Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Hungry Ghosts + Frostbitten & Mutilated Unboxing

click to enlarge

Some hungry ghosts are pathetic, some are scornful, all feel they are owed something—by their living descendants or by others who failed to acknowledge them properly in life.

Hungry Ghosts are ugly fiends and come creeping on their bellies, smiling, eating junk food and trash. They want to make the living join them in hell by committing suicide, and so do awful things. They will molest anyone until they cry.

Hell makes them so bad they can never be satisfied. They can be exorcised through complex chants in a chalked circle while burning special contracts that send them back to their homes.

Demon City Stats

Typical Hungry Ghost

Calm: 0
Agility: 2
Toughness: 4 (can only be hurt by cold things)
Perception: 2
Appeal: 0
Cash: 0
Knowledge: 1

Calm Check: 7
Cards: King/Queen of Cups (10)

Special abilities:

Ectoplasmic form: Hungry ghosts can touch their victims but neither their victims nor any other natural physical force can touch them. The only exception is ice and things chilled below freezing.

Climbing: All hungry ghosts can move across walls and ceilings at normal speed.

Infinite mutilation: If a hungry ghost slices or bites off a part of a creature, the victim will never bleed out—simply remain alive and maimed at 0 Toughness.

Devouring: A hungry ghost can chew through any substance as if it were meat.

Mutant physiognomy: Hungry ghosts come in many shapes—spheres with bloated faces, serpent-centaurs, bizarre concatenations of limbs and heads, massive eyes for heads on distended necks with teeth down either side. If a ghost has a strange shape, it may add some minor extra ability. They are never flying creatures, however.


Ice and things chilled below freezing can hurt a hungry ghost as can sorcery.

Hungry ghosts cannot kill a living being, only torment it until it wants to kill itself.

Hungry ghosts are greedy but cannot tell the difference between real and fake food or money.

Hungry ghosts are also confused by patterns, and patterned wallpaper or carpets will disorient them.
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And now, a word from our sponsor:

The hardcopies of Frostbitten & Mutilated are showing up. They look so much better than I expected, like slim black bibles...

 Below are some photos from fans--thanks for putting them up...

If you have one, there's still time to enter the Bad Take Contest if you want.

If you don't, get on it before they are gone.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

April 5th Is International Review Something Day

Making stuff can be difficult in 2018. And in 2018, people have rarely been more hungry for good stuff.

Supporting creators is difficult, especially if you don't have any money--luckilty there's a way to do it for free.

Authors, readers: April 5th Is #InternationalReviewSomethingDay .

Take 15 minutes out today and review something you love, then tell the author you did it: they will appreciate it.

And share.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Demon City Update, Art Show, More Pictures

(also the gallery is ground-floor and fully disabled-accessible)

-I am currently making art for the game and will keep doing that and almost nothing else until mid-April because I have an art show in New York which will feature a lot of the Demon City art. About 90% of the "necessary" art is done and about 70% of the amount of art I expect to have in the final book (once the text is finalized I'll probably just keep drawing/painting and send the graphic designer more pictures until literally the last minute bc why not).

-The game is play-ready and all the "necessary" monsters, spells, equipment, advice, etc are written. It covers the bases.

-I am adding and altering things in the text as I go however, based on playtests, "things that would be nice", peoples' feedback on what makes horror GMing hard for them, etc I'd like to add some different xp-incentives by class/motive, some suggestions for subgenre-specific games (ie how to alter the rules for a hard-boiled horror game, for a more lovecrafty game, for a Japanese schoolkid horror, etc). Also smoothing out the writing and giving more examples, and GM tools.

-I also am wrangling many contributors for bonus content. They usually cough up their bits if I go "Ok, your deadline is in a week", but I'm not jerking the leash on the stragglers until necessary.

-The graphic designer has started laying out pages, but that part always takes a long time. He will probably kick in to high gear during the next phase in May.

-After that the publishing date will basically depend on how much the graphic designer gets paid. More crowdfunding=faster. We want to do a lot of things that are complex and nonstandard, like character-generation flowcharts and whatnot, to make it really user-friendly.

Donate to the Demon City patreon here

Monday, April 2, 2018

Barney Rosset, James Raggi, and Why You're Allowed To Call A Book Fish Fuckers

Here’s A List

William Burroughs, Kather Acker, Frantz Fanon, Edward Albee, DH Lawrence, Che Guevara, Antonin Artaud, Amiri Baraka, Simone De Beauvoir, Samuel Beckett, Jorge Luis Borges, Bertolt Brecht, Charles Bukoski, Albert Camus, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Jean Genet, Alan Ginsburg, Gunter Grass, Vaclav Havel, Henry Miller, Chester Himes, Eugene Ionesco, Jack Kerouac, Timothy Leary, Yukio Mishima, Josephine Miles, Vladimir Nabokov, Pablo Neruda, Frank O’Hara, Harold Pinter, Raymond Queneau, Jean-Paul Sartre, Susan Sontag, Terry Southern, Gary Snyder, Tom Stoppard, John Kennedy O’Toole, and Malcolm X.

