One of my major personality defects is that I tend to get really excited about some random project or thing, expend a huge amount of time and effort on it, then get bored and/or excited about something else and drop the whole thing. As such my home and computer are littered with half completed projects and ideas, some of which might actually be really cool if I ever got around to finishing them.
Autism? Yes, why do ask? ADHD? Well I don’t have a formal diagnosis…
Anyway, when I actually do manage to complete something it is cause for at least a little celebration, and a posting of the results.
My obsession of late has been content for the Hellboy board game. I invested in the Kickstarter and have managed to acquire just about every expansion (I don’t have Drinking with Skeletons, Giant Robot Hellboy and Unexpected Plot Twist) including the most recent “Big Box of Doom” which I completely forgot I bought – its unexpected arrival being the catalyst for my current episode. The game contains plenty of content from the Hellboy universe, but there’s also a bunch of really cool stuff that isn’t included, either due to copyright tangles or simply because a game that included everything would take up a rather large room and be wildly unplayable.
“Wildly Uplayable” being my middle name I decided to rectify this by adding some of the cooler stuff that Mantic elected (or were forced) to leave out. And wonder of wonders I’ve actually finished some of it!
AGENT BEN DAIMIO
During the Kickstarter for the original game there were a lot of requests from the community to include ex-marine-with-a-dreadful-secret Ben Daimio (AKA Captain Zombie). To everyone’s disappointment Mantic made it quite clear that they couldn’t because they only had the rights to the Hellboy comic and not the spin-off BPRD in which he exclusively appears. Curiously the expansions have since included plenty of BPRD content, but Ben is still AWOL -possibly they haven’t been able to figure out a way to make him playable without being either useless or horribly overpowered.
Being unrestrained by issues of copyright or game balance I have attempted to correct this anomaly by making a playable version of Ben complete with starting items, a Deck of Doom card, and rules and cards for when his ‘little problem’ gets out of hand.
One of my favourite Hellboy series is 1947, which chronicles the early BPRD’s attempts to deal with a vampire by the name Baron Konig who didn’t take some of the Nazi’s more esoteric WWII experiments very well (to be fair, who would?). Naturally everything pretty quickly goes to hell and the consequences extend into the sequel series Vampire where things get even worse.
There are other vampires that show up in Hellboy, the most prominent being Vladimir Giurescu and his exploding horse (note: no matter how hard you hit them horses don’t usually explode). He’s in the game, but apart from that vampiric content is conspicuously lacking – a situation I feel it necessary to correct.
My Vampire kit adds three new Bosses, a new minion, a bunch of re-organised Boss Behaviour cards and a collection of vampire hunting equipment to give your agents a fighting chance against the undead.
Later: And now version 1.2 is up, which adds a new minion, renames a minion, adds a couple more unexpected threats and allows you to equip your agents with garlic – which I can’t believe I left out in version 1.1!
One of the few flaws of the game is the way it implements tracking of a number of agent statistics (another is the way they’ve implemented Roger – go get Saduhem’s Thematic Roger rebuild – you’ll thank me). To keep track of, say, Liz Sherman’s flame level you need to keep a tiny plastic cube precisely positioned on a half sized card – which on a table with models being moved and dice flying around is no mean feat. To fix this I’ve created a set of print’n’build tracker dials* which should make your games a lot less frustrating.
I have a number of other Hellboy projects on the boil, which I may or may not complete before I lose interest, so stay tuned!
BPRD Archives Box
And here we go with one of those projects, a print’n’build box for your B.P.R.D. Archives cards – assuming you have that add on, naturally. The design is blatantly ripped off from Matt “King Friday” Sturm’s case file envelopes – I really should give him a heads up.
Make Your Own Agent
And if you’re feeling inspired to make some content of your own I’ve prepared an SVG Agent template with icons and cards layouts and such. Enjoy!
*Not to be confused with print’n’build crocodiles, which are another thing entirely…
As a general rule, authors do not read fan fiction.
They do not read fan fiction and are also, generally, loath to accept plot ideas from random members of the public. The reason for this can best be demonstrated by the following short play…
TAMBURLAINE AND THE WALRUS
Random Member of the Public: Excuse me good sir, are you by chance the famous author Congreave?
The Famous Author Congreave: I must confess, sir, that I am indeed he.
Random Member of the Public: And I in turn must confess that I am the most ardent admirer of your work, often resorting to unseemly extremes to obtain your latest publication.
The Famous Author Congreave: I am flattered sir. Flattered.
Random Member of the Public: Allow me to ask, have you ever considered writing upon the great conqueror Tamburlaine? I fancy your talents well suited to a fabulous tale of his encounter with a surly walrus.
The Famous Author Congreave: I have not, but I must admit that the idea is an intriguing one.
