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May 9, 2019 - 01:21 AM
Sims Meets 2019: Night 0
Ok, first: I completely lied, I can put as many people in here as I want. How many? 13 seems like a good number. Auspicious, even. Be advised: I have no idea how to dress myself. This also means I have no idea how to dress you. I replicated your documented wardrobes to the best of my ability, but in many cases there were very limited samples to work from. I don't know why I'm so concerned about this aspect in particular! Well!

Because The Sims 4 is dumb and does not include though/dialogue bubbles in screenshots, you're going to have to trust me.

In this picture, for example, the subject provoking my particular despairing expression is: Jukeboxes

Meanwhile, John has become Sad In An Interesting Way

After finally getting inside, some of us settle down in front of the TV. Not TJ, though. She's feeling Playful, which means... quietly eating animal crackers. Ah, but the quality of the animal crackers? Normal.

But what's Paulo gonna make y'all watch? Just some... uh, fuckin'... ????? That's cool.

[Everyone disliked that.]

Meanwhile, Ed's still out on the sidewalk, just... making weird faces at bees. You know what, buddy? That's cool. That's... that's totally valid.


Rachel and Pete take over the TV for some kind of medical drama, but Rachel only has eyes for lamp. She loves lamp.

Ashley has discovered some kind of bizarre Fitness Annex on the top floor. I don't understand why she's chosen this machine instead of the Dragon Punching bag, but I respect her incorrect choices.

Emily and François have a thoughtful conversation about heartbreak and the Sun. Emily likes the Sun, but François doesn't understand it. This exchange really builds their friendship.


Before going to bed herself, Rachel stands over TJ's bed and laughs for an uncomfortably long time.

After François retires to his own bed, Emily watches some historical drama. This causes her to become asleep almost immediately.

Everyone's asleep now except Ashley and Jay. Jay, what are you doing.

Jay sits next to Emily and thinks about fire until she wakes up. She complains, then immediately flees to the Fitness Annex.

John's up! He... "playfully" watches Ed sleep for a while. Okay. That's okay.

And I'm up! At 1:30 AM! Drinking some liquor I found inside a globe! That I just... knew would be there, somehow!


I get pretty fucked up on my one glass of booze and stagger downstairs to try to start a conversation with Ashley. She's both upstairs AND asleep. I stand in the hallway and yell about whoopee cushions for a couple of minutes, and then load the dishwasher. This is the third time someone has loaded the dishwasher tonight; no one has dirtied a single dish.

John attempts to Admire the staircase, then self-cancels that action. He just... stares at it for a while, instead, without having any particular opinion of the staircase. Heh. Starecase.

After an uncomfortably long time, he tries to rejoin the dance party, but Paulo and Emily both immediately leave the room in favor of hanging out in chat while at Meet, as one does.

There's nothing to lose
And there's nothing to prove
Dancing with myself

Jason finally gets out of bed and... immediately joins chat. For fuck's sake. Also, all the PCs are in the bedrooms and this gives NONE of you any hesitation.

Emily's pretty pumped up for some reason what's... oh. She's found the secret booze room. Well, there you go. She just... does stretches for a while, while thinking about boats.

I don't think I'm going to get all of these maniacs to sleep at once and actually give me a clean place for a chapter stop, but here's Jason, at 4:30 AM on Sunday morning with the first actual food anyone's eaten yet. A ham and cheese sandwich.

Oh god damnit he's just standing there smelling it. He's just smelling it, what the hell

Postscript: A lot of folks went to bed early and didn't get to do much, but Christian did absolutely nothing but sleep the entire night. Didn't even stare at bees! Least he could have done, really. Boo him. Boo this man.

