Down in the Tunnels, Tryin’a Make it Pay

Some years back (about 6 I think?) I spent a fair bit of time putting together a map of the post-apocalyptic Moscow Metro system of Dmitry Glukhovsky’s Metro 2033 series. While this was received pretty well by both the cartographic and Metro communities I was never 100% happy with it – in particular the way it echoed the inaccurate depiction of interchanges from the official map – and I always intended to go back and revise it.

So now I have.

After many hours of studying Moscow’s geography and trawling my way through the Russian Metro wikia (with the assistance of Google Translate) I have redrafted and updated my map to produce what is undoubtedly (by which I mean ‘doubtedly’) the best English map of the Metro ever produced!

A miracle of rare device! A sunny pleasure dome with caves… wait, that’s not even CLOSE to accurate…
Seize-Seize the means of production! Yes-Yes!

As is my wont I’ve included some information from the expanded “Universe of Metro 2033” books by other authors, despite some of them being a bit silly (I’m still not quite over there being Skaven on the Serpukhovsko–Timiryazevskaya line). I’ve also used some content from the Metro computer game series, which is based on the books but takes a number of serious liberties with them (any version of Metro 2033 where Artyom doesn’t spend a week being forced to shovel human waste out of toilet pits simply isn’t Metro 2033!).

My next insane project is a redraft of the regional Moscow map I found on the Russian wiki, which is highly deficient in various areas. I will take some time off first however – at least until I stop waking up in the morning with the names metro stations echoing in my head (ТеатральнаяТеатральнаяТеатральная…)

The Truth Behind the Lie

Here’s another idea for an RPG campaign that I’ll never get around to running, partially because organising even a single gaming session – let alone a campaign – when you get to my age requires a major effort, and partially because it touches on some tricky issues that I’m nowhere near good enough to handle in a suitably respectable fashion. Oh, and also because I’m explaining it here and my players are a bunch of dirty cheats who’d read this post in its entirety and spoil the whole thing.

So, it starts out as your standard fantasy RPG game, although the players would notice a few non-standard features of the setting. The PCs are all resistance fighters on the run, living rough in the wilderness while fighting back against the evil empire that has conquered the once prosperous realm. Sort of Robin Hood meets John Connor’s guys from The Terminator.

They need to sneak around, gathering resources to survive, making alliances with groups and individuals who may or may not be trustworthy and launching risky strikes against the foe whenever they can manage it. It’s a highly uneven battle – the enemy holds all the cards while the PCs have little but their determination and belief to keep them going.

While the warriors of the enemy are tough, the greatest threat to the PCs are the mind-bending magics of their sorcerers, capable of rewriting memories and personalities and turning trusted friends and allies to the side of evil. Being captured and subjected to mind-magic is the thing of nightmares and to be avoided by the PCs at all costs.

As the campaign progresses it should gradually become clear to the players that things aren’t all that they seem. As evidence mounts up it should slowly dawn on them that the PCs are not fantasy heroes valiantly fighting evil…

…they’re mentally ill homeless people living rough on the streets of a modern day city. The evil forces ranked against them are cops trying to maintain order and the terrifying mind-wiping sorcerers are social workers trying to get them into treatment.

As I said I could never pull this off in a way that firstly works, and secondly doesn’t make a mockery of the very serious issues of homelessness and mental health. But someone else might be able to manage, so have at it!

(Inspirations for this concept include the Tube Station scene in Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere and Dirt Merchant Games’ extremely messed up – and extremely funny – “LARP” Freebase, which is well worth looking up.)

Sweetness and Light

In these times of plague and disaster, who better to turn to for help than an ancient snake god whose cult pretty much consisted of Alexander of Abonoteichus perfecting his ventriloquist routine?

Glycon, protect us from the plague clouds! And David Strassman!

Simply print out copies of this stylish icon of Glycon (aka ‘Sweetie’) and post them about your local area. Not only will your neighbours be extremely confused, but the ancient sock puppet himself will be guaranteed* to protect both you and them from any menacing plague clouds hovering in the vicinity!

If Glycon’s good enough for Alan Moore, he’s good enough for you!

(*not guaranteed)

Power Armour Through the Ages

Let me tell you, discovering that your site isn’t running is just a GREAT way to start the day. Turns out MySQL fell over for some reason. I’ll need to keep an eye on that…

Anyway here’s yet another blank 40k template, this time for all 8 Marks of classic Astartes Power Armour.