Random Member of the Public: Then I hope you shall consider it. It would be an honour indeed to inspire one of your works.
The Famous Author Congreave: You honour me sir with such praise. I see my driver has arrived and I must away, however it has been a pleasure to to make your acquaintance.
Random Member of the Public: And yours sir. And yours.
FIVE YEARS LATER
Random Patron in a Pub: Did you hear? The latest work of the famous author Congreave – a fabulous conceit on the subject of the conqueror Tamburlaine encountering a walrus – has sold out in each and every book emporium and has been optioned by a Hollywood producer! He stands to receive millions!
Random Member of the Public: What!? That was my idea! I shall contact my attorney at once!
LENGTHY AND EXPENSIVE LEGAL PROCEEDINGS ENSUE
As I hope this short drama illustrates, any person in a creative field must be extremely careful when it comes to sourcing ideas. Recent history is replete with famous authors being dragged through the courts by random so-and-sos insisting that said author’s best selling novel is plagiarised from the 20 page storybook they self published in 1983. It’s safest overall for an author to straight up refuse to engage with fans offering them ideas, and to completely avoid any amateur writing involving their worlds and characters.
Which sucks, because I have a great idea for a Rivers of London/PC Grant novel.
Or at least I think it’s a great idea. It ties together some obscure real-world London history with some obscure real-world London geography while involving a number of well known historical figures and events in the way that the best moments of the PC Grant novels do. It’s the kind of hook that an author like Ben Aaronovitch could hang a great story on – it’s just unfortunate that it occurred to me and not him.
“So why don’t you write it yourself?” you ask. And it’s a fair question. I’ve written my fair share of fanfic and without wanting to sound big-headed I think a fair amount of it passes muster. The problem lies in the kind of writing I’m good at. You want an idiotic comedy where established characters behave like lunatics? I’m your man! Or are you after a faux-academic paper? No problem! Could I interest you in a brochure for a non-existent museum replete with in-jokes? I have one right here! You want a story where realistic characters behave in a realistic fashion in the real world? Yeah… That’s not something I can do.
I suspect that’s down to my autistic brain. It’s easy to write characters breaking the accepted rules of society when you’re not that clear on the accepted rules of society to begin with. Imitating a specific literary style is simple when you’re a hyperlexic who’s read literally thousands of books. But describing the thoughts and actions of realistic human beings? I’m barely a realistic human being myself.
And then there’s the issue of length. My brain fizzes with so many ideas and urges that it’s hard to find the time to get even a short story written. At any given time I’m likely to have at least a dozen projects on the go. I’ve never been diagnosed with ADHD but I certainly have enough of the traits to frame a suspicion.
So, what to do?
To my mind the only sensible option is to lay the whole thing out here, if only to get it out of my head. As such I am pleased to present the plot for a PC Grant novel based on my idea. It’s not the only possible plot, and certainly not the plot that Mr Aaronovich would come up with (I’m entirely confident that his version would be far better). I’ll avoid spoilers by placing an explanation of my brainwave at the end – if you’re not interested in my painful attempts at story-telling then please feel free to skip to there. But if you’d like to come on the journey then please read on as I sketch out the plot of –
(or “Der Kreis auf der Hundeinsel” if you’re nasty)
The story begins with the body of a middle aged man being discovered in Millwall Park on the Isle of Dogs, apparently having been stabbed to death. The Folly is called in when a battered business card is found in his pocket with the contact details of the late and unlamented Martin Chorley – AKA the Second Faceless Man.
Investigation shows that the man – one Christopher Greenshield – was an antiquities specialist who’d recently returned to the UK after an absence of about six years. He was renting accommodation along the Outer Millwall Dock, which proves to have been burgled and ransacked around the same time as his murder. There are no traces of vestigia in the flat, on his body or at the site it was discovered, although it’s quickly determined that he was attacked elsewhere and his body relocated post mortem. It’s also determined that he was killed by several stabs with a narrow, stiletto-style blade.
Historical investigation fails to uncover any links between Greenshield and the Little Crocodiles. It is determined however that since his arrival back in London two weeks earlier he’d been trying to contact Chorley – apparently unaware of his demise. A painful slog through the material in his flat and tracking his movements eventually establishes that Chorley had been in contact with him around 12 years earlier, seeking some kind of rare historical document. He’d returned to London because he managed to obtain a copy and was seeking Chorley as a buyer.
The actual identity of the document is unclear, but Greenshield’s documentation shows he found it after research into 18th century Shakespeare forger William Henry Ireland. This puzzles everyone – why would Chorley be interested in Ireland? A tenuous connection is suggested between his Arthurian obsessions and Henry’s forged play Vortigern and Rowena – did he base it on some kind of authentic material? Or was Chorley somehow unaware that the play was a forgery?