Currently Playing: why did I stay up so late to get this done oh god oh jeez

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Jul 3, 2016 - 01:57 AM
Merkin Culture: Classical Poetry
Merkins have the same relationship to Pre-Event dialects that Pre-Event peoples had to Old English; they can understand a word here and there, they giggle at the obvious swears, and they mostly leave the rest to the eggheads. Of course, even the eggheads in question are severely hampered by the limited information on hand; all the world's largest libraries are also inside some of the world's largest Forbidden Zones, and few are willing to accept guaranteed consumption by landsharks to attempt to break into an old building whose contents may have rotted away regardless. However, some smaller libraries have been secured, along with hundreds of individual works originally owned by private Pre-Event citizens, and work progresses furiously on translating these cultural time capsules into a more modern and intelligible tongue. Without adequate references, all these translations are known to be imperfect in one way or another, but we are proud to present what are thought to be some of the most complete and accurate translations of Pre-Event poetry and song yet. No amount of direct translation will give us the historical context and grasp of idiom required to fully understand Pre-Event thought, but the beauty of the words shines through regardless.

Australian Man

A man from a boring place
Said "Two legs with no elephants
Were deserted... Also, in the grits
was an underwater face, broken and sad
that was all crumpled up from bossing people around.
The mason really did a number on this guy.
Despite being dead, some of his things are stomping around
A big rude hand and a nutritious heart.
There was a note there too:
I'm Australian Man, The Superboss:
Look at my stuff and get sad, tough guy!
Nothing but corpses. All around there
Everything is huge and fucked up and naked
It's mostly sand."

Hot Ice

Some people are scared it will get hot,
Others don't like the cold.
I think it's really sexy
When it gets hot.
But the second time I died,
I really hated it
When ice ruined all my stuff.
Well, it wasn't so bad,
I guess it was okay.

You Can't Beat Me

I'm hiding in the dark,
My pits are as dark as the North Pole right now,
Thanks, God
For making me such a tough ghost.

Some bad things happened
I didn't cry about it.
Incidentally, I was hit with sticks
There's blood everywhere but I didn't fall over.

Over there is a place where nobody cries or gets mad
That place is shady, I'm scared of it,
A dude has been threatening me for a while
I'm not scared of him

Even if your fence is in good shape,
or your books are enchanted with curses.
I am in charge of whatever I decide to do:
I am the ghost boss.


I went to sleep for a minute, but that's over
I saw some pretty weird dreams

Sandstorms, everything is a sandstorm

This old song is like a little water in the ocean
All our stuff keeps breaking, but we don't look at it

Sandstorms, everything is a sandstorm

Let go of that, only air and dirt are reliable
Even if you're very rich things will get slippery

Man With Sharp Clothes (excerpt)

I looked at some gold and a round diamond
I have everything
My sleeves are pinned together and I am stuck
When I get out of this I will kill you
Everyone runs to my side
Because my sharp clothing drives them insane

Currently Playing: FUCK BEES

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Sep 29, 2015 - 09:55 PM
Deities of the Merkins: Bilni
In the wake of the collapse, religion was shaken up as badly as any other part of life. Even if the demographics of religious belief hadn't changed, the documented proof of deities being demonstrably real and prone to meddling would unsettle old structures. As it happened, however, the opportunity to drag old gods out of mothballs was too tempting to resist. This is for the best, as the hundreds of gods squabbling over turf makes it impossible for one god (or even one pantheon) to establish the sort of meaningful dominance that would make their particular teachings really stick (and by "stick", I mean "distort the nature of reality"; Anubis' more eager followers are presumably on board with the weighing process, but most of us would fare poorly).

The most exciting part of all this, for the dedicated sociologist, was the wholesale generation of brand-new gods. The pre-collapse Americans left behind incomprehensibly vast stores of cultural detritus, and many of the depicted figures were latched onto as a sort of spiritual flotation device, arbitrary totems that would, somehow, bring things back to pre-collapse "normalcy". Much of American society seemingly relied upon technology and scientific progress (of the can-we rather than should-we kind), and it was inevitable that a charismatic deity would be elevated to champion "science" purely for its own sake.

The iconography of Bilni almost always includes a stylized bow-tie, and visions of the god himself take the same shape, with a disembodied head and neck fitted into the tie (the exact visage of the deity tends to take on the species and ethnicity of the beholder). Bilni is always facing you, but at the same time his head appears to be constantly spinning. Most messages from Bilni to his faithful are little more than proclamations of relatively obvious physics facts, but there are two clear commandments that all his followers hold in absolute regard.

