Thursday, September 29, 2011


"Psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express -- verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner -- the actual functioning of thought. Dictated by the thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern."
Andre Breton

Surrealist Manifesto, 1924

Stray Psychic Automata (I)
  1. A cascading torrent of thought shimmers and sizzles as it streaks across the Near Void. Observers who allow their perceptions to linger overlong upon it will run the risk of attracting its attentions. These things are known to attempt to imprint themselves upon the minds and brains and memories of those susceptible to their influence.
  2. A stream of Disjointed Memories bubble upwards from the broken soil forming something akin to a reverse waterfall, with all the once precious contents of another extinct mind erupting outward from the final oblivion that awaits at the center of the Great Ring.
  3. The immediate area is saturated with a random emotion that washes across and through all who pass across this heavily imprinted region. Unless bound to an appropriate vessel or capacitor, these feelings will quickly pass.
  4. The reverberating psychic echoes of a dialogue from long, long ago ricochet across the minds of anyone not suitably shielded or protected. It is an old argument. It leaves those who've walked into it feeling drained and disappointed that things didn't turn out better.
  5. A Spontaneous Trance-State lurches forth from the shattered remnants of the Recollected Unconscious of a thousand-thousand dead species and cultures, infiltrating any and every conscious being and inflicting terrible nightmares, gibbering prophecies and terrifying visions upon any and all whom they can reach, touch or affect.
  6. Telepathic Contact with an entity who offers only a non-pronounceable glyph as identification ensues. It asks three seemingly random questions then severs the contact abruptly.
  7. (1d4) Stray Thoughts come bounding over the terrain to pounce upon the unwary.
  8. A Creature of the Id is roaming the near-by region. There are distinctive tracks and a strange psychic ululation that makes its disturbing presence felt, if not seen.
  9. A black void of Curdled Negativity looms within the shadowed recesses of some ruined structure it could never have built. The thing offers to remove doubts, drain away sorrows, or otherwise relieve passersby of their darker emotional burdens.
  10. Shift in Consciousness; anyone caught in the psychic tremors runs the very real risk of their personality fracturing into (1d4) sub-personas. Integration will take hours, if not days and may not always be possible.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A View of the Great Ring

At the very core of the seething cosmic maelstrom that is all that remains of Zalchis, the Great Ring rotates about the central Anti-Sun, an inexorable engine of destruction that is slowly devouring an entire universe...

Saturday, April 16, 2011


"Among those who do not comprehend surrealism are people who look upon the real as verifiable, as something to be checked against past experience or observation. These individuals fail to see that for the surrealist the dimensions of the real cannot be gauged by reference to the familiar. So far as the real appears to have limits, they are foisted upon it by the mental, emotional, and imaginative limitations of spectators accustomed to measure the possible by the already known. For this reason, surrealism and many of its contemporary opponents remained inevitably at loggerheads. The one group insisted on estimating the scope of reality by its possibilities. The other condemned the real to be repetitive of what the past had shown them."

John Herbert Matthews,

The Surrealist Mind

Friday, April 15, 2011

Preliminary Digital Painting for Zalchis (Plus More Spells)

This is one of the preliminary speed-paintings we've completed for Zalchis. A More player-friendly map of the place is under-construction and will be posted once it is available.

In the meantime, here are a few more spells to contemplate.

The following is designated Open Game Content.

Draw Cthonic Current
Level: 3
Duration: 48 turns 
Range: 1d100x10' depth, 10' radius/level

Caster makes a direct, personal connection to the deeper, Cthonic forces circulating within the inner-regions of the Great Ring of Zalchis. The current courses through them body and soul for the duration of the spell, empowering them with the ability to cast Cthonic Spells, convert the energies into healing (restores 1d6/level of caster, for self only), or to work the energies into a talisman, amulet, weapon or other potential magical item. There is a 70% chance of a backlash if the caster is not previously attuned to Cthonic forces (see Attunement: Cthonic for details).

Cthonic Backlash Effects
  1. Victim is dragged into the Central Cthonic Vortex.
  2. Victim and everything within 1d30' is dragged down into the
    Central Cthonic Vortex.
    . Save at -4 penalty in order to escape the collapse-zone. Area is now a
    Cthonic Flux-Zone.
    . Everyone within 100' is exposed to cthonic energies.
  3. Victim internalizes the cthonic current. Save or take 3d6 damage, double if not properly attuned.
  4. Victim flares with intense cthonic energies and suffers 4d10 damage. Save or become Cthonified and begin to suffer 1d4 damage per hour spent outside the Central Cthonic Channel. You may have gained some sort of mutation-like alteration or cthonic power if you make a second save. Shift two points from any one attribute to another, player's choice.
  5. You have become hyper-attuned to the cthonic current. You now radiate a flickering arcing aura of cthonic energies that inflict 1d4 damage to everyone not resistant/attuned to this energy. You are now a cthonic creature and can be turned as one by a cleric.
  6. You have taken on too much and burned-out your ability to perceive, contact or exploit the cthonic currents. In the future you take double damage from all cthonic effects.

