Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Indifference Number

The crowbars are deployed.

A scraping.

Centipedes crawl out through the new black breach in the veined stone.

The cleric with the 16 Int backs around the corner.

Oh, who knew? The ArchLich has been released. If only someone had been able to read ancient Omnithroxian.

No matter what you, as GM, decide at this point it will smack of GM fiat. You are either nice or cruel. The Archlich can toast them, there's pretty much no doubt.

What's up to you is whether it cares. Does it TPk them all or just howl shrilly, unfurl its gothic wings and find an innocent village or ancient foe to unleash itself on?

There's a fly in the room I'm typing this in right now, but I can't be fucked. Even less so after I just woke up.
Shire? Baggins? No? I'll just be moving along then...

So rather than just deciding and being a big softie or a cruel hardass, give the situation some tension using the Indifference Number.

It works like this:

Assuming no specific reason to kill a lesser being or keep it alive, subtract the lesser being's level or HD from the Fearful Entity's level or HD. (Or, if the lesser being is being somehow clever, the lesser being's apparent level or HD.)

The resulting number is the Indifference Number--representing the chance that the powerful being sees the lesser as not worth the effort--then roll d20.

Or, hell, have the player roll d20.

Rolling under the indifference number means the greater being can't be fucked to deal with you, and goes about its wicked business.

The GM should only invoke the Indifference Number when it makes sense and will be interesting. The player cannot reliably evoke the indifference number to save his or her ass.

Modifiers should be made in the case of PCs making a pest of themselves, wearing the panoply of antithetical gods, kneeling politely, or whatever.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Girlfriend Index

The Girlfriend Index is, quite simply, the number of different google results an activity returns when inserted at the beginning of the phrase "with my girlfriend'.

Scholars differ on the precise significance of the Girlfriend Index.
the coffee table behind me

When I wrote this 4 years ago, it was the only thing that came up if you Googled the phrase "40k with my girlfriend".

Since then, Warhammer 40k's Girlfriend Index has gone up 600%. So that's...something.

"40k with my boyfriend" brings up 3 different results.
"40k with my mom" brings up 1
"40k with my dad" brings up 6
"40k with my sister": 1
"40k with my brother": 5,350
"40k with my wife" 7
"40k with my husband"  4 (well, 4 about gaming, a fifth was about  remodelling a kitchen)
"40k with my daughter" 3
"40k with my son" 5,440

And in case you thought the RPG was doing better...
"Dark Heresy with my girlfriend" and the like bring up zero (P.S. Dear Google: I play Dark Heresy with my girlfriend)
"Dark Heresy with my wife" brings up 1 and it's someone commenting on this blog.

"Pathfinder with my girlfriend" 2
"4e with my girlfriend" 1
"3.5 with my girlfriend" 4
"AD&D with my girlfriend" 1
"D&D with my girlfriend" 14,800
"D&D with my sister" 14,900
"D&D with my daughter" brings up 7 results, 3 of which are decidedly OSR
(Shadowrun, 13th Age, Blue Rose, Rifts, Dungeon World, FASERIP: 0)
White Wolf games are hard to google since "vampire with my girlfriend" could mean a lot of things...
"LARP with my girlfriend" 5
"Warhammer with my girlfriend" 4
"Exalted with my girlfriend" 0
"RPGs with my girlfriend" 6 results, 3 about tabletop
"CoC with my girlfriend" 4 results--all of which refer to Call of Cthulhu and none of which refer to Corrosion of Conformity.

Next glass ceiling: we also played 40k with our girlfriend.
Only one result for that so far.
See you in 2017.

Reasons Everyone You Know Is Dead Or Insane

Threw together some plot seeds using the first three results that I rolled up on yesterday's horror plot seed generator.

I like this thing....

Fatally curious curator

Dead but still communicates with the living


The exhibits in the museum have been changing. Curators there have felt compelled to move things and can't explain why--a French crucifixion has been moved to the African wing, a cylindrical modern sculpture has been placed in the Renaissance. One has turned up with his lungs all over his arms. (Curator, not sculpture).

In truth, two objects in the collection--two strange sculptures by visionary surrealists (one that's been recently acquired, one that has been in the collection since the 1950s) are at war. They can only act by influencing the humans that spend time with them.

Citizens touched by glimpses of a world beyond our own

Slain by something from Elsewhere

A seemingly blank and meaningless vista which holds strange fascination

The victims of the grisly murders appear at first to be unrelated, but investigation reveals they have all watched thousands of hours of the same television show. The show's script and stage direction is an intricate spell that hollows out their minds from elsewhere, allowing them to take root, and chew the audience apart from the inside, like some appalling mix of Videodrome and The Langoliers


Haunted poet.
Performed a ritual, it went awry
Collection of obscure ingredients

Things went missing: dust from the tomb of king, the bedding of a marriage unconsummated for 45 years, three virtually-identical unrelated, grey-eyed children, a key made of malachite. The poet turned up dead in a pool of lava. All of the things were there. The chalk circle was smeared, as if something had breached it from the inside.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Not Nearly Enough Horror Business (Some random tables)

Some Tables for Call Of Cthulhu or other horror games....

(The first 3 tables all owe a debt to Cthulhu Gloom--thank you, Keith)

Characters (d20)

1, Obsessive mathematician
2, Insane scientist
3, Woman of easy leisure
4, Haunted poet
5, Secretive librarian
6, Unwholesome child
7, Homicidal mother
8, Sorcerer
9, Untrammeled and upright crusader for the good
10, Prodigal heir
11, Doctor who performed a lot of unnecessary surgery
12, Citizens touched by glimpses of a world beyond our own
13, Hissing visionary
14, A man of considerable political influence
15, Cat or other apathetic pet
16, Fatally curious curator
17, Unfortunate individual in the midst of a transformation
18, Painter of unspeakable vistas
19, Recently returned archaeologist
20, Drunk who drinks to kill the visions

Strange Deaths (d20)

1, Missing an organ entirely
2, Slain by an artwork
3, Slain by reading the wrong book
4, Killed by a pack of otherwise nonaggressive animals
5, Suicide by fire
6, Disappeared on an expedition or vacation
7, Cannibalised
8, Automutilation
9, Slain by something from Elsewhere
10, Dead but still communicates with the living
11, Corpse continues screaming after death
12, Refused some basic human necessity until starvation, thirst, etc took over
13, Died peacefully but something unholy was done to the remains
14, Taken to another dimension/planet
15, Crushed flat
16, Wasted away, distracted
17, One day, simply gone
18, Died of terror
19, Died trapped behind, beneath, within something
20, Performed a ritual, it went awry

Things (d100)

