Sunday, December 8, 2013

In the Fæcce-Wold

Over the hills and afar and away beyond the Tame-Woods there are many and despicable a copse and grove and spinney accursed and bewitched. Dead willows rot by sluggard brooks, all that grows is omened and poisonous, hemlock and henbane, thornapple and nightshade tangled and drear. Morning glory out of the lost lands chokes the trees in thickly shrouds and blooms its evil purple blooms. Underneath in the beetle-haunted mould grows mandrake and destroying angel and the sanctified elf-cap, even such that of old grew in cromlechs on the putrefying flesh of kings and granted them a peculiar apotheosis in druidic rites, feasted upon by scions who claimed it was godflesh took them into the radiant night beyond the black earth's pale.

The fæcce-wold is not a real place but a forest grown in mockery of another forest now cut down chopped up and burnt in the hearths of those whose kingdom lies in ashen wrack since twenty-seven generations gone. It grew out of the reflection on the waters or out of a mirage or out of alien soil where bad seeds took terrible root. It then proceeded to fall into disregard, the wholesome songbirds flew away south and the boobries came and pale efts. Its name fell away as no more were there lungs and voices to give it throat and it became brooding sullen and fey, resentful of intruders that were thus subject to the exhalations issuant therefrom.

Those who are taken seem to mumble incoherently and stare at nothing and snatch at their clothes but are lost in fog and the wildering dark. Out of this amnesiac null-space come fragments of terrible light.


Everything is phantasmagorical and can be said to be happening only to one (whoever fails the first save vs. poison) but others are along for the ride as phantasmagorical companions who are reincarnated in each chapter of the journey while in reality they watch the victim mumble and drool. The choice of form and second-person narrative is obviously gamebook-related as is the dreaded 14 (from Grail Quest). 

I never took scolopamine- or hyoscyamine-containing plants but by all accounts the experience of these deliriants is confusing and horrible. There is a long history of associations with witchcraft and divination going back at least to Ancient Greek times. Muscarine is similarly steeped in esoteric tradition and also somewhat weird and scary, or so I'm led to believe.

There is the chance of losing lots of XP here. This is cruel and unreasonable but I like it. Harrowing experiences lead directly to the dimishment of competence, shellshock is like level drain, amnesia entails the loss of the matriculation into the fabric of the world that is precisely what power is. Once upon a time you were somebody now you just sit and stare. Also, I love wights.


1. Three Paths

 The forest is alive and sinister and beautiful. You vomit and weep and fall and are yet still standing. Three paths lie before you.

The broad road, go to 2.

The narrow path, go to 5.

The ferny brae, go to 8.

2. With Harrow and Switch

 A white donkey in a ditch with a cart deeply bogged and a man beside himself with fury flaying it and it is crying and it won't move and the man's eyes are yellow. Accosted, he declares that this time round the Pale Messiah has come asinine into this world yearning to be cleansed with harrow and switch, that no other thing could account for this occurrence upon the day of Gringenschlacht and that redemption can be found in his nearby swill-bucket for a half-groat. The bucket contains the world, the moon and the wheeling heavens of night.

Beat the donkey, go to 12.

Strike the man, go to 19.

Climb into the bucket, go to 7.

3. Prickly Witchery

 Waking under the eaves of an apple orchard long abandoned where struts a cockerel coalescent of moon-wisps and wyvers webs all a-glimmer in the slanting light of eventide. All about it thrums with a prickly witchery as crawls beneath the skin. It fixes a hard and jeweled eye upon the interloper. It crows and the four horizons resound with its awful majesty.

Beyond is an urn carven from jet that is burnished to a sheen and immaculate, within is a leathery patch of skin. It comes from the heretic pseudo-saint, Drimmerthrinde the Abhorred, who was torn to pieces many years since and his mortal remains scattered far and yet he lives.

The Gossamer Cockerel has stats as a Cockatrice save that instead of petrification a kind of sublimation to vapour results from which there is no convenient return.

