is easiest to barter for it using the flowers and medicinal herbs which grow betwixt your sagging, mossy shoulders.

Possessions
Ballet Shoes.
Claws (Damage as Sword).
Hedge Trimmers (for personal grooming).
Homemade Fertilizer.
A Sack of Raw Meat (d6 Rations).

Advanced Skills
4 Gardening
2 Healing
1 Poison
4 Strength

Special
Your mossy, meaty metabolism allows you to regenerate, making nasty wounds easier to bounce back from. You can eat rations to regain d6 Stamina 1 additional time per day.You can also eat raw meat and mildly rotten plant matter without suffering ill effects.You have to eat three times as many rations as a human to keep from starving, and you can't regenerate while hungry.

You can also pick d6 random herbs, flowers, berries, or lichens from your back per day without ill effects. Your verdant hide grows a new random assortment every day, unless the last batch was never picked. Unpicked plants rot away and fertilize new growth after one week.


Goblin Pioneer
The crystal sphere you hail from has grown so tightly packed with labyrinth that its surface is beginning to crack. You and countless others of your ilk took to the hidden passages between, and now seek out new spheres freshly bobbed to the surface to tame and civilize with snaking, confounding tunnels.

Possessions
 A Missive from the Goblin King.
 Bricklaying Tools.
 Broken Compass.
 Utility Knife.

Advanced Skills
1 Awareness
2 Bricklaying
2 Climb
1 Secret Signs
3 Sneak
2 Tracking
1 Trapping

Special
You can Test your Luck to become MEGA LOST. Your trailblazer's intuition points you toward someplace nearby ("nearby" being relative to your position in the entirety of the hump-backed sky) that has never been discovered. These places are often mythical, exciting, rich, and even stranger than most. A place that is so deadly that none of its would-be discoverers survive to see civilization again also counts as undiscovered.


Longfolk Pruner
You and your mirthless, elongated tribe live a hard life, burning away the carnivorous rot in the forest depths while warding away childish outsiders with ballista-sized longbows. But the corruption is running deeper than ever before, and now your distorted and rangy limbs traverse the spheres in search of a solution.

Possessions
 A Box of Ashes (3 Uses).
 Flint & Tinder.
 A Loincloth.
 Saw-Bladed Glaive (Damage as Polearm).
 A Very Large Longbow and 6 Arrows.
 Topiary Hobbyist's Kit.

Advanced Skills
4 Firemaking
1 Healing
3 Longbow Fighting
3 Poleaxe Fighting
2 Run
1 Second Sight

Special
You can paint yourself in multicolored streaks of soot and ash for protection. A full coating of ashes from multiple types of hardwood makes you Lightly Armoured for one day, or until you are exposed to heavy rain or full submersion in water.


Very Lost Orc
You were just minding your own business when that foolish apprentice wizard accidentally summoned you far from home. You couldn't even get the satisfaction of beating them senseless, since the swarm of gremlins beat you to that. Now you must find your way back to your smoky and garishly colored clan-hold before your chieftain finds you missing from your post.

Possessions
 Bone Dice.
 Light Armour.
 Tribal Totem.
 Weapon of your choice.
 Your Half-eaten Lunch.

Advanced Skills
2 in a Fighting Skill of your choice
2 Awareness
1 Run
2 Scrimshaw
3 Strength

Special
You can Test your Luck to get back on track after becoming truly, hopelessly lost. This ability only works when you have a specific destination in mind. You don't have to possess a perfect mental image of your exact destination- at least a proper place name and some major landmarks will do. This ability can't be used to bring you straight back to your clan-hold, frustratingly.


Zood Knight
Bowlegged and stocky, you sit proud atop your majestic zood. Few across the spheres have the good breeding or sense to appreciate all the fine qualities of this noble, if noisy creature. Never mind that it looks like an elephant seal-sized tardigrade, or that it is constantly flatulent.

Possessions
 Diving Bladder.
• A Firkin of Zood Blubber.
 Fishing Net & Line.
 A Saddle.
 Toggle-Headed Lance.
 Waterproof Zoodskin Clothes (Modest Armour).

Advanced Skills
1 Acrobatics
2 Climb
1 Etiquette
2 Lance Fighting
3 Resist Odor
2 Ride
1 Swim


Special
You never sink in water or other liquids unless you wish to. You can also float straight up to the surface of a body of liquid at up to twice your movement speed. Once you break the surface, this ability may or may not jettison you up high into the air like a rotund, though no less majestic, porpoise.

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
Ability
  • 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
Ability
  • 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
Ability
  • 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
Ability
  • 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
Ability
  • 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
Ability
  • 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
Ability
  • 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
Ability
  • 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
Ability
  • 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
Ability
  • 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
Ability
  • 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
Ability
  • 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
Ability
  • 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
Ability
  • 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
Ability
  • 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
Ability
  • 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
Ability
  • 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
Ability
  • 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
Ability
  • 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
Ability
  • 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.

Swagbucks.com 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.