hyperstructuralist pantheon generator

The following started out as an attempt to automate Throne of Salt's Pantheon Generator, then drifted into something that is a bit more smooth and conceptually "neat" - the sortof thing Levi-Strauss would come up with if he wasn't limited by empirical examples - and by that point it acquired too much technical debt to be hacked back into its original purpose. Still, it's been a while since I posted, so like a panicked undergraduate scrounging to get from a C- to a C+, I will submit you some work that has been done in lieu of good work that hasn't.

Tombs & Taverns: an FKR game

Thanks to the Glatisant, I can pretend to be all in the know about Free Kriegspiel or "ancient school." I find myself excited! WotC D&D fits on a thumb drive; GLOG fits on a thumb; but this fits on a thumbtack, or at least it can, so even better. Here's a game or hack or procedure-bundle or whatever you want to call it.

Setting (& Setting Creation)

ToTa presumes a sort of swords & sorcery-adjacent dungeon fantasy - most people are humans, magic is real but dangerous, society is agricultural. Beyond that, the setting is created by the table in the following three phases, the first two of which are presumed to be at a Session 0 probably best managed online. As with any FKR game, the setting itself "contains" most of the rules.

Phase 1

The referee will load up Azgaar's Fantasy Map Generator, hitting F2, and fiddling with viewing options as requested, until such a map appears that receives majority assent (the referee does not vote.) The map should be saved in .map format and sent to all players to upload and poke around with separately, as it is now canon and will not be changed.

Phase 2

This phase takes place concurrent with character creation. Players worldbuild until satisfied, with the referee acting as a silent scribe. They should probably focus on a particular region. Players have collective authority to decree just about anything about the world as long as it fits the map, and it refers to reasonably "public" information. (You cannot say whether the duke is plotting to assassinate the king, but you can say that there are rumors to that effect; you cannot say what the true nature of the gods is but you can note what the major religion says.) Pick a region and get it to a level of gameable detail. Know enough about daily life and beliefs that you can immerse yourself in a particular character. Figure out what people know magic can and can't do from common experience - if the party contains any sorcerers or whatnot, what they would know from their own experience.

Phase 3

Between Session 0 and Session 1, the referee collates the notes made by players into a nice wiki. She may expand on whatever she likes as long as it is in the spirit of the original, and further decide upon secret knowledge (the true nature of magic, of secret societies, of the technology of ancient civilizations, and so on.)

Character Creation 

You should create several characters, one to play initially and the rest in reserve for when your last character dies.

Origin

Write down: "I was born (age) years ago to (community)." "Community" is a bit vague, but you should at least be able to identify social class and where on the map.

Physical "Stats"

Choose one of the following sentences and write it down:

  •  "I am built like a (type of athlete)." (see for inspiration)
  • "I stay up late squinting at dust-ridden tomes of (subject)."
  • "I am dissolute from my enjoyment of (vice) with (buddy), (buddy), and (buddy)."

Training 

Choose one of the following sentences and write it down:

  • "I studied (skill) under (master or organization). My relations with them are (either a good relationship that implies continued mutual obligations or a bad one that means you have enemies.)"
  • "I've worked odd jobs as (profession), (profession), and (profession)."
  • "I know very little, but I do have a natural talent for (skill)." 
  • "I haven't needed to learn or do much of anything because of (source of unearned income)"

Relationships

Write down ALL of the following sentences:

  • "I'm known in (community) as (reputation)."
  • "I owe (Person or organization) a favor for (useful thing)." 
  • "When people first see me, they assume (things about me)."

Magic

If you want, write down: "I can (magic); the price I paid for it is (lore-relevant price)." 

Beyond that

List any equipment you have which would follow from the above choices.

Expand on or come up with variations of any of the above, but try to pair new good things with new bad things. 

Think about your character's goals, personality, and so on, but do not write them down on your character sheet. The character sheet records external facts about the world.

Task resolution

If a random person could do it without much danger or impressing anyone, you can do it. If it wouldn't be too dangerous or impressive for someone with your background, broadly construed, you can do it. (You might "know nothing," but if you grew up in a fishing town you know about fishing and the weather and all sorts of things.)

You always succeed at noticing clues or searching a room if you can describe how you're looking in the fiction. 