Should you defeat it go to 16. Otherwise go to 14

4. More Black Apertures

 Crawling through choking darness with the knowledge of low and looming ceilings of stone and the sense of crushing deadfalls and doom. The air is warm and close and there is no promise of ever getting out but of a sudden the tunnel opens into a dimly phosphorescent chamber with a vague and sinister sense of anatomy about it and three more black apertures.

The first leads to 3.

The second to 5.

The third leads to a slimy chasm of great depth and thence to 14

5. Imminent

 Everything seems as normal but the inescapable revelation that those that surround you and have posed so cunningly as your companions are right now just moments away from falling upon you, bearing you down and enacting such tortures as their vicious minds can imagine. Everything they do is encoded with subtle signals that presage the imminent attack.

Save vs. Paralysation: Should you succeed you cannot but attack them with everything you have. If you kill them it's off to 4. If they kill you it's off to 14.

Should you fail the save you run blindly through the forest to 8.

 6. Tide of Moss

 Here with Catfish Pucks in soggy jerkins you are playing at knuckly-bones in a lichyard gone long ago beneath the tide of moss. An ill and penetrating damp hangs in the air as besmirches the soul with a sick foreboding. Nigglespraint and Malcrux play hard but fair but Cunny-Whelk is almost certainly cheating. 

The outcome may be altered by playing cunningly or intuitively or bombastically should any INT, WIS or CHA bonuses offer advantage but the player must declare their intent to implement such chicanery. Roll 2d6 to determine outcome modified by ability bonus/penalty; 

less than 3: You forfeit an internal organ you never knew you had (your subordinate quellmilch) to Nigglespraint - lose 250 XP. 

4-5: You lose the possibly inauthentic Trout-Mask you've inexplicably acquired - lose 100 XP to Cunny-Whelk

6-7: You lose a wager with Malcrux that requires you to wear the invisible Crown of Disgust for the rest of your days; -1 penalty to reaction rolls, +1 bonus when dealing with icthyoid entities.

8-9: From Malcrux you win an article of scrimshaw depicting the Otter of Vehemence -gain 100 XP.

10-11: From Nigglespraint you win a phial of turbid river-water upon which fishy witcheries have been bestowed - as a Potion of Water Breathing.

12+ Somehow you've bilked Cunny-Whelk out of everything she has and in a rage she hurls a hex which, unjust as it is in the circumstances and bound as her pishogue is by the archaic Law that governs such things, rebounds to her ruin and she becomes a walnut tree in autumnal splendour that you may climb to 20.

Otherwise, excess consumption of Poppy Wine drags you off to 9.

7. Swift River

 A dark-haired woman, fierce and fair, carries the bones of her three dead husbands in a great bundle across a windswept waste. A swift river runs before her and she weeps because she knows it will sweep her away but she cannot but try to cross it. A burning sign hangs in the northern sky.

You may;

Watch her drown, go to 4

Help her cross, wisdom check to succeed in crossing to 6.

Should you fail, go to 14.

8. Brambly Fields 

You are stumbling with your companions to the festival in the village across brambly fields in the autumn drizzle. Of a sudden it becomes apparent that they all carry upon their back a wretched shape like a wizened and owlish crone that gnaws merrily upon their head while they walks on oblivious. It comes to you also that there is a lip-smacking sound close by your ear.

There is one for each of you or at least four. Strigoaicăs have the stats of stirges but carry the ague (Ague: Fever, sweating, cramps, headache. Save vs. poison or lose 1d3 points of constitution per day and suffer -2 penalty to actions for 1d8 days, after which constitution returns at one point per day) This will persist in the real world.

Should you overcome them go to 10. otherwise go to 14.

9. Bronze Knife

 In a mossy trench of masonry and sod you bear a torch and follow the footsteps of men and women mantled in black wool and wearing red paint upon their faces. Ahead in the flickering light upon a bier is the naked form of an aged chieftain with silver torc and talismanic glyphs daubed upon his scrawny frame. The bronze knife is given you and the others step back to allow the body to flounder and writhe in death throes from which can be deduced omens of the coming age.  The tongue in which the words are spoken is harsh and sibilant but the accompanying gestures leave no ambiguity that the old chief is directing precisely how he is to be eviscerated.

