Thursday, April 11, 2019

Reflected Glories [Harry Clarke Project]

An image from Harry Clarke of a woman with a long, pendulous, wormlike nose, her hands at stiff angles, reflected in a mirror.
By Harry Clarke

The establishment of an empire that spans planets and planes with networks of sorcery, trade, sex, and death was always fated to distill its own tincture of travesty and wonder into the multiverse. When the Hyperboreans reached past the stars and looked on the intricate chaos of creation with eyes of lordship and lust, the existence of victims was a foregone conclusion. Some species were annihilated as potential rivals, others found their worlds drained to power engines of fate. And some were dispossessed of home and form merely as a passing entertainment for some sorcerer-god on their way to greener stars.

It is likely that even the Reflected Glories do not remember their original shape. They were divested of body and sanity at the same time and tossed into the astral winds. But even in madness they remembered those who wreaked their weird and sought them through the infinite images of reality. They became light trapped in matter, refracted from sky to sky, until finally they shined through the right crack and felt a familiar taint to the angle of their incidence. They had found Hyperborea.

And though the Hyperboreans were laid low by decadence and disease, a sacttered tribe of isolated wanderers, embittered by memories of glory, hatred of the Hyperboreans was all that kept the remnants of their nameless victims from shattering on the cosmic winds. And so they found ways to enter the bodies of humans. And once there they took their revenge.

Reflected Glories are parasites made of light and hatred. Neither individual nor species, the infestations enter their hosts from reflections in cursed mirrors, corrupted pools, stolen silver, glass viewed from the wrong side of the night. They choose hosts with influence and standing, local powers, retired adventurers, those with fortune enough to lure in the desperate Hyperboreans with schemes of glory and power. They often work to hire parties of fortune hunters only to send them into hopeless situations or after items that will bring about their doom. They try especially to engineer situations that will cause the party to turn on its Hyperborean members and sacrifice them for the survival of the group.

Each Hyperborean brought to their doom by one of the Reflected Glories increases the power of that infection. As its power increases, so do its recklessness, its drive, and its monomaniacal obsession with ruining the remnants of the Hyperborean sorcerer-rulers. Some infections focus on eliminating all remnants of one of the Twelve Clans. Others seek out the most powerful fortune hunters. And as the power of the Reflected Glory increases, it becomes less and less stable, its photonic manifestation incandescing from song to scream.

Reflected Glory

No. Encountered







40 [normal human]



Armour Class

9 (unarmored)

Hit Dice


Attack Rate

1/1 (by weapon)


(by weapon)

Saving Throw

13-16 (+2 vs. Sorcery, Transformation)



Experience Points

2HD: 72, 3HD: 113, 4HD: 210, 5HD: 350, 6 HD: 620, 7HD: 930, 8HD: 1240

Treasure Class

S, T, W, X (note: this treasure is generally in a well-to-do household with large, valuable, and notable items)

A host human inhabited by a Reflected Glory infestation shows signs that some other force is at play. The hold of vengeance-lusting interplanar light parasites on the coherence of flesh is dubious and becomes more so as the parasite feeds on Hyperborean dooms. Buboes, excrescences, pendular sacs, and questing worms or slow avalanches of flesh are possible side effects of the loosening hold of the parasite on its guise. Eventually they forget human ways of dressing and toilet and begin to simply form more or less convincing clothes out of folds of flesh.

Though they tend to select hosts of beauty, wit, and charm, as well as wealth, the movements of the hosts are jerky and strangely timed, as if viewed through rapidly shifting light.

The sight of the host’s reflection loosens the parasite’s grasp on its appearance, yet they are fascinated by mirrors and seem to derive sustenance from gazing upon their image. The opulent homes of a host are often lavishly filled with mirrors, kept covered whenever guests or staff are around.

A host will have social standing, allies, guards, a defensible home, and all the power of the wealthy.


  • Immune to normal weapons, magical piercing weapons, fire, electricity, cold, acid, poison, charm, sleep, mind-affecting spells
  • Reflects electrical attacks and spells back on source
  • One point of damage from magical slashing weapons
  • Double damage from magic blunt weapons, crushing blows, and falls
  • Reflection Gaze: Gaze can cause target’s bones to turn to mirror glass; save against sorcery or 1d8 damage, plus 1d6 damage whenever attacking or any other strenuous physical action until glass is removed (1d8 damage)
Submitted under


Bonus Tracks

Delicate white flowers or fungus on moss
Elf testicles?