1, University
2, Visionary artworks
3, Occult rituals
4, A creature humankind was not meant to gaze upon
5, A grave
6, A tome
7, An object with unseemly geometry
8, Acquisition of academic status
9, New England
10, Psychoanalysis
11, A delirium
12, Fungi
13, Animals behaving strangely
14, Subhumans
15, Nightmares
16, Possession by remnants of events long past
17, Invisible things
18, Swarms
19, Dopplegangers or doubles
20, Inebriation
21, Paranoia
22, A sanitarium
23, Mutation
24, An archaeological expedition
25, Returning from a trip to a remote location insane
26, A journey by water
27, Paranoia about something harmless and ubiquitous
28, Terrible sounds that don't stop
29, A bizarre inheritance or gift
30, A small town where nothing is right
31, Unwanted knowledge
32, A library
33, A wild place
34, Architecture beyond human ken
35, Antiquarian book collector
36, A cult
37, Correspondences or phone calls
38, A maze or mazelike place
39, A seemingly blank and meaningless vista which holds strange fascination
40, A creepy feast
41, A diary
42, Dreams of improper pleasures
43, An heir or heiress
44, Cannibalism
45, Disturbing ancestry
46, Terrified retreat
47, Amnesia
48, A battle with unknown forces
49, A sound, color, texture or other sensation never before known to humans
50, An obscure religious insight
51, One of us becomes one of them
52, A boarding house or hotel of ill repute
53, Hallucinations
54, Tentacles
55, Crimes form a geometric pattern
56, Lunatic as the only source of useful information
57, Nonverbal communication
58, Evil police
59, Sumeria
60, Minor typographical errors prevent the incantation from working
61, Photos or drawings purporting to be the same subject that aren't
62, A recipe
63, Drugs
64, A name that can't be remembered no matter how hard anyone tries
65. Tears with unusual properties
66, Blood with unusual properties
67, The compulsion to repeat a past incident
68, Intelligent archtiecture
69, Skin as a creative or structural medium
70, The same day repeats
71, The night does not end
72, Triggered by the moon
73, Astronomical readings that make no sense
74, Two minds in one body
75, Many minds in one body
76, Premature rot
77, Ancient knowledge in a young vessel
78, Music made with instruments that can't be identified
79, Paralysis
80, Tarot cards
81, Spitting
82, Human sacrifice
83, Collection of obscure ingredients
84, Preparation for obscure circumstances (eclipse, solstice, the marriage of a 7th son to a 6th daughter)
85, Bones as tools
86, Shadows as threats
87, Poisoned garments
88, Emotions, thoughts or memories in liquid or commestible form
89, Purification
90, Coded messages in maps or scale models
91, Eyes where there should not be eyes
92, Fetuses or larvae
93, A great public spectacle ruined
94, The victims all had a...
95, It was once a man, and looked far less grotesque in the Monster Manual picture
96, It was once a woman, and looked far less grotesque in the Fiend Folio picture
97, A party member feels suddenly compelled to... every time you roll a....
98, Skin or hair or teeth or nerves or bones or something missing. Yet it lives.
99, Such a fine mind. So damaged.
00, Teratophilia

Personal Horror--Today's horror derives from... (roll random PC, then roll d8 below)

1. PCs highest high stat or lowest low stat, whichever is most extreme. Low app? Their ugliness is the basis for the horror. High int? They've learned something you'll wish they didn't...

2. Your place of education. Where did they learn all these damn skills? And what did they learn about? This is where the horror starts.

3. Occupation. The horror approaches via the PC's job. Driving a cab? It's in the cab. Or it's the cab.

4. Birthplace. The horror was born where they were. Its nature is, perhaps, derived from the nature of that place.

5. Age. The horror is a horror associated with their specific era, or, if you are very young or old then horror's nature may have to do with youth or age. If you can't get any juice out of that, roll again, but this time base the horror not on the PC's characteristic but on the player's characteristic.

6. Skills. The horror derives from the world evoked by the PC's best skill. Physics? Prepare to face a gravity creature. Drive Auto? Christine. Shotgun? Whatever it is, it shoots back.

7. Psychic abilities. Whatever force the PC's psionic ability is derived from, the enemy emanates from the same place. (This only works if the PC's have acquired spells in play or if you're playing  Chill Of Cthulhu. Treat this as 8 below otherwise.)

8. Whatever's left. During Call of Cthulhu's robust period of character creation, you've established one or two things about the PCs besides what's above: personal style, home, ethnic background. Use that.
She rolled a 2

See also Occult Tomes here and maybe random contemporary objects here.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Just A Note About Some Contessa Stuff Going On Today

3.5 hours from this post:

WTF is The OSR? is easy to answer. It's Max. But the people doing the discussing on this panel are supercool...

Kyrinn of Urutsk: World of Mystery, which is that thing where people come back form playing and are like "Whoa, Kyrinn is a really good GM...:
Kirin of Old School Hack and Women Fighters In Reasonable Armor and our own personal thursday night GM. Also known as "Waffle King" and soon to be known on this panel as "Other Kirin" or "Boy Kirin".
Natalie Oddyssey, who is just about the smartest.
Matt Finch and if you don't know who Matt Finch is, you really do need to watch a What Is The OSR panel.
Unrelated question: who drew this? I wanna buy them a beer.
6.5 Hours From This Post:

The I Hit It With My Axe Crew...

Gets Interviewed On A Panel
Hail Cobra.

Friday, June 21, 2013

This Is What Having An RPG Blog Is Like

So you eat cheese, you're eating cheese, your friends eat cheese you spresd it on crackers and it's tasty and there's cheese and then you go on the internet and write "Oh the cheese, I'm eating it, I like cheese, this is good, let's try it on fries."

And people are like "Yeah, totally, cheese, it's a dairy product, it's tasty, sometimes yellow. Have a comment."

Then all the way from the other end of the internet someone's reading about your cheese and they go "You're eating cheese upside down with pie on your breath and it makes the geese fat and the waterpants frigid and participates in the culture of spooning your dad with a miserly fister and you've got to stop this we've got to stop this, why hasn't this already been stopped!!?!!'

And you go over there.

You go: "What now? What do you do with cheese?"

And so you go and you listen and they're talking about taking cheeses and they're saying they're putting them in magic pans with wires that touch and boiling it over eels and rubbing on one another and smothering the cheeses in airframe luggage and you go "Well I didn't even know that happened." That's not a judgment. It's just news to you. And therefore interesting.

And they go "You knew it! Liar! You're marginalizing our airframe luggage smearing cheese incidents entirely!"

And so you go and say "Well why don't you send me these cheeses you've got maybe? Maybe this bears investigation."

And you have it in the mail and you open it up and look at it and it looks like a cheese. Maybe on one side bluer than expected but cheese nonetheless and you put it on something and eat it and go "Well ok,  a little crumbly in bits but its all cheese, I get it."

And then they go "Well don't you see how the cheese it prevents grease fires and balloon stomachs and the medical dog wire?" and you go "What?"

And then you say "Well there appears to be a gap."

Like a gap of not the cheese and the other cheese but with what I and everyone I've ever met or had a conversation about does when I get ahold of cheese and what you do because literally not a single one of your cheese stories sounds like what happens when a person in my experience, in full good faith, slices a bit of coagulated casein with added rennet and slides it gulletwise.

And so rather than hiding in a trench and going "Why did I ever look all the way across the internet at your commentary on how I ate cheese?" you want to be nice and humane and learn to know that which is unknown and express this cultural problem of communicating things about cheeses and go "We aren't understanding each other because there is a gap. And since I actually got your cheese in the mail and ate it and it was just cheese by my definition the gap isn't in the cheese but in how we use it and I don't know where this gap is or where it came from but  let's talk about how this gap is there and do things to close it. Let's eat cheese together."