With Apologies to Leon Payne…

Can you fry me up some slab, Mamma?
‘Cause I’m as hungry as can be
Life in this hive is just so drab, Mamma
You know that everyone hates me

Like the Gangers with their hair, Mamma
Down by the manufactory arch
There was some lightning from the air, Mamma
And now they’re turning them to starch

Think I’m a Psyker, don’t you Mamma?
The warp into my mind it drips
Think I’m a Psyker, don’t you Mamma?
They’re gonna take me to the ships

You won’t believe the things I’ve seen, Mamma
When I lay me down to rest
I’ve been having crazy dreams, Mamma
About this lady named ‘Slaanesh’

She has all these wild plans, Mamma
And they all seem really great
But I just don’t understand, Mama
Why she keeps calling me ‘The Gate’?

Think I’m a Psyker, don’t you Mamma?
You think I’m gonna lose control
Think I’m a Psyker, don’t you Mamma?
They’ll put those bindings on my soul

You know the Temple by the shore, Mamma?
Well I was feeling kind of lost
So I walked in through the door, Mamma
But everything got rimed with frost

An Ecclesiarchy Clerk, Mamma
Offered me the Emperor’s Grace
Well I kind of went berserk, Mamma
And somehow melted off his face

Think I’m a Psyker, don’t you Mamma?
Please Mamma hide me here at home
Think I’m a Psyker, don’t you Mamma?
Don’t let them feed me to the Throne

Think I’m a Psyker, don’t you Mamma?
The Inquisition’s drawing near
Think I’m a Psyker, don’t you Mamma?
But Mamma…
Didn’t you die last year?

(And some versions of the original, in case you’re not familiar…)

The Sons of Pavlach

This post is part of the Skereig Subsector project

NAME: Sons of Pavlach
CHAPTER MASTER: Matteus Vyev
HOMEWORLD: Freo Prime, Insignus Cluster, Skerieg Subsector, Chiros Sector, Segmentum Tempestus
FORTRESS MONASTERY: The Anchor
RECRUITING WORLDS: Freo Prime, Saversnake III
PROGENITOR CHAPTER: Unknown. Raven Guard Presumed.
FOUNDING: Unknown. Earliest Known Reference 300.M36
GENESEED DEFECTS: Defective Melanchromic Organ and Betcher’s Gland. Missing Mucranoid.
CODEX COMPLIANCE: High Compliance
BATTLE CRY: Spectant Tenebris – “Look to the Darkness”
TACTICAL SPECIALTIES: Stealth, Infiltration
STRENGTH: Estimated at 847 Battle Brothers as of 985.M41

The Sons of Pavlach Astartes Chapter is based on the ocean world of Freo Prime in the Skerieg Subsector of the Chiros Sector of the Segmentum Tempestus. Established since at least 300.M36 the Chapter’s Fortress Monastery is constructed within the planet’s highest mountain – the Anchor – which is located near the centre of the world’s only continent.

Aspirants are recruited from the fishing people of the planet’s main archipelago, and expeditions are made approximately every 20 years to the feral world of Saversnake III to supervise the ‘Games of Ayefel’ – a tournament held to select the strongest and most athletic youths for induction into the Chapter.

Similarly to their presumed progenitors in the Raven Guard, the defective Melanchromic Organs of the Sons of Pavlach result in pale white skin and coal black hair and eyes. Unlike the Raven Guard however they possess semi-functional Betcher’s glands capable of generating a dilute form of the acidic venom produced by other marines. They completely lack the Mucranoid system.

Non-Astartes personal interacting with the Sons of Pavlach have reported unusually high levels of unease – occasionally approaching outright panic – in their presence, beyond that typically categorised as “transhuman dread”. It is theorised that this is the result of a low-level or subconscious psyker ability inherent in the Chapter’s geneseed. The Subsector authorities prefer to communicate with the Chapter via vox and viewscreen over which this effect does not manifest – a preference that does not appear to concern the Chapter in the slightest.

The current Chapter Master is Matteus Vyev, a native of Freo Prime who was promoted from Captain of the Second Company in 878.M41 after the death of Chapter Master Kristoss Mann and First Company Captain Lang during the Purge of Adderstone.


In case you were wondering, the Sons of Pavlach – originally the Freo Marines – began as a joke based around creating Space Marine chapters out of AFL teams. But then I decided to incorporate them into my Skerieg Subsector project and had to clean them up some. They are now slightly less ridiculous, although it is sadly unavoidable that any AFL fan would recognise their origin immediately.