NPC interactions are always handled through roleplaying.

If you're attempting something dangerous and/or impressive, or if it's not clear what would happen, the referee may ask you to roll a blue d6 (called the good luck die) and a red d6 (called the bad luck die). More good luck means better at what you were trying to do, more bad luck is other bad things that happen. Referee determines the nature of this, "difficulty level," and so on.

When a combat situation occurs, players should discuss what their overall strategy as a group is, and the circumstances under which they would retreat or rethink their strategy. One roll of both d6 is consulted to determine what happens between now and either that, the next big surprise, or the end of combat.

Advancement

As determined by the fiction.

Who's my warlock patron?

Holothuroid’s 3 precept alignments

Holothuroid has a post on bespoke alignments with three precepts, with six sample alignments appropriate for heroic characters. 

More of these

(Note that unlike the originals some of these are less appropriate for heroes than villains or civilians - though I’ve tried to give all potential for each - and some may contradict each other.)

Axe

  • Everything in time grows decrepit, decadent, or obsolete; and must be cleared away.
  • Hack not at the branches, save to get to the roots.
  • Do not worry about what new things arise in place of the old; the earth is bountiful and mortals ingenious.

Banner

  • Study the true doctrine and persuade others to it by rational argument.
  • Conform your personal life to the true doctrine.
  • Be prepared to overcome your personal moral reservations and other selfish concerns for the demands of what is objectively right.

Bell

  • Convivality is a state of mind and does not require any money or other resources. Convivality can be two old men singing in a gutter without coin to drink or one good leg to hop on. However, once the party has started, indifference to spending resources is essential; lack of coin will not stop the party but stinginess will.
  • If someone wants to join the convivality, welcome them. Once inside it, let no quarrel pass between people; if quarrel arises, help it be resolved smoothly.
  • External considerations may sometimes force the party to be paused. But "serious" life is a gap in and serves the party, not the other way around.

Censer

  • The world most of us experience is in some way fundamentally fake; do not let yourself be too immersed in it.
  • Seek out experiences of contact with deeper reality, though these experiences may not be pleasant or advantageous in any traditional sense.
  • The majority will never seek to walk your path, but accept those who are willing as students and fellow travelers.

Coin

  • Always fulfill your contract.
  • Don’t question the purposes towards which you’re used, but do insist on going about them in a way you can be proud of.
  • Don’t slander or hold a vendetta against someone else in the business. If you feel the need to hold something against them, do it better.

Crown

  • Some people have a great destiny. If you are someone with a great destiny you must not forget that you have one, if someone around you does you must not let them forget it.
  • It is not wrong for someone with a great destiny to prioritize the accumulation of skill, resources, allies. They will need those to accomplish it.
  • It is not wrong for someone with a great destiny to prioritize the preservation of their life. They will need that accomplish it.

Dirk

  • Never let anybody push you around.
  • Friends sometimes fight, but they never judge each other.
  • Friends share risks and rewards.

Escutcheon 

  • Society is held together by bonds of deference and affection. An insult to you, however little you may “privately” care, is an attack on society that must not be tolerated.
  • That you should not maintain your accustomed standard of living, or that you should work by the sweat of your brow to do so, is an insult to you.
  • That those whose labor feeds and clothes you should come to harm is an insult to you.

Lamp 

  • Share known truths.
  • Seek unknown truths.
  • When one challenges you, welcome it as a sign of their health.

Lyre 

  • Create culture for everyone to enjoy, regardless of whether it wins you commercial success or popular acclaim in your lifetime.
  • Seek out unusual experiences so you have more to draw on and express.
  • Seek a sympathetic understanding of why everyone acts and thinks the way they do, especially when it is initially disturbing.

Noose 

  • All are liable to evil, which is kept at bay by terror.
  • Violence must be terrifying, in response to a clear wrongdoing, and regular.
  • You are no better than any person at heart; hold yourself in terror to another that you yourself are restrained.

Plow 

  • The best of all lives is to live to a ripe old age with many grandchildren. Anything more sophisticated is a fleeting ghost and chicanery.
  • The realms of men must be extended.
  • So that their community can live good lives, all decent people engage in patient labor, and young women and men step up to fight the outside chaos that would attack the community, even if they would thus live short lives.