1. Science Rules. Indeed, where Bilni's followers hold sway, it rules absolutely. In a world where the laws of nature are in some degree of flux, Bilni expects constant experimentation and re-experimentation to confirm that "known facts" about reality are still facts, and extensive documentation of the new facts as they arrive. Further, as scientific progress is hampered by constantly having to re-examine basic premises, followers of Bilni actively seek out and halt events that are expected to change the rules. Which "rules" are most sacrosanct tend to vary from sect to sect; some are dedicated to preserving standard gravity, others to friction, others to matters as seemingly small as the atomic weights of individual elements. Little will dissolve an "anti-science" conclave as quickly as the sound of Bilnites pouring over a hill, their shouts of "Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill!" echoing in the darkness.

2. Inertia is a Property of Matter. This commandment is essentially two-sided, demanding that Bilnites who can contribute to the cause continue to do so until the very moment that it would be impossible for them to do so. At the same time, Bilnites who grow too old or injured to be useful in Experimentation are expected to know when to step aside and aid the cause in less active ways. These so-called "Bodies at Rest" are no less respected than the "Bodies in Motion" that make up the outward face of the cult, and comprise all the child-rearing and teaching positions within Bilnite populations.

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Sep 21, 2015 - 10:28 PM
Recovered Journals of Esme von Brandt: The Long March
Compiler's note: In the Year of the Boundary 175, Esme von Brandt and a small army of mercenaries left the protected confines of the Core to explore the inhospitable regions beyond the Boundary.

Von Brandt expended the entirety of her immense personal fortune on this venture, leaving her penniless when she returned 10 years later to a city even more xenophobic than the one she had left. Her remaining years were spent in poverty and disrepute, and her extensive journals of the expedition were banned from publication (and until recently thought destroyed). As a further insult, von Brandt was posthumously branded a murderer as an official explanation for the massive casualties under her banner (of the 544 personnel who left the Core with von Brandt, less than a dozen returned with her; most, lacking even the flimsy protection of her tarnished family name, fared even worse than she upon their homecoming).

In the wake of these events, the Boundary was further tightened and no exploration attempt of any comparable scale has been made in the two centuries since. Parties of 5 or 10 slip through from time to time and neither they nor any news return to the Core. They are all presumed dead.

These recovered journals are not distributed with the intention of encouraging anyone else to venture beyond the Boundary. The Council assures us that the Boundary is for our own protection, and von Brandt's findings assure us that this protection is sorely needed. Our only intention is to inform, for the Boundary cannot stand forever if we remain ignorant of the forces that hope to breach it.

The book you are holding is illegal to possess. Keep it hidden. Tell no one what you have read; tell no one where you found it. There will come a time when the people of the Core are in a position to demand the truth, but that time is not now.

Dusk season, 8th week 8th day (estimated)

Precious little to report these last weeks; there may be wonders out here but the unbroken darkness and bitter cold hide them all. Enough thermal goggles to outfit 1 in 10 of us and most of our scouts are blindsighted; the rest must remain on their tethers and stumble blindly forward. A handful have coped poorly with the effective loss of their sight, cutting their ropes and fleeing in random directions. Without fire magi, even the ones who correctly guessed at a southeast heading froze solid before they were out of earshot.

Even the goggles don't help much, honestly. The cold is so deep and so uniform this far north that even through the goggles everything is the same unbroken shade of pale blue. The mechanists are in consultation with the wind shamans to try to cobble together a sonar-based approach.

Last.... night? Whatever night means out here, but the chrono said 23 hours. Been warned that the cold might actually be slowing down the chronos, though. Spotted something interesting on the horizon, still pale blue but perhaps a few degrees warmer. Huge. As we approached we realized it was moving, albeit very slowly. We stopped the procession; anything that big that can survive out here is nothing to engage with unprepared.