Anthemic

Well, we made it. The horror year of 2020 is behind us, and we can now look forward to fresh, new horrors in this year of our lord 2021 (I suspect they will involve bees).

I broke my usual habit of going to bed early to express my contempt for a calendar that assigns the turn of the year to a completely arbitrary point, and stayed up ’til midnight – partially to make sure that 2020 actually ended, and partially because they were playing a repeat of the latest Red Dwarf special which I missed when it was on the other week. It was actually not bad, not as good as the original series of course, but a lot better than their last effort. Watching this one was fun, whereas Back to Earth was just painful.

Hang on, there’ve been three entire series between Back to Earth and The Promised Land?! And I was not informed!?

Anyway, not here to talk about that. Here to talk about the national anthem.

It was announced today that the line of Advance Australia Fair reading “For we are young and free” is being changed to “For we are one and free”. Doing something about this line has been on the left wing agenda (an agenda that – lest anyone get the wrong idea – I am fully in favour of) for the last few years, after it was pointed out that our nation is home to the oldest living culture on Earth, and hence any description of our country as ‘young’ is appallingly exclusionary to indigenous Australians. The replacement of ‘young’ with ‘one’ was suggested – or at least bought to the attention of the mainstream – by Gladys Berejiklian last year, and here we suddenly are.

(The fact that the change was publicised by an embattled Liberal – which is to say conservative, Australian politics can be very confusing – state Premier probably has a lot to do with Scumo’s mob of reactionary neocons actually doing something for Indigenous Australians. Can you imagine them changing the national anthem at the behest of Dan Andrews?)

My feelings on this change are mildly mixed. I fully support changing the word, but I’m not super keen on the way the new line scans. That said however I have for many years been firmly of the opinion that Advance Australia Fair is a terrible song anyway, so screwing up a single line is a small price to pay to address – no matter how minutely – some historical injustices.

So, why is Advance Australia Fair such an awful song? Well, to start with the tune is a goddamn dirge. Get a military band with trumpets and things to play it and it can sound somewhat regal, but it hardly lends itself to spontaneous outbreaks of national pride. As a song for the common citizen to whip out at, say, a sporting event, it’s a complete non-starter. It’s slow, it’s dull, and attempting to speed it up to give it a bit of kick just makes it sound like the theme to The Beverly Hillbillies.

Then we come to the lyrics. They were written in 1878 by Peter Dodds McCormick who wrote under the pen name “Amicus”, which probably tells you 90% of what you need to know about him. The original words as written by this faithful son of the Empire are notable for being composed in the second-rate faux-classical mode so beloved by Victorians with literary pretensions, and are very, very, very pro-British, pro-Empire and anti-anyone or anything else…

Australia’s sons, let us rejoice,
For we are young and free;
We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil,
Our home is girt by sea;
Our land abounds in nature’s gifts
Of beauty rich and rare;
In history’s page, let every stage
Advance Australia fair.
In joyful strains let us sing,
Advance, Australia fair.

When gallant Cook from Albion sail’d,
To trace wide oceans o’er,
True British courage bore him on,
Til he landed on our shore.
Then here he raised Old England’s flag,
The standard of the brave;
“With all her faults we love her still”
“Britannia rules the wave.”
In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance, Australia fair.

While other nations of the globe
Behold us from afar,
We’ll rise to high renown and shine
Like our glorious southern star;
From England soil and Fatherland,
Scotia and Erin fair,
Let all combine with heart and hand
To advance Australia fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing
Advance, Australia fair.

Should foreign foe e’er sight our coast,
Or dare a foot to land,
We’ll rouse to arms like sires of yore,
To guard our native strand;
Britannia then shall surely know,
Though oceans roll between,
Her sons in fair Australia’s land
Still keep their courage green.
In joyful strains then let us sing
Advance Australia fair.

Out of four verses, three of them are all about how great Britain is, which is kind of weird for a song that claims to be about Australia. It’s riddled with pretentious ’tils and o’ers and e’ers and even with those it can’t manage to properly fit the words to the tune. There are half rhymes, far too many uses of “fair” – including an instance of rhyming “fair” with “fair” – and the inclusion of the word “girt”, which – while a fine word of noble pedigree – in a song sounds like the vocalist swallowed their tongue halfway through the line. The words are repetitive, lugubrious, and let’s not even get started on the overwrought syntax of the phrase “Advance Australia Fair” itself.