Robe

  • Preserve those rites and cults which have been kept since time immemorial; they may needs be adapted, but never abolished or forgotten.
  • Rebuke men when they do not give what is due to the divine.
  • Rebuke the divine when they do not give what is due to men.

Rose

  • Make yourself genuinely worthy of the love and approval of _______.
  • Permit no insult to their name or honor.
  • Even if they are alive, never ask if you have achieved worthiness, and assume you have not.

Trowel 

  • Contribute to the building of things that will last beyond your lifetime.
  • Tear down nothing that has been built by generations before, unless you build something better in its stead.
  • Take part in no conflicts save when one side unambiguously threatens what you build, and the other promises to protect it.

Uses

(Free square: paladin oaths, etc.)

Experience 

My favorite form of experience is checklist experience, the kind you see in Apocalypse World or Into the Depths. I’d say you can check something off when: you could have checked off some deed but didn’t because it would violate your principles, or when another PC checks something off because they approached things your way rather than in the way they were used to.

Character prompts

Obviously, you can just plug these into your favorite generator. My preferred way to exploit these, however would be to exploit how most of these have a narrow obvious route to go on and then a wider set of interpretations that are more stretches and don’t announce themselves. Most of us (more or less by definition) live rather mediocre lives, but comfort ourselves with more heroic narratives on top of it. That innkeeper is the last person who should be an adherent of the Escutcheon (he doesn’t even own the inn), but inwardly that’s his narrative: he’s a pillar of the community, he has a bit of a chip on his shoulder, he likes the day-to-day aspects of the job that it’s not “real” work, and he takes it as a real responsibility to protect those drinking there. He’d never call himself a lord, but treat him just a bit like one and he’ll always be on your good side. Or someone is living a more extraordinary life you’d stereotypically associate with another path, but the narrative is different.

Or unlikely allies and enemies: two people may pursue the same goal for very different reasons. A fanatical religious movement may summon genuine religious energies from adherents of the Censer, Robe, Noose, Rose.

Also: everybody needs people to care for them, and most of these ideals involve looking out for someone (either someone weaker, stronger, or on the same level as you.) We're all subconsciously rewarding each other and encouraging certain values. What does it mean to get by by inspiring others to one ideal vs. another?

Robert McFarlane's “Underland:" a review in 1d12 plot hooks

Robert McFarlane's “Underland: A Deep Time Journey" is about the IRL underdark in its various manifestations. If you don't play D&D, this isn't frankly a very meaningful heading - what do the Paris catacombs, Slovenian karstland, and nuclear waste fillage sites have in common other than being sources of danger beneath the surface? It ends up being a mix of environmentalism, Boy's Own adventure (setting up tents in the katabatic winds, &c.) and a genre journalists love but I normally hate, "talking about a science subject but interlarded with impressionistic details about the scientists the author talked to." But if you do play D&D (which you do, because you're reading this blog) and do like occasionally purple prose (which you do, because you're reading this blog) then you might find it's to your liking. Even the otherwise unendurable "scientists I have interviewed" sections are easily borne for their lexicographical lushness; and MacFarlane has a special affection for words that convey geographical specificity: words I highlit for definitions in my Kindle copy include caliche, calve, gaff, windslab, firn, frazil, chamois, leach, corrie, coulois, fulmar, turlough, moulin, marram, slew, pleach, bleb, potash, ruche, stile, kist. These landscapes and underground spaces are liable to inspire MacFarlane to righteousness and/or sentimentality, which can either carry or sink the energy of the writing, depending on the varying levels of self-consciousness and affectation with which he treats them. 

Anyway, here is a summary by way of loosely inspired, and/or cravenly looted, plot hooks.