And they go "You're lying about cheese! There's no gap! We're slapping phosphorus with cheeses and hanging them from the doorplaster and so you should stop trying to sow dissent and marginalize our already so embattled cheese behavior!"

So you can try to point to that gap and know where to build that bridge and get shit for it the whole time or you can live on one side of the bridge forever. I choose the harder option because it's just the internet and nothing that happens here matters anyway.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Not Immediately Obvious Feature of Occult Tome (Roll d100)

(Courtesy of everyone in this thread on Google + (add me if you can't see it).)

This took 2 and a half hours to put together.

1. If left in sunlight, always appears in shadow when next seen. 

2. Bookmarks rot within 1d6 days 

3. Information critical to understanding the rest of the book is written on the endpapers in ink that can only be seen in the light of a burning Hand of Glory. 

4. Earmarks straighten out whenever the book is left in darkness. 

5. Misquotes other occult books investogator is familiar with but author seems to mistranslate parts of sentences into an unknown tongue not understand that they are doing it 

6.  Gives those using it a papercut every damn time. 

7. Is a palimpsest in which the original writing can only be seen under the light of the harvest moon. 

8. Waterproof, but not blood proof. 

9. Sprouts centipede legs and scuttles off if given half a chance 

10. Consumes other books when shelved with them. Its ink begins to fade unless it eats another book at least once a week. 

11. The whole text is a palindrome when translated to enochian script. 

12. Contains only information reader already knows, thought written in an intoxicatingly majestic style. The book actually removes this information from the reader's mind as s/he reads. 

13. Is overdue from the library of Gorlex the Unsavory. And you don't want to hear about the late fees ... 

14. Every time it is opened it steals one year from the far end of the reader's life. 

15. Pages are numbered incorrectly (i.e. out of sequence), but bound in numerical order, making it a tremendous pain in the ass to use. 

16. Chapter beginning illuminations switch persons shown whenever one is copied. 

17.  If read backwards, the book is surprisingly breezy easy reading (taking just all night to read!), and reveals one important fact about an important NPC yet to be met that the NPC would rather not be known. 

18. Moves bookmarks d6 pages towards the end if the book (and reading the "skipped" pages reveals the most important and terrifying truths)

19. Text is set in two different colors, but each color is from three different kinds of ink. Reading the parts that match kinds of ink gives you the real name and location of the author, who is giving instructions as how to free him from his demonic gaol encoded in the whitespace. 

20. Front cover: white goatskin, back cover: black goatskin. 

21.  Fake student text from a wizard academy: The first thirty pages are an incomplete tome on the effect on aetheric currents on arcane casting.  The remainder of the book is succubus-on-succubus porn. 

22. When used to wedge something shut, gains thousandfold weight. This is usual at risk of architectural integrity, and the book is often found at the base of fallen towers. 

23.  Several pages are stuck together. Breaking the seals frees a plethora of literary and allegorical daemons to plague the reader. 

24. When burnt, creates horrid smoke that when breathed imparts the book's content on everybody witnessing the burning (200' radius, but always happens to the person igniting the fire). On a failed save vs magic, victim is compelled to recreate book, including dark rituals to bind the preserving spell to the book again. 

25. The pages of the book are impregnated with hallucinogens, which will kick in, in 1D4 x 10 minutes, rendering the contents of the book frighteningly real.   

26. Book is obviously new in every respect but contains vast amounts of detailed minutiae about world historical events which are recorded nowhere else and which, if checked against physical evidence, are demonstrably true. The author's name is on the spine. 

27.  The book has a gatefold section that really is a gatefold, opening a portal to whatever vista is illuminated on the page. Blue skidooed, we can too! 

28. Reading causes nightmares for distant family member.  

29. Touching the book causes eczema to develop on readers skin in 2d6 days.  

30.  When read in the original language of the first edition it includes subtle linguistic references that turn the context into a romantic epic.The copy the players have is the 4th edition, which reads as the worst kind of textbook.  

31. The contents of the book don't "sink in". The reader learns nothing from reading, however the last person to touch it before them learns as the new reader reads. 

32. If opened to a random page, you can read an awkward secret about someone within visual distance. 

33. Both front and back are covers. If read as if front 1 is the real front, it is on some utterly banal and boring topic (crop yields, tax law, whatever), but if read from front 2 it is the occult tome. 

34. The book forms part of some Borgesian labyrinth a la The Garden Of Forking Paths or House Of Leaves.  

35.  It is a loose-leaf folio that if rearranged becomes another, completely different occult tome. 

36. Spine and cover of book lined with lead; treat as club when used in combat. 

37. Gains a chapter on the life history of anyone that possesses the book for more than a day. This history is correct, other than one major untruth. 

38. The book's index is wrong and changes to a useful index of a book standing left of it when put there for a day. 

39. Reading any entry in the bibliography aloud summons that particular book, but also telegraphs your location to the wizardly owner of said book. 

40. If held in front of a mirror, a duplicate copy will be created in another random time and location 

41. Is still a work in progress despite having been printed & bound. Passages are constantly being rewritten, illuminations added, diagrams redrawn. 

42. Book is not subject to gravity if opened and placed in the air. It will support up to 10 pounds while so levitating, and its pages are immune to wind-flutter (that is, it will keep its place). 

43. The book details every event of the reader's life, in reverse, starting with their gruesome death at the hands of the book's next reader. 

44. The book's content is so mundane that while reading it you're immune to any and all magical effects. If you're a magical creature trying to read the book, it's pages seem to be empty (this includes all characters being able to cast spells). 

45. Certain parts can only be accessed if read in a mirror (the cover also has a mirror affixed, perhaps, to act as a clue). 

46. When the book is opened spiders crawl towards it.  

47.  If read within an hour after killing a humanoid:human - Text is not justified, every page is written margin to margin in writing with sentences running off.dwarf - Touching the text will reveal raised lettering not matching what is written on the page. The sentences in raised lettering will reveal the consciousness of the dwarf's spirit. If read to the end of the book the dwarf's spirit will cease to exist.elf - When opened, the book will absorb the breath of a reader poring over the text. The reader will find it progressively harder to breathe the more time is spent reading. Closing the book will return the reader's breathing to normal.orc - Reader does not feel any aches or strains from bending to read the text for extended periods, but immediately feels them after closing the book. 

48. The book erases readied spells out of the reader's mind and puts them on the pages; the book can only read safely as a spellbook with a custom Read Magic variation (and the book containing that is well, well hidden by the M-U that owns both books). 

49. Illustrations within the book are real and may be grasped and removed from the book, though this is not clear unless an attempt is consciously made to grasp them. 

50. Dead bodies putrefy unnaturally fast when the tome is close to them. 

51. The agnostic topic of the book makes the reader function as the focus of a turn undead spell, only it affects clerics. This effect is ongoing while the book read, plus 1d6 hours after. (Turning at reader's level / hit dice) 

52. The information the reader seeks is contained in full inside the book, but only as a subplot in a metaphorical tale that conclusively proves with cool reason and irrefutable logic that the values most dear to the reader are utterly utterly wrong. So convincing is the argument that it forces a reversal of alignment, causes the faithful to lose their faith, the godless into devouts, the selfish to become selfless, the kind to be cruel and so on.  