There's something unusual about that list, and it’s not the fact it includes 5 Nobel prize winners--it’s that they all had the same publisher: Grove Press. And almost always because no-one else in America would publish them.

It wasn’t a big press and it was largely funded by pornography: an imprint called The Victorian Library which published books like Blind Lust, A Nymph In Paris, Ravished on the Railway, and a line of novels about spanking.

If you’re wondering when it became legal to put out an RPG book called Fish Fuckers or Fuck for Satan in the US, you’ll find out about the Lady Chatterly’s Lover case of 1959—and Grove Press’ head: Barney Rosset. 

Barney then eagerly again went to the mat for Naked Lunch in 1962 and then fought another court case for the right to publish Tropic of Cancer in 1964. 

That was the first year Grove was turning a profit—Rosset took over Grove in 1951.

He never had to go to trial for the pornography.


QUIZ (no fair googling)

Which of Grove’s books received the following response:

“Borrowed this from a friend after hearing the high praise, and the whole thing just seems to be a childish exercise in cramming as many instances of “fuck” into the text as possible.”

A) Lady Chatterly’s Lover in 1959

B) Naked Lunch in  in 1962

C) Tropic of Cancer in 1964

Keep reading for the answer.

The Word "Censorship" Usually Means You're Lying

When discussing art in 2018, the phrases “freedom of speech”, “censorship” and “once upon a time” all have something in common—usually they all tell you the person talking is about to say something full of shit. Pro- or con-.*

When it comes to “freedom of speech” or “censorship”, the “pro” person is usually about to make an argument falsely equating a private person not wanting to deal with or promote some speech with a government making a law against it.

The “con” person is usually about to make an argument falsely equating a creator or fan’s claim that a criticism is unfair, invalid or irresponsible with that creator or fan trying to claim that the criticism is-, or will lead to-, a law against it.

They’re both ignoring an issue nobody wants to talk about: 

Someone is upset about a work of art and they either should or shouldn’t be.

Discussing “censorship” is discussing the consequences of that upsetness, not the validity. We all agree on the consequences: “I don’t advocate Censorship. What I am saying is…”.

This is a middle-class confrontation-avoidance strategy. It sounds a lot less judgmental to go “This book has two gentlemen adopting a baby in it and if that offends you you’re free to not buy it” than to go “This book has two gentlemen adopting a baby in it and if that offends you, you are terrible and should change.”

The second thing is the true one, but it makes the fight more intense, so people have instead made an agreement: creators get to make whatever they want including pointlessly bigoted things, critics get to make any accusations they want about anything including paranoid, unsupported ones. 

That’s important because this compromise—the agreement to disagree about the speech or the art while agreeing it shouldn’t be Censored—means that we can endlessly postpone a more meaningful debate about what exactly the good things about art are supposed to be that supposedly make all this arguing worthwhile.

Without that discussion of the value of created things we get to pretend we agree with each other longer—which helps us build cars and snout-to-tail pig-cooking restaurants and massively multiplayer online RPGs together. 

It also helps everyone do their favorite thing which is to ignore capitalism: ignore how art and criticism function in the market. It ignores how successful art can encourage copies of itself until its ideas become unavoidable even if you did just "not buy it" and how public criticism literally has no purpose unless it influences companies and consumers to choose more of the art it likes and less of the art it doesn’t and so effectively throttle the undesirable art.

You don't publicly complain about a book without also hoping someone will do something in response. And the publicness makes that response possible.

There is, in effect, a cultural Cold War, where neither side defines its borders because the only thing they're both sure of is neither side wants the nuclear option. Lying, shifting borders and alliances, making locally convenient arguments--all the standard covert ops: sure. Standing up and going "Ok ends here, at this line, and you are standing on the other side of it" would be to invite people to vote or make laws and pass amendments and nobody's sure they want to go that far.

Back to Grove Press:

There is no major publisher that wouldn't recognize not just the value, but the primacy of the authors Grove published--yet there was no major publisher that would've taken the risks necessary to publish them.

In addition to literally millions of (1960’s) dollars of legal fees, 13 years is a long time to publish weird books without making any money. Effectively speaking, Barney Rosset had to buy America the right to freedom of speech. And, if you look at that list of authors and realize how very little 20th century literature would be left without them and remember nobody else at that time would have them, he basically bought the country’s right to have any halfway decent books at all.