  1. There is not buried treasure in this cave, but a buried person - very recently buried, not even dead yet, a fellow explorer caught in a crevice. With each exhale they slip further into their crevice, and with each inhale they deplete the oxygen in their chamber. You must find them on a clock, and the equipment that could otherwise get them out will not itself survive the narrow passages and waters through which you will have to swim to get there.
  2. Thousands of generations have used the ground here for burial, such that one can hardly furrow the soil but in doing so spew up some buried treasure, or inspire a long-interred ghost to jealousy. The people here must practice their growing in raised beds, and send their own dead off to sea, or to relatives in foreign lands, so as not to disturb the previous inhabitants and their wares; though there are heedless men who come in to practice just such disruption, sailing home with haunted gold.
  3. Deep beneath the earth a technomagically advanced civilization has built a magical observation post. They are listening for the whispers of dead gods, or the voice of the sun, or the the songs of the stars. These things carry through the matter of the world, but it is only deep beneath the earth, where so few things live and cast magic, that their faint traces can be heard against the aura noise of the surface ecosystem and its civilizations. (Is this what Deep Carbon observatory is about? Don't spoil me; I haven't read or played it yet.)
  4. Trees observe all things, but in the slowness of deep time. Mycorhizzal networks send nutrients and information between the roots of trees and hyphae of fungi, which bloom fruiting bodies which the cunning folk fo the forest consume as entheogens. The magic mushrooms are not messages from anthropomorphic gods but from the very physical and superficially ordinary citizens of the forest, the trees. The hallucinations are a dip into the experience of tree-time and tree-priorities, into the chatty crowd of the myrorrhizal networks itself, and may contain direct instructions as to how the Will of the Forest may be manifest. This may be a wise instruction of environmental preservation, or it may be an instruction to clear and destroy another forest that this one has been at war with for hundreds of years, or things stranger to human priorities.
  5. Beneath this city is a catacomb, a flipsided double of the city in which is buried all its history, and many great buried treasures. Though the government of the city proscribes entrance, there is nevertheless a subculture of delvers, danger-indifferent nutcases who congregate in their own special bars between descending into the underground twin. So far, so familiar, right? But this culture has its own rules, its own strictures to prevent the instrusion of the above-ground market society from invading its underland cityscape. They barter and exchange gifts, never buy or sell for money, and one does not deface or otherwise loot the history of the undercity, which must be preserved into eternity. They explore, they keep and exchange secret maps, they drink wine and take drugs in underground abandoned operahouses and salons which one must defy death to reach. Prestige amongst each other is the only reward.
  6. In this karstland, rivers dip underground and then surface again, then dip below again, like playing dolphins. Men daub pinecones in ochre, place them on a stream, see where they emerge. A generation ago they started started surfacing with little ribbons tied around them, messages in Aklo or Undercommon, and so men wrote messagesin the common tongue when they sent them down. A pidgin has developed between two people who have never gazed upon each others' faces, one of whom has never gazed on the sun.
  7. A war was fought in this karstland. Weapon caches can still be found in the hollows of mountains. In deep natural pits, the terror-knights and more dubiously guilty conscripts of the Dark Lord were tossed by the heroes of our grandmothers' generation, a literally grave form of execution, and adherents of the Dark Lord gather in caves, at these pits, to honor their own martyrs, to hear the whispers of their gosts, and to swear oaths of revenge.
  8. The treasure of these parts is to be found in the cave-paintings. They function as spell-scrolls, but are so specific to their particular location - the bulge of this man's member matching the bulge on the wall, the slope of the wall suggesting the curvature of the hill that antelope are being driven down into - that they cannot be moved, only studied once before being cast, and then delving in again to study again. (Emmy Allen's Wolf-Packs and Winter Snow already does this, so I don't know if this counts as inspired by "Underland," but I was at least reminded of it, which counts enough for me.)
  9. There was a village on this small frosty island, once, but some generations ago the government decided it was too harsh to live there - or had some more ulterior reason for leaving it uninhabited - and resettled them somewhere more normal. Now you have some reason to adventure there, but the only people with the folk-knowledge of how to deal with its unique geography and challenges are elderly women and men, operating off their memories from childhood.
  10. The creaking and clicking of this glacier is monitored by the local scientist-shamans, who have developed special divinatory procedures and omen tables for translating the shotgun sounds of its calving slowing into ocean. The glacier has a personality and does not care about human values or human time, and it can tend towards something easily anthropomorphized as cruelty. Thankfully its priests are on the side of the human community around it, and there to appease, negotiate, and craft win-win deals with it - mostly. Sometimes they lose contact with the human community and come to be more familiar with the click-click-crash-boom-click talk of the icy god, are more allied with it than their brothers and sisters.
  11. More spell scrolls. Ten thousand years ago the elf-kingdom which stood in this frozen waste, from their floating castles of ice in the clouds, wove songs as spells, and the sound of those spells mingled with the fresh-fallen firn atop the glaciers. Further snow fell on that, trapping the air in pockets, compressing it down to solid ice, and over the centuries and millennia to an impossibly pressurized substance where the song-air is still trapped in flattened, whorled pockets, waiting to be completed. A brave, blasphemous adventurer can abseil down a moulin, carve out the blue substance of the bottom, and unleash the spell - but beware, for to decode what it is would take twelve hours, and for it to melt and be unleashed only takes one.
  12. Those who, so long ago, buried these dangerous artifacts considered (and maybe even built) a "this is not a place of honor"-style warning tomb for them. But that was only one line of defense, one not suited for culturally adapting the warnings to future generations and even species. An "atomic preisthood" was founded, whose mysteries were the truth and whose myths would be adapted down on forever, forever warning people against delving into the Forbidden Zone. These myths have radiated and become all the impossibly confused rites and religions and folklore of the present world.