I Attack Them Using My ... Additional Notes

  • Details of the project at Cavegirl's blog.
  • Too many words? Check out the subtitle
  • Also check out that table! Yeeeeah! (Does it work on mobile?)
  • This torrid pace will not be maintained.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Cult of the Phosphor Rookery

Phosphor, Feather, and Fat

In the great harbor around which the tower-haunted city of Khromarium stinks and stretches, an archipelago of rocky islets hosts the Phosphor Rookery. 


Herons as tall as horses stalk the tidepools and study the paroxysms of human action in achronous detachment. Quicksilver egrets skim the waves. Atop armatures of the pretrified bones of benthic alien beasts, black cormorants dry their wings and open their throats to the sun. Mist-wreathed in winter years, ruddy and raw and raucous with fledglings in red summer, the Phosphor Rookery is given respectful room by the sailors of the Hyperborean Sea.

Until on the first night of Bealltainn, the light of the two swelling moons traces small boats slipping through the silvery waves around the Rookery. Coracles, ocean canoes, umiaks, drift boats, skiffs, each propelled by one or two children, determined to swell like the moons with with growing power. They row or paddle into the thickening mist, edged with actinic arcs.

Hours later the mist clears, and many of the boats are steered back toward shore and the celebrating city, their occupants to hunt adulthood in the fire rites and pounding drums, in wine and lotus.

But some boats drift in the harbor, empty, to fetch finally against the jetties or crack against the rocky shore. Their occupants are gone, taken from sight and childhood both. They will reappear on shore when the Bealltainn fires have faded to ash and ember and the haunted city wakes again to its industry and intrigue, its subterfuge and stink. 

What happened to them on the Rookery is rarely discussed by those who return. Some remember the dead eyes of sharks breaking moon-bright water. Some describe the sound of their own new skin crackling with starlight and phosphorescence. Some try to say they still can feel the crack of breaking egg and the influx of novel light. Some say the smell of the sea at the end of a the deepest dive is salt and ink and acid and flesh. 

All come back changed.

Cultists of the Phosphor Rookery

The teenaged children chosen by the herons of Phosphor Rookery return as level 1 characters in any class they qualify for, changed by their time on the Rookery and their inculcation in the mysteries of the cult. Their bodies are sleek and heavy, with an extra layer of insulating fat. Their tongues and the insides of their mouths are bright blue, and they gain the following benefits and restrictions.

Gifts and Debts

  • Gift of the Cormorant: Can hold their breath twice as long as normal (and gain a +1 bonus on all Constitution checks for asphyxia)
  • Gift of the Heron: Can remain perfectly still for long periods. This gives a +1 bonus to Hide and Ambusher skills.
  • Gift of the Sea: +2 on all Saving Throws involving water.
  • Debt to the Rookery: Can never engage in combat with any shore or water bird. Recognizes other cult members and cannot engage in combat with them or their allies.
  • Debt to the Nest: Cannot eat preserved food without becoming ill (-2 to all rolls, MV halved). But can and will happily eat worms, insects, centipedes, arthropods and other similar creatures, even poisonous varieties, as well as almost any raw fish, without ill effect.
  • Debt to the Sea: Once per level, must spend a full day under the sea. The cultist will survive this trial but must sacrifice [Level X 500] XP to the sustaining powers of the cult. 


    Beach Glass

    In addition, every new Cult member rolls 1D6 and to see what has changed within them when they return to the world of humans.

    1. Cormorant Sounding
    • Water Breathing 2/day
    • Additional +1 on saves vs. cold and -1/die of cold damage
    You are quickness in the cold dark, a hot hunger, the hunter who dives deeper and does not fear the deep.

    2. Storm Wing
    • With concentration, predict weather for the next 2 days
    • +2 on saves vs. electricity
    • Precipitate or Obscure, 1/day
    You are wings on the wind, the flight that rides the storm and finds its rest on the sea.

    3. Knowing Molt: A cloak of feathers: Its inner lining shows a map to a lost treasure. Some portion of this  is claimed by the cult. If the cloak is lost or destroyed it will reform the next time the cultist fulfills their Debt to the Sea. If the treasure has been found and the claim of the Phosphor Rookery honored, a new map will be present.
    • Feather Fall 1/day
    You are the eye that looks aside, the hand of the water in dark pockets, the sight of sun on sea.

    4. Spearing Beak: A sharp and bitter beak grows from the cultist's mystical third eye; it breaks off and can be wielded as a dagger or worked into shell or wood as a short sword or short spearIf lost or destroyed, it will regrow the next time the cultist pays their Debt to the Sea
    • +1 to hit and damage when wielded on or under the water
    • +1 against all sailors, fishers, mariners, and other people who make their livings by taking from the sea
    • When wielded against anyone actively polluting, corrupting, sickening, or otherwise working against water, it will deliquesce their flesh on an unmodified 20 and a failed transformation save
    You are stillness that flashes into death, the spear in the shallows, the hunter that feeds the sea.