Investigation on the Isle of Dogs indicates that Greenshield had a number of encounters with an eccentric local resident living on the north side of Mudchute Park, one Justin Linstock. Linstock appears to have appointed himself unofficial caretaker of the park and often harasses visitors with accusations of littering, noise and anti-social behaviour – complaints about which have previously brought him to attention of the police. He’s interviewed but denies all knowledge of the burglary and the murder, stating that Greenshield was loitering in the park and needed to be moved on.
Following up leads eventually tracks down a historical researcher employed by Greenshield to authenticate the mysterious document. Greenshield had him sign a non-disclosure agreement, but the prospect of prosecution convinces him to talk. It’s revealed that when composing his Shakespeare forgeries William Henry Ireland managed to obtain a genuine Elizabethan script to use as a model, and Greenshield found it. A manuscript copy of the suppressed and long lost 1597 play by Thomas Nashe and Ben Jonson The Isle of Dogs.
No one believes this to be a coincidence.
Happily the researcher has a photocopy of the whole thing which is quickly forwarded to Professor Postmartin, who almost has a stroke out of sheer literary excitement. He quickly confirms that the work is genuine, although it shows clear signs of not being the original script. Rather it’s a ‘memorial reconstruction’ or ‘bad quarto’ put together from the memories of audience members and actors. This would explain how it survived the government suppression of the original. Comment is made on the irony of Ireland laboring over painful Shakespeare pastiches while sitting on a genuine literary treasure.
Postmartin goes on to reveal the astonishing reason why the play was suppressed. Accepted history says it was banned as being insulting to Queen Elizabeth. Instead it turns out to be a dramatised claim that the playwright Christopher Marlowe was ritually murdered as part of a magical ceremony conducted by Queen Elizabeth’s court astrologer Doctor John Dee to establish a magical nexus or ‘omphalos’ on the Isle of Dogs. A nexus intended to serve as the heart of a world spanning British Empire.
Postmartin explains that there have been strange rumours surrounding Marlowe’s 1593 death for centuries. The official story says he was stabbed to death in a drunken fight over the bill in a Deptford boarding house, but there have been claims that he was involved with espionage and may have been eliminated to plug a leak. He was also known to be associated with a group of radical free thinkers, occultists and atheists – labeled in later centuries as ‘The School of Night’ – who were viewed as a threat to the Throne. The play – employing a series of fairly transparent pseudonyms – alleges that Dr Dee was the head of a magical group loyal to the Queen and who decided that Marlowe would not just be a suitable sacrifice, but that his death would strike a blow against their rivals.
Research shows that stories surrounding Dr Dee and the Isle of Dogs are well known among modern day occult groups, who tie them into a series of alleged ‘ley lines’ stretching across the city of London. Nightingale even heard similar stories as a young man, but the Folly never considered them as anything more than spooky campfire tales. The existence of the manuscript – authored by Marlowe’s friends Nashe and Jonson – entirely changes matters. Putting aside the historical implications, could Chorley have been after it for details on how to construct his own omphalos or reactivate the purported Elizabethan one? If there was already a nexus of empire-building magical power in London then re-energising it might be an easier way to Make Britain Great Again than trying to create and control a god. And regardless of Chorley’s intentions if there is a nexus of empire-building magical power in the heart of London’s Docklands then the Folly needs to know about it.
Postmartin and Nightingale dissect the details of the script to try and determine if the ritual described therein has any accuracy to it while Peter heads out to the supposed site of the omphalos – located in Mudchute park. He finds nothing unusual or magical at the site – a circle of stone paving – but has a run in with a somewhat agitated Justin Linstock who tells him he’s not welcome in the park and orders him to leave. Peter leaves, then doubles back to shadow Linstock, but he merely returns to his house.
Back at the Folly Peter does some more digging on Linstock. He has a lengthy record of warnings and public nuisance reports to his name, all relating to incidents in Mudchute Park. One from 18 months ago particularly stands out where he was involved in a physical scuffle with a John Leverpool. According to the incident report Leverpool – a New Age enthusiast – was dowsing for ley lines in the vicinity of the omphalos when Linstock approached from behind, tackled him to the ground and made several attempts to punch him in the head. Bystanders intervened and the police were called. On their arrival Linstock refused to explain himself and Leverpool declined to press charges. Peter attempts to contact Leverpool but he’s at a retreat in Scotland and won’t be back for the next week. Leverpool is tagged as a person of interest and Peter marks Linstock as worthy of more detailed investigation.
By the next day Nightingale and Postmartin have completed their research and have concluded that the ritual described in the manuscript – while consistent with pre-Newtonian magical beliefs and practices – simply couldn’t work. It’s a farrago of portentous sounding nonsense, and if it bears any relationship to an actual ritual carried out by Dee, said ritual would have achieved nothing. Speculation is had concerning Martin Chorley – did he figure this out for himself somehow, or did he simply give up on the omphalos and move on to other projects because of the lack of information? It will probably never be known.