Draw Telluric Current
Level: 1
Duration: 24 turns
Range: 10' radius/level

Caster attracts and accumulates telluric energies from the surface regions of the Great Ring of Zalchis. These energies form a current that then courses through their body and soul for the duration of the spell, empowering the caster with the ability to cast Telluric or Geomantic Spells, convert the energies into healing (restores 1d8/level of caster, for anyone they can touch), or to work these energies into a talisman, armor, weapon or other potential magical item. There is a 30% chance of a backlash if the caster is not previously attuned to telluric forces (see Attunement: Telluric for details).

Telluric Backlash Effects
  1. Caster is knocked prone and stunned for 1d6 turns.
  2. Victim is encysted within a rough sphere of aggregated rubble 1d4 feet thick.
  3. Caster is petrified for 2d4 turns, then reverts back to flesh a little bit more with each save they make before the duration of this spell runs out.
  4. Everyone within 10' radius of caster must make their save versus petrification or be paralyzed for 1d4 turns.
  5. Everyone within 1d20' of caster is shifted 1d4 miles in random direction.
  6. Caster is buried 3d10' below surface. They have enough air for 1d4 hours.

Draw Surface Current
Level: 1
Duration: 6 turns
Range: 10' radius

Caster attracts and accumulates the fragile surface-level residual energies from the surrounding area. These energies form a weak, sporadic current that then sparks across their aura for the duration of the spell, empowering the caster with the ability to convert the energies into healing (restores 1d4/level of caster, for anyone they can touch), or to improve their armor class by 1d4, or to empower their weapon for a bonus of 1d2 for the duration of the spell. There is no backlash associated with this spell, but it does provoke an extra wandering monster check.

Draw Near-Sky Current
Level: 4
Duration: 12 turns
Range: 1d100x10' column

Caster creates a minor vortex in order to attract and accumulate atmospheric energies from the near-sky regions of the Great Ring of Zalchis. These energies form a current that then pours down upon the caster's  body for the duration of the spell, empowering them with the ability to cast Aerial or Near-Orbital Spells, convert the energies into healing (restores 1d8/level of caster, for anyone they designate within 10' radius), or to work these energies into a talisman, armor, weapon or other potential magical item. There is a 50% chance of a backlash if the caster is not previously attuned to telluric forces (see Attunement: Telluric for details).

Near-Sky Backlash Effects
  1. Caster attracts some random space junk that comes right at them like a falling meteorite. Save or get struck for 3d6 damage. Roll on Random Space Finds Tables that you can download from the EXONAUTS! blog.
  2. Set-off a spontaneous mini-cyclone within 3d20' radius for duration of spell.
  3. Area of effect of spell becomes instantaneous vacuum. Save or suffer 2d6 suffocation damage per turn exposed. 30% chance this void-spot remains permanent. Thanks a lot.
  4. Roll three times on the Random Space Finds Table to see what comes showering down  upon your location. Yes, that means everyone in the immediate 100' area gets to roll three saving rolls to avoid getting struck.The bright-side is that now you've got some junk to look over.
  5. Victim is drawn upwards into the Maelstrom, unless they make a save, in which case they get throw 4d100 miles from their starting location in a random direction.
  6. Caster draws the attention of a large Aerial monster. One that thinks they might be food.

Draw Maelstrom Current
Level: 1
Duration: 6 turns
Range: Much too close

Caster extends their aura to attract energies from the Upper or Lower Maelstrom Vortexes (50/50 chance of either). The current that then starts to course through them causes 1d6 damage to everything around them per turn for the duration of the spell. It has a base 30% chance to cause a backlash effect, increasing by an additional 10% per turn the spell is in effect. Caster must make a save at the end of the spell or else a Scourge-Storm is set into motion within 1d100' of their position. The Scourge-Storm will be 2d20' in diameter, travel at 260'/turn, inflict 1d12 damage to everything within its area of effect and will be a randomly wandering encounter in this region from now on. Hopefully it doesn't recognize the one who spawned it...

Here ends the Open Game Content.

There are other Current-related spells, but these will give you something to consider. We'll cover Attunements, Vortexes, and the rest of that sort of Zalchis-specific stuff in another post.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Meet Yarrow the Ponderer

Yarrow is a middle-aged humanoid male who hails from a "crawlspace reality" which is known by a slew of names to outsiders, though most of its native denizens -- just a few thousand humanoids -- call it Sargonis. Sargonis is a city scattered across a wide area. While there are a few wooden structures (made of materials imported from other realities), the bulk of the city is composed of weird stone outcroppings called Dispersions. The city typically bustles with commerce -- being something of a trade-hub for a few dozen coteries of plane-walking wizard-merchants -- but the land itself is quite cold and dark. No sun or stars exist there -- a relatively low-hanging (perhaps 3,000 yards above the tallest dispersion) membranous vault covers and encloses the entire area, sealing out the demon-haunted vacuum beyond. Light within the city is produced magically by various lamps -- a specialty in Sargonis -- or carried in the stomach cavities of undead thralls. Wealth is the driving force here, and anything can be obtained for a price. In fact, this is what brings Yarrow to