53. If you hold the book upside down before opening it to a random page it shows a map on the left hand page of exactly where you are standing. The surrounding region on the map will have a 50% chance of showing any hidden or secret features. Nearby creatures are shown as appearing and disappearing ink spots on the map. It gives the reader a migraine after 1D6 turns of continuous use. 

54. Cover assumes the color of the eyes of the last person to read it all the way through. 

55. The skin binding is unnaturally warm, and shivers pleasantly when stroked.  Owners of the book often caress it in a manner that becomes increasingly lascivious the longer they possess it.  

56. The second to last chapter contains a number of really funny jokes, for a five year old's kind of humor. 

57. The stitching is of dubious quality - whenever opened there is a percentage chance (equal to the readers STR score) that a random page falls out. The original content of this page changes to contain a contract (in an ancient script) that explains the readers soul is now property of a supernatural power, who will contact the PC within 1d4 days to demand a nefarious service.  

58. Tearing out and eating a page of the book pulls you into the world it describes. If someone tears and eats the page whose contents you are travelling in, both save vs magic to avoid exploding into a gory picture filling the pages magically replacing the missing ones.This book gets more and more violent and gory over time, until it reaches a style that even James Raggi thinks is unbearably gross. 

59.  Oh geez now you've got booklice.  Only it takes about a week before you notice, and by then everything is infested.  *EVERYTHING* 

60. When hidden clasp in binding is unfastened book magically unfolds into adjustable flight of stairs up to 100 feet in height. 

61. The book is a fascinating read that keeps you up all night. You will be dog tired the next morning and not be able to memorize spells. Save vs. magic the next night to avoid continuing to read the book. Apply normal rules for sleep deprivation except for falling asleep. Reading the whole book requires seven nights. Removing the book from the vicinity of the victim induces nightmares for 1d4 weeks. 

62. If read from cover to cover, silently or otherwise, over any period of time, so long as it is read sequentially, an avatar or god featured in the tome is summoned. 

63. The tome's text writhes upon its vellum pages as it's read, almost as if the letters are trying to break free. If a PC touches the writing, there's a 4 in 6 chance that the characters will adhere to their skin, marking their body part indelibly with the arcane text (unless removed by a Remove Curse spell).Rumor has it that a shadowy cabal of mages trades in "living grimoire:" severed body parts (mostly hands and arms, though the occasional torso or head shows up in their collections) affected by the book's curse. 

64. The book is bound in the brain matter of a dead wizard or psychic. The book details the life of this person, in a style that is unnaturally compelling to the reader.As the book is read, spells or powers are "unlocked" in the reader and the reader is able to envision and relive events from the author's life not featured in the work.Upon finishing the book, the reader's own mind is wholly replaced with the consciousness of the dead wizard or psychic; meanwhile the reader's own story is recorded in the book, stored there until they replace the next unsuspecting reader. 

65. "Careful study and another successful Geology roll may lead to a single point of Sanity loss, if the Keeper chooses, as the form in the “geode” (on the cover) clearly appears to be a cross section of a worm-like creature, unknown to science, curled in around itself." -Brett Kramer "Masks if Nyarathotep Companion" 

66.  Half of book is written in red ink, the other half in green - these writings are at war with each other.  Pages change with the rise and fall of textual empires. 

67. Book hates the spoken word, and will snap shut for 1D4 Turns (often maliciously trying to take the fingers of the reader) if anyone speaks within 20' of it while it is open. 

68. the book is still redlined. The scathing remarks of the editor hold the real secrets the tome promises to unlock. 

69. The book's script seems to burn with an unnatural urgency. Reading more than a page in an hour causes temporary blindness. 

70. Seems to contain innocuous and banal facts about the everyday world. Things everyone knows anyway. The reader dreams of these things for d6 +2 nights, each night these facts just seem a little stranger and implausible. On the last night the reader can no longer believe the world around them is real. 

71. All of the pages of the book are snakeskin. 

72. The book has tiny little holes in every page encoding a dissenting view in braille. 

73. Touching the endpapers triggers a Save vs Death. 

74. The dedication page contains the name of a PC. 

75. The book is a meme seeking a physical incarnation. Its manifestation is recent, and thus far is a literal zygote that has only acquired a spine and some leaves, unsure of its final biology. Each time it comes into contact with another living being if will acquire a feature of its biology.  

76. While reading the book, everyone within 30 feet of the reader is filled with an insatiable desire to brutally mutilate the reader. This effect lasts for 1d3 turns after the reader stops reading.30 minutes after closing the book, the last reader is filled with an uncontrollable desire to start reading again. 

77. The book is a real slog, poorly written with pertinent information scattered throughout the pages, incorrect page references, a slanderous index and incomplete chapters. But fanning the pages to send a breeze across the reader's face is instantly refreshing and removing all weariness.  

78. The work is written in a recognizable and authentic but seemingly impossible form of Middle English/Middle Common (i.e. words and spellings coined years later appear, before their etymological antecedents, archaisms and syntactical structures derived from languages thought lost during the period appear). 

79. The information sought by the reader is not to be found in the written word, but coded in the delicious booksmell that rises from each page. 

80. Every page has a small section of simple but utterly opaque magical text in the middle of the page. Arranged around this text are three elaborate conflicting commentaries. In fact it is three different spell books in one. If the reader tries to use more than one commentary to interpret the spell on any given page, she will arrive at a definite and nuanced interpretation. But when the spell is cast it will have a 50% of affecting her as a confusion spell.  

81. Because nobody's said it yet:"It's a cookbook!" (disguised as an occult tome, to keep the recipes proprietary) 

82. Cursed necromantic tome. For each spell learned, the user comes one small step closer to being a living mummy.  

83. The book details the lascivious and inappropriate sexual encounters and depravities of all of the spiritual and political leaders of the nearest hamlet or village (but not city), including detailed accounts of specific acts and encounters between those leaders.It is absolutely certain that the book will be found and read by someone who lives in the community.50% of the stories are true, so the book is a dangerous weapon of blackmail and gossip amongst the locals.The contents change whenever the book approaches another village or hamlet. 

84. After reading the book (all effects):In 1d6 days fingernails become blackened and soft.  In 2d8 days 1d6+1 teeth dangle and fallout 1d3 days later.  In 1d8 days hair becomes brittle, thin, and white. In 1d20 days 1d100 cysts grow on body.  

85. The book contains the names of all witches known and unknown, throughout the world, organized by region and date of birth. It contains only the current generation of witches. 

86. The book is actually a spying device. The owner of the counterpart can see you whenever you open the book. 

87. A bestiary in the form of a pop-up book, if a page is removed and thrown to the ground, it becomes an animate, life-size version of the illustration. 

88. It's a trashy novel by a setting-equivalent Matthew Reilly. Drains 1 point of intelligence for every hour you read it, make a save against Will/Paralysis to put it down.Upside down, it's a proper grimoire. 