feudal crisis generator

 

Last post I employed the weapon of criticism-self-criticism to note that "reified ethnic groups and Great Men" did not perhaps represent an accurate social ontology. In the comments to another, I admitted to using the sub-phreno-astrological domain of personality psychology for a character generator backend. And for this tendentious opening, a Joesky tax is owed. Thus, I drop all namby-pampy magic elves heroes nonsense to present reality as it really is: an unending series of ecological crises, pointless wars, and unwinnable class struggle.

folks & factions

This gives an interconnected bunch of ethnic and political groups. In reifying the former and focusing the latter on leading individual actors it may not embed the same social ontology as something that reflected more Effort, but, well, that's the interpollating power of ideology for you. Be that as it may, reload as many times as are necessary to be both coherent and interesting.

ability scores describerizer

Input ability scores manually or via your rolling method of choice; get a character description. Functions most naturally for first-level PC types in Generic Fantasyland, but can function for other purposes as needed. May get less repetitive as I fill it with more Content.

 


NITЯRONIKΛ: Creating a setting using all of my awful generators together

Well, a lot of them, anyway. I initially reserved the right to throw out results, but my first on every table was so generous that I will instead only reserve the right to generate them with latitude. So starting with the Ionian Ontology generator for our basic cosmology and physics, we get: 

This world is an expanse, mostly void, with 3 dimensions extending out infinitely with a single point which is the "center" or "bottom" of the universe. There are three elements: concrete, liquid nitrogen, and propane, which settle in concentric shells around the center in that order. All matter has a baseline level of awareness and will - for instance, concrete has been described as demanding and liquid nitrogen as glum. Entropy is strictly preserved over time, with any destruction of organization spurring further self-organization somewhere else.

That was the first response, and hey, it reminds me of something really specific: Jean-Pierre Ugarte's brutalist landscape paintings!

In this world, those buildings form naturally for "purposes of" entropy conservation. Concrete, liquid nitrogen, and propane sound inhospitable for life, but the weight order solid-liquid-gas is positively pedestrian, organisms would be adapted to processing liquid nitrogen the same way we are to water, and the atmosphere doesn't even need be functionally alien - our own atmosphere is mostly nitrogen plus the flame-enabling oxygen, so evaporated nitrogen plus propane.

Also to preserve entropy, that infinite expanse of space, filled with concrete/LN/propane, is presumably filled with concrete castles which transfer their nutricious negentropy to the "earth" when smashed. Over time from moment 0 of this universe, more and more organized space debris from infinity should smash down, but I think this would be in proportion with the growth of the "earth?" (Both should grow on the order surface of a sphere with constantly growing radius, right?) There could also be "exoplanets" of concrete with some sort of center-oriented concave structure which captures nitrogen and propane as they fall down.

Pressing the setting generator we get: 

Aesthetic inspiration Maasai × Afrofuturism
Tone operatic
Forces of production 3D printing, earthquake engines, bioengineered vampirism
Relations of production finance capitalism
Ideologies socialism, utility maximization
Crises self-catalyzing cave collapse, vampire god run amok 

So we've got a relatively technologically advanced, aesthetically African society with vampires. An in a world with an entropy conservation law, 3D printing and earthquake engines could be the same thing: blow up a complex cave system into homogenous powder, force the creation of something organized somewhere else. This leads to self-catalyzing cave collapses as an ecological crisis spurred on by financial speculation in reorganizing matter through literal creative destruction, probably justified by your typical neoliberal form of utilitarianism, spurring movements for some kind of socialist management. 