    5. Nest on Wind and Water: A familiar cormorant accompanies the cultist. The cormorant is absolutely loyal and faithful and will follow the cultist through fire and hell if not warned off. 
    • Can provide enough fish for both if within an hour's flight of any navigable water
    • Cultist and cormorant share an empathic bond, enough to give general information on any area the cormorant sees from the air or detailed information about any water it swims in
    • Every year, the cultist must make a Trauma Survival roll. Failure means the cormorant has died. Its skin and feathers quickly disintegrate, leaving a skeleton of coral and jade worth 1d6 X 500 GP (this does not happen if the cormorant dies from other causes). A new cormorant will find the cultist the next  time they pay their Debt to the Sea.
    You are the egg and what warms it, the nest on the waves, the hot heart in the cold sea. 

    6. Pelican's Brood
    • Can speak the language of all birds but only the cultist's native human language
    • 1/level, lay an egg that will hatch into a tiny homunculus replicating the cultist in every way but covered in feathery white down. 
      • When the homunculus hatches, the cultist dies
      • The homunculus is immune to normal weapons, heat, cold, hunger thirst, poison, crushing, falls, and electricity
      • Only magical blades, acid, and pure magic can destroy it
      • It can ooze through tiny cracks drfit on the wind, and flow under water
      • When it reaches the sea, the homunculus molts its feathers and grows into a new version of the cultist, with all memories intact
    • When the egg is first laid, the cultist, can, instead, place the egg on a recently dead person and stab themself in the heart.
      • When the egg hatches, its contents of blood and plasm will raise the dead person as the spell
      • The cultist must pass an extraordinary feat of constitution or die
    You are the bill that breaks the breast, light on new skin, the water that is salt and blood and the calming waves.


    Bonus Tracks

    Heron, Giant

    No. Encountered          1 (20-200)
    Alignment                     Neutral
    Size                              M
    Movement                    10 (fly 80) [1/4 human, 2X human]
    Dexterity                      16
    Armour Class               7 (as leather)
    Hit Dice                        4
    Attack Rate                  1/1 (spear)
    Damage                        2d4
    Saving Throw               15 (+2 vs. Death, Transformation)
    Morale                         9
    Experience Points       180
    Treasure Class             Nil (P, Q)

    Giant herons stand as tall as Vikings. Their feathers range from dark silver to star green, and their legs and beaks are gold coral. Their alien intelligence is as deep as any human’s and stretches back to a time before mammals, egg to egg, unbroken and strange. They are solitary hunters but nest in great heronries or rookeries with other sea birds, toward which they extend an implacable guardianship.


    • Gaze can paralyze a solitary victim who fails a transformation save. Paralysis lasts until the heron attacks or eye contact is broken.

       I Attack Them Using My ... Additional Notes


      Hyperborea: Howling wilderness surrounds areas where what passes for civilization barely clings to survival. Khromarium is its heart but a heart full of ghosts and ash, threatened by its size and its history, guarded and haunted by those who can claim the ancient Towers.

      The world is fragments of its own history, still caught between breaths.

      Everything should be local.

      There is room for hundreds of cults, saints, perversions, diversions, and bad ideas. The clerics of Hyperborea grab their power where they can, and aspects of the gods hide behind other faces to widen the circles of their power.

      Let a thousand cults bloom.

      • Inspiration: Legacy of the Bieth. Big heart @ Allandros.
      • Also, I love cormorants. Blue my mouth and dive me down, open my wings to dry. Cormorants are all the totem we need along our home waters. Tell the shamans.
      • Massive thank-yous for those who commented on that first post. The courage you gave was so strong that for a minute I thought it was liquid!
      • I don't know how to format two-column text or a table on this platform!

      • I will make more cults.

        Sunday, March 31, 2019

        All the Pluses

        At the first GaryCon I went to (VII, so I guess that would have been IV years ago?) I was in the bar talking to some new people from this wider world of gamers I had just found when I heard the voice of my friend and player J, who had come with me from New York, above the general din: “No yeah, that’s him over there, my Dungeon Master—the one who gave out the plus-zero sword!”

        It became a running joke, especially among the other AS&SH players and refs that we met—Handy, that stingy bastard. All he gives out for magic items are +0 swords and lucky hats. He’s so hard, you better know how to chew your way out of a dungeon.

        It was a larf.