An alert is then received. The previous evening a South London schoolboy failed to return home. CCTV has turned up showing him talking to and then leaving Greenwich railway station with a man who has been identified as Justin Linstock. Nightingale notes today’s date – May 30th, the anniversary of Christopher Marlowe’s mysterious death in Deptford…
A search of Linstock’s house turns up no trace of him or the missing boy, however the missing manuscript of The Isle of Dogs is found along with a large collection of books and material relating to the Elizabethan era, Doctor Dee and ley lines. Examination of the manuscript shows that the pages containing Dee’s supposed ritual are missing.
Nightingale leads a team across the park to the omphalos but finds nothing. At the same time Peter heads across the river to meet up with another team at Deptford. Matters are complicated because the exact site of the house in which Marlowe’s was killed is unknown – the best information is that it’s in the vicinity of Charlotte Turner Gardens. As police go door to door Nightingale races to meet up with Peter who is on the phone to Postmartin, going through the script for any clues. References to the river and “harnessing nature’s power” eventually lead to the electricity substation on Borthwick Street, when they interrupt Linstock acting out Dee’s ritual from the play, arriving just before he’s about to sacrifice the schoolboy using a stiletto-like Elizabethan ballock dagger.
Under interrogation Linstock confesses to the murder of Christopher Greenshield using the same dagger, which he claims is the very one used to sacrifice Christopher Marlowe. He claims to be a descendant of John Dee, and the hereditary guardian of the omphalos, a role that has been passed down through his family for centuries. Communication with angels (received via automatic writing in Dee’s Enochian alphabet) alerted him to Greenshield’s presence and his possession of the key to re-activating the omphalos. When Greenshield refused to hand this over he had no choice but to kill him and recover the manuscript himself. An initial psychological assessment shows him unlikely to be competent to stand trial.
The Museum of London confirms that the dagger is authentic to the period, so the claim that it killed Marlowe is at least plausible. The rest of Linstock’s claims are rather dubious with his family only emigrating to the UK in the late 1800s and his knowledge of the manuscript more likely coming from conversations with Greenshield in the park than from angels. However they cannot be entirely ruled out.
The play is added to Postmartin’s archives and the omphalos site is added to the Folly’s watch list, although assessed as very low risk.
OK, so that’s the story as best I can tell it. Or at least as best I care to tell it – I could work on it more but there’s not really much of a point. My inspiration was some random neurons in my brain suddenly linking the (quite real) occult claims about the mysterious paved circle in Mudchute Park to the suppressed and lost The Isle of Dogs. After that it pretty much all flowed. That’s the core idea, and that’s what I’d like – were it at all possible – to submit to Mr Aaronovitch for what I assume would be his far better take on it.
I decided to throw William Henry Ireland into the mix both to pad out the tale and because his story is a fascinating one. I read most of his Vortigern and Rowena for this project and how it could ever have been mistaken for Shakespeare is entirely beyond me.
The name Eastward Ho is taken from a another Ben Jonson (with George Chapman and and John Marston) play from 1605 which features a scene on the Isle of Dogs and which (like The Isle of Dogs) got into trouble with the government, this time for it’s satirical take on King James’ Scottish associates. It was written in response to the play Westward Ho by Jonson’s rivals Thomas Dekker and John Webster who went on to write Northward Ho as their own response. The names of several characters in my story are taken from these plays.
So that’s it. I have yelled my idea – for what it’s worth – out into the universe. If you’ve managed to stick with it this far I hope it has provided some level of entertainment. Keep an eye out for my next project, Southward Ho, completing the City Comedy tetralogy started over 400 years ago!
As the turning of the year speeds us onward into winter the time has come for me to actually make a post. Don’t expect this to be a regular thing mind you, it’s likely only possible because I’ve taken a week off work and hence actually have the time to think.
Anyway, this week someone on Reddit had decided to compile a list of Adeptus Astartes war cries (yes, I’m on about Warhammer again, deal with it) and helpfully posted the same to the 40kLore subreddit. When browsing through this list I noticed something a bit strange – can you spot it?
“Doom ye! Doom ye! Doom ye!”–Doom Warriors
“Skovakarah uhl zarûn!” (“Redden the earth!”)–Emperor’s Spears
“Bringers of war!”—Emperor’s Warbringers
“In too deep, against all odds brothers!”—Genesis Chapter
“”We are the hammer!” or “I am the hammer, I am the right hand of the Emperor, the instrument of His will, the gauntlet about His fist, the tip of His spear, the edge of His sword!”—Grey Knights
“Primarch-Progenitor, to your glory and the glory of Him on Earth!”—Imperial Fists
“The flesh is weak!”—Iron Hands
In case you’re not an ageing Gen-Xer and the title of this post didn’t tip you off, it’s the war cry of the Genesis Chapter, who apparently charge into battle yelling “In too deep, against all odds brother!”. What immediately startled me about this can best be summed up with the inclusion of a couple of videos…
So, we are being asked to believe that the war cry of the Genesis Chapter just happens to be built from the title of a Genesis song, and a former-lead-singer-of-Genesis-Phil-Collins song?