89. The book contains all the results of all major sport events and games of chances in the realm for the next 50 years. Someday a crazy wild eyed magician and a kid will show up asking about this book. 

90.  The book was not written: it is an author, and scholars who have claimed to read it are, in fact, its works. 

91. It's an epaper book with 1d6 weeks of battery power left. It has 100 various books stored on it, which require their own table to roll for. 

92. Its pages are made from the wrappings of a certain much sought-after mummy, making the book worth fifty times as much as raw materials for spells than for what's written in it. 

93.  The book is a polymorphed halfling. If you put it in your knapsack, it will eat your rations. 

94. The books is seemingly endless (as if each page had a thickness of 0). every time a new section of it is read, it will be about someone who has read the book before, and describe a future action of the person, as if describing a past even.The book deson't predict the future, however. Instead, it tries to compel its readers to do its will. Anyone who tries to defy what is written must save vs spell (or will save, or what have you) or  act as the book dictated. The book itself is completely impervious to damage, and can only be destroyed by an illiterate person. 

95. In the back of the book is a collection of love letters sent between two ancient feuding Persons Of Interest in the game world. There is talk of a love child hidden away somewhere, that hasn't been mentioned in history before. Finding this child or their descendants will cause great turmoil. 

96. Upon finishing the book the reader's intelligence score increases to 100 and they spend the next 3 days feverishly babbling, scribbling notes, and attempting to collect resources to construct a "space bridge".There is a 5% chance they successfully detail or build the bridge.Regardless, at the end of 3 days their intelligence returns to normal, and while they remember possessing the knowledge of how to build the space bridge, they are painfully aware they no longer know how to build the device or what it's function/purpose would be.Reading the book a second time has no effect. 

97. If you fall asleep reading the book, you'll wake up fully refreshed and invigorated 12 years later (unless woken up/killed inbetween). 

98. Concealed under the cover is a map to the Underworld. 

99. From each page of the book exudes fresh air, as if from a clearing. The clearing the book draws air from smells like an old moldy library.

100. The tight, crabbed scrawl filling the thousands of pages within aren't words, they're sounds. Rubbing a violin bow, or a phonograph needle gently across the pages will produce sounds. The whispers of the gods as they made the universe. [insert d100 chart of possible effects].


The floor crumbled away and the cleric (of Man Pac) fell into the underground channel, moving swiftly west.

A fighter, keeping watch, bellowed loudly, causing something to stir on a channel bridge to the east.

The assassin threw a rope and rolled a 1 and fell in, too.

("Please do not penalize your players with 'fumbles' and 'critical misses'." There's actually an RPG book somewhere that says that. People play it.)

The druid and the other fighter threw a rope to the cleric. The cleric caught it, they pulled, the current was swift, they fell in, too.

The wizard cast Animate Rope and tethered the floating assassin to the channel floor.

The assassin threw one end of a rope at the dry fighter.

The dry fighter caught it and tried to anchor it to a corner of masonry.

Passing int he water, the druid grabbed hold of the tethered assassin.

The rope that the druid held still had the cleric on the other end.

The Rolangian 2-headed ogre attacked the dry fighter, who dropped his rope.

The wizard used animate rope to tie the dropped rope around the ogre's legs.

The ogre rolled poorly, and fell into the channel.

It used one pair of eyes to direct an arm to wrap around the anchored assassin's neck, it used the other to direct a spell at the fighter.

Straining against the swift pull of the channel, and the momentum of a cleric holding a rope attached to a fighter and a druid who had grabbed an assassin who had been grabbed by a two-headed ogre, the anchoring rope gave way.

The druid turned into an octopus and tried to rip a head off the ogre, and throw it into the water.

And, just like that, now I love Mondays.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Contessa, Giving Laser Eyes to Mummies, and RPG Art


-Contessa is an online gaming convention and it's going to be good. I think Stacy Frivology got sick of hearing the best way to support women in gaming was to explain to half of them that they were bad for the other half. In order to showcase the contribution of all kinds of women in the RPG world, she put together a tabletop convention anybody can attend that is being run entirely by women.

I am telling you this now because if you want to register to run an event or have an idea for a panel you only have about a day and 16 hours to do that.

I personally will be competitive dungeoncrawling (LOTFP green team, I believe) through it next saturday and the I Hit It With My Axe crew will be panelling it up the following day.

-Crazy wizard projects have always been part of D&D. But figuring out how they work other than "Alright, player, talk to me" has never really been well-gamified. Scrap Princess has done a lot of work toward making a system for that using tarot cards. I think somehow hybridizing this system with the gambling-based invention rules in Marvel FASERIP has some potential.

-The best thing I have ever seen written about art in RPGs is right hereIt’s not like advertising. ‘Hey come to this world and have fun’. It’s more like otherness. Like a shard of something else poking through. That is what good RPG art should be. An incursion from, or relic of, some other place. Presenting itself so vibrantly and powerfully that it leaves puckers in the skin of reality that won’t heal. The fact that it's taken someone this long to write it fills me with hope--it suggests we're at the beginning of something, like comics right before Dark Knight Returns.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Loose Plot Threads

...for the D&D campaign, as of tonight.

In case of dead end, roll d20 for which sin comes back to haunt the party...

1. Mirror (Satine), one of the party's original thieves was resurrected in a temple in the Exotic East. Hasn't been seen since.

2. There is a dungeon beneath Deathfrost Mountain, inside the body of the dead god.

3. A frost giant princess of Nornrik is in love with Tizane (Mandy), the party's cleric. The other frost giant princes is totally not ok with that.

4. Tizane has no idea who her demonic parent is. Nor do any other tiefling party members.

5. The war between the Insect God and the Slaads proceeds quietly. There is that blue slaad in Cobalt Reach who wants the demilich Baron Vorgus for some unspeakable ritual.

6. The death knight released from the crypts of Omnithroxia is searching for something in the halls.

7. The warband of Baron Vorgus proceeds north from Cobalt Reach, in possession of 4 powerful tomes, toward the Hexenbrachen, to perform some whole other unspeakable ritual.

8. Akayle Ozph, demon of chaos, roams the Cobalt Reach, after being released by the online group.

9. A demon of love roams the wastes around Nornrik, after ensorcelling the frost giant pricess, Oscula.

10. Vornheim is beset from without by armies of the undead from Deathfrost Mountain, and from within by desperate warbands. The surrounding area has been flooded with a bizarre bluish substance.

11. Although lord Malekith is long dead, his brothers Gormengeth and Ettingeth yet live. Lord Ettingeth apparently has one of Vorn's eyes--last seen in the isles of Hakleth.

12. Of the three witches Thorn, Frost and Dread, Frost at least survived their run-in with the PCs, and hunts them, accompanied by white leopard men.