Having vampires be in charge of finance capitalism is just too on the nose, so do it Blindsight style, or better yet, they're not bloodsuckers, they're taking advantage of entropy conservation to suck the negentropy out of something and spontaneously mutate out new useful parts (mouths, heads, arms, whatever.) The vampire god run amock is just a cancerous mess beneath the concrete crevices of the earth, its tendrils munching on structures that grow too deep, ordinary brutalist dungeons suddenly morphing into biomechanical horror shows when you 

How Black Women Are Reshaping Afrofuturism - Yes! Magazine
debt serf cyber-warrior (Rodrigo Galdino), ruthless finance queen considering whether to sic her vampires on you (Janelle Monae/Erica Goldring)

Then there's the pig orc tables:

scorpion elves, termite dwarves, cow orcs, mannequin gnolls
corporate consultant fighters, adjunct professsor rogues, nurse wizards, blacksmith clerics
parasocial relationship gods, truckstop bathroom inns, McMansion dungeons, arcane:divine::infrared:ultraviolet
Captain Planet spellbooks, Freemason spells, jellyfish para/demi-elemental planes

Yes, that's a mess, but it's a mess I can work with. Scorpion elves, &c. fit alongside the bioengineered vampires as modifications the elite make on themselves and/or their servants, criminals, and so on; and they probably aren't anything as discrete as "scorpion elves" per se (but financial aristocrats adding poison snappers for dangerous beauty, yes.) Mannequin gnolls aren't bioengineered, by contrast; they're retired warrior-bots assembled from spare parts, gradually repairing themselves into new identities, eking out as scavengers on the margins. McMansion dungeons in this setting are obvious; the elite with their earthquake engines have discovered how to make the earth form gaudy palaces for themselves (and as down-on-your-luck rogues or what have you, it's your job to crack these before returning to your seedy little bars.)

Spellbooks combine the three fundamental elements of concrete, liquid nitrogen, and propane in some way; possibly summoning some sort of daemon representing their unity. Don't share the daemon or its spells outside of your secret fraternity, though. (Something something all the Freemasonic stuff about Solomon's Temple and holy building-form absolutely works here.)

The "sun" is a spaceship, a scoop-shaped thing that sweeps up propane in its course around the globe and fires it out to keep it rotating and prevent it from falling. (To preserve the trope of vampires not liking it, ....?)

Wizards, biological repair, infrared; Clerics, mechanical creation, ultraviolet. Beats me, but this is probably not a very religious world. Maybe no magic and you run it with Mothership or something instead.

Jellyfish spontaneously form from the intersection of elements in the void.

I’ve focused for obvious reasons on the more metal aspects of this world - the exploitation, the packs of mannequin men scraping it out between the cities, the vampire cancer-ecology at the earth’s core, the jets of propane or freezing rain or concrete castles falling down from the sky - but it’s worth noting that I see it as an optimistic world as well, full of Promethean ambition, entrepreneurial daring from rich and poor alike, utilitarian hardheaded compassion, and socialist hope. It’s got the best elements of the nineteenth century, but hardly all of the worst. It does have some of the worst elements of our era, but then you can also replace your arms with scorpion stingers.
 