Now, sure, Warhammer 40k is probably the most plagiarism-guilty IP in human history. It’s cobbled together from chunks of Dune, Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, the collected works of J. R. R. Tolkien, Judge Dredd, the generalised evil of Margaret Thatcher and dozens – if not hundreds – of other sources. There’s barely an original idea in the whole thing. But directly quoting prog-rock lyrics seems a little too on the nose even for Games Workshop. So what the hell is going on?
I started digging. The oldest reference I could find to the alleged war cry is on the Genesis Chapter page on the 40k Fandom Wiki – which immediately sounded all kinds of alarm bells.
Warhammer 40,000 has been a thing since 1987, and since then an absolutely titanic amount of background lore has been generated. Organising it all into a Wiki is the obvious management solution, and as a result there are a number of 40k Wikis on the web. The big three though are Lexicanum, 1d4Chan and the 40k Fandom wiki.
Lexicanum is – in my opinion – the most reliable as it insists that all information must be properly sourced. It can be a bit dry and academic though, being very much the “just the facts ma’am” 40k wiki.
1d4Chan (when it hasn’t gone offline, which it seems to do regularly) is an obscenity laced carnival of memes that – once you scrape off all the hyperbole – is often surprisingly accurate. It’s also the only of the big three to really include meta-information – that is to say info about the history and community of 40k . If you want to understand the hate directed towards C. S. Goto, or know why Matt Ward is your spiritual liege it’s the place to go. On the downside it’s not updated that much any more, and if not tempered with more reliable sources can easily delude new 40k fans into confusing memes and jokes (usually very dated memes and jokes – like those involving Matt Ward and C. S. Goto…) with actual lore (For instance the Death Korp of Krieg are not suicidal and they do not regard shovels to be their ‘cultural weapon’, and you cannot kill Orks by pointing a gun at them and shouting ‘bang!’).
The 40k Fandom Wiki… well, to be frank, I do not like it. Its moderation and sourcing rules are extremely lax – pretty much anyone can post anything they like there and it’s up to other uses to spot and correct it. Which brings us back to the Genesis Chapter…
On February 8th 2011 – yes, that’s over a decade ago folks! – some wanderer of the digital waste decided to have a bit of fun with the Genesis Chapter Fandom Wiki page and made a series of edits to the info box, which I shall display here as a before and after screenshot…
Such wit! Such satire! Actually, to be entirely honest, it’s exactly the kind of joke I’d make, but I certainly wouldn’t go and vandalise a wiki with it!
The joker’s changes were reverted pretty quickly, but whoever did it seemingly lacked the necessary knowledge of Phil Collin’s back catalogue to recognise the war cry as part of the prank, even adding quotes around it to standardise the format. And so it has sat there unchanged for 11 years, spreading through the fan community as the accepted war cry of the Chapter!
I may try to do something about this. Or I may not. All in all I suppose we should just be glad that the Genesis Chapter don’t charge into battle yelling “Billy don’t you lose my number!”
His name is Mal-Mal-Malcador! The greatest Sigillite! No treasure too old, no psyker too bold, Who’s that!? Malcador the Sigillite!
Well hello there! I’m Malcador, the last surviving member of the Ancient Order of the Sigillites. My friends call me ‘Mal’ but you can call me First Lord of Terra and second in command of the Imperium of Man. I make sure the Emperor’s will is done – when the big E says ‘jump’ we don’t even bother asking how high! (If we get it wrong he’ll let us know!) But it’s not all work, work, work in the Emperor’s service, no siree! We know how to have a good time too – isn’t that right Horus?
Mal… M-Mal… al…
Oh don’t mind him! He’s just trying to pronounce the name of one of the Lost Primarchs. Keep at it Horus, you’ll get it one day! Yes, we inhabitants of the Imperial Palace work hard, but we also play hard! As my good friend Constatin Valdor will agree! Get over here Constantin!…
Well, the hell-year of 2021 is over and done with and we can celebrate the start of hell-year 2022. Boo! Hooray! Boo! Hooray! Call me when you’re finished.
I did have big plans to get up super early this morning, get an Uber to the Camfield and enjoy the year’s first sunrise while walking along the river to Mends Street Jetty. But when it got to 1:00am and I still hadn’t fallen asleep I decided “screw it” and turned off my alarm. I’d rather start the year at least somewhat rested rather than try to get by on only three hours, no matter how good it might be get some healthy exercise and set an example to live up to for the next twelve months.
