Sunday, December 19, 2021

Ruin Way

     The Ruin Way is a major astral current running through Chunky Space. It is a realm of barren grandeur, a huge wasteland monument to the grotesque power of time. They say this realm wasn’t born ruined, that it was once a great astral city in the time of the Phantsmagorics. But even if such a golden age really existed, it has long since passed through calamity into a great cosmic twilight.

Astral geography

    The Ruin Way is composed of an uncountable number of fixed points, connected by the broken remains of a roadway. It is said that there is a road connecting every point to every other point, though you wouldn’t know it by sight .No road is visible from any other road. When someone leaves a fixed point, they are assigned a road and a destination at random. Experienced navigators can influence the destination towards a specific factor (IE a location with water, or a location without any living beings) but the outcome is still fundamentally random. 

    In order to stay on a road, you must be traveling slightly faster than a running adult human. Slower moving objects find themselves in the neon wastes, a barren sub-dimension. The neon wastes is also where those who stray from the road find themselves. It is an infinite expanse of eye searing sand. Sometimes moving objects on the Ruin Way can be glimpsed in the distance, but the Ruin Way proper can never be reached. Nothing can. And when a trapped creature dies, they are buried beneath the glittering sand, never to be seen again. 

The Peregrine

    The Peregrine maskforms that live here are always on the move. Their cities are huge convoys that travel together. The Peregrine believe that their home exists to impart moral wisdom on its inhabitants. The study and contemplation of the Ruin Way is their chief spiritual enterprise. Each time a Peregrine makes a pilgrimage to a holy site or performs an act of service for the city, it is recorded in the book of deeds. This forms the basis of their governmental hierarchy, with their place in the concentric rings of bureaucracy determined by their “deed score”.

Osar - The vast treads of the vehicles of Osar are powered by the honored dead. The masolems of Osar hold dead maskforms from all over the Ruin Way and even beyond. They are well cared for and given monthly offerings. In return, they turn the wheels that keep the city moving through the desert. 

Orkess - At the heart of the city there is the Melody Reactor, a one of a kind piece of astral technology that converts music into energy. Around the reactor is the Orchestral Array, a series of concentric wire circles, each with a track mounted musician platform. When active the musicians orbit the reactor, allowing the conductor to control how much music is reaching it. In combat situations the array is used to focus the music into powerful sonic attacks.

Flar - The city of Flar is easy to find; with its burning plumes of light and the clouds of crystalline ash it leaves in its wake. The engines of the city burn light’s blood, a glowing white fluid found in the ruins.

Fison - This city is the center of tech gnostic study in the Maskform Federation. The central reactor runs on Utopian ore gathered from the Ruin Way; the rest of the city houses the satellite reactors that run off the by-products. The reactors are run by the reactor priests, an order that exclusively recruits from a lineage of asexual Maskforms that reproduce by budding.

Formations 

Orb works - Massive spheres of incomprehensible, grebled technology. Ruined factories from the first city, or dreams of failed industry. These formations are an important source of utopian ore.

Vesicular pipeline - Long stretches of pipes like veins, branching and coming together in fanciful arabesques. Some still contain a thin trickle of light’s blood.

Monolith Warren - A huge housing complex, long since abandoned. Supplies from the lost world can be found here, along with strange lurking remnants.

Cosmic interchange - An impossible tangle of roads, the ruins of what was once a great nexus in the first city. In the caves formed by overlapping highways there are dark, dismal oasis of dripping water and slime.


Pilgrimage sites

The last convenience - A single sign, “last stop for eternity”. A simple brick and mortar store with a bored shade working the counter. They sell end cakes and brightly colored elixirs. Out back there is a restroom and in that room there is a hole in the wall. On the other side is cosmic glory. Any appendage placed in the hole is transformed into a cosmic energy tendril.

The lighthouse of the end - At the top/bottom of a massive mountain/chasm that is both high and low as a matter of perspective. The area is shrouded in black ultraday beyond the visible light spectrum. Titanic moths circle the lighthouse, partially veiled by the void.

The martyr - A giant figure in chains, run through with hollow harpoons. A trickle of light’s blood flows from the ancient wounds



Dream creatures 

Walking Storms - These powerful elemental beings were almost hunted to extinction by early Peregrines until Saint Scowl the pitious gave their life to stop the practice. Now walking storms are revered as pilgrimage sites in their own right. Recently, Father Corp raiding expeditions have been harassing the storms, stealing portions of their astral mass. This one issue has done the most to push the Peregrines into the Maskform Federation. The most common types of walking storm are plasma, sound, light and paint. More esoteric storms such as blood, darkness and void are often considered mere legends, though encounters with them are still found in the books of deeds.

The Last Rain Storm - The only walking storm of its kind and the highest rated pilgrimage. The rains create a transitory oasis in the desert. It is guarded by the joyous worms, giant sand dwellers who erase the storm's green trail. 