Should you eviscerate the Chief a roll of d6  plus wisdom modifier will determine the manner of his thrashing. Otherwise they kill you instead, go to 14.

- Less than 1: Woe betide, the tallest tree will reach the sky and the Moon will clamber down to wreak unmitigated odiums upon the folk of Earth. You are slain immediately, go to 14.

- 1: Ill news, crops will fail and milch-cows bear abominable prodigies, blaming the messenger, they carve from you a portion of your essence -lose 2 CHA permanently, go to 11

- 2-5: The throes are ambiguous, requiring the people to blunder blindly into the future, go to 2.

- 6. Good tidings, the Chieftain writhes into sacred shapes presaging the return of bountiful harvests, go to 10.

- 7+ An expert slaughter, guts are spilled and blood pours forth into glyphic puddles in which the 

Chief flounders and gasps. The performance is doubtless a sign of the return of the Prodigal Turbot and subsequent conquest of the hated enemy. You are crowned with ivy and allowed to walk skyclad upon the frozen lake by starlight. Go to 20.

10. Querulous Poesies

 You are climbing through a precipitous forest of spindle-pines clinging against a great grey void. Here mossy green brocks crouch in hollows and brutal silence reigns. They leap up and accost interlopers with accusatory cries. The Mord-Lark will come flapping out of the upper airs to perch upon a branch and warble gruesome and querulous poesies in the Fowl Tongue. It is blind and bygone and stinks for it roosts among poisonous stars.

Should anyone be able to understand the words of the Mord-Lark's poems (and the Fowl Tongue is known to most wysards and spae-wives) horrendous revelations will whelm your mind. go to 14.

Otherwise, the brocks come (3d8 of them, stats as Giant Rats) to bear you down and eat your face. Should you survive you wake up at 17.

11. Uncanny Weird

A  weir of dark water and black stone  with a sunken village within and bells tolling down in the deep. After the bells there are lanthorns in the deep and Aelfrick the Weirman emerges with lungs full of water to burble his uncanny weird.

He speaks in the language of the dead and is also well-nigh incomprehensible. Should one who comperehends hear the doom he pronounces they'll gain 1000 XP but lose 1 point of wisdom and know the answers to all the riddles of the Drazack of Grimblecocke.

Afterwards there will be an urge to follow the Weirman back into the black waters of 14 (WIS check to avoid). Otherwise wander off to 18.

12. Reeking Hollow

Awakening in a reeking hollow, you realise that bloated and bristly maggots are chewing contentedly upon your skin. A furious buzzing heralds the arrival of an Awfish Croggan like unto a loathsome horsefly as big as a bulldog, glistening iridescent and foul. It immediately sets upon you, trying to hold you still with serrated limbs that it may deftly puncture your abdomen with its ovipositor.

Stats as a Giant Robber Fly. Should it kill you go to 14 and erupt with broodlings 3 days later in the real world for 2d6 dmg.

Should you kill it. Swoon with horror and wake at 13.

13. A Handful of Silt

You are staggering through a rainy  place of deep defiles with cataracts rushing down the flanks of slick grey stone, fell runes of great antiquity are graven in the walls. Intoning the words will call three tall grey man-things of awful formlessness as old as the bones of the earth who will rise from the clay to bear witness

Archaic Witness Reaction Table:

2 They frown grimly and ceremoniously deliver fragments of chalcedony and lead and the bones of a cat and a handful of silt - gain 100 XP

3-5 They face to the east and begin to chant in a elder tongue
6-8 They listen and wait
9-11 They rise to a great height and brood hideously, brandishing their great hard hands
12 They attack eyes ablaze with fell light and hooting like infernal owls 
Stats as wights. Should you survive,pass on to 17. Otherwise, 14 it is.