One thing I have done today is get my votes in for the Hottest 100. Rather embarrassingly it turns out that one of my favorite tracks of the year, MØ’s Nights With You, wasn’t in fact a track of the year at all. being released all the way back in 2017, so Cloudy Day by Tones and I got promoted up to my number 10 instead of 11. I also voted for Montaigne’s MBMBaM theme song My Life is Better With You which isn’t on the official list, BUT I DON’T CARE! My track of the year is Ziggy Ramo’s Little Things, and if that makes anyone uncomfortable then (to quote Phil Jupitus) Well fucking good!
Anyway, here’s the full list, alphabetically by artist…
(What? You don’t consider how stupid our calendar is on January 1st each year? What’s wrong with you?)
It is a truth universally acknowledged by all right thinking people that the Gregorian Calendar is a hodge-podge of terrible ideas smothered in a layer of well meaning but equally as bad hacks intended to force it into some semblance of functionality. The majority of the problems stem from the irrational belief of the Ancients that the universe is (or should be) some kind of clockwork mechanism where the movements of the celestial bodies all mesh together into a grand yet simple pattern – as opposed to the reality that they’re big lumps of rock and gas that whiz around doing their own thing with no obligation to match the neat mathematical models we humans prefer.
As such, the period of rotation of our planet (a day) does not fit evenly into the rotation of our moon around our planet (a month) and neither the day nor month fit evenly into the rotation of our planet around the sun (a year). Building a calendar on the assumption that they do causes horrible problems and results in said calendar drifting away from reality until people are planting their crops in the middle of winter and starving to death.
(We correct for this kind of thing with tricks like leap days, which is where we save up all the left over bits of days at the end of a solar orbit and then shove them back into the calendar once they add up to a full day. This is actually a pretty good solution, although sticking them at the end of the second month is the kind of thing only a lunatic would consider sensible.)
The mismatch between the solar year (365.2425 days) and lunar month (29.53 days) is responsible for the horrible mess of our calendar months. Four of them are 30 days long, seven of them are 31 days and one is 28 days (or 29 when we need to shove in one of those leap days). This is stupid.
And to add to these problems we went and invented the week – a period of seven days that doesn’t match up with the month or the year. The result is sheer insanity, requiring complex calculations to figure out what day of the week a given date falls on, and making vast sums of money for the calendar printing industry.
Enough! I cry! A new calendar is desperately needed, and I – in my supreme intelligence (not to say arrogance) – am the one to create it!
As such I am pleased to here present the Wyrmworld Calendar!
The Wyrmworld Calendar (WYC) consists of 13 months – the twelve we currently use plus Hektober – each of exactly four weeks long (28 days). The first day of each month – and the first day of each year is a Monday, so you never need to buy a new calendar.
This comes to 364 days, which leaves 1.2425 days over a year. The one full day is Yearsend – a special day inserted between Sunday Hektober 28th and Monday January 1st that isn’t part of any month and doesn’t have a day of the week. The remaining 0.2425 days are saved up as per the current leap year system, and when a leap day is required it’s added as Leapday between Yearsend and January 1st.
So, that takes care of the years, days and weeks, but how do the 13 months of the Wyrmworld Calendar line up with the moon? Well, they don’t. The moon makes everything way too complicated and can go frunk itself. We are human beings, not fish!
With the cycle of days figured out we now need to set an epoch. The Gregorian Calendar Epoch – BC/AD or BCE/CE – is just terrible, You have to count backwards for anything interesting in ancient history and then you have to account for there being no year 0. How old would Cato the Elder be if he were still alive today? He was born in 234 BCE so we need to take the current year of 2022 and add 234 and then take away 1, so he’d be 2,255. What year would he have had his 724th birthday? So we take 234 away from 724, but then we need to add 1, so 491 CE? THIS IS CONFUSING!
The sensible answer is to push the epoch back beyond recorded history so all the numbers that matter are in the positive. Cesare Emiliani’s Holocene Calendar does this with the neat trick of setting the epoch to 10,001 BCE, meaning we just add 10,000 to the current CE/AD year. The Wyrmworld Calendar is not afraid to steal good ideas, so we will do the same! So the current year is 12,022 WYC and Cato the Elder was born in 9,767 WYC. Easy!
(The battle of Thermopylae was 9,521 WYC in case you were wondering…)
Finally, exactly when is the new year? We currently celebrate new year at an arbitrary point in the Earth’s orbit and this offends me. The new year should be tied to something meaningful. The logical choice is a solstice or equinox. To minimise confusion we’ll use the (Gregorian) December solstice, and for reasons of convenience reference the Gregorian 2021 solstice of December 21st. The solstice shall mark the last day of the year, with the next day January (WYC) 1st.
