Thursday, April 2, 2020

Spikes and Edges

So much depends upon your attitude toward the sky.

In LA--in Sicily and Morocco and all the places Europeans and North Americans call "The South"--half the time you don't even want a roof. The sun is up there, life spills horizontally out, eager to take advantage of it, soak up the sun, providence, goodness.

In The North things are different, God rains semisolid death whiter than bone down on you several months a year and liquid inconvenience half the rest. What's the point? It's on the roof, which is invariably pointed--to keep the snow off.

This is The Gothic: Protection from the sky. Protection from God. A pointed roof implies (in churches and palaces and any other structure required to project a sense of power and the ability to create visual unity that power implies) doorways with pointed arches, windows with pointed arches, multiple floors, dense cities close together (to make dashing from front door to stable, inn, or armory, convenient), skinny buildings with small windows.

Power in the north is the ability to create long, tall, pointed, defensive things.

Spikes? Whole cities of spikes. Months spent in darkness. Much is made of D&D's invention in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin--where it's cold.

This also implies: extensive interiors, underground cities (Montreal has one, kind of), tunnels, networks, coziness in-and-despite darkness, storytelling against that darkness, introspection, interpretation (discovering not just the story but the story behind that story--to kill time), torchlight and candlelight versus moonlight, books, research.

So: Dungeons.

Having moved to Los Angeles as an adult I'd also say the North connotes: precision (please arrive on time because conditions might be different later, please make this properly because otherwise it will leak), efficiency, slowness and patience (we'll do it when the season changes) and therefore: planning.

Contrast the Southern Gothic (which is only a common phrase because it implies something new, a great contrast--"western gothic" and "eastern gothic" don't imply as much because the disconnect is smaller): people always outside or at least always hot, where the sun can always get at them, they're always at God's mercy, torn apart, emotional, and so often horizontal: long roads, flat horizons. Dead mules. Mad Max is as southern gothic as Faulkner. The spikes are almost an afterthought, the key signifiers of the southern gothic are dust and rust. Exhaustion. God has already gotten to you. There was never any protection. If The North has any comforts, its the high quality of man-made protection: armor, thick walls, central heating, furs.

Anyway, we're all Northerners now...

Friday, March 13, 2020

I Pull A Random Book Off The Shelf... (random books, with clues)


Roll d20. Since I don't want the clues spoiled for the girls before we roll, you have to highlight the area after where it says Hidden Clue to read the clues.

Twenty Minor Dramas

Tired of having every tome player characters pull off a shelf be a revolving-door-trigger, spellbook or in a language no-one knows? Flesh out those vast subterranean libraries while discouraging further investigation with these lost classics…

…and feed your players a subtle clue in the process.


1. The Scolding of Queen Principia

A garbled farce. Seven ruined men poke a chicken with sticks. None survive.

Sample:

Montague
She’s off her guard! Now is the time sir!

Lord Scropshire
Very well, I shall…ah! I’ve been peck’t!

Cropsford
Really, Lord Scropshire, I do…

Lord Scropshire
Ah! The pecking has not in any way abated! I’m now bleeding from the eyes!

Hidden clue: This (and the presence of other works like it nearby on similar themes) may tip the players off to the fact that the fearful avian creature they will soon encounter near the library (perhaps a gargantuan ibis, a roc, or an eldritch cock) is, like the creature in the book, immune to physical attacks. 


2. The Sallow Bridegroom

Sisters compete for the love of a Duke who turns out to be a piece of cheese carved in the shape of a man. They share him. Suppressed by the church.

Sample: 

Cornucopia
I dare not touch him for to touch him is to touch myself in my most slender places.

Andyne
“Slender”? What?

Cornucopia
I never liked you. But I liked that boy—even though he is made of cheese.

Hidden clue: The drama is based on a true story from the much younger days of the powerful crone Andyne. If the PCs should ever encounter her, they might realize she still still possesses a fondness for cheeses—and a hard time distinguishing the living from the inanimate.


3. The Pinking Draught

A magic elixir causes no end of trouble for a family of assholes. 