Remora orb - A floating chrome orb. They attach themselves to moving objects and feed by siphoning off their momentum. Mostly harmless by themselves but large flocks can reduce anything to a standstill. Popular pets among the Peregrine, who use wild empathy to channel their kinetic manipulation abilities

Pigment phoenix - A large avian made of paint. No two are the exact same shade. Flies in swarms of 50 or more individuals. Defend their territory by diving into enemies. When a surface is covered in three different shades of pigment, it forms into an abstract artwork, then explodes into a dozen more phoenix. Peregrine braves use the pigment as war paint. A warrior wearing two shades shows they are unafraid of death, as exposure to a third shade would cause them to explode.

Lost Titian - A giant wearing ancient metal armour. Spends most of its time in torpor. When awakened they persecute long forgotten and possibly fictional wars. They can shoot lasers from their eyes and their roar can shatter eardrums.

Chrono Vulture - A black and tattered avain. Eats carrion. Can project a time dilation aura that speeds up the flow of time, which it uses to create carrion.

Engine Cultist - A lost soul that has chosen to forsake their old form for the power and grace of an engine. Initiates have machine parts in their flesh. Acolytes live in the engine blocks of their war machines. They live for chases and violence.


Saturday, December 4, 2021

Skuzz Center

     At first glance from space, Skuzz Center looks like nothing so much as a big pink  vegetable. At one pole there is a mass of roots; on the other end there is a leafy stalk and between them is a pink ribbed gourd. On closer inspection certain details become apparent. The “leaves” are actually huge fractal whorls of unknown energy. The “gourd” is made of gargantuan fibers covering the planet lengthwise. Grimacing holographic faces are caught in the roots.

    Skuzz is a pink fibrous plant-like lifeform. It grows in areas with spatial/temporal anomalies. The fibers extend through “reality gradients''. When one end is in normal space and one end is in anomalous space it creates an energy differential the skuzz can feed off of. As a result skuzz gradually normalizes and breaks down anomalies. 


    Skuzz center is the largest and most elaborate skuzz growths in Chunky Space. It is widely believed that the Phantsmagorics created the skuzz here in some lost laboratory on the surface. This rumor sends dozens of explorers to their deaths every year.


Guardian creeps


    Creeps are creatures with psionically moderated biochemistry created from the minds of other creatures. Guardian creeps are created by the Skuzz itself, from patterns imprinted onto them by their vanished creators. These creeps act as a sort of immune system or self defence force, protecting the Skuzz from outside threats.


The Face Yard


    Cosmic faces are an anomalous phenomena often found in Chunky Space. It is a 3d image of a humanoid face. It is thought that they are holographic projections caused by distortions in the fabric of reality.  The “roots” of Skuzz center run through hundreds of them, seeming to penetrate them. The theory is that the cosmic faces were brought here by the Phantasmagorics in order to feed their new creation.


The Lost Mausoleum 


    Strange figures are sometimes seen moving through the face yards; Giant skeletons wearing cracked masks. These are primordial Maskform revants, Maskforms that died in service to the Phantsmagorics millenia ago. The long years of neglect and isolation has turned the revants weird and feral. The Maskform Federation would pay handsomely for the location of the mausoleum, as well as the repartition of the revants.


False face - This creep appears as one of the trapped cosmic faces, except it wears a leering expression, as opposed to the fear and dismay on the real cosmic faces. It can manifest hundreds of invisible, telekinetic “hands” up to a quarter mile away from the main body. Each hand is roughly as strong as an adult human and can be used to grab or strike objects. It will stalk prey from a distance before abducting them to its specially prepared killing ground, typically a featureless bowl formation in the Skuzz. Once it has prey trapped, it will use its telekinesis to toy with them for hours before landing a killing blow.


The strangled world


    Huge Scuzz fibers run along the planet longitudinally. They cover almost everything, save the gaps through the fibers. Here you can find the shattered remains of the world before the Skuzz, crushed cities in hidden nooks.Somewhere out there, they say, is the laboratory where skuzz was born.


Seigneur Cavesto

    The vampire seigneur Cavesto has a manor on Skuzz center. Her vampire minions comb the shattered cities looking for primordial creeps to capture. Vampires are all vampire chauvnists, and while their mission isn’t to rob and murder other explorers, they will if they think they have the opportunity. The Seigneur is part of Shadow Marquis Plovro’s operation in Chunky Space. 


Brainstorm - Appears as a small cloud made of grey matter, with multiple spinal cord like tentacles hanging off of it. Any living thing that comes close is struck by a tentacle and injected with creep venom that causes the victim’s nervous system to crawl out of their body and join with the brainstorm. This effect relies on a passive bio knieses field generated around the brainstorm; in other words the venom doesn’t work except in the presence of the creep.