So, adding it all together today is Thursday January 11th 12,022 WYC. I expect the world to start using this far superior calendar immediately!
Almost ten years ago the Devastation reduced most of the City to a sea of rubble. Thousands were killed, thousands more vanished without a trace and the survivors were left scrabbling to survive in a ruined landscape of wan sunlight, no rain, moon or stars, and the ever present Fog waiting behind the walls. Buildings still intact enough to offer refuge against the things that come crawling from the rubble at night became the nuclei of new communities, which in the parlance of the City became know as ‘districts’.
A district may consist of as little as a single building, or as much as a couple of semi-intact streets. Only the very largest – if somehow transported out of the City to some kinder world – would pass muster as a village and none have a population above 300 souls, with maybe 50 being the average. They are linked by paths cleared through the rubble, wide enough for a supply cart to pass and marked by lanterns that are (theoretically) lit just before sundown when every soul with an ounce of sense retreats inside and locks the doors.
There are some small districts isolated out in the ruins. Cut off from the rest of what remains of the City these don’t tend to last very long.
No map of the City is provided, so you may create your own to serve the needs of your game.
At the heart of the City stands the Citadel. Founded centuries ago as a simple fortress it expanded with the fortunes of the city and by the Day of Devastation it had become a large – but not excessive – palace complex, home to the Duke, his family, and the small but efficient bureaucracy that saw to the day to day running of the City.
In the aftermath of the Devastation the Citadel reverted back to its original functions of fortress and prison. It is the headquarters of what remains of the City Guard, and few non-Guard who enter its gate are ever seen again – unless it be on the scaffold in the Plaza of the Just. Proclamations and announcements are still read from the gate in the name of the Duke, but no one has seen him, his wife or his children in the last six years. It is commonly supposed that they’re dead, although some suggest they might be being held captive by the Guard instead.
The most important function of the Citadel for most souls is the distribution of food. In the aftermath of the Devastation the Duke opened the Citadel’s stores – long maintained against the possibility of famine or siege – and had the Guard commence distribution to the survivors. The Guard still maintain this duty, sending out carts loaded with salt meat, coarse bread, water and dried tubers to all inhabited districts several times a week. It is this and this alone that motivates the City’s people to endure the Guards’ depredations – a life under the Guard is grim, but a life without regular food and water would be worse.
An often discussed mystery is how much food can possibly remain in the Citadel’s vaults. The surviving population of the city is small to be sure, but could the Duke have possibly laid in enough supplies to feed it for almost a decade? The farm at St Olave’s accounts for some of the food, but it produces no meat, and it is claimed that some of the meat handed out in exchange for lead labour tokens seems suspiciously fresh.
Everyone has heard the story of the flank of salt pork with the priest’s tattoos, but only the most credulous believe it. That said the food supplies must surely be running perilously low, and no one likes to think of what will happen on the day when they finally run out.
Prior to the Devastation, Saint Olave’s was the City’s most esteemed burial ground. Close to twenty acres of land near the Citadel, it was laid out with avenues and terraces and spotted with ornamental lakes and groves. The most prestigious boulevards were lined with the elaborate tombs and grand mausoleums of the rich and noble, with smaller monuments for the less wealthy along the humbler paths. Even the the poor were welcome at Saint Olave’s, laid to rest in the ground for the traditional seven years before their bones were unearthed and respectfully stacked in the Grand Ossuary, freeing the earth for the next guest.
Post Devastation Saint Olave’s is no longer a place of rest. All but the largest monuments have been cleared away and the ground is tilled for the only reliable crop that still grows – the bland, starchy tubers known (with supreme irony) as dead men’s fingers. Work teams walk the fields, planting, harvesting, watering and chasing away the vermin that would eat the food so dearly needed to keep the City’s people from starvation.
The grand ossuary, its fortress like construction surviving the Day of Devastation unscathed, has been converted into a warehouse for the fingers. As carts of tubers enter at one end, the bones of the ancient dead are carted out of the other to be ground to dust and spread as fertiliser or (according to rumour) carted up the hill to the Citadel to bulk up the City’s reserve of flour.
A sunken courtyard- constructed to house the resting places of a now forgotten noble family – has been crudely waterproofed and roofed over to act as a reservoir, replenished daily by water carts from the Citadel. The water is distributed across the fields by bucket, back-breaking but essential work since the rain stopped. Occasionally some desperate or demented soul will attempt to steal water from the reservoir, almost always resulting in a trip to the dungeons of the Citadel followed by a swift execution in the Plaza of the Just.
Princes Row was the upper section of the wide processional roadway running between the Citadel and the Great Gate. It was here that the nobles – and those merchants wealthy enough to buy their way into the circles of the nobility – lived in luxurious mansions, most of them now nothing but tumbled and picked over ruins.