Sample:

Ephesius
But I put it in my butt!

Albinioni
Well take it out, I want to suck on it!

Ephesius
I’ll take it out when I’m done absorbing its magical properties through my butt!

Hidden clue: If the PCs ever come upon a potion labelled “Pinking Draught” (not too soon, let it lie) they may realize it’s nothing but trouble. It is: the potion causes anyone who uses it to become sure it does exactly what they most wish it would—though in truth it has no effect. The illusion lasts one hour and there is no Save.

4. The Wolves of West Clopping

A brooding tale of slow revenge wherein a cobbler and a tart bandit contrive a nightmarish demise for a priest caught fondling their daughters on All Hallow’s Eve.

Sample:
Bagatelle
Would you like some tarts?

Father Sloque
Where, good sir, did you acquire so many tarts?

Bagatelle
Oh, I have my ways. Of…acquiring tarts.

Father Sloque
Well they’re very good tarts.

Bagatelle
Thank you!

Father Sloque
So you wanted to talk to me about…mmmf…excuse me. Wow these are really good tarts.

Bagatelle
Yes I...acquired them specially for you. Because I wanted you to….have tarts.

Father Sloque
Well I definitely got them. Boy howdy!

Bagatelle
(tenting fingers)
Yes…

Hidden clue: A former cobbler named Ella Tagab (“Bagatelle” backwards) will eventually come into the lives of the PCs—and he will be wealthy, secure, and possessed of something the PCs want very badly. If the PCs realize he is the same Bagatelle from the play and threaten to expose the murder he committed in his youth, he will fold immediately.

5. The Clutching Cow

A rogue ungulate seizes the scions of a great house. Considered the apex of Baroque literature by many critics at the time, and a precursor to the gothic novel by modern scholars, this jagged psychodrama explores the ever-splintering relationships between the self and the demands of the external world, construed both as a natural and social construct.

Sample:

Silas
Hey, it’s that cow!

Cow
(grabbing Silas)
Moo!

Silas
It hath me!

Cow
Moo!

Silas
This sucks! I am being dragged off by a cow!

Cow
Moo!

Silas
Fuck!

Hidden Clue: This work is beloved of the “Philosophic Prince” Morach Van Heem of Battaviglia, and any who have read it may come into his good graces by discussing with him its symbolism and themes.

6. The Severed Blessing

Considered an early example of socially-engaged theatre, this gripping tragedy depicts a pair of nuns who discover their love for one another just before the Inquisition does.

Sample:

(Inquisitor pulls lever)

Sister Clara
Oh no I’m being executed in an awful way!

Sister Anastasia
I wish social mores were more advanced than they are presently!

Sister Clara
I as well my love! Aghhhh…

(Clara is dropped into Excellent Beadle)

Hidden Clue: One of the torture devices in the book is called “The Excellent Beadle”. If the PCs later encounter a seemingly innocent priest, monk, priestess, etc who says they are taking them to meet The Excellent Beadle they’ll be tipped off their host is not what they seem.



7. The Erotic Beaks

A philandering pair of plague-doctor brothers deceive their respective inamorata by refusing to remove their pointed masks. A lewd travesty, universally despised.

Sample:

Madame Orvieto
Oh Cyril it’s so long and fascinating!

Jeremy
Yes, and filled with aromatic herbs!


Hidden Clue: The brothers are named Cyril and Jeremy. The wicked twins the PCs will one day encounter (also using their semblance to dissemble) are also named Cyril and Jeremy.


8. The Eight Mistakes of Oswald de L’Orme

An unsettling work of experimental theatre by the depraved genius Andromache Parlour—executed in 1620 for witchcraft and heliocentrism. All the lines are spoken by nude and corpulent men standing astride statues of their own children caked in red ice.

Sample:

Ninth Shadow
You have made another mistake Oswald de L’Orme!

Oswald de L’Orme
What is it? Was it the thing I did with the wine bottle?

Angel of Prostitution
Calumny! Striation!