When the scouts came back, we decided not to engage with it at all. Corpses, thousands of them. Maybe tens of thousands. Walking, walking so slowly that their tracks vanish under the new snow before they take another step. Men, women, bears and horses, donkeys and oxen. Every kind of beast that can walk and pull a rope. And pull they do, each of them tied to the corpse on their right, on the left, and the corpse behind. And each carrying another length of rope for any new friends they might find. They found one of the scouts after some thin ice dropped him into a gully and shattered his legs. The rest of the party tried to reach him, but he bled out. The scouts returned but I ordered them to keep watching. We had to know. Hours later, the marchers finally closed the few yards of distance to the edge of the gully. The rope dangled in front of him; his dead hand clutched it and he was pulled into the ranks. He walks a little clumsily, but I don't think it bothers him.

We're going to try to go around them, but the march extends for miles in every direction. Already the rumors are spreading that there is no "around"; that the marchers block all further northwest progress and we'll need to turn back. The undead are always bad for morale.

Dusk season, 9th week 3rd day (estimated)

Turns out the rumors were true, more or less. Everything in front of us is either a narrow pass choked with the march, or a cliff face of sheer ice. The marchers don't pour heedlessly over the cliffs, which suggests more self-preservation than the undead usually muster. Either we'll turn back or we'll go straight up the cliffs; neither is ideal.

Addendum Du.s 9 3

Up the cliffs it is; the sonar project will have to wait as each and every one of us queues up to the shamans for featherfall charms. I intend to know what drives this legion forward, or at least to know that they are driven by nothing. Not sure which would be worse.

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Jun 30, 2014 - 02:10 PM
Apologies to Tiny John Mellencamp
There's a tiny black man with a tiny black cat
Livin' in a tiny black neighborhood
He's got a tiny interstate
Runnin' through his tiny front yard
You know he thinks that he's got it so good
And there's a tiny woman in the tiny kitchen
Cleanin' up the tiny evenin' slop
And he looks at her and says, hey tiny darlin'
I can remember when you could stop a tiny clock

Oh, but ain't that Tiny America
For tiny you and tiny me
Ain't that Tiny America
Something to see, tiny baby
Ain't that Tiny America
Home of the tiny free, yeah
Little tiny pink houses
For tiny you and tiny me
Oooh, yeah
For tiny you and tiny me!

Currently Playing: something tiny, presumably

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Jun 21, 2014 - 09:36 PM
The journal entry is on fire?!
You left the journal entry in the car?

The car is a time machine?!






PS Praise Wheel

Currently Playing: what Nintendon't

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Jun 9, 2014 - 06:06 PM
Well, my game exists. You can buy it. If you want.
Epilogue, a brief game about terrible people doing awful things in an unpleasant world now exists in an arguably playable state.

I've submitted it to DrivethruRPG, but they take a few days to process requests since I'm in queue behind D&D 3.5 feat package #7901 and a bunch of Deviantart-quality 2D paper models. But you can wait until it shows up there if you like. It'll cost $4.00. I get $2.60 of that.

If you prefer, you can just Paypal me $3.50 (, include a note that mentions the game) and I'll send the game to your Paypal email or a different email if you mention one. This way I get the entire payment (well, minus Paypal fees maybe, but their cut is a lot smaller than DTRPG's), and you get a game with no watermark. Also, you get it when I check my Paypal, rather than (numinous point in the future whereupon DTRPG notices me).

Either way, your feedback is appreciated and if you have rad ideas I am eager to improve on my work. The game looks a bit different than some of the things I described in the earlier entries, but I think the changes are improvements.

Fair warning, the game is less than 20 pages (unless you charitably include the covers). I think it's better for having less cruft, but your opinion may differ.

The game lacks what you might call "visual interest". I am not an artist. I am a words guy. I do not have the budget to hire a designer or an artist. If the game sells well enough to justify it, some of the proceeds will be dedicated to Make Game Look Pretty. If you buy the current Ugly Version, you will be provided access to Pretty Version for free. Hypothetically.