The surviving section of Princes Row runs for around a third of a mile, with the most intact mansions at the Citadel end. It is separated from the Citadel by another third of a mile’s worth of ruins – the wide avenue makes this area easier to traverse, and it is a regular route for the distribution carts running supplies out to further districts.
Officially no one lives in Princes Row. The surviving mansions were sealed and boarded up in the early days when a return to normality seemed possible, and it is the one district where the Guard still routinely enforce the rules against looting. Stories still circulate however about food deliveries to some of the houses and of faint lights seen glimmering through the boarded windows at night. Perhaps it’s simply the Guard on patrol, but since when have the Guard been organised and diligent to actually mount the patrols they’re charged with?
The wildest tales are those talking of debauched parties held by nobles in the weeks after the Day of Devastation, burning through hoarded supplies of fine wine, preserved game and exotic drugs. These orgies – so claim the storytellers – continue to this day in the interconnected vaults beneath the palaces, the surviving nobles having degenerated into insane cannibals, imagining their filthy rags to be the finest clothing and their carrion feasts the most exquisite delicacies. Most scoff at such claims, but few are willing to explore Princes Row for any treasures that might have been missed over the years.
On the Day of Devastation the magnificent spire, beautifully frescoed vaults and leaded roof of the Temple of All Gods collapsed, crushing the panicking masses who had fled to the building in search of sanctuary. Its thick, buttressed walls stood firm however and the tomb-filled crypt remained mostly intact, with only a few of the great oak ceiling beams smashing through the temple floor.
Most of the roof lead was collected and taken to the Citadel in the years immediately after the Devastation, and the forest of beams that once supported it have long been hauled away and burnt for fuel. Various side chapels and vestries have been roughly roofed over and the temple is now one of the larger of the City’s districts, providing a home for several hundred souls. Many workshops and specialised traders can be found, and there is even a small library of books and scrolls recovered from the ruins and carefully preserved. The cautious and circumspect visitor may even be able to obtain a few slugs of lead, recovered from the temple’s more obscure nooks and crannies – assuming they can afford the price.
While most survivors abandoned their faith in the aftermath of the Devastation a small community of believers inhabit the east end of the crypt. They preserve the old altars and – as best they can – maintain the liturgical cycle of prayers and rituals, calling upon the gods for aid that never arrives. Most consider them fools, but among their number can be found the few skilled healers remaining in the City and even the least religious souls are willing to put theological objections aside in exchange for medical treatment, despite the irony of it being administered among the tombs of the long dead.
It is a matter of much speculation – when time for speculation is available – why the Fog remains outside the City wall. Small patches of Fog manifest in the ruins from time to time, and on rare occasions these may drift close to inhabited districts, but the vast, roiling banks stay back, never approaching more than 100 paces from the ancient ramparts.
Some claim that the Fog is in some way repelled by intact structures. Others speak of powerful protective enchantments laid on the walls in ancient times. Some claim divine intervention, that the gods are still protecting the City as best they can. More cynical souls suggest the gods enjoy the people’s suffering and are holding back the Fog to prolong it as much as possible. All theories however must account for the Breach.
On the Day of Devastation a hundred foot or so long section of the City wall collapsed. Ever since, the Fog regularly crawls over the tumbled stones, penetrating into the City, then withdrawing on a seemingly random schedule of its own.
As if this is not bad enough the Fog often leaves monstrous creatures behind in its wake. These wander the ruins and inevitably find their way into inhabited districts, slaughtering souls and smashing buildings before they are brought down by the Guard or local militias.
A garrison of Guard is maintained in the closest wall bastion to the Breach, charged with intercepting any monstrosities that emerge from the Fog. Far from inhabited districts the Breach Bastion is an unpopular post and the Guard sent there are generally on disciplinary charges – which given the lax standards in what remains of the Guard should be enough to give anyone intending to rely on their protection pause. The rare inspections generally find them to be either absent, or paralytically drunk, the punishment for which is inevitably an extension of their stay at the Bastion.
Occasional attempts have been made to rebuild the wall. These have come to nothing, mostly due to the Breach’s distance from the rest of the City and the apathetic attitude of the Bastion Guards. Claims that repairs ‘anger’ the Fog and bring bad luck to those taking part can probably be discounted, nonetheless few souls seem willing to undertake another attempt.
The Plaza of the Just
The square outside the main gate of the Citadel has been known for centuries as the Plaza of the Just. The name is now considered ironic as this is where the Guard carry out amputations and executions by hanging.
A small community of beggars live in and around the plaza, retreating to the vaults beneath as night falls. They make what passes for a living pestering and pick-pocketing the small crowds that assemble for executions, and usually spend whatever they glean on alcohol.
Check back soon for more districts of the Broken City!