Good Stuff Results In Moral Panics

It’s hard to think of any mass introduction of anything both good and new to the English-speaking world that isn’t accompanied by a moral panic: Ulysses went on trial for obcenity, metal, punk, hip-hop and even Prince and Madonna were targeted by moral guardians, the National Endowment for the Arts—that is: US government funding for art as a concept— basically no longer exists because of the culture wars of the 1990s, Donald Trump’s trying to blame video games for violence, Fredric Wertham gutted comics (especially horror) by using fraudulent evidence to bring in the comics code, and, of course that whole thing with D&D’s satanic panic. Get ready for one about anime when the Republicans find out what it is.

Because it’s so easy to look back and laugh (saying Twisted Sister’s We’re Not Gonna Take It promoted violence and Cyndi Lauper She Bop was sexfilth seems pretty quaint by today’s standards) it’s easy to overlook the very real damage that rhetorical and economic warfare against creators can and does do to real lives.

The PMRC’s “Parental Advisory” sticker on albums seems like a joke but it decided for a very long time who did and didn’t get into massive chains like Wal-Mart. While Madonna and Prince and Twisted Sister made it out of the PMRC-era ok, countless lesser-known and up-and-coming musicians had their careers completely derailed by the economics of the situation. We tend to think the fine artists associated with Congressional freak-outs walk away more famous—all press is good press, right?—but, for example, Ron Athey, an artist famous to me in art school for being accused of “spraying AIDS-infected blood on the audience” (he didn’t) basically couldn’t perform in the US for much of his career and has had a day job ever since.

As for Rosset and Grove Press: in ’68, someone threw a grenade through his window.

....and, of course, the FBI had a massive file on him

There Is A Price To Everything

No-one will ever throw a grenade through James Edward Raggi IV’s window—and there won’t be delicious anecdotes in The Atlantic by adoring literati when he dies. And nothing he published will upset the American public on a grand scale.

But there's nobody else really doing what Lamentations of the Flame Princess does: the mainstream publishers repeatedly and explicitly say they’re making what they think the market wants, most indies aren't paying people enough to attract real talent while simultaneously presenting them halfway decently, the other OSR publishers are putting out some good stuff but not with the same full-court press of writing, illustration, binding and experimental content. A few cool publishers following in his footsteps are just getting started—but they’re not full-time yet. Many major RPG freelancers go to James because their mainstream publishers either won't let them do what they want or they know they won't do it the way it needs to be done.

And James has—very voluntarily—taken up the role of being That Guy Who Publishes The Good, Scary Stuff in the 2018 RPG environment and that entails real risk and is a real pain in the ass for one man alone in Finland with a house full of boxes. He has chosen trouble. 

Peter Mayer, who ran Avon and Penguin: "Barney chose these battles, there was nothing inadvertent in what came down,"--just like James chose all his (his first 2 books besides his own were Carcosa and the one by the porn guy). They both picked stupid fights on purpose at great personal cost in the name of creepy quality to far less acclaim than they deserve while the rest of us just read Jean-Paul Sartre and Qelong and count our money.

LotFP is successful—but in projecting and promoting that success (partially to move units, but also to encourage other similar ventures)—we somewhat elide the shittiness that comes with it: retailers and other potential partners get skittish and sometimes just say no, in ways and for reasons James doesn’t much talk about. The legendary online dramafests against LotFP are the tip of a really gross behind-the-scenes iceberg you don't want to know the half of.

And why? Complaints. Internet complaints.

But, unlike Barney Gosset, James was not born rich. James was broke until Red & Pleasant Land in 2015--that is, until after the orgy of harassment from the supposedly-woke when I consulted on 5th edition D&D and after RPL won all those Ennies. The death threats, the rape threats, the smears, all that--James was full-time putting out the LotFP Grindhouse Edition and Vornheim and Carcosa and paying all that money to all those illustrators all through all of that for no better and often less than shitty-day-job reward for half a decade.

LotFP has been satirized as a grossout factory, but just like Barney and all this porn he published, James has never really been raked over the coals for Vaginas Are Magic or Fuck for Satan--nor have his many lowbrow competitors. What makes people mad isn't the vulgarity, it's the praise.

Remember the quiz?

“Borrowed this from a friend after hearing the high praise, and the whole thing just seems to be a childish exercise in cramming as many instances of “fuck” into the text as possible.”

Ok, trick question: this isn’t someone from 1962. Someone said that in the last year about Veins of the Earth.

And this wasn’t some nun or white nationalist who’d stumbled across a copy by accident in a hospital waiting-room, this is a supposedly woke gamer who thinks everyone should use the X-Card.

Why borrow all this trouble?

The simplest way to put it is: he enjoys and believes in things that lots of other people also believe in called horror, and metal, and gore. 