The game also assumes you are not an idiot. It is possible that I honestly failed to explain something, but the game often asks you to use your own judgment. If you don't know what the fuck you're supposed to do, just ask me?


Currently Playing: I just bought Brave New World for Civ? Guess I should play that? Dunno

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May 22, 2014 - 05:47 PM


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Dec 24, 2013 - 07:05 PM
Pt. 7: Classy folks with good manners
Oh hey yeah, been a while, hasn't it. End of the semester's always pretty busy. Was really hoping to have the game in some kind of playable shape by the end of the year but that's clearly not going to happen. Still, work continues.

One of the best changes I've made, so far as the things I've already talked about goes: dispensing with dice. Entirely. One of my goals is to make the "needed materials list", if you will, as pedestrian and universally accessible as possible; that's why I tried my damnedest to make the d6 work when it doesn't have enough flexibility. But I realized that there's a random-number generator with much more flexibility than a d20, while possibly being more commonplace in your average home than a fistful of d6s.

A die just gives you a number. A deck of cards gives you numbers, yes, but also suits, colors, and arbitrary combinations of these three traits. And a tremendous amount of cultural baggage on which to hang design gewgaws. And while we're getting rid of needless turbonerd props: fuck your "battlemap", kid. Get your chessboard. (Yes, chess is also for dorks but plenty of people have a chess set even if it just collects dust until the next power outage.)

But we're here to talk about PCs (or, if you will, the PCs' PCs, adhering to the metagame conceit we've established). In the majority of RPGs, your characters are ostensibly heroic guys who just rescue all the prisoners and slay all the dragons and hip-hip-hooray! And that's fine, on paper. In practice, most players do not direct their characters in this way. Why? Because they want the characters to live and prosper. Dragon-fighting and prisoner-freeing are not usually compatible with the broader live/prosper objective. So when dragons are fought, they are dragons which have been determined, mathematically, to represent a minimal risk. When prisoners are rescued, they are the prisoners who are least thoroughly guarded and most able to offer lavish rewards. And that's fine. We don't want to die, and, by extension we don't want our character — who is usually little more than "me, wearing some rubber ears and perhaps a little facepaint", let's be honest — to die either. The problem is the dissonance. You can't be a self-serving, cowardly greedhead and a noble hero whom every peasant loves and respects. Word would get around pretty fast.

So the solution is straightforward: acknowledge out of the gate that your characters are terrible people. In fact, they're such terrible people that their peers have appointed them to do the most dangerous and thankless work available. Of course, they still want these terrible people to succeed: after all, long-term survival probably depends on it. But if a few of these vermin don't make it back alive, fetch an eyedropper to save the village's single tear. So who are these awful jackasses?

The Hack is your standard meathead, good at killin' and breaking things and not a whole lot else. Not necessarily stupid, mind you, or even necessarily belligerent in nature. He's just got a pretty limited skill set and a profound disinterest in diversifying. There are precious few problems which do not, from a certain angle, resemble a nail. Still, they say it takes 10,000 hours to achieve mastery in a field. The Hack was a master before he was out of diapers. Mind you, depending on the Hack in question, that's not necessarily an impressive fact.

The Hack advances (that is, he gains epithets or dismisses scars) when he destroys something important.

The Creep is usually a bit younger or a bit older than the rest of the folks she's been sent out to probably-die with, because Creeps don't stand out as a problem unless they're young and sloppy or jaded and careless. What an individual Creep has or hasn't done is very much down to the Creep's individual proclivities, but the list of terrible things a person could do upon discovering how easy it is to go unnoticed — well. It's a long list, and unpleasant to read. Maybe your Creep just stole some food. For her starving grandmother. Sure.

The Creep advances when she does something audacious and leaves no evidence or witnesses. (Her fellow scavengers are not considered witnesses.)

The Cheat is a liar. That would be enough to get anybody put on scavenger duty. If you can't trust your neighbor, how do you expect to survive the winter, let alone the decade? But he's not just that. Everyone lies here and there. A little bit. But a Cheat is a spider at the center of an ever-growing web of lies, too complicated for a practical man to maintain. But the Cheat has the luxury of being impractical; people will do anything for you when you say the right things to them. And they'll congratulate themselves on the cherry deal they made.