13. Several of the dozen Medusa Sisters remain alive. They want revenge.

1. Eshrigel of Vornheim (dead in Vornheim) and
2. Thrace, a nagadusa (location unknown)
3. Oscula, The Eel Medusa (wanted to interrogate Tizane)
4. Naxice, Empress of Hakleth (location unknown)
5. Dia Andine, a necromancer (location unknown after being seen in the Black Fortress at Hakleth)
6. Cylesia, the youngest sister, (location unknown)
7. Moroschka, the Ice Maiden, (the eldest sister) (slain in the Royal fist Monkey dungeon)
8. Vistula, (dead in a dungeon beneath Vornheim) 
9. Orgula, who lives on the Isle of Oth (attempted and failed to capture PCs)
10. Phrothphys (of Cobalt Reach) (dead in her Puppet Palace))
11. Princess Seela, a pirate queen (location unknown)
12. Unknown

14. Skorne, former Nephilidian vampire lover of Frankie's PC has left for parts unknown.

15. The warband of Annihilus Neroxx is still at large in Cobalt Reach, lead by a Thog warlord of some kind.

16. Good King Thrawl remains a captive of the Man-Scorpions of Ruined Nizaad.

17. While the PCs ruined their wedding, Bluebeard, Snow White, and their band of dwarven pirates are still at large.

18. Though her rolling fortress was destroyed, the Star Witch still roams.

19. Adam's PC's parents came through time to try to kill him and he doesn't know why.

20. Precisely what The Hex King of Bellet Osc's relation to the undead army is is unknown.

21.  The Goblin King of Gaxen Kane still wants revenge on the party for past humiliations, since his armies are mostly busy piling on Vornheim, he's hiring mercenaries.
...and the lion and the lamb are laying down together and the beast has 12 crowns and in general it's all very during-apocalyptic. Chekhov's arsenal is full up.

Good place to be, around level 10.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Internet Isn't Real. Chocolate, Incest, And Miniatures With Broccoli On Them Are.

Kirin Robinson wrote Old School Hack, a nifty, streamlined, award-winning free version of '80s D&D that, in addition to being played by real people, is also unaccountably popular among desperate lunatics who think that there are no good reasons to play actual '80s D&D.

Kirin also curated Women Fighters In Reasonable armor, a nifty tumblr of pictures of women in fighting gear that, in addition to being a great resource for real people, is also unaccountably popular among desperate lunatics who think that pictures of boobs and boob armor are where sexism comes from.

Every week he completely ruins his reputation by running Rappan Athuk at his house using Basic D&D and running it for us. And then we make fun of the desperate lunatics on the 110 home.

Here's Mandy's instagram feed for today's game...

Yes, I have mansplained Mandy that this outfit she drew is Not Reasonable. She stubbornly refuses to accept my incisive critique.
The dwarf's name is Jam. He's the only person who hasn't died yet. 
P.S. That's a piece of broccoli
We were talking about wargames...

Mandy: "In high school I knew this guy who had this whole room in the basement completely taken up by this huge warhammer table, I considered fucking him just so I could play."

Me: "That is the only time that sentence has ever been uttered in the entire history of time."

"Well, I didn't. He was old. My friend did, though, they were cousins."

"Oh, it just got dark. Why does it always have to get dark?"

"Well it was an accident, they..."


"...they were just really drunk and..."


Point is Mandy really likes Warhammer...
...but we knew that.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

This Is What Halfling Cities Are Like Now, Ok?

(Google + threw this together in about half a day. Good job, weird community.)

Zak S:

Halfling city. Not The Shire but like a whole city (not a village) of, for, by, halflings. What's that like? Do they just run around stealing from each other? Is it Munchkinland? What's the deal?


Jeremy Duncan:

Lots of parallels to Republican Rome-- you've got this tension where they really want to identify as simple no-nonsense homespun plainspoken gentleman farmers, but through conquest/trade they've had a taste of the luxury and sophistication of the otherplacians and they're not giving that up anytime soon and the halfling language is simple and pure and honest but it's not what you use for talking philosophy or poetry or art.  Strong reactionary element that laments contemporary morals and calls for a return to the simple stark values of a semi-mythical past but goddammit the kids are plucking their foot-hair and writing parodies of time-honored pastoral poetry in Elvish.


So assuming they went through their Roman phase ages ago (copying elves, but being militaristic about it) and then keep going until they get all stylized like feudal Japan after it stopped copying China. What's that like?


You have a lot of agriculture-based rites and rituals and public offices that are purely symbolic and so ornate and stylized that they're almost unrecognizable as such.  Clans and extended families are hugely important to the point where you are basically no-one if you're not part of one-- citizenship is dependent on being formally adopted by one of these.


Anders Nordberg

Laid out in crop circles?


Laid out in Venn-Diagram terraces that map family relations So when families marry, their estates are redrawn to intersect and the newlyweds build a house on the overlap


They're assigned to it.  There's a bureaucracy in charge of demarcating these things that is thoroughly riddled with corruption and under constant pressure of violence, blackmail, bribery, etc. from the families/individuals involved to draw things up in their favor. This is so common that halfling has a whole vocabulary to refer to it, but it's considered shameful to use such words or admit their existence in the presence of outsiders.


You can trace family relations by noticing styles in the architecture. Like iron railings with spheres at the corners means the Sockeye family is in there somewhere.



Every piece of land, even if completely useless for building/agriculture/industry is owned by someone.  There is no public land, strictly speaking.  That park over there is owned by a consortium of families and those desiring to use it without harassment must negotiate a web of favors and petty shows of compliance and submission.


So if you want to go out for a stroll, you basically have to go visit everyone whose land you're strolling over (at minimum) and bring gifts. So if you want to just wander around on a summer day you leave the house with this hilarious pile of wine bottles, apples, chickens and distribute them to people (or kids they send to retrieve it) as you cross their property.


As this might cause you to lose face, there is the implicit understanding that such gifts, if not presented immediately, will be forthcoming -- perhaps dropped off with a client of the family after dark, or the person is tacitly agreeing to owe the family a favor at some unspecified time in the future.


You therefore propose to a girl by standing under her window for a week without giving her anything

And naturally your youthful roguish burglar-types are trained at circumventing the rules by dodging quickly from property to property via alleys, clotheslines, storm drains, etc.


What visitors take to be quaint, charming displays of courtesy and good manners are carefully nuanced coded messages that are only fully understood by other halflings.  Human visitors have attended banquets at which accusations are thrown about, vengeance sworn, and 100-year feuds begun without being any the wiser.

Burglary is weirdly ritualized like Aztec Flower Wars.



Halfling streets are tidy, orderly, and free of litter.  There are no beggars in halfling cities as the clan provides for all of its members and disowned halflings are exiled on pain of death. 

Also incredibly tidy and fastidious in appearance.  A halfling with hair/clothes/etc. even slightly dishevelled or out of place is assumed to be in mourning.

Will go into freak out/paranoia mode if offered something for free.  They experience culture shock bordering on nervous breakdowns when first arriving in human cities.

Luigi Castellani  

What about gigantic rabbit dens? A la Watership down.

Jeff Rients  

Social life revolves around tea time and croquet.  Anything conflict that can't be resolved by forcing the participants to sit down to the elaborate tea rituals ends up in a high stakes croquet game.

Geek Ken

Gentlemen prefer smoking pipes and playing baduk* (not chess mind you, too constrictive and not imaginative enough). An occasional pint is also part of this afternoon ritual.