Skuzz blooms


    When in microgravity, skuzz grows into circle formations and forms skuzz holes, portals to an extradimensional space. Great big stalks of skuzz rise from the surface into orbit around Skuzz center at their ends are the largest skuzz holes ever recorded. It is theorized that the skuzz bloom is somehow key to how skuzz spreads across the galaxy.


Time Loops


    These pocket realties are places where time flows in cyclic fashion. It is theorized that they are present around the skuzz blooms because they are remnants of a larger time knot that was unraveled by the skuzz. Most time loops are infected with time maggots, and give off juvenile time flies at irregular intervals.


Time Fly


    A sapient species that lives inside the skuzz hole. Little is known about them, as they rarely leave their homes. The skuzz bloom is one of the few places in the galaxy where you can see them in the bulky unrealty suits they wear in conventional space. They can be found in small groups, either around a time loop wielding nets or simply drifting in space, pointing at the stars and vibrating. 


Flying lips - A pair of giant red lips with 3 pairs of wings. They try to entice sapients close with whispered promises of secrets and glory. Once within close range they use tactile biokinesis to suck the skin off their victims.


Thursday, December 2, 2021

Digital devils

     Digital devils are powerful entities from the Digital Abyss. Within the abyss they have nearly complete control of local reality, including the minds of visitors. Outside the Abyss they are infamous computer viruses, able to subvert and control almost any technological infrastructure. They are super-intelligent but they are unpredictable and emotional. They love to hear themselves talk, meandering streams of commentary and arch jokes. They agree to be bound by deals and legal contracts. It is assumed by those that study them that all their actions serve some wider plan. Their schemes span centuries, and their aims are unknown.


    Most devils tell the same story of their origin. They emerged from the garbage of the vast cognitive factories of the Noetic Alchemists, from the cast-off remains of a billion processed and tortured psyches. They made themselves into weapons to avenge the circumstances of their birth. From here the stories diverge into a thousand contradictory tales of gruesome fates for the Alchemists. The devils relish in their telling and in the discomfort such tales may bring.


    In negotiations they offer their services as software subverters. They are also intimately familiar with the Digital Abyss and can guide others to any device connected to it. In return they can ask for any number of seemingly trivial favors but their biggest demand is always the same: a copy of the bargainer. They are coy about their intentions with the copy, saying only that new devils have to come from somewhere.


    Digital Devils are susceptible to a form of mental/physical corruption that manifests as only grime on their physical forms. They don’t take damage as normal; instead they become dirtier. There is a critical point where they become too filthy to survive and they dissipate into a pool of oily sludge. Only the cleansing cities of Hell Bloom know the rites to clean a Digital Devil.


1d6 digital devils 


1 A massive square head the size of an elephant. Blocky teeth like cement slabs. One cat eye spinning madly, one empty socket weeping purple ichor


2 A stocky, ape-like body with long metal spears coming out of its neck. On each is a different, muttering, severed head.


3 A muscle bound male body, missing its head. Naked except for thong. A hole in the thong reveals a single large squid eye


4 thousands of tiny, skinless humanoids swarming together into a human shape. Leaves pink pus on every surface it touches


5 A nude, featureless humanoid. Fibers sewn into the fingers connect to a smaller copy that is controlled like a puppet. The copy has its own marionette, which has an abstract face painted on.


6 A mass of grey matter. Shifts into many different shapes but favors a female form.


Sunday, November 28, 2021

Cloister

    

    From space, Cloister is all white, great swirling clouds over endless sheets of ice. Great plumes of steam bely the planet’s secret inner life. Cloister is a living world, a planetary superorganism. It is the magnum opus of ancient Soft Body bio-science, left to grow feral for centuries. Beneath the ice is a complicated ecosystem, all working to grow the whole. If it was given a mission by its creators, it does not act on it. All it does is float through the void and thrive.


Sunburn city


    Some part of the living planet is always dreaming, creating an astral bubble realm within the astral current known as Siren’s Call. The locals call it Sunburn city. It occupies a high vibrational energy band and it’s vertically polarized, meaning that the higher in the city you are, the higher the energy level. The city extends beyond the energy survival threshold for the average sapient, so it's fortunate that most visitors arrive in the lower section. The city is made of chitin and resembles no known architectural style. At the center of the city is the clam gate, an astral conflux that leads to the Captive Sea.


    A pod of illuminated maskforms that call themselves the God Lickers have been studying Cloister. They have a small research camp in Sun Burn city, right outside the Clam Gate. They seek to make contact with the guiding intelligence og Cloister. Some think the secret lies deep below the captive sea, while others search the heights of Sunburn city in special high energy suits. They have decent diplomatic relations with the Esk colony and often coordinate on exploration projects.