The Cheat advances when he manipulates someone into hurting themselves for his benefit, provided he's far away before they see the trick.

The Jinx has the closest thing a living human being can get to "being in touch with the spirit world": a jumble of half-understood whispers, battering at her mind the moment she drops the concentration needed to keep them out. Which would be sad, in its way, if she hadn't worked out how to whisper back. How to make silent deals with long-dead somethings, how to hide a smile when — oh my goodness, he just stepped in his own snare? In broad daylight? How terrible. He must have hung there for days before the dehydration killed him.

The Jinx advances when she closes a pact, concluding her business with a given spirit after achieving both the (usually awful) thing she wants and the (almost always awful) thing the spirit wants in return.

Any class-based RPG has the "I'm good at X but not Y or Z" conceit, but it always boils down to which approach would be easier: should we fight these guards? No, it would be a hard fight, so we'll use diplomacy. Fuck that. Make the characters want to handle things their way instead of the easy way, because it gives them a sick little thrill that the rest of you can't possibly understand! Of course, these motivations need not always be at cross purposes. You can always wipe out most of an enemy force before persuading the survivors to deliver your "unconditional surrender" to their superiors. They don't need to know about the fungus spreading through their travel rations, and it's quite invisible even if it occurred to them to look for it. I love these horrible people. I can't wait to see them prosper in defiance of all propriety.

Currently Playing: Warren Zevon - Mr. Bad Example

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Nov 2, 2013 - 01:25 PM
Pt. 6: I missed Halloween but let's talk about monsters anyway.
I've made a couple of vague overtures in the direction of including magic in the game (even if it won't bear much resemblance to the LET ME LOOK AT MY SPELL LIST mechanics of most RPGS). So if we've accepted that the game world is allowed to be a little unreal, it's perfectly reasonable to have some monsters. But monsters need to be, you know, monstrous: that is, not just people wearing rubber prosthetics. They should be properly alien. Let's examine some tropes. I probably won't keep the names in-game for the same reasons zombie movies rarely actually drop the Z-word, but I'll use them here so we all know what we're talking about.

The Undead: Zombies and skeletons are always good throwaway enemies in any RPG largely because they don't need much in the way of motivation and because they represent a morally-uncontroversial kill. The undead are mindless, have no families, and pretty much always want to murder you. Here's the thing: how do they even work? Ok, yes: A WIZARD DID IT. That's dull. Your real enemy is the wizard, then. These bony jerks are just vacant hurdles between you and your actual foe, and "forestalling the conclusion for forestalling's sake" is a shitty reason for a fight.

I don't know if I mentioned it before, but magic in the game, such as it is, operates on a sort of rough animism. There are spirits in everything, and these spirits have their own opinions and their own problems. Necessarily, a human body has a spirit, and while that person's alive, it identifies with the body: it is that person. Now, let's say the body dies... and the spirit doesn't move on to a new home in, oh, a frog or a river or a famous hat. Let's say it's stuck. In this corpse. There's your zombie: a hard-to-stop dead man with no fear. But that's the distinction: he's a dead person, not merely an ambulatory corpse with no motivations of its own. Maybe Mr. Boddy is horrifically traumatized by his condition; maybe he thinks it's rad and wants to get some unstoppable revenge going. Either way it's only a matter of time before decay renders him immobile. Of course, a decaying corpse eventually turns into a skeleton.

It's tempting to attach the same principle I'm using for "zombies" to justify animated skeletons, but the problems with bones is that, divorced from their meat, they eventually detach from one another. Then you have to ask, which part of this rapidly-disassembling boneheap is Mr. Boddy? Arguably you can affix the bones to one another by various methods, but if you're creating undead out of malice then working with an intact corpse seems obviously simpler and an accursed skull has no means by which to assemble his own rattletrap. So let's say: no Skeleton Warriors. Intelligent bones, sure. The petrified femur of an ancient chief, demanding redress for long-forgotten insults. Might make a good bludgeon.