Ladies prefer gardening. While a bounty of vegetables is a staple in every halfling home, ladies prefer to engage in floral gardens of intricate patterns. The competition among them is immense. Nearly every year a story will circulate of a jealous rival taking some shears and a spade to a more skilled neighbor's garden in the middle of the night.

Such skill and efforts in these floral gardens are widely appreciated by many races. Tales are not uncommon of halfing women enticed by human nobles seeking their knowledge and abilities to foster similar gardens on their estates. Such women typically return after a year with a chest of gold in tow. As for the elves, few of them will freely admit their envy at the horticultural skills possessed by these smaller folk.

Tim M.  

When a halfling goes on an "adventure", it's not a quest for gold and glory, or whatever, it's a stress test for the hearth and home (the familial society). However long it takes the society to absorb and redistribute property and belongings indicates how important (honorary/functional) that halfling was to the society as a whole.

Jeff Russell

Awesome stuff. But if we're riffing on a "decadent Rome" and "everything is owned" vibe, where are the slaves? Especially, the ancient Gnomish burial rites, where slaves fought for the honor of the deceased have become enormous public games. Human and dwarf fighters are prized for their ferocity and made to fight with caricatured interpretations of their "native arms". Occasionally, for special occasions (like election season) wealthy clans bring in more exotic creatures like ogres and giants or even flailsnails. Halflings attribute their fine gardens to the blood spilled. 


Alex Chalk  

Courtesy, civility, and hospitality are valued above all, especially by the elite. In a crowded space where reputations are made and broken and honours are insulted, it is not uncommon for a duel to break out.

Halflings duel not with swords, but with hearths.

In a halfling duel, the insulted party ("defender") invites his opponent ("offender") to be his guest indefinitely. To decline to is considered an act of the utmost vulgarity, but to accept is to risk one's reputation -- and possibly more. The offender then lodges with the defender, and the defender is expected to be as gracious and welcoming a host as possible. Slight oversights, such as uncomfortable accommodations, a fireplace left cold, a meal served too late, grouchy servants, undusted seats, understocked larders etc. are unpardonable. The offender must also be a most excellent guest, providing his host with good company and stories, keeping clean, respecting  the home, minding his please-and-thank-yous, helping bring the tea to the garden, and taking care never to insult his hosts.

There are a number of ways to end a duel:

1. A party dies. Note that for either party to take actions that would bring about the other's death is an unpardonable sleight, and so death must be due to natural causes (age, illness, etc.). Given that some duels have been known to last decades, this end is surprisingly common. The survivor maintains his honour.

2. One party admits that the other is an okay guy. This is basically a form of surrender and constitutes an admission that you were wrong to begin with. It is highly embarrassing and ruinous to one's reputation.

3. Both parties realize that they've forgotten why they're dueling. This is pretty much a draw, but happens from time to time.

4. One party is no longer able to fulfill their duties and admits defeat. Because hospitality and politeness take priority above all, it is unpardonable for either party to go to work, attend a funeral, or do anything but stay in and keep each other company for the duration of the duel. Duels that go on for too long are known to destroy families and households. If the defender can no longer afford to have his guest, or else if the offender must take leave on some urgent business, that person loses.


Halfling novels grow out of hearth duellists writing extensive detailed legal notes of the courtesies paid and not paid by their hosts. They read like Jane Austen on Adderall.

Jeff Russell

Resolved duels have even reignited in the form of literary one-upsmanship. The entire halfling newspaper industry is the city's longest running feud with the worst remembered reasons for starting.


Kirk Stone  

I always saw halflings as anti-city rurals.  So if they've fallen to living in a city, I'd envision it as an industrial, sweatshop-filled nightmare.  Little black-lungs and gin everywhere.

Gus L

Yeah I am kind of wondering about the resources for these densely urban, urbane and wealthy halfling. Where do they get food and teapots? Even in a shire like rural halfling space manufacture and large scale farming seem necessary. Since they aren't magic the labor must be performed by a huge underclass. Every goodnatured tea full of jammy biscut is at the expense of a dozen drudges or slaves.

In a city, where are these toilers? Farming in distant prison style thorps? In lightless warrens beneath the city? 

Who keeps the workers down? Halfling taskmasters and grim pretorians? Brutal moronic halflings sports grown to the size of giants? Minotaur mercenaries?

Barry Blatt  

Urbanisation either doesn't agree with halflings, or they take to it splendidly, depending on your point of view. When some bright spark got his watermill hooked up to a giant dough mixer, and the rival mill down the road got to mass producing pie crusts, halfling industrialisation and urbanisation was inevitable. Massive pie-mills are surrounded by back to back terraces and grotty tenements, music halls collide with gin palaces and sweetshops, vast amounts of food are carted into town by rail, yet still most of the populace go hungry and the rodents run scared.

The wealthy millowners have colossal bacon waistcoats and beef jerky corsets, dress mainly in a combination of liquorice and meringue and have to be lugged around by reinforced sedan chairs and juggernaut sized carriages made of gingerbread. Flat capped proles that dare to drool in their presence are taken up alleyways by blue uniformed rozzers (whose tall hats conceal a meat pie, for emergencies only you understand) where they are beaten senseless with truncheons made of a special black pudding that has iron filings instead of oatmeal in the recipe.

The only way to keep the grub flowing inwards is to make the rural hobbits dependent on mass produced ready meals, so home baking has been made illegal and hit squads led by huge snooted 'Cooksniffer Generals' roam the countryside. If they detect the aroma of fresh baked bread and meat pies they have the miscreants toasted (on a fork (and after extensive sampling of the evidence of course)).

As a result of all this processed food  urban halflings have begun to mutate, becoming green skinned, diversely proportioned and liable to asexual fission. In fact they are now becoming goblins.

Daniel Dean 

It's Deadwood.

Mak H  

We mustn't let ourselves be fooled by Tolkien's hobbits. Though the Shire was a rural setting, the hobbits we got to know best were property-owning elites who epitomized bourgeois values. (Bourgeois literally, town- or city dweller.) Conservatism, civility, civic-mindedness, conformity, frugality -- these values would be right at home among the burghers of any free town of medieval Europe. So that's your model right there. 

Jeff Rients  

Medium sized visitors might not be able to see the ground, due to all the pipesmoke hovering at waste level.

Chris Tamm 107 PM

Kids book fatipuffs and thinifers - art of steampunk fatties with luxury and food everywhee, millitary trenches shaped for fat ppl with pillows and snacks etc - book has war of fat vs thin - labour saving machines, pillows and snacks everywhere.



While you'd think they'd be wiped out immediately by larger foes, a city built at half scale is actually a pretty formidable defense all by itself--every door is effectively a murder hole every window an arrow slit, every alley a crab trap.

Alex Chalk 

Unlike most the cities of most races, where living high up is a luxury, halfling real estate is most expensive at the lowest levels. The poor have to huff and puff up and down stairs every day, while the well-off stay close to the ground. Only the richest can afford traditional hole-dwellings.


Well, naturally, since the higher-up people are the newlyweds, with homes built on top of the more established families lower down..