14. Grey Stones

 You are on the road and a fiendish drear seeps from the grey stones as ceaseless sleet and ceaseless trudging on becomes a heartless grueling travail of bitter endlessness. All things are galling, the unrelenting indifference of the bony hills and the piercing wind and the spoilage of food and the bleak brown emptiness. Day is but a pallid night, grim and interminable.

You lose 100 XP, now roll d20 and go there.

15.  A Gimlet Eye

Through a black skeleton-forest in a valley of stone six turbaned Janissaries of the Incarnadine Umbrage come with bows drawn. They are accoutered with crimson and lemon-yellow kazaghands of outlandish design and speak baleful heresies against the northern world. Their leader is a leathery hawkish murderer with a gimlet eye. He seeks gold and elf-blood and holy vengeance.

-Leader (Vranmathoome): F3 AC: 5 (kazaghand, shield) Dmg: 1d6 (shortbow) or 1d8 (yataghan) hp 15

Booty:  Paynim Canon,  exquisitely adorned - 200 groats, 26 silver basilika (1 basilikon = 10 groats) - 460 XP, all treasure evaporates but the XP sticks.
-Janissaries (5): AC 5 HD 1 Dmg 1d6 (shortbow) or 1d8 (yataghan) hp 5 each

Should you survive, go to 16.

16. Blue Honey

In the golden gloaming at day’s break comes a grey bear like a man with the beard of a man and a glorious voice like sunlight and smoke. He speaks of the wondrous realms that lie beneath the skin. He wants a companion to follow him into the east to seek blue honey in the farthest lands.

Save vs. spells or succumb to his charms and go with him to 14.

Otherwise fall asleep and wake again at 15.
Should you wish to fight him he is a Bear. He has a small jar of blue honey, it tastes like 19.

17. Preposterously Prodigious

A trumpeting shivers the twilight air and preposterously prodigious and wonderful beyond imagining comes a yellow olifant vaster than a Donjon-Keep, adorned with majesty and splendour. It tramples the forest about and gleefully tosses great trees cartwheeling high into the air. It trumpets again closer and the sound seems to set the air afire with its power. The trees burst into blossom as they are smashed into kindling. The earth quakes beneath him.

Save vs. Dragon breath or be destroyed and go to 14. Otherwise faint with awe and wake at  19.

18. Ferny Cleft

 In a dewy morning ferny cleft where the cuckoos cry incessant, where umbrageously enclosing bole and limb of vastly ancient trees arch up overhead there comes a harsh and braying sound and a creaking and a crashing. Down the cleft in idiotic frenzy comes clambering and bellowing the Grune Aiten like a man-tree uprooted from sorcerous soil and sent blundering after the hapless fleshly-frail.

It has the stats of a Treant times three and ought not be recklessly engaged. If it destroys you, go to 14. If you somehow destroy it go to 19. If you are sensible and flee into the forest go to 11.

19. The Navigator

A Langshippe, worm-prowed and sleek, stripy sail all a-tatter, perches high in an ancient oak. Upon its deck stands a man with one leg, raven-bearded, lugubrious of countenance and hard-eyed. The Navigator, for so he is known, curses the indifferent cosmos for its lassitude and sells maps to the constellate heavens and the rifts of Domdaniel and a hundred other places.

Wherever you need to go, pick a number, 1 to 20, you may go there for a shekel (12 groats)


You wake in a pile of leaves and vomit is spattered down your front, your throat is sore and you can't see straight. Forever after it seems something returned with you from that terrible place, a thing of shadow and forgetfulness that wears your face but remains always just out of sight. Nothing is certain anymore but that the thing that followed you will come one day into the real and walk with you under the light of day and that it means you harm.


Any allegations that I am recycling fragments from abortive blog posts will be strenuously denied.

This is pretty.


  1. A delightfully dreadful acid-trip.

  2. I was dismayed to find that the tone of your work is different than other classics in the field, such as Build Your Own Robot, or The Hero of Washington Square. Frankly, I am not sure if this would be appropriate for children.

    1. Sure it is. Just give your kids some Henbane...