Ghosts are easy. It's a spirit with no dwelling and, consequently, no sense of identity or purpose. This drives them absolutely fucking nuts, and odds are good that they have a relationship of mutual hatred with every other spirit in the vicinity.

A D&D style "ghoul" — a dead guy who eats human flesh — is just a zombie with some weird ideas about how to fix his problems. The Arabian concept of the ghul is basically a form of djinni or demon, about which more later.

Vampires are a special case because they're "dead" in only the most trivial of ways. So vampires in our game, such as they are, won't be "undead"; they'll just be (incredibly long-lived) people who made really ill-advised and lopsided bargains with something. And they won't be particularly interested in blood. Blood is just a macguffin, isn't it? What vampires want is to not die, ever, at the expense of other people dying sooner than they otherwise would. And if we're willing to dispense with blood, it's trivial to dismiss shit like "scared of sunlight" and "can be killed with this one weird trick discovered by a mom".

Liches. Oh man, why would you become a zombie on purpose? Look at you, all leather and bones, keeping your mandible attached to your skull with a bit of deer tendon. Sad. Yeah, whatever, conjure the spirits against me. Your robe look like a dishrag, damn.

Orcs: There are basically three approaches to orcs in RPGs. Either they're previously-normal people (or elves, or whatever) corrupted by evil, or they're just inherently evil creatures that just exist because the world is a shitty place, or they're just... green people who are less civilized than you are. D&D generally takes this third perspective, and usually recommends you wipe out these savages to the last. That's a little fucked up! We don't really need orcs (or an orc-equivalents like, say, lizardfolk), because if we want mean-spirited humans we can just have that, with all the ethical wibbly-wobbly of dealing with people who are just as human as you despite their disgusting ways. If we make use of non-human humanoids they should be expressly inhuman in ways beyond their appearance, and at that point it is hard to justify giving them a human-like cultural structure. If nonhuman cultures still exist, things like elves or dwarves or gnomes, they're even worse off than the humans are, which is really saying something. The handful or survivors are probably pretty resentful about the state of things.

Ogres: Are unusually large and violent humans, outcast from society thanks to their enthusiasm for cannibalism and other unseemly business. Probably more well-fed than the PCs by a good margin, if subject to more than a little mental instability.

Dragons: A tricky business. D&D and its descendants are always chock full of huge, voracious, intelligent, nearly invincible reptilian predators — and the human villages who somehow exist a mile away. Oh, sure, there's always call for some bloody-handed mercenaries to get rid of the damned thing, but how did both parties survive to this point? Realistically, the villagers pack up shop and get the fuck out, provided they have the sense to do this before the dragon has killed and devoured all of them. It almost always makes more sense to flee a dragon than to fight it; it represents a threat on a scale almost incomprehensible to people who routinely die after an encounter with wolves or bears. In the long term, of course, this guarantees total draconic hegemony, but that's hardly your primary concern right now, just take what you can carry.

If you fight dragons, it should be matter in which you have absolutely no other choice, and a battle in which you absolutely expect to die horribly. You'd never even use the word "dragon", because the genetic identity of the thing is meaningless. It might have a name (which practically doubles as a curse), what you'd neither know nor care precisely what a "dragon" is. A dragon is death in the form of something huge and malevolent and unstoppable. By this reckoning, things like Beholders, Tarrasques, and Purple Worms are also "dragons". Every dragon is a unique specimen who will destroy you and everything you have cared about, and killing them — if it's even possible — should involve a Pyrrhic victory of the worst order.

Where do dragons even come from, whatever shape they might take? Well, I reckon they're demons (about which more later) who made themselves really nice and comfortable. Not every mortal shell can endure dragon levels of distortion, but sometimes you get lucky and end up with a real world-beater. A dragon is what results when a demon keeps getting whatever it wants and nobody stops it. You want to keep an eye on that.