In 1901 the third verse was replaced with the following…

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross,
We’ll toil with hearts and hands;
To make our youthful Commonwealth,
Renowned of all the lands;
For loyal sons beyond the seas
We’ve boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To advance Australia fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing
Advance Australia fair!

Now this contains the one decent line in the entire song – Beneath our radiant Southern Cross. This line is so good in fact that it could lead one to presume that McCormick had nothing to do with the new verse, but he soon regains his stride by invoking “loyal sons” and jamming 15 syllables into 14 notes forcing the singer to break rhythm and gabble out “combine-to” in a desperate attempt to keep pace.

The song replaced God Save the Queen as our official national anthem in 1984 with the following revised set of two verses…

Australians all let us rejoice,
For we are young and free;
We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil;
Our home is girt by sea;
Our land abounds in nature’s gifts
Of beauty rich and rare;
In history’s page, let every stage
Advance Australia Fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross
We’ll toil with hearts and hands;
To make this Commonwealth of ours
Renowned of all the lands;
For those who’ve come across the seas
We’ve boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To Advance Australia Fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.

Which, with the change from “young” to “one” in the second line, is the version sung today. McCormick’s “Australia’s sons” has been replaced with “Australians all” which is a bit awkward but fully justified (providing a precedent for trading scansion for inclusivity) and the pro-Empire “loyal sons beyond the seas” has been cleaned up. They still left “girt” in their though.

So, this is the anthem we are stuck with. Personally I’d prefer to salvage the line about the Southern Cross, throw the rest in the bin and then come up with some suitable versus fitted to the jaunty march bit of the Space Battleship Yamato theme, but that’s probably just me.

Happy new year!

The Skereig Subsector

This post is part of the Skereig Subsector project

Click to Enlarge. It’s really big and impressive!

Overview

The Skereig Subsector is located in the Chiros Sector on the western side of the Segmentum Tempestus, close to the border of the Segmentum Pacificus, around 22,500 light years from Holy Terra. It has remained loyal to the Emperor for several thousand years, despite occasional isolation by warp storms and Xenos incursions.

The subsector extends for 15 light years around the Skereig system, although the furthest inhabited world is just over 8 light years from the capital. There are numerous uninhabited worlds further out, some of which are scheduled for colonisation over the next few centuries.

As of 991.M41 the subsector is dealing with the aftermath of an invasion by the Orks of Waaagh! Krumpfist, who attacked from the galactic south-west in 923.M41. Invasions of several systems – including Cnossath and St Cuthbert’s Slumber were repelled, but two systems remain under Ork control. The Subsystem Governor has been appealing to Imperial authorities for support in retaking these systems for over 7 decades, particularly the agriworld of Feargal, the loss of which has caused food shortages across the subsector.

Saints

The two most popular Saints in the Skereig Subsector are Saint Guinefort and Saint Beinagrind.

Saint Guinefort was the pet canid of High Ecclesiarch Zosimus CXXXVII of the Orphean Conclave. During an official visit to the Basilica of Saint Hermon on Skereig Prime in 885.M39 the Ecclesiarch was informed that he could not bring the animal inside. He reacted to this by immediately canonising the creature. Unable to bar entry to a confirmed Imperial Saint the door wardens reluctantly acquiesced and the canid accompanied the Ecclesiarch to all religious services for the duration of his stay in the subsector.

The general unpopularity of the Ecclesiarch – who was notable for his more worldly appetites – appears to have encouraged adulation of his saintly canid instead, although it is certainly possible that such worship was initially tongue in cheek, only transitioning to a genuine cult in later centuries.

Saint Guinefort is invoked as a protector of children and a defender of the Emperor’s realm against Xenos infiltration. He is typically depicted as a noble hunting hound with yellow or golden fur. This is despite accounts from the period describing the animal as resembling a stumpy-legged, overstuffed sausage with thinning fur and a jowly, scowling face.

Typical Icon of Saint Beinagrind

Saint Beinagrind, also know as the Holy Skeleton or Saint Bones is said to have been martyred on Ragnar’s World some time in M36. During a time of religious schism he remained true to the Imperial Creed and was executed by having his flesh scraped from his bones with sharpened scallop shells. Afterwards his bare skeleton arose and took holy vengeance by killing his persecutors. Attempts to correlate the legend with historical records have failed, nonetheless the Holy Skeleton remains popular on all worlds in the subsector, invoked against heresy and loss of faith.