Ninth Shadow
(whispering)
Fun cakes


Hidden Clue: If the PCs should come across statues of children caked in red ice, they might be clever enough to say something like “Ah, I didn’t know you were putting on a production of the Eight Mistakes” and thereby give their host impression of being cultured.


9. These Pale and Rigid Ranks

A savage satire of contemporary morals, this tragicomic tale relates the life of an unscrupulous dentist as told by his own teeth. As his rates skyrocket and his handiwork decays, they begin to take on dark, paranoid personae reflecting the ills of both dentistry and society as a whole.

Sample:

Molar
How can I see a cavity when I have a cavity inside myself?

Bicuspid
Your mother was twenty whores.

Canine
Arf.

Hidden Clue: The PC will one day come upon a statue of a colossal head with the phrase “Hi gradus pallidus tensa atque rigida efficiuntur” carved into its base. Any cleric or anyone making a language roll will realize it’s a reference to the title of this play—and that they should, therefore, examine the teeth carefully.

10. The Tale of Snodgrass

A man loses track of his mother on market day only to find she has been kidnapped by Poseidon.

Sample:

Poseidon
Though she once whelped and raised you, a slave to your whims and mewlings, Irma is now my queen and will reign with me beneath the waves for all eternity .

Snodgrass
Um, ok? She seems happy.

Irma
(whispers)
Look at his abs!

Poseidon
Ok cool.

Snodgrass
Cool.

Hidden Clue: A mountebank will one day attempt to run a long con the PCs by claiming their mother was “kidnapped by a seaman on market day”. Familiarity with this work may put them on their guard.

11. The Egotist

A captain in the king’s guard tortures those around him with his overweening arrogance until a humble but perspicacious lady challenges him and wins his heart. Said to have been a great inspiration to Jane Austen.

Sample:

Nurse
What have they done to my puddings!

Captain Poquelin
I don’t know dumbass but I’m impressive.

Lady Almondine
(enters)
Nurse there’s not nearly enough boning
in this corset!

Captain Poquelin
I’ll say!

Hidden clue: The reserved, uxurious and pious Captain Raphael Poquelin has suffered much on account of this play as he feels it has caused the women of the French court to mistake him for a cad and a bounder. Any who remark upon the coincedence of the names and share his woes will be brought into his confidence.

12. The Impregnable Fortress

From the pen of Rollo Ortega del’Osoria comes this groundbreaking and early attempt at the Theatre of Inertia concerning a fortress that’s really hard to get into.

Sample:

General
Are we in yet?

Calderon
Nope.

General
Did you try the battering ram?

Calderon
Yep.

General
What about the catapult?

Calderon
We threw the rocks right at the door.

General
And?

Calderon
Nada.

General
What about the Iron Rhinoceros?

Calderon
That’s not a thing.

General
Hm.

Hidden Clue: del’Osoria would become a mystic obsessed with the notion of an “impregnable fortress”, filing the book that would be known as the “del’Osoria Codex” with architectural diagrams and protection spells. Anyone reading it will gain two levels in Architecture and access to d6 new protection spells. While the book is occasionally referenced in lists of lost tomes, this play is the only clue as to its contents.


13. The Carrot

This play, written entirely in rhyming couplets, deals with attempts by a humble Austrian peasant to locate a carrot belonging to his cruel lord, a vegetarian as strict as he is voracious.

Sample:

Peasant
Over dale or under hill?
Perhaps upon some window’s sill?

King
If you don’t find my fucking carrot,
I’ll make a hat from your ass and force you to wear it


Hidden clue: The Countess of Crewthe has heard in passing—she cannot remember from who—that this play is of interest—and will ask the PCs if they’ve heard of it and what it is about. If they know, (or better yet, have it with them) she will mark them as quite erudite, and shower the favor of the court upon them.


14. The Knight of Noses

A curse obliges a knight to store thirty noses in his chambers and wear a different one on each day of the month. The courtiers mock his affliction until a savage reversal occurs.

Sample:

Serial Mutilator 
(cuts off everyone’s nose)
Lol

Courtiers
Ub…coulb we borrow…

Knight of Noses
Seriously?