Kobolds: "Tiny lizard man" isn't a super interesting idea. "Pathetic, desperate people who willingly serve dragons is exchange for a tiny, tiny scrap of the spoils"... that's something. How do you even get a dragon to listen to your pleas of mercy? And if you somehow destroy a dragon, what do you do with the kobolds who survive the fight? These people clearly aren't trustworthy.

Golems: Golems are essentially man-made things imbued with rudimentary intelligence Sometimes they follow orders, sometimes no. They're pretty easy to fit into our setting: it's not hard to imagine a half-crazed spirit being trapped inside an old department-store mannequin, or a robot, or a monster truck. Or, depending on how advanced we want to make the precursor cultures, you might have the occasional straight-up legitimate AI wandering around.

Demons: Unusually old unbound spirits who have grown cynical and nihilistic with the passage of millennia. Time has given unto them certain awful secrets about the nature of things, and they gladly use this knowledge to gather power for its own sake. Being devoid of any real form they lack the ability to present a direct physical threat, but they will gladly barter for the chance to borrow any interesting body that passes their way. You might get your body back when the demon is done with it — if you still want it, after the... modifications. Demons are the original source of things like centaurs, gorgons, owlbears, hydras, and other distorted creatures that bear an uncomfortable resemblance to the natural and the sane. Whatever they offer you, it's probably not worth it.

Trolls: What if we took the debased, shameful thing that we've called an ogre and offered it something like the ugly, lopsided promise of longevity we've given vampires? Not that the comparison is entirely fair, since the vampire retains some semblance of cognition and will and could theoretically elect to willingly end their blighted existence. The troll's spirit remains trapped inside its underutilized brain as its bloated, scabrous body unthinkingly destroys and devours everything in sight. Fun!

Gnolls: Basically smart dogs that hate people, running in packs. Let's just do that, it's a lot more interesting than putting them on their hind legs and declaring THEY WORSHIP THE GNOLL GOD WHO LOVES MURDER FOR REASONS.

Ooze: Toxic chemicals are quite threatening enough, thank you, but if you'd like to have demons or angry ghosts wield them like drippy carcinogenic puppets I won't stop you.

Troglodytes: Oh hey, it's the pale men in the caves! You were hardly introduced. Again, more or less human, though after ages of separation neither you nor they would readily acknowledge any relation. Something went wrong in the past. Some kind of accident, a disagreement. Your ancestors went one way (into the hills), theirs went another (into the dark underground). It's been rough times for everyone, frankly, and you still exist in a state of mutual loathing. As long as they do no more than crouch in the mouths of their tunnels and stare, it's not worth the risk of confronting them. Certainly there's no profit in destroying them unless you're into newt bones and lichen. They've got tons of that crap.

Ankhegs, Giant Spiders, Carrion Crawlers: Do you know what's scarier than one really big arthropod? A whole shit-ton of slightly-larger-than-normal insects. The essential terror of creepy crawlies is defeated when you make it plausible that they could be killed by a well-place bullet. Don't have the PCs open a door and find one big spider they can shoot an arrow into: open a door onto a writing black carpet. If you a want a big hungry bruiser animal that's why we have BEARS.

Elementals: It is hard to find a meaningful distinction between Elementals and Golems, in terms of their place in gameplay or story. Seriously, what is the difference between a stone golem and an earth elemental? Oh, right, the elemental comes from... the PLANE OF EARTH, where he has... earth culture... and an earth... family... what the fuck. Who needs fire elementals? Fire isn't hard to get, we don't need a dude who is literally made of fire. It's raining, Jim, we can't use you on the front lines today. Elementals. Christ.

Giants/Titans: I don't think I've ever used a giant in any campaign. They're just not interesting. WHAT IF A GUY... WAS BIG? Seems like something you'd have done TO you, while you lay there crushed by gravity, struggling to breathe, desperately hungry. Eventually enough dirt settles on you that you pass for a hill. Maybe some animals will wander into your big stupid slackjawed mouth! You think some lichens might be growing in there.

Currently Playing: Ennio Morricone - Silhouette of Doom

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