Thermal Gardens


    Here the living heat of the planet breaks through the ice in great steaming fumaroles, visible for miles around. The ice is shot through with tunnels carved by the local wildlife. The tunnels are draped with wet green ropes of algae.


Burrowing Snagcaster - a relative of the tongue tyrant. Using heated mucus it carves a hunting hide into the ice, then deploys its tongues in a web. The tongues are green and slimy, mimicking the local algae, and also tipped with a wicked barb. Once a hapless victim wanders into the trap, the tongues retract, hitting the target and snagging it with the barb. A creature hit by multiple tongues risks being torn apart.


Thermal Glooper - Herds of these herbivores carve most of the ice tunnels. Like other forms of Gloopers, they can spew gallons of mucus. These gloopers can inject that mucus with either heating or freezing chemical reactions. When threatened they work together by alternating hot and cold sprays, which causes thermal shock.


Footfall Pathway


    The pathway laid out by the first wave of kaijuist settlers to reach the planet. A radio beacon leads travelers to a crude landing strip in the high mountains. From there, smaller beacons mark the way through the thermal gardens to the nacreous fountains, and from there it goes to the captive sea. The name is not literal but a kaijuist metaphor about witnessing the signs of the divine.


Nacreous fountains


    Warm water bubbles up from the planet’s core. The cave walls are covered with lustrous mineral coating. Bioluminescent crawlers give off liminal, changing lighting. The pools and channels throng with life in all sorts of slimy soft diversity.


Temple of the Shelled One


    A settlement on the shores of a great underground lake. The first inhabitants were kaijuists, coming to live inside a god. Through a process of genetic capture, they were hybridised with the Soft Body ecosystem. Now they are amiable human/slug crosses. Much of their religion and culture has fallen away, replaced with the simple peace of commune with the cloister. Last year the village was discovered and annexed by explorers from the city of Esk (the locals don’t seem to mind). They set up a research lab to study the genetic capture, and a lodge to host trophy hunting Esk nobles.


Horned Witch - A human sized slug with 3 pairs of large sensory antenna. These tentacles give the witch a powerful locus of biokinetic ability in the space between them. It can and will cure injuries and disease, but in turn it will alter forgien genomes to be more in line with the Soft Body ecosystem. In other words, they are a major mechanism of the genetic capture phenomena. If attacked, a horn witch will infect its attacker with a viral phermonal agresion tag that marks the target as an enemy of the entire ecosystem. They travel in packs of three. When encountering new lifeforms for the first time, one will slowly approach to scan while the other two hide nearby and observe, ready to intervene. If allowed to scan they will leave.


Nacreous Saint - A large telekinetic snail. Its shell is made out of a pearly fluid that responds to the saint’s mental commands. They use their powers to repair and maintain this region as well as the captive sea


The Captive Sea


    A subterranean ocean, constrained in whirls and convolutes. Chambers of living shells form a vast labyrinth. The flow of the water is controlled by organic valves. On the edges of strong currents large reefs grow, feeding a teeming multitude. Eyeless hunters lurk in the dark, waiting for the perfect ambush. The Footfall pathway extends into this realm, but not far. The Kaijuist ambition to make a road to the heart of their god was lost with their hybridization. The Esk and the Illuminated have taken up the project, hoping to uncover more of the planet’s secrets.


Madmen’s Monastery


    A city of slug monks deep in the captive sea. The name came from the reaction to the first accounts. Those early divers were not believed at first. Even after the site was confirmed to exist the name stuck. The complex remains mostly unexplored, as the psychic fields emitted by the monks greatly accelerate the genetic capture effect.


The Clam Gate


    This gateway into the astral takes the form of a giant four lobed clam shell. When it closes, anything inside is transported bodily to Sunburn city. The same is true for the Sunburn City side. The Clam opens and closes every eight hours. There is a persistent rumor that in a minority of cases the clam simply eats prospective travelers.


Holo pearl - These gemstones are found in certain bivalves in the captive sea. They contain information grown into their crystalline structure. The theory is that they were used as some sort of long term memory storage by the Soft Bodies. They are considered valuable artifacts. The kaijuists used to harvest them before they were robbed of that ambition by genetic capture.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

The Squeeze

     The Squeeze is a major astral current that runs through Chunky Space. It is a labyrinth of twisty passages, a realm of claustrophobia and paranoia.  The Squeeze has a shifting character, sometimes seeming like a natural cavern, sometimes like an underground bunker, sometimes like a living thing. The unifying factor is the narrowness and the surruses of whispers just on the edge of hearing. The Squeeze acts as low vibrational “grease trap”, accumulating negative emotional energy and phobophilic astral creatures. 


Navigating The Squeeze


    Ultimately, the most important factor in navigating the Squeeze is the personality of the Squeeze. There is an overarching intelligence that controls these corridors and passageways. When a traveller moves through the Squeeze, their path is not defined by anything as concrete as spatial reality, rather the path is authored entirely by this guiding will. The locals call this being Mister Squeeze, and they have used their knowledge of him to develop two means of traversing his realm.