Because James believed that Carcosa was a plunge into an unexplained world of alien deep time.

Because he believed that Qelong was the kind of pessimistic historical hellscape nobody else would do justice to.

Because whatever value stomach-bursting, dead baby, body-horror offers to the people who go to horror movies and horror conventions and horror music is as applicable in his medium as in anyone else’s.

What value is that? Sarah Horrocks says it better than anyone else could.

But, also, without going in to too many details: James has been through some gruesome things. People very close to him have been through gruesomer things. When he sees a bloodless throat-cutting in a mainstream movie this strikes him as false and wrong and not how he wants to do it. 

The moral of this story and the moral of LotFP stories is: there is a price to things.

Why else?

Because, beyond horror, James believes in what his authors are doing as fun and good and original and better than everything else out there.

And it is not a coincidence that these are the most controversial ones. People don’t get to be good at their job by simply reimagining what others already have—and about half of what others already haven’t imagined yet is things where the first few steps are wrong, and the good stuff is past them, way down in the basement.

And he does this while hiring women, while hiring transfolk, while paying everyone well and on-time while being transparent and letting them see the math--while rival indie publishers are seemingly in a contest to how often they can embarrass themselves while keeping a fresh-faced clean-shaven woke image. I mean, it's a cliche but sometimes the good guy isn't the one waving his white hat around.

There's no other RPG publisher who has taken on as much risk on behalf of other people as LotFP.

Next time another publisher starts talking about diversity, innovation or fairness in games, ask them: How much have they risked in the name of these things? 

When Barney Rosset reached out to a founder at Random House during the first court case, he replied: 

I can’t think of any good reason for bringing out an unexpurgated version of Lady Chatterley’s Lover at this late date. In my opinion the book was always a very silly story, far below Lawrence’s usual standard, and seemingly deliberately pornographic .  .  .  . I can’t help feeling that anybody fighting to do a Lady Chatterley’s Lover in 1954 is placing more than a little of his bet on getting some sensational publicity from the sale of a dirty book.

Fifteen years later, Jacob Epstein from Random House had this to say about Barney:

When the history of publishing is written, Barney will have a place in it. He's bright. He takes a lot of risks that look frivolous to many people, but there's a serious radical impulse behind them all. He's altered the climate of publishing to everybody's advantage.

That’s James right there. Only he’s doing it in a world nobody will ever care about that half consists of people who treat him like he's selling meth.

I think in the end though, listening to him talk, he doesn’t just like the stuff: he has an idea about role-playing games. They give you stats and tell you what you could buy and tell you where you should go and, if you’re smart, you don’t do it. You go somewhere else, you avoid the trap, you ransom the patron, you avoid the railroad: this is what James learned. This is another lesson of these games.

This is why he writes dungeons where doing the suggested thing always kills you. He’s offended by the vision of human beings as animals which do something just because it’s suggested: by an image or a word or an association or a tradition. He’s offended by the idea that we accept this impulse and cater to it. Let's leave an idea unaddressed because it might brush up against a suggestion.

James doesn’t want to train people to fuck fish or murder babies—he wants a world full of people who can read that kind of gibberish and all the gibberish that the world asks us to read everyday on Facebook that doesn’t even have the decency to label itself as “fiction” and walk away still being human, still being capable of weighing things with the salt they deserve, still being able to think for themselves. 

If pumping out the number of books he does a year, while rolling from con to con like a drunk circus bear on the advances and the royalty checks and the weird hype and no sleep finally kills him or burns him out, we’re gonna miss that guy soooo much and be amazed we didn’t realize what we had.


*Even the very word "speech" here is rhetorical sleight-of-hand--directing your attention to the brandished shiny ball while rustling around with something much larger under the table. "Speech" implies a statement--a position for-, or against-, something and we (tbh) evaluate our position based on whether we agree with the 'something;. "Freedom of Art" sounds shitty and pretentious but is a more complex idea, as everyone who ever seriously deals with art will tell you even the worst always ends up "saying" more than one thing, and keeps doing that--even after the artist dies. Reducing that reducing a creative work to "speech" allowed Grove's enemies to reduce something like Tropic of Cancer to a political position: The Beatnik Left, which is a lot easier to argue against. 

Saturday, March 31, 2018

I met a Demon City PC today

"1980's It was Glendale--just like a movie--it was dark and it was raining..."
Cat's just sitting there. The boyfriend tells him the girl was a UCLA professor--a former Ms Los Angeles. There are photos of her winning the contest on the walls.  Reincarnation books and crystals everywhere, bullet holes in the ceiling. She's propped up on some pillows, holding a pistol in her hands, her face is almost unhurt...

 The watch stopped at 11pm.