(1d20 rumors about the) Medusa Men

  1.  That the less fair sex among the medusa race (which must surely exist, as a posit of the doctors of comparative physiognomy) tend towards natural reclusiveness on account of their unlovely appearance. 
  2. That the female medusas, famed for their dangerous beauty, are likewise repulsed by this.
  3. That it is thus explained all the stories told by besotted adventurers at inns, that they blindfolded made love to the poison-gazed women, and felt the snakes snapping at the sweat on their necks.
  4. That the above is romantic bluster, and that there is a more parsimonious explanation to be found for the misshapen creatures known to bow and scrape before the stone queens. That for every man or beast or tree so petrified, so an equivalent amount of shale or dirt or coal is carnated.
  5. That the souls of such victims are encased in the misshapen medusa-men.
  6. That to save someone from petrification, their stony counter must be annihilated.
  7. That to save someone from petrification, their stony counter must be rescued from medusal servitude, treated well, nurtured, until it grows into the original.
  8. That the misshapen medusa-men do not bear the souls of the petrified, but are travelers from another world.
  9. That the medusal world is a reverse of our own, as the stony counters are mockeries of petrified victims; that it is a world of present absences and absent presences. That there planetary pockets of air rotate and revolve through an infinite expanse of meat, and that on the inner surface of these pockets mineral men plow fields of blood in hopes of growing edible stalagmites, and ply shale boats over snake-cilia seas.
  10. That the medusa herself comes from this world as well. That she does not avert her gaze from mirrors for fear of an end, for in fact she longs to return home, but out of duty. A medusa who is determined by a star chamber of stone serpents to have allowed herself to return voluntarily is punished, forced to remain in the grotesque form of muscle and bone forever, whereas if it is determined to be an accident, she may be promoted from iron to crystal and enjoy a retirement on a country estate. That they, homesick, subconsciously look for ways to be “accidentally” “defeated” in this wise.
  11. That the petrified are not deceased, but only parted; for they sojourn in the medusal world. That the only way to “save” them is to wait to let them finish their business there, trundling on granite legs across an epidermal plane, and rap their obsidian knuckles on the cartilage door of the House of Passage.
  12. That many sages have wandered into the bowels of the earth to be seen by the medusa and wrest secrets from her world, only for her to lean in, eyes closed, and offer them a welcome embrace, as if she knew and endorsed their purpose, and bit their neck hundreds of times in a second with her hair. That her hair’s venom offers visions of such a world, but that it is false.
  13. That through the petrified body of such a one making a sojourn, one may not communicate, but through a statue of their likeness, one may, though the other world may peer through it as well. That this was the origins of idolatry in a society whose lone religion before was the vision quests of its thinking class into the stone-as-flesh world, and their medusa tutors, who were our patrons once but have turned to other projects in our maturity.
  14. That to gaze into the eyes of a medusa-man, whatever its origins, is to return it to stone. That this creates an equivalent amount of flesh from nearby stone and that thus a single medusa-being (perhaps the double of a mouse) is very useful to a sculptor or architect, for it may be repeated for as many occasions as result in something with eyes. That the only reason this is not more widely known and used is the trade secrets of masons, which will make them a great power in latter days, and the rareness of medusas.
  15. That the only reason repeatedly petrifying and awakening and petrifying one’s one little flock of medusa-men or -mice or -mites is not more widely known and used is that it is a terrible idea, a swift form of ocular toxification. That little nodules of gypsum flower within one’s stomach and brain with each locked gaze, and that many a delapidated alchemist’s tower may be found with strewn with lumpy architectural experiments, feral homunculi, and the calcite corpse of an alchemist.
  16. That the stones which look to be in the likeness of bone beneath the earth or on cliff surfaces are not the long-weathered bones of dead species, as the superstitious surmise, but the premonitions of ones to come. That geology in her wisdom has crafted them to be awoken by the Medusa’s in breeding pairs, when their gaze extinguished those whose place they will take.
  17. That medusas thus listen with seismograph, bite themselves with their hair, and blast with dynamite into deeper caverns still to ascertain the divine will of geology, for they are the midwives and executioners of her will. That they under heavy hoods walk into taverns and ask stout-hearted women and men to undertake some task of doom to recover a certain stone or plumb a certain depth, that they may hence know what species or people is to be ended, and which to begin.
  18. That medusa-men are not always so ugly. That sometimes their shapes come out quite human, and their “memories” too. That this is why some of those stout-hearted folk in taverns long to traverse deep beneath the earth, though they cannot explain why.
  19. That if such a one meets a medusa’s gaze, he will not turn to stone, but to god, higher version of himself, or medusa.
  20. That the male sex of the medusa race does indeed exist, and that if they had bodies, they would be quite beautiful. That they are charged with the petrification and carnification of not species but ideas, and that for the sake of mercy they remain in slumber or meditation, turning their conceptual gaze towards nothing. That various improvements and innumerable apocalypses could be won by whispering the right words in their nonexistent ears, tempting them towards the destructive act of particular consideration.