In order to preserve hillside real estate, buildings tend to get piled on top of hills. Cities end up looking like a bunch of mounds of buildings with grassy valleys in between. Each mound ends up functioning like its own little neighbourhood, with well-money leaders at the bottom.

(Alex attached a drawing which I can't get the link to work).

Tony Demetriou 

Actually... higher levels have more significance than just wealth. Halflings are well known for their accuracy with thrown weapons & slings - so a higher window is a military advantage. Much like in Renaissance Italy, if two families have a rivalry, one will add an extra floor to their tower, to put them above their rivals, allowing them to shoot downwards. Their rivals (if they can afford to) will then increase the height of their building, and so it escalates.

During peaceful times, these higher floors are given to the newlyweds, should other rooms not be available, or to those of lower standing.

You can tell the neighbours that have had historical conflict from the teetering towers marking their borders.

This poses a particular problem for those that are rich, overcrowded, and need to extend. If they have good relations with their neighbours, adding another floor will almost certainly sour that relationship. Thus, the only option is to covertly arrange for their neighbour to create a situation demanding that they respond, allowing their response to be another floor on the building, before making peace again. Sometimes this is tacitly acknowledged, with two firm allies both insulting each other, building new floors, and making peace within the span of a week.*

Those rich enough to own a large amount of land don't have this problem, as they can build new levels to their central buildings without threatening their borders. (But those rich enough to hold that much land will often build on their edges, secure in the knowledge that they cannot be easily challenged.)

Due to all of this, the city has areas of high buildings, and other areas with only very low buildings. It's quite schizophrenic in that regard.

Poorer families that can't afford all the construction sometimes have low buildings with one or two tall towers.


*Or they just arrange a wedding.


Indeed. Weddings are great political tools.

Often, weddings are so useful, that assassinations are also needed to "free up" a family member for another wedding.

Most assassinations, of course, are conducted via poisoned food. Assassination knowing exactly what food to poison to get the target, and only the target, is recognized as an art.

It is also shameful to hire an assassin to kill a rival family member - a member of your household needs to be the one to do it.

Anyone caught poisoning food is likely to create a political uproar, both because it's obvious who is involved, since the assassin is a direct relative, but also because... well, despite the death sentence, a well-to-do hobbit is unlikely to actually get executed. Instead, political favours, bribes, and promises of alliances & weddings will be exchanged, until things are smoothed over. At great cost to the family that attempted the assassination.

Jeff Russell 

The halfling legal code is extremely draconian and harsh in its charges, arrests, and sentences.  But all halflings know the proper technicalities, lobbying, and bribes to diffuse almost all situations.  Big people from far lands shout their protests as they're executed for minor crimes like littering, and their halfling executioners look on aghast that the poor fool won't just file the right complaint to have their sentences commuted.


Especially when, even if they don't file the right complaint, a simple gift would be enough to allow the halfling to accidentally misfile the charge, allowing the visitor to be set free. Often the halfling is so eager to help out the poor foreigner that they'd accept any triviality as the gift. And yet these foreigners either refuse to do even these simple, obvious steps to help themselves, or they are so insanely insulting that they call it a "bribe", forcing the socially-conscious halfling to have no choice but to refuse the "bribe" and prosecute the visitor.

It's very frustrating for the halflings, but how do you explain the problem to foreigners while still being polite? Remember, Jeremy pointed out that, while there is a whole vocabulary around this, it's shameful to explain, or even admit the existence of it, to outsiders.

Jeff Russell

Well, of course.  Explaining it would imply that you thought the visitor was ignorant or unintelligent, which is just plain bad manners.  Even worse than the embarrassment of well-meaning agents of the court forced to carry out unpleasant duties on hapless foreigners are those savvy halflings who make the necessary gifts and pull the necessary strings in order to gain the implicit (but definitely required) return favors of a new ally, only to see that ally say "thanks", offer some pittance of a gift (which must be accepted) and then try to go about his business! Such shunned halflings make extremely tenacious and vicious enemies.


But the worst thing about the situation is, should you be shunned in that way, your only recourse is to offer a duel. As Alex Chalk points out, the duel involves inviting the enemy to live as your guest indefinitely. The foreigner is often so ignorant that they then reject the duel!

So not only do they have a tenacious and vicious enemy, but they are under the mistaken impression that this enemy is actually an overly-helpful halfling who keeps pressuring them to accept gifts and hospitality.

... and then they eat something that just so happened to be poisoned, and die never knowing what they did wrong.



Cursed items - you would expect these to be a problem for halfling society, as a halfling cannot politely refuse a gift. But, due to this, the cursed item can then be re-gifted with equal ease. This means the items cycle through multiple hands so rapidly that their curses rarely have time to take effect. It is, of course, polite to warn someone that your gift is cursed. Strangely, it is not considered impolite to give a cursed item as a gift.

Foreigners, especially ones who have offended a halfling in the way +Jeff Russell just mentioned, often find themselves the "lucky" recipient of one of these gifts. Depending on how offended they are, Halflings sometimes "forget" to mention the curses.

Other times, the halfling gifts a foreigner with a cursed item, warns the foreigner that it's cursed, and then is aghast when the foreigner refuses their gift.


Halflings don't have a word meaning "rude" - the closest word they use is "exile" - to a city-dwelling halfling's mind, there is no conceivable way that someone can be impolite and still be part of society.

Rudeness, of course, does not get you exiled. The halflings just don't have any other way to express the concept.


There is a story of a coup, where one disgruntled family riled up mobs of halflings, marched on the government, and overthrew it. They then installed themselves as the new rulers of the city.

However, since travelling through other halfling's property obliges you to give them a gift, and so many halflings marched throughout the city during this coup, the new rulers were so beholden by obligation that, in repaying all these new debts, they ended up bankrupting their family, and had to sell off their newly-gained government offices.

Although there were some changes, most of the original officials got their positions back, and not much changed. There has never been another attempt at a coup. The halflings claim this just proves that their social structure is superior to the chaotic, violent, politically unstable societies of humans.

This event may or may not have actually happened. Although it is well documented in a number of historical records, the records don't agree on which family instigated it, or what year it happened.


Tax collectors don't exist. The entire government & civil services are all run by "volunteers" - and halflings go to a lot of trouble to gain political positions, often paying large amounts of money to buy their way in.

Due to the rampant bribery, Halflings in government positions unofficially make a significant profit. This means that the lower-level government positions are more eagerly sought out than the higher positions, because they afford more contact with the citizens, and therefore more bribes.

Higher government positions are used to help out the halfling clans or for playing politics, rather than for personal profit via bribes.

Although there are theoretically elections for each government office, no election has been held in living memory. In practice, positions are passed from the previous holder to their chosen successor. In the case of untimely death, government positions are distributed the same as other belongings.

Many halflings who hold government positions also hire bodyguards, as it is not uncommon for them to be blackmailed or physically assaulted. Not all halflings use bribes to coerce an official to swing things in their favour.

This has led to the halfling phrase "bought the wrong job" - which is used much the same way as us humans would say "bit off more than he could chew" (Halflings would never use a phrase implying that overeating is bad.)