Also, more unbelievable than any of this: his 15-year old son's band does an ELO cover.

Demon City stats for Robert S

Calm 3
Agility 2
Toughness 2
Perception 3
Appeal 2
Ca$h 2
Knowledge 3

Motive: Investigator


Occupational: Police - 4
Occupational: Navy diver- 4
Stealth - 3
Drive - 3
Streetwise - 4
Hand to Hand - 3
Local Knowledge (LA) - 4

Contacts: 4, including
Trish the dispatcher
Some guy at an insurance company
Son who is in 3 bands, plays 2nd base and does an ELO cover

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Friday, March 30, 2018

nice spoon it would be shame if somebody bent it


The term “psychic” refers to any otherwise ordinary human who, through mutation, experiment or accident, has developed one or more telepathic or telekinetic abilities.

Although they can be any age or walk of life and can have a wide variety of abilities psychics generally have a few things in common:

-They all have at least a low-level passive Sixth Sense making them supersensitive to danger, hostile emotions and signs of trauma or the supernatural.
-Any use of their abilities causes them to make a Calm Check.
-Consequently they are highly prone to paranoia, PTSD and other forms of mental illness, especially (since this is a horror game) the violent ones.

Design Notes:

Typically quite fragile, the psychic is often not the true villain in the story, but may be manipulated by unscrupulous individuals (parents, doctors, criminals etc.) or organizations (cults, treatment centers, pharmaceutical conglomerates, governments, etc). A psychic rarely appears in an adventure without some surrounding scientific or social context, and often this context is as important as the abilities the character possesses. Just as magic implies thousands of years of obscure tradition, psychic abilities nearly always imply some kind of conspiracy to cover-up, control, or cultivate them. Make the surrounding institutions as interesting as you can and the adventure writes itself from there.

Typical Psychic

Calm: 0
Agility: 2
Toughness: 2
Perception: 6
Appeal: 2
Cash: 2
Knowledge: 3

Calm Check: 6
Cards: The Moon (18), The Page of Cups (10)

Special Abilities:

Sixth Sense: All psychics are supersensitive to danger, hostile emotions and signs of past trauma or the supernatural.

Psychic Abilities: A psychic usually has one and only one other psychic ability (see Supernatural Abilities later in the Library), but more are possible.


NPC psychics are less complicated than PC ones—assume any use of their abilities causes the psychic to make a Calm Check against a 2. Any use of those abilities at a level of intensity they’ve never tried before loses them a point of Calm automatically. If the psychic is at negative Calm, assume any use of abilities at greater than typical intensity loses the psychic a point of Toughness.

Player Character Psychics

Problem-type player characters may elect to start the game while in the process of discovering psychic abilities. 

All PC psychics have Sixth Sense and Precognitive Dreams (see Precognition later in the Library).

In addition, a psychic player may choose their primary ability or leave it up to the dice or Host. If the Host or a throw picks, the Psychic gains an extra +1 to Calm (up to a maximum of 4).

Telepathic Group
1-2 Channeling*
3-5 Delude 
6-8 Dominate Animals 
9-11 Emotion Control 
12-13 Empathy*
14-16 Empathic Illusion 
17-18 Forbid*
19-20 Garble*
21-23 Guilt Apparition 
24-26 Heal the Mind 
27-29 Lie 
30-31 Memory Meld* 
32-34 Possession
35-37 Psionic Drain
38-40 Telepathy
41-43 Traumatic Illusion

Neurokinetic Group
44-46 Blind
47-48 Chill*
49-50 Forbid* 
51-52 Garble*
53-54 Pain Aura* 
55-56 Shriek*
57-59 Sleep Field
60-61 Slow Motion*

Detection Group
62-63 Channeling*
64-66 Detect Entity 
67-68 Empathy*
69-71 ESP 
72-73 Memory Meld*
74-76 Object Reading

Telekinetic Group
77-78 Chill*
79-81 Disintegrate Object 
82-84 Heal the Flesh 
85-86 Pain Aura*
87 Portal
88-90 Pyrokinesis
91-92 Shriek*
93-94 Slow Motion*
95-97 Telekinesis
98-00 Warp Flesh

Note that not all psychic abilities are available to PCs. PCs characters may be able to develop additional abilities in the same group—entries marked with a * appear in more than one group—the player must choose which group they will focus on at character creation.

Attempting to gain a new ability happens during downtime. If so, the character must choose to skip any other Downtime benefit that time around (they do not automatically gain a new contact or skill, they do not regain an automatic point of Calm, they do not throw on any of the ordinary Downtime tables, etc. The only exception is if they must make an Addict’s Throw.).  Instead they must concentrate and practice.