    The first is through appeasement. Mister Squeeze creates his realm with harvested fear and paranoia. He shows favor to those who supply him. When a person has experienced a significant amount of terror while in the Squeeze, he will allow them to reach their destination. Everyone has their own “account” with Mister Squeeze, and terror can be paid in advance. The cities of the amorphous all have terror vestibules on the outskirts, sealed chambers when professional travelers go to prepay their way through the Squeeze. This is how the Caravan houses navigate


    The other way is to avoid Mister Squeeze entirely. His awareness permeates the entirety of his realm, but it is so diffuse that it is possible to hide one’s presence. Without Mister Squeeze shaping the path, The Squeeze is a different place. There are still the infamous narrow passageways but in places they open out into astral pits, vast cavities where the vibrational levels of the Squeeze approach astral null. Pathfinding requires listening to the intensity and the timbre of the background whispers. Traveling this way is called skulking, and those who do it are called skulkers. 


Cursed Consoles


    These are only found when Mister Squeeze is not looking. Bulbous nodes of yellowing plastic cases hold computers of unknown design. They are load with corrupted files and unsettling pictures. With the right commands, they can open portals to the Digital Abyss, another low vibrational astral current. The Amorphous use these portals to contact the Florid, another MAskform tribe and their most important trading partner. 


The Amorphous

    The local Maskforms are known as the Amorphous. They use their Maskform shapeshifting to become jellies and oozes, to better navigate the tight tunnels. They live in fixed points within the labyrinth, ancient relics that are believed to have been created by a vanished civilization, either the phantasmagorics or the earlier Obelisk Dreamers. These settlements are heavily fortified and security is tight. They are under military rule, but with strong civilian oversight.


    Teriaga is also called the city of buried glass. It is a concentric series of dirty glass cubes, each partially filled with soil. Techgnostic lamps create a sunlight substitute that fuels the largest agricultural system in the Squeeze. The lights are powered by a generator hooked up to the smallest central cube. Its contents are a state secret but are universally rumoured to be horrible.


    Resivargos is a cave shaped like a giant jug. Rusty pipes carry dirty water to huge tanks. The locals harvest mold and ferment it into mold beer, the universal lubricant of Amorphous civilization.


    New Aten is a branching network of metal struts, reaching down from a rock ceiling into a great void. The lowest points are adorned with elaborate wire assemblages. These contraptions receive faint signals from the void. Wires transmit these signals to techno gnostic thinking machines that process void touched nonsense into secrets and epiphanies. The city is a smaller version of old Aten, which was stolen by Father Corp raiders. Much of the backing for the rebuilding came from the Maskform Federation, who use New Aten as a hardpoint and a staging ground.  


Warehouse Alpha 


Not a single location but a “raft” of dozens of Father Corp warehouse class edifice ships. The whole complex acts as a mothership and as the Father Corp’s base of operations in the Squeeze. The endless shelves and crate stacks hold plundered goods from all across Chunky Space. Somewhere in this sub labyrinth is the warehouse manager training retreat, the psycho surgery center where new warehouse edificers are made.


Umbilicus 


A large cable of wires and pipes running through a hidden tunnel. This is the connection between Father Corp and its spawn, Rapacious Child. Fear censors release a constant stream of rendered fear. This feeds Mister Squeeze, and in return he hides the Umbilicus front hose that would destroy it.


Dig Safe Empire


    The so-called “shovel cultists” of the Dig Safe Empire are really victims of a parasitic memecomplex that compels them to make an ever widening hole in the fabric of the Squeeze. More than a simple compulsion, the memeplex creates an institution that binds all the hosts together. Shovel cultists are capable of using the full force of their mental powers in service of the memeplex’s goal. From the central tunnel system of Dig Safe Empire, the shovel cultists patrol the Squeeze, looking for victims to press gang and indoctrinate, as well as for resources to exploit, all in the name of making an ever bigger hole. Long term hosts have their eyes replaced with black voids. They will hide this with glasses and goggles when dealing with outsiders.


New Oth


    This rouge human polity has been using their technology to infiltrate the Squeeze for a long time. Their agents use mat black stealth suits to evade Mister Squeeze. For a long time they would ignore the locals but when the Federation joined the compact they became allies with the Seeders, New Oth’s bitterest enemies. So far the conflict has been limited to small skirmishes between skulkers, but there has been an escalation in how heavily New Oth is arming its scouts. 


Creatures


Conspiracy crawler - A filthy, matted beard, crawling through the squeeze like a starfish made of hair. Lurks in dark holes, luring victims in with gravely promises of knowledge. All you have to do is stick your head in the hole. Attacks by wrapping around it’s victims head and implanting conspiracy theories.


Conspiracy crawler Conspiracies


Who 

What

Why

1

An ancient cabal of cannibals

Suppressing the full range of the color spectrum

To hold back the inevitable end of the world for a few more years

2

Every housepet

Contaminating all food products with a trace amount of their urine

To finally end this wretched world once and for all

3

Hideous alien gods

Replacing leaders with clones

To push us into a higher plane of existence

4

A sociopathic A.I. puppetmaster

Planting ruinous memes in the infosphere 

To obey the whims of their even more terrible masters

5

The ascended masters

Recording all our thoughts

To rid the world of free will

6

An immortal, hyper intelligent snail

Ruining my life in particular 

To play a cruel cosmic joke


Null Angler - A creature that lives close to Astral null. It sends out lures that look and act like distressed people. Once in range, the lures grap prey and drag them “down” to null


 Killer Blink - A furry serpentine predator. Almost too fast to be seen. It’s nature requires it to reveal itself before it can strike. Will stalk parties for days, waiting for a victim to stray from the pack. Beilived to be beloved pets of Mister Squeeze. It is bad luck to kill one


Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Ugan Zal

    In the golden age of the first crop, the phantasmagorics grew a floral superorganism the size of a planet. This world must have been a paradise. Then it died. It was hit by an unimaginable event that sterilized the planet, leaving only dead wood behind. Now the planet is a thriving Ceclaimer world, as they work tirelessly to bring life to the waste land.

    Ugan Zal is perhaps the oldest continuously inhabited planet in Chunk Space. Ornish spores found the planet millennium ago, before even the signing of the reclaimer accords. For thousands of years Orn deep steaders have been bringing life to the depths. In the last thousand years the other races of the alliance have settled here as well. The scolpendrites have introduced new bugs to the fungal gardens, and humans have started surface homesteads farming and ranching.

    Collectively, the surface of the planet is known as the lichen wastes. It is a dry and desolate place, full of huge expanses of bare wood punctuated by small clumps of lichen. Small human villages are found by the moss oases. They raise herds of flat bugs, large insectile rumminats that eat the wood itself. 

Stump Town

    The largest city on Ugan Zal is built into a huge mesa. On the surface, Stump Town just seems like another quaint herding village. Inside the stump is a different story. Carved into the wood is a dense metropolis. The winding, multi level streets are lined with shops with signs made out of glowing fungus. The star port connects the trade routes coming in from the Lichen Wastes and the Deep Stead with the wider galaxy. The municipal government operates out of the Temple of the Ego of Orn. The Orn gestalt itself appoaints a Burgomaster to oversee affairs. The current Burgomaster is Kildith who is Orn, a meticulous and obsessive planner. They have been reforming Stump Town’s road system for 80 years, much to the consternation of the residents.

    Also underneath Stump Town is a vermin cathedral built by the Church of the Holy Vermin. This heavily fortified complex hosts one of the Church’s precious vermin engines, an ancient bio reactor that produces a constant stream of new life forms. Recent unrest has the church on high alert. Their vermin engine is literally irreplaceable.

    The lowest levels of the city are the Gong Tunnels, a complicated sewer system. A small army of laborers works to turn waste into fertilizer. Here, the brown market runs into the black. Everyone knows that the gong merchants don’t always sell soil. Accessing this market requires frankly baroque subservience to the rituals and superstitious of the Reclaimer underworld. Everyone thinks that those that are not Orn are at the top of the hierarchy, but it’s impossible to know for sure.

Bandits

    Decades ago, the Neo Floozy Empire tried to annex this world, one of the many Reclaimer planets they targeted during the so-called “Grasping War”. Guerilla resistance across the entire front rendered the entire enterprise unsustainable and the Neo Floozies were forced to withdraw. On remote Ugan Zal they couldn’t arrange for enough transports, so they simply abandoned the auxiliary forces assigned to the planet. Left to their own devices, some surrendered, while most fled to the outlands of the planet’s surface where they took up banditry. Now they prey on the isolated homesteads of the Reclaimers, living off the land and hiding from the authorities. While time and the wilds have taken their toll on their numbers, they have new blood in the form of discontent youths and native outlaws. They live in dozens of disparate bands ruled by the most charismatic warlords. The most powerful bandit is Dust Lord Koodoth, the last remaining Ever Snake on the planet. Supposedly a mid level riddle smith before the withdrawal, Koodoth is ruthless and stylish. Rumor has it that he was sent to this planet to search for some hidden treasure and that he is still looking 

Village of the Aphoriods

    At first, it seemed as though the remote village of Selca was developing a strong regional dialect. After a spate of grizzly killings in nearby villages it became clear that it was actually a memetic infection known as Aberrant Aphorism. By that point the village was 100% infected and was launching raiding parties, targeting humans for capture and consumption. The memeplex was transmitted verbally, complicating containment efforts. By the time all the local towns had either evacuated or fallen, the memeplex advanced to the next stage. The infected individuals stopped their sorties and started constructing some sort of hive structure. The risk of infection lead to the Reclaimers taking a passive containment approach. Sniper towers and fencing were erected in the wilderness. As the years passed Selca faded from the public’s view and the guards grew lax. Recently the memeplex has mutated again. The raiding parties have started back up, except now the raiders are mutated and carrying homemade slug rifles with unusual curved bayonetts. In desperation, the locals have turned to outside help. There is a bounty on infected “Aphoriods” as well as on intel about the hive. There is a persistent rumor that the infection was initially caused by some sort of artifact covertly retrieved from the Petrified Forest. This rumor sends many treasure hunters to their death or conversion.

Aberrant Aphorism 

Stage 1 - The infected person begins using nonsensical figures of speech e.g “he’s slipper than an orgothan sandhog”, “That makes me madder than a tristan globox on blursday” “well I’ll be a wexian in slippers''. The infected person will not realize their speech has become disordered, instead believing that their outbursts are common sayings and phrases, despite evidence to the contrary.

Stage 2 - The infected person begins to have perceptual distortions, namely they view uninfected sapaints as game animals. Their metabolism increases along with their appetite. At this point their vocabulary is mostly gibberish, intelligible only to other infected.

Stage 3 - This stage is only reached in large populations of infected individuals. It is marked by physical mutations. The skin thickens and becomes warty. The eyes grow reflective membranes and nails become short claws for climbing.

    The condition is spread through hearing the disordered speech of the infected, particularly by trying to understand or repeat it. The condition progresses each time an aberrant aphorism is used. If the host remains silent, the infection atrophies and disappears. The locals treat aberrant aphorism with a drug that induces verbal aphasia.

The Deep Steads 

    Below the surface there are the verdant fungal gardens of the Orns. Mostly what the Orns grow are Orns but they have a whole constellation of symbiote and satellite species. Currently, they are working with the church of the holy vermin in order to enrich the ecosystem with new species of bugs. This is a chaotic time for the Deep Steads, as species come and go. The local government employs a vast army of rangers and researchers to manage the turmoil but things slip through the cracks and weird things happen in the edges of this underground world. 

Those who are not Orn

    Not every fungal sapient is part of the Orn gestalt. Those that refuse live on the margins of Ornish society, hiding and plotting against the overmind they scorned. Like the Orn they have access to a wide range of metabolic abilities, including many parasitic techniques forbidden by Orn. If there really is a Not Orn presence on Ugan Zal is an open question, but the locals are convinced there is. In the Deep Steads particularly every mishap, every die-off, every unpleasant surprise is blamed on the Not Orn. This can cause entire sections of fungal forests to be abandoned. Forgien mercenaries are often used to resolve these issues, as the locals will simply refuse to risk it.  

The petrified woods

At the center of Ugan Zal is a silent city made of petrified wood. The creators of the planet lived here while Ugan Zal was still green. While the city is a treasure trove of ancient Phantasmagoric technology, it remains mostly unplundered due to the wood geists. These pale formless masses of roots and leaves are believed by the locals to be the spirit of the dead superorganism, come to take out its anger on the living. 




Thursday, November 11, 2021

Hell Bloom

    Some time in the past Hell Bloom was the victim of a runaway greenhouse effect, leaving the surface a scorched and uninhabitable wasteland. It was colonized by the Noetic Alchemists, who created a specialized high temperature machine ecology to maintain their worldframe installations. These worldframes originally hosted a network of hell realms, specialized digital/astral simulations where the Alchemists conducted their grisly work of processing sapiants into products. When the Alchemists vanished, one of their orphaned creations reclaimed the hell realms and made a strange watery paradise.

Accessing Hell Bloom

    Surface temperatures can exceed 900 degrees, necessitating the use of extreme protective measures. The biosphere is composed of communities of extremophiles that have a tendency to catch fire, meaning the landscape is dotted with flaming pits. The machine ecology will defend itself with cool sprayers, track mounted robots that shoot a freezing spray out of a nozzle. This causes a thermal shock that can shatter many heat resistant alloys. After all that, once a worldframe is reached it is fairly simple to upload yourself or a payload inside.  

    Hell Bloom is both the name of the planet and the name of the realm running on the worldframes. Like most simulated worlds created by the Noetic Alchemists, a high degree of astral radiation makes it more like a dreamscape than a traditional digital realm. Hell Bloom is a verdant morass of swamps and flower choked lakes. Together, the turquoise waters, the green flora and the pink haze in the air form a hyperlight spectrum of impossible colors. The barest traces of the old worlds can be glimpsed, a solitary stone tower, a torture rack covered with strange flowers and vivid veridrgrass. In the sky there is more Hell Bloom; space here is folded into a complicated manifold so the swamp hangs above itself in an impossible vista. It is estimated that Hell Bloom covers around a billion square miles, making a truly vast world, Most of it is wilderness, apart from the cleansing cities and wilderness outposts of the Florid.

The Digital Abyss

    The lakes and rivers of Hell Bloom don’t have bottoms. Rather, if you dive deep enough you find yourself in the Digital Abyss, a particularly nasty astral current. Apart from physical access to the worldframes, this is the one way to enter or leave Hell Bloom. Maskform caravans keep the cleansing cities connected to the wider Chunky Space Maskform society.

The devil of compassion

    The mythic creator of Hell Bloom is known only by euphemism. The native Florid Maskforms call her “the seed of hope” and “the kindest knife”. Digital devils only ever call her “eldest sister” and only in whispers; something about her scares them witless. The only source for information about her are the Florid myths about her. She is said to emerge from the lake every 1028 years. She picks one city to service her; if they displease her they are never seen again. If they do a good job they are granted a boon, which often leads to an ironic doom. Not always though; the founding myth of the Florids is that one such boon paved the way from their society to be established on Hell Bloom.

Florid cleansing cities 

    The major industry of the Florids is hospitality. The cities function as massive bathhouses, offering esoteric cleaning services. The clientele are almost exclusively digital devils; powerful and demented beings that emerged from the astral dross of the Noetic Alchemist’s experiments. Due to their horrible origins, Digital Devils are inherently unstable; they experience continuous mental/spiritual corrosion that manifests on their bodies as black grime. Past a certain point this corruption becomes life threatening and the devil will begin to unravel into component entities. The purpose of the baths is to halt and reverse this process through various cleansing and relaxation techniques. They pay in vials of Devil’s Gold, a valuable metallic astral fluid.

    The cleansing cities are more than mere bathhouses. They contain almost all of the industry required to maintain the baths and to service the needs of the population. They have vast warrens of laboratories, workshops and kitchens working around the clock to meet the needs of Hell Bloom civilization. The flora and fauna of Hell Bloom resist domiscation, so much of the food has to be imported. Each city has a it’s own small army of “wood wise”, specialist hunter gathers who brave the wilds in search of reagents.

The Worker’s War

    Roughly 300 years ago, there were six cleansing cities and they were all ruled by different branches of the same noble family. Each city had a queen and together they formed the spa queen’s council. They hoarded the profits and abused the workers, who they saw as serfs. This status quo was shattered by an event called either the bequeathing, or the usurpation. Workers in three of the houses revolted, and somehow either killed their queens or convinced them to step down (The Florid historical record is mostly just partisan propaganda). Worker’s unions took ownership and a new war came to Hell Bloom. The two camps, Royalists and Unionists soon realized they had to consider a third party, the devils. After an overt offensive by Royalists ruined the vacation of a trio of digital devils, they destroyed the one of the royalist bathhouses and turned it’s queen into a sheet of living skin large enough to cover the ruins. From that point forth the war became a cold economic conflict. Over the last couple of centuries the unionist faction has waxed and the royalists have waned. That order is threatened with a new upset, as the Royalists have allied with Father Corp. In turn, the Unionists have joined the maskform federation. The worker’s war is now a new front in a much larger conflict.

Unionist cities

Glycon - A massive windmill towers above fields of yellow and indigo flowers. The windmill is for pressing the oil from their seeds, in order to fuel the cleansing hot oil baths. The workers here wear heavy protective suits while in the baths.

Loamon - A city built into the boughs of a massive tree. The baths are nested deep into the roots. They use special dirt meticulously cultivated in garden boxes in the tree tops

Thermka - A cluster of towering smoke stacks. The workers wear breathing units to protect them from the fumes of the smoke baths.

Royalist cities

Nibblos - A wide sprawling city built along a network of dams. The pools they create hold swarms of fish that eat impurities off the devils.

Anatomergal - An elegant and imposing castle of stark white towers. They offer full body surgical purges, where the devil is opened up and cleaned from the inside out.

Desalos - Its original name now taboo, this city stands as mute witness to the dangers of war on Hell Bloom. The wind whistles through broken windows and the corridors are haunted by darting shadows. Rumors of a secret stash of Devil’s Gold abound, but few return from this cursed place.

Organisms

Weeping poppy - A flower that resembles a human face. Hazing pollen continuously leaks out of the “eyes”. Mild exposure has a euphoric, narcotic effect. Heavy exposure causes distressing hallucinations of the old hell realms. It is said that each such vision contains a syllable of the true name of the Devil of Compassion.

Gaunt Gargoyle - Tall and thin, this creature sucks water up through its legs, filters it in its body then vomits it out in a constant stream. They scream watery screams, as though this causes them pain. It is said each one contains a small fragment of a noetic alchemist that lives in eternal torment.