Hidden Clue: There’s also a tavern called the Knight of Noses. Each day of the month it “clones” a different other tavern in the city: the personnel, decor and events within mirror those in some other inn precisely, save for any interference from those who wander in to the Knight itself off the street.

15. The Glossy Chop

A pair of diners differ over the origin of a thin coating of moisture atop a piece of pork loin. Much praised in its day for its striking realism.

Sample:
Obragon
Mayhap a mignonette sauce!

Voynich
I think that it is pee.

Hidden Clue: The PCs may run into an alchemist obsessing over a mysterious goldish potion they fear to open labelled “The Voynich Solution” created by his dead mentor (a great enthusiast of the theatre). The play should tip them off as to its contents.


16. The School for Emperors

A pair of mighty rulers gamble on the outcome of a duel between two beggars, not knowing the beggars are themselves their own parents, once thought dead but in fact driven into destitution by the stresses of their office.

Sample:


Emperor of the East Wind
Ha look at that jerk!

Emperor of the Western Desert
Yep he sucks because unlike us he doesn’t have royal blood in his veins and is instead a normie.

Beggar
Actually I’m your dad, fucking zing.



Hidden Clue: In a few months the PCs may find themselves on a flyblown street watching a pair of beggars circle one another with flensing knives while a pair of high-born fops look on from a high balcony. They may then realize the text was a premonition and all four men are emperors in disguise.

17. The Expedition

The elders of a small town menaced by unknown forces from beneath the earth hire a band of adventurers to harry the terror to its lair and defeat it.

Elders
But who shall assay this perilous task?

Thief
(spinning dagger on fingertip)
I have for decades apprenticed to the crafts of stealth in movement and the opening of locked doors!

Elders
Indeed? Excellent!

Warrior
(hefting an axe the size of a child)
I, veteran of a dozen wars, am skilled with shaft, steel and all arms of combat.

Elders
Outstanding!

Wizard
(as lightning erupts from cupped hands)
I enslave the very forces of the cosmos, conjuring fire and terror from the very air.

Elders
Right on!

Bard
(strikes harp)
My silver tongue sways any man to my cause, and my songs inspire heroic courage!

Elders
Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

Bard
No seriously I want to go

Hidden Clue: To prevent the unlettered from befouling the stacks, Kharsos The Examiner demands any visitor to the Library of Nachtim-Nightwallowing  answer three of five questions about books before permitting them entry. One is—which adventurer was not hired by the Elders to go on The Expedition in the play of that name?

18. The Masterpiece

A fierce and passionate artist, encouraged by his loyal muse, contrives his finest work yet: a portrait of the goddess of mercy in alabaster and red-veined marble, but the attempt only reveals his flaws and ultimately leads to his undoing.

Lorraine
Is it finished? May I see it?

Lagneau
Almost, almost…Wait, how many arms does a girl have?

Lorraine
Two, my love

Lagneau
Merde!


Hidden Clue: The party will one day come upon a statue of the goddess of mercy in alabaster in red-veined marble. It will have two arms, but—upon careful examination—the right arm and shoulder will be shown to have been added at a later date by a less-talented hand. Cracking off the second arm will reveal a lever which opens a secret door.

19. The Second Expedition

A sequel to The Expedition, the village (saved at the end of the previous work) is once again bedeviled, this time by demons accidentally unleashed by the first party. A new company is formed to face this threat.

Sample:

Bard
(still brandishing harp)
Look, I can do magic!
(Strums aggressively, a fireball flies from the harp)

Elders
Yyyeah. Next.

Hidden Clue: Another of Kharsos the Examiner’s questions (see 17 above) is “What is the name of the sequel to The Expedition?”


20. Glendower The Brephophagist

A maiden’s long search for a husband appears to have reached a happy conclusion until it is revealed that her suitor eats babies. 

Sample:

Elizabeth
Glendower, have you seen Doctor Minniver, he…AGHHH!

Glendower
…ngumb…num…Oh hey Elivabeff


Hidden Clue: Well now the party knows what “brephophagist” means—and this is LotFP so it will likely come up. Don’t let them look it up if they don’t remember.