They throw a d100 on the following table. A PC psychic can gain a maximum of two extra abilities (other than the ones s/he had at character generation) this way.

1-Disaster! Something disturbing has occurred. Lose a point of Calm permanently.
2-89 No results yet—try again later
90 You are confident in your abilities. Gain a point of Calm up to a maximum of 5.
91-94 You realize this isn’t going to work early on in your meditations, choose an ordinary Downtime activity and roll there instead.
95-99 Gain a new ability in the same group as the original of your choice.
00 Gain a new ability in the same group as the original of the Host’s choice.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Those Who Bring Strife

by me, click to enlarge


The Nephthyd or Nehemoth, The Daughters of Night, The Demons of the Tenth Order come twisting on their long bellies, igniting strange passions. Their bodies have the appearance of beautiful women and of strange beasts. They can be summoned but will also call to lost souls in the night, unbidden. They whisper secrets and advise rash action. Their aspect is pleasant and immoral, their goal universal discord.

Their true names have ten syllables, like Agratma’hlat’li’lit’naama’heish’eth and She Whose Voice Is Red Rich And Merciless. They may be summoned when the semiplanet Eris conjoins the Moon by inspiring ten equidistant suicides in a decagonal pattern.

Calm: 6
Agility: 7
Toughness: 8
Perception: 6
Appeal: 9
Cash: 0
Knowledge: 8

Calm Check: 9
Cards: Moon (18), Empress (3), Queen of Cups (10), Ten of Pentacles

Special abilities:

Demonic: Demons don’t need to breathe or digest, don’t age, and are immune to poison, etc. and cannot be mentally controlled with psionic abilities. Animals will avoid the demon in any form. Explosives cannot harm these demons but firearms can.

Sixth Sense: All demons are supersensitive to danger, hostile emotions and signs of past trauma or the supernatural.

Shapeshift: These demons can appear to be ordinary women, dogs, serpents, or nocturnal birds of any kind. In any form they will have red specs on their bellies.

Emerge from the Darkness: If unwitnessed, Nephthyds may step into any shadow in the city where they are summoned and reappear through any other.

Claws: These allow the Nehemoth to inflict damage and grapple in the same attack.

Kiss of Frenzy: The kiss of these demons allows the creature to select one of the target’s desires and force it to dominate their personality. The emotion must be one that the target already feels in some capacity. The target may make a Calm check to resist vs Intensity 9 once per hour.

Ten Plagues: The Nehemoth often offer to afflict the enemies of the mortals they prey upon. They may inflict each of these effects once every ten days: Turn up to 1000 gallons of water to blood, cause a rain of frogs to afflict a 100 foot radius for 10 minutes , give up to 10 targets lice for ten days, cause a distract halo of flies to surround up to 10 targets for 10 days, cause anthrax in up to 10 cattle, afflict a target with painful boils (-1 Toughness), cause hail in a 100 foot radius for 10 days, cause locusts to swarm a 1000-foot radius for 10 days, cause darkness over a city-sized area for three days, cause the death of a target’s first-born.

Seduction: Any one who lays with a Demon of the Tenth Order must serve her for 100 days in the form of a beast of her choosing.


The holy symbols of any faith causes a demon to make a Calm check or flee until they are out of sight. The intensity of the calm check is equal to the degree of fervor of whoever is wielding it (1-9). In the case of an incidentally encountered symbol (a glimpsed church steeple, for instance) the intensity is 2.

Touching a holy symbol, including holy water, does damage to a demon as an ordinary physical attack.

Speaking the true name of demon causes it great pain, and the creature must make a Calm Check against the speaker’s Calm each round to avoid obeying the attacker.

These demons delight in the red glow of true neon light, and must make a Calm check vs an Intensity of 9 to move out of its light should they see it.
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You're gonna wanna get those floorboards looked at

HAUNT (Ghost)

A haunt is a ghost that possesses an entire building as if it were a body, and it has no separate form. Its power is proportional to the number who have perished, terrified, within its walls. It seeks to expand these powers. That is: it terrorizes for the sake of increasing its ability to terrorize for the sake of terrorizing. It is in that way very human. 

Exorcisms performed on haunts require an understanding of the nature of the violence which began the cycle. The haunt’s soul will be housed on the premises in some innocuous and fragile thing present during the originating trauma (a jewelry box, a portrait, a housefly), and this must be destroyed in order to exorcise the house. If the building is destroyed without exorcism, whatever else is on the land will be similarly haunted.

