Huzzah for the Handy Haversack

Playing through Carrion Crown, my crossbow-slinging inquisitor racked up enough cash to acquire a handy haversack. Now I feel like I’m playing Dungeons & DragonsPathfinder, whatever.

There’s a certain delight I get from the more whimsical magic items and artifacts that come down through the annals of dungeon-crawling. The hat of disguise. The deck of many things. The apparatus of Kwalish. And now the handy haversack.

I mean, this is backpack that holds a crap ton more stuff than should fit inside. How can you not love that? Isn’t that something we’ve all wished for some time in our lives? Sure, a longsword +2 is spiffy, but it’s only really helpful if you’re in the murder-hobo profession. But a haversack with an extra — fine, non — dimensional interior. That’s got the right amount of whimsy to it that I smile just to think, “Hey, my guy’s got that. I never can, but he can.”

And by Iomedae, he’s going to cram it full of every kind of ammunition he lays his hands on.

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The 10,000 Year Clock

The clock will run for ten millennia — at least, that’s the plan. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, is building a clock designed to run for 10,000 years. It’s a monumental undertaking, to be housed in a 500 hundred foot shaft drilled into a mountain ridge, incorporating massive metal gears and other elements of equal stature. The project is “a symbol of the power of long-term thinking. [Bezos’] hope is that building it will change the way humanity thinks about time, encouraging our distant descendants to take a longer view than we have.” You can read more about the clock at its own web site.

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Plot Seed Medley

Writing plot seeds is tricky. It’s easy to let yourself become repetitive. I find myself writing and rewriting them to stand out as unique. That’s why I so easily stalled on Plot-Seed-a-palooza. I do mean to get back to that someday.

In the meantime, enjoy revisiting some previously published plot seeds.

  1. Beastmen of the North Country lurk in the dark, silent woods.
  2. The Ghost Writer finds herself compelled to fulfill the authorial aspirations of the long-departed.
  3. Lincoln’s Blood proves a turning point for secret histories and wars.
  4. The Roxbury House is a spooky old house inspired by pictures taken by a friend of mine.
  5. Slayers and ‘Busters brings together two monster-hunting franchises to amuse the spectator in the incongruities and similarities.
  6. Something in Lake Champlain Uses Bio-Sonar is a highly suggestive thought about the sort of marine life lurking at the edges of human activity.
  7. Starless takes the contracting universe seen at the end of season five of Doctor Who and adds archaeologists of true history to the mix.
  8. This Man draws on an urban legend to create an ally or antagonist based in the dream world.
  9. Turn Me On, Dead Man presents an alternate history in which the star-crossed fates of two Beatles puts the world in jeopardy.
  10. The Voynich Manuscript is one of those archetypal plot seeds that everyone takes a stab at.

Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum

Originally published in 1652, Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum was a monster of a book that collected alchemical works from the likes of John Dee, Edward Kelley and Elias Ashmole. Now it’s to be reprinted by Ouroboros Press in a corrected edition based off the original errata sheets.[1]

It looks to be full of neat content good for waving around as an alchemist’s handbook or wizard’s grimoire. As a “stout octavo” edition, I can only hope it’s as good for the party’s occult expert or resident potion-stirrer thwacking a nincompoop about the cranium as putting out small fires.


[1] Tying it to role-playing games in an unexpected way.

The Spirit Typewriter

Sunker Abaji Bisey's spirit typewriter.

Here’s an interesting gadget for ghost hunters: the spirit typewriter. As related by Phantoms and Monsters, the spirit typewriter is a variation on the Ouija board designed to remove the possibility of human interference.

A ring of blank typewriter keys is placed above the arm mechanisms. The ring can spin freely, so the user doesn’t know which key imprints which letter on a paper tape. In theory, whatever messages a person is compelled to type out on this machine should be more believable than anything received via a traditional spirit board, the output of which could be a result of the ideomotor effect.