Saint Beinagrind is typically depicted as a human skeleton bearing a scallop shell in its left hand and a fishing harpoon in its right – this being the tool he is said to have used to slay his murderers.

Notable Worlds

Cnossath: Cnossath is a Knight World allied to the Adeptus Mechanicus Forgeworld of Volund 27. It is home to three Knight Houses, Ventris, Cashel and Krater and with the assistance of the Valhallan 294th “Toecutters” Astra Militarum Regiment repelled the Orks of Waaagh! Krumpfist in 925.M41. More on Cnossath…

Dullrock 431: Apparently named by an extremely bored Explorator this lifeless body was later found to be rich in numerous rare minerals, with mining colonies established in the early 300s.M41. The highly corrosive atmosphere requires all colonies to be heavily shielded, with the majority of facilities placed deep underground adjacent to the ore deposits. Some Ork landings were reported in the 920s.M41, but the hostile conditions appear to have made short work of the would-be invaders.

Feargal: A highly fertile agriworld, Feargal supplied much of the subsector’s grain before being occupied by the Orks of Waaagh! Krumpfist in 923.M41. An expedition to reclaim the world has been waiting for Astra Militarum support for close on 75 years.

Gruts: An agriworld famous for a variety of wild truffle traditionally prepared by frying in butter. Several forested areas of the planet have been left undeveloped solely for the production of these rare delicacies.

La Salle: An arid, sun-blasted, desert world, La Salle is rich in rare mineral salts which are extracted by convicted criminals from across the subsector. Being condemned to the salt mines of La Salle is as good as a death sentence for all but the strongest convicts, with very few surviving the 20 years of servitude required for a preliminary parole hearing.

Mandrenke: The ocean world of Mandrenke teems with life, almost all of it inimical to humanity.

Ragnar’s World: An ocean world chiefly notable for the subsector’s main Naval facility, the orbital shipyards of Port Ragnar. It is also the reputed site of the martyrdom of Saint Beinagrind and many pilgrims make the journey to worship at the Grand Basilica on the island of Saint Skeleton, or the smaller, rival, Shrine of Bones on Beinagrind’s Strand.

Ravenser: The subsector’s only significant hive world, Ravenser has six major hive cities and around four-dozen smaller dependent hive conglomerations with a total estimated population of around 120 billion. The majority of the subsector’s manufactured goods are produced on Ravenser with raw materials sourced from the system’s three massive asteroid belts.

Keeping the population of Ravenser fed has always presented a challenge, but has been particularly problematic since the occupation of agriworld Feargal by the Orks in 923.M41. Food related riots and uprisings have become a permanent feature of the planet with three entire regiments of Skereig Varyags seconded to the planetary Arbites to enforce the peace.

San Guinefort: Named after the Saintly Hound, San Guinefort is home to the Battle Sisters of the Order of the Argent Veil – a minor order believed to have split off from the Order of the Sacred Rose in the early M40s.

St Cuthbert’s Slumber: An unremarkable agriworld, St Cuthbert’s Slumber was invaded by the Orks of Waaagh! Krumpfist in 924.M41. The attackers were successfully confined to the northern continent, but the Xenos scourge was not completely eliminated until 932.M41. Advice on proper cleansing of contaminated areas from Valhallan units in the relief force has kept feral Ork outbreaks to a minimum.

Werinos: Werinos is a mostly oceanic world with highly acidic oceans. The major native form of life are gigantic bacterial colonies established around deep geothermal vents and extending into the planetary crust. These colonies produce massive amounts of volatile gas which diffuses into the oceanic water column, from which it is extracted by thousands of floating platforms and piped to refineries on the single, middle sized continent on the planet’s equator for conversion into promethium. Promethium exports from Werinos provide upwards of 80% of the subsector’s fuel requirements.

Much technology on Werinos and on the nearby Forgeworld of Volund 27 has been adapted to use the gas in its raw form, with both planets’ manufactoria greatly skilled in the production of highly efficient gas turbines. The experimental Werinos Pattern Gatling Cannon uses two such miniature turbines for power, providing the same rate of fire as a standard Punisher Cannon with a simpler mechanism and fewer moving parts. Deployment of Werinos Pattern cannons on the battlefield is currently limited by the difficulty of keeping them supplied with gas – they are common on both Werinos and Volund 27, but are rare elsewhere.