Design Notes:

The basic adventure design for a haunt isn’t too complicated—the party is sent to investigate the building and it can “win” by research into its origins leading to the haunt’s soul, by crawling randomly around the premises until they stumble on it and items relating its significance, or by merely escaping and giving up after a session or two’s worth of amusing abuse.
However, in fine detail it requires some preparation—the Host should either mentally picture a large building they know well enough to describe room-by-room or prepare a map. In both cases, you’ll need to devise traps and effects that could happen in each room—the more variety the better.
Also—Hosts wishing to devise a HAL-like technological artificial intelligence that controls a building or starship should note that such a creature could work, mechanically, very similarly to a haunt—with the (hidden or difficult-to-access) central processing unit taking the place of the soul.

Demon City stats:

Calm: 0
Agility: 4 (represents the agility of creatures inside and the ghost’s ability to act before its victims)
Toughness: n/a (the building material is ordinary, but only destroying it will not destroy the ghost)
Perception: Within the building—n/a, they perceive everything. Outside it they perceive nothing.
Appeal: 0
Cash: 0
Knowledge: 4

Calm Check: 7
Cards: The Tower (16)

Special Abilities:

Disembodied: The haunt itself cannot be harmed except by an exorcism and destruction of the small vessel where its soul is.

Manipulate Architecture: The ghost can control its building in various ways. The object of these manipulation is always to extract as much fear out of its victim before killing it—
-Open or close any door
-Lock or unlock any door
-See and hear everything in the building
-Sense the fears of anyone in the building
-Add a repeating room behind a closed set of doors
-Create disturbing audible and visual illusions (usually requiring a Calm Check on the victim’s part)
-Double or halve any dimensions of a room
-Telekinetically move any object that is “native” to the house (striking with an Intensity of 4)
-Animate any dead in the house as a Drone (see Revenant/Drone)
-Turn patterned surfaces into 100’ deep pools
The ghost may only enact one of these changes per round. The ghost cannot prevent keys from opening locked doors—though it may close and lock them in the next round. 

The ghost can sense nothing outside its building.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2018


First: if you were into the Black Panther movie, we did this. Ok, now:


That Which Opposes, The Agonarch, The Star of Mourning, The Other God, Antichrist, the True Demogorgon, The Anticreator is peerless, a fierce demon and agent of every aspect of woe. This one delights in great contests, and seeks division and to divide.

It is said his heir will climb from between the legs of a mortal in birth, and he will be thus his own child—and in this semblance will he conquer.

He will appear in response to only the highest necromancy or the most obscure chain of dark coincidence and often will begin in disguise. His coming will bring portents and birth defects.

To drive him back to the antiverse requires specific and obscure ritual magic. He can be stymied but not ever defeated. He will return.

Design Notes:

One does not conjure Satan lightly. The principle question for the Host to ask is “Why here?” “Why now?”—either events have naturally transpired such that the Evil One himself has taken notice (it’s the millennium, there’s been a genocide, the city has finally reached peak corruption, a unique alignment of planets has occurred, etc) or someone has worked very hard to bring him here. If the latter, why did they succeed where so many others failed?
At any rate, an adventure featuring the genuine actual Devil should feature a lot of atmospherics and disturbing scenes long before his hooves hit the pavement.

Calm: 10
Agility: 6
Toughness: 9
Perception: 9
Appeal: 9
Cash: 9
Knowledge: 9

Calm check: 10
Cards: Devil (15), Emperor (4), King of Pentacles (10), The Magician (1)

Special Abilities

Demonic: Demons don’t need to breathe or digest, don’t age, and are immune to poison, etc. and cannot be mentally controlled with psionic abilities. Animals will avoid demons in any form. Technological contrivances like firearms and explosives can hurt but never kill The Agonarch—he cannot be brought below 0 Toughness by these means.

Sixth Sense: All demons are supersensitive to danger, hostile emotions and signs of past trauma or the supernatural.

Aura of Adversity: When undisguised, the Agonarch’s presence is accompanied by constant minor disasters and disturbing phenomena of any kind—rain erupts, floors become swallowing pools, doors between Him and his victims lock, newborn goats with 6 legs drag themselves from the engines of cars, etc. Generally these will occur at a rate of one phenomena per round in addition to whatever He is doing otherwise. The Intensity of these effects is usually 6.

Domination of the Wicked: This One’s has psychological, biological and telekinetic control of any being proportional to its sinfulness. A target who wishes to resist must Throw Toughness or Calm (as appropriate) vs an Intensity equal to their sinfulness (Host: estimate on a scale of 0-9).

Near Omnipotence: There is little This One cannot do, if he decides to. He can mimic nearly any magical ability in the Supernatural Abilities section at an Intensity of 9. The limits on this ability are: He will only take one action per round (outside the Aura effects above), He cannot directly affect the body or mind of any mortal except within the limits of the Domination of the Wicked ability above, and he is, above all, fond of torture, temptation and play—he much prefers to abuse, pervert, transform and debase than to merely destroy.

Near Invulnerability: This One can only be harmed by magic, or by one who is without sin.

Unspeakability: Unlike most demons, the Agonarch’s true name can never be known, consisting of a single unholy sound in a unlanguage so blasphemous its suppression is itself the fragile spindle which binds into one whole all the living universe.


The holy symbols of any faith causes a demon to make a Calm check or flee until they are out of sight. The intensity of the calm check is equal to the degree of fervor of whoever is wielding it (1-9). In the case of an incidentally encountered symbol (a glimpsed church steeple, for instance) the intensity is 2.

Unlike most demons, touching a holy symbol, including holy water, does not damage to This One—though it will cause Him to pull back.
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Monday, March 26, 2018

These Artifacts Imply...

Heward's Mystical Organ implies...
1. Ivory-bearing creatures.
2. Chords and intervals that rend the fabric of reality.
3. A composer named Heward.
4. Sheet music that contains spells.
5. An ancient church.
6. A method of transporting an organ the size of a room.
7. Someone or something Heward feared or hated or wanted that caused the creation of the organ.
8. There's a way to lose a grand organ, which is basically like losing a room.
9. Heward's notes about using sound to breach the barriers between this world and others
10. A paper trail about the location of the organ.
The Hand of Vecna implies...
1. An ancient archlich with a now-vanished lich empire.
2. Remains of said empire.
3. The possibility of being both dead and undead, or at least an interface between the two.
4. Allies or worshippers of the lich, Vecna, that keep relics.
5. A reliquary. A monstrance.
6. Rites of Vecna. Taboos and practices specific to the cult of Vecna.
7. A reason that an archlich would bother to have an empire rather than just kill everyone and make them skeletons.
8. Architecture of the Vecna era.
9. Methods of keeping an undead body part "viable" when the rest of the body is gone.
10. (Undead creatures which use this ability? Like evil arms which fall from the ceiling and rip your arm off and replace it and strangle you?)
11. Powerful NPCs who desire the Hand--who may already have it and keep it a secret.
12. Magic gestures which have gone unknown and unperformed for millennia.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Relevant Retropost Saturday: Anatomy of a Good Houserule

Some people write rules. Here's some advice from a few years back (original here):

Jeff's Carousing Mishaps table. It's a classic. Tons of people use it. Jeff has many tables on his blog--why does this one work so well for so many people?

Let's pull this shit apart:

-It deals with something that's already in the game but isn't usually dramatized in the game. Your PCs don't have to do some new thing or behave in a different way to use this table. It's assumed that characters are always drinking and wenching when they're not punching giant rats. It's also usually assumed that the game is about when they're punching giant rats and not about when they're drinking and wenching.

-It gives the players a toy. Let's face it: DMs have a million toys to choose from. What Color Is The Slugvomit? I have a table for that... Sometimes the game's moving at a pace where you'll use it, sometimes it isn't. This table is part of a subsystem that the players get to decide to trigger--that's slightly unusual. Give the players a wheel and generally one of them will spin it.

-It's something that comes up a lot. If you run the game like Jeff does, where each session is one delve, it can potentially come up every session. If you don't, it can still come up any time the PCs end a session in a town or city.

-The subsystem is simple. It's all over in one roll. Or two. Or maybe three. Not only are the new rules in the system simple, but unlike my plot-seed version of it, it doesn't make any demands on the game that it doesn't wrap up quickly. That hangover? That just means -2 to saves the next day--it doesn't suddenly change the whole game.

-The rules don't overlap with other rules This table doesn't have to replace or displace any other system in most other games.

-It's fun to read None of the entries stop at "functional". There's always some pithy description and some subrule or result tagged onto it. This is useful on account of:
1-Nobody's gonna decide to keep a table unless they read it, and...
2-You don't have to transfer it into game terms mentally to explain it to your players--they're written in such a way that you could just read them off the table to the group if you felt like it.

-You know why you're rolling on it Unlike this equally awesome table, the Carousing Mishaps provides color but is subtly more directed: you are rolling to see what horrible thing happened when you got drunk and how it will affect your next adventure. Story color is converted into mechanics in an interesting way. There will be a result and you, the DM, know roughly the scale of that result, so you know how much "design space" to let it have in your game--and you know it will mean something to your players.

-It doesn't make you do any work. It isn't one of those "Here's some ideas, make something up" tables. It's all right there.

-They're funny but don't force your game to be You do not necessarily have to shift over to Planet Gonzo to use these rules--partially because they compartmentalize the action into one small thing that happens at the end of a game.


I'm sure there are other reasons and I'm sure I'll see them in the comments. But there you go: that's one way to write some genuinely useful rules.

Now, in the words of Jeff:

"Now somebody please go and post something twelve times cooler than my chart."