This channeling device reminds me of a character I came up with a couple years back, the ghost writer. Jenny’s automatic writing talent — or affliction, depending on your perspective — assumes she writes in longhand, but the spirit typewriter could be an interesting prop for her. Perhaps a team of paranormal investigators insists she use it to prove her talent is genuine; it would probably flummox any aspiring author from a premechanical era. Or maybe it’s the only way her talent works; that would make more sense in a context where it’s a boon, rather than a duty or intrusion on her life. If Jenny made her living selling dead people’s work, needing the typewriter to do it and overcoming its loss or damage would work for her needing a favor from intrepid occult experts.

Demonground

Sometimes paying attention to the Hotness column over at RPG Geek pays off. That’s where I was reminded of Demonground, a horror and weirdness role-playing zine that published fifteen issues between 1998 and 2002. The keeper of the files seems to have redesigned the site a bit, but the issues themselves are the same as they ever were.

Demonground‘s a handy resource for GMs looking for a bit of inspiration, like monsters, artifacts of interest and all that. And it covers many of the horror games of note at the time, including Dark Conspiracy, Call of Cthulhu and my personal favorite WitchCraft, in addition to non-setting specific material. Now admittedly, this can be a mixed blessing. I’m of the variety where I zero in on what’s specific to my preferred properties, ignoring the rest. Fortunately, the later issues of Demonground are conveniently labeled so as to help such picky consumers find the content relevant to their pursuits. For the rest of you, gorge away.

And since Demonground‘s material is timeless, you can merrily mine away regardless of the fact there hasn’t been a new issue since 2002. And if that’s a concern, go check out Protodimension.

The Lance of Longinus

While on Red Ice Radio a couple years ago, Jerry E. Smith presented an interesting idea for the power behind the Lance of Longinus, the storied weapon that pierced the side of Jesus while he was crucified. Rather than having exceptional properties bestowed by God or another non-human agency — though Jerry also related some of the lore that claimed the lance had a pretty interesting past before it entered the hands of Longinus — Jerry suggested that the spear became a receptacle for humanity’s thoughts and dreams. As the stories around the lance grew, so did its powers.

In particular, the story of St. Maurice and the Theban Legion stood out for me. As Smith related it, Maurice’s all-Christian legion refused to obey the Roman emperor Maximian’s orders, as they would contravene the legionares’ Christian values. They suffered multiple rounds of decimation — killing one man in ten — before the surviving members of the legion were all executed. By Smith’s theory, this act of martyrdom further empowered the Lance of Longinus, which already had an affinity for Christianity by serving a role in the crucifixion.

After the martyrdom of St. Maurice and the Theban Legion, the lance’s became a boulder of sacrifice and duty-sympathetic mystic might rolling downhill. When Constantine later acquired the Spear of Destiny, he took a pro-Christian position, later converting himself. This seeming property of the spear puts a slight spin on Hitler’s acquisition of the Hofburg spear during World War II. Maybe it was part of an overall delusion that his cause was just and right, or maybe he was playing keepaway, denying a resource from enemies who could make better use of it by securing it in a facility designed to dampen and negate its mind-changing abilities.

You can read more about Jerry Smith’s book on the subject, Secrets of the Holy Lance: The Spear of Destiny in History & Legend, and then order it from Adventures Unlimited Press.

The Aluminum Skull

The brazen head of Roger Bacon — among others — is one of those recurring widgets in supernatural fiction. It’s a source of prophecy, arcane wisdom and all that fun stuff. Whether or not such a thing existed or had any of the capabilities ascribed to it, the idea of such a thing is enough to inspire any number of mystics to attempt to craft their own.

The particular example pictured to the right is certainly a more modern expression of the concept. With a name like Egocentric Armillary, it puts me in mind of Unknown Armies‘ human-centric universe. Everything in the game world is the product, consequence or fault of humanity. There are no beings from beyond or aliens. It’s all humans and the things they do to each other. In that world, I can see the aluminum skull working as a sort of avatar detector, since avatars and the Invisible Clergy members they emulate are the underpinnings of the current universe. This armillary swivels to stare in the direction of the nearest avatar utilizing one of their channels within a range of three miles, three feet and three inches, while constantly shrieking “You did it! You did it!”

Needless to say, most members of the occult underground tend to pass this one off in trade sooner rather than later, or at least invest in some sturdy foam earplugs.

Thanks to Propnomicon for the link to Egocentric Armillary.