        But the thing is, I loved that +0 sword. I thought it was one of the coolest items I had ever come up with. Its magic just let anyone use it. In AS&SH, somewhat like AD&D, there’s a stiff penalty for using weapons that aren’t favored for your class. The +0 Sword of Competence let any magician or illusionist or whoever use the sword without penalty. It addressed a mechanic and expanded the capabilities of a character and opened the door for characters getting into situations waaaay beyond their on-the-sheet capabilities, all of which scratched itches that I didn’t even necessarily know were on me.

        We had switched from AD&D to AS&SH the year before. Around the same time I started discovering the blogs and creators that you can label OSR or DIY or well, you probably know all about that since you’re here anyway; odds are you’re one of them? But I was seeing that things could be different, that some of the things that had bugged me about our game could be handled and were being handled in lots of other ways.

        I think (mists of time; fog of war; and so on) one thing that immediately struck me was a post from GusL on Dungeon of Signs, which, as with many things from Gus, just instantly showed that other ways open.

        So see you in hell, sword +1. Get bent, frost brand.

        Which, trust me, I know how small the scale of the revelation here. This isn’t a burning bush. It’s barely a warm patch of grass.

        But doors opened. Gus was a gateway drug into all other people doing interesting stuff and forming whatever, a movement, a scene, a party where most anything goes except don’t invite the suits from corporate because they don’t know how to get down.

        A view from the East River of an ruined building with graffiti that makes it look like a skull
        Use images to break up text!
        Mostly, though, I read and lurked. I got into G+, and it was the first social network of my life, and now I’m on a couple of others but only to hang onto some of the relationships I made on G+. I didn’t post much. Certainly not as much as the creators I was following, whose output and drive generally left me shocked and exhausted. But I chimed in on threads and more and most of all cultivated a network of people whose creativity left me in awe and whose regard and conversations I came to treasure. But still, I knew I was never going to match or even vaguely approach either the volume or quality of creative output that filled my G+ stream.

        Someone recently said this was OK. I want to say it was DIY and Dragons, but I couldn’t find the reference in a quick search so I’m not certain. But said that scenes like this need noncreators, too. Need consumers, appreciators—fans. Which I think is really what I have been. Awed and appreciative and taking it all in and transmuting and digesting and chymically marrying and excreting in conversation and, especially, in my game. Which, I don’t know. I hope it’s good. My players keep coming back. And when we go to GaryCon or experience other games, they keep giving me one of the highest compliments I can imagine: that they’re too spoiled by our game and that playing with someone else makes them appreciate what we have.

        Which just kills me from the inside out with joy and pride.


        The point here is that what I bring to them and our game carries in its genes all that I have absorbed from this community of gamers, writers, bloggers, creators, players, obsessives, and endless tinkerers. And many of you now I think of as my friends (and hope you do the same).

        And then with G+ at -9 HP and bleeding out, Greg from Owlbear Hugs somehow tossed out the idea that I should start a blog and Bombasticus grabbed it and held feet to fire with his overwhelmingly warm regard and somehow, somehow . . . this.

        I’m terrified. I don’t know what this will be. I am trying to let it develop without putting any pressure on myself because I know I will dodge it. I have thoughts. But the world is excellent and finding reasons not to express those. And softball and canoeing seasons are starting up and drinking season is just rounding into form and and and and and.

        But I want to give a little small something back for all I have taken and to express, in a small way, the deep respect I have found for so many of you.

        So listen. Thanks, G+ers. Thank you for all your wonderful thoughts and nonsense. Thanks for making me participate by being too wonderful to ignore. Thanks for MICROHOUND and Lulu discounts and Absurdism and endless hidden Ram talks and applying the damn +1 to what really needs it, not the first sword in the progression of always building the build but a mark of I SEE YOU and I DIG YOU and THIS. KEEP DOING THIS.

        So +0 swords for you all. And all the pluses. It’s been a wild ride. Let’s see what happens next.

        Image of a drive belt labeled D&D POWER drive
        Awesome power!
        Some not +1 swords in our game:

        • The Forge: Warhammer, +2 to hit metal armor, +1D6 fire damage on 19-20
        • Slate: Two-handed sword. Petrifaction (w/save) on 19-20
        • Death-Soldier's Muster: Falcata: in the hands of a fighter/necromancer, any human killed rises as a zombie that serves until the next dawn
        • Reflected Glory: Long sword. Casts mirror image 1/day.
        • Shield Hand: Med. shield made of human hands, still bloody at the wrist. First melee attack with a weapon that would hit, shield grabs the weapon and tosses it away.
        • Long Alexander: Great spear that can cut through anything (from the Gardens of Ynn)
        (Also: I don't know how to do stuff. If you have any thoughts on how to make this look any better, please feel free to share! I am rushing because I want to get this up before G+ fails its system shock roll and is irrevocably dead.)

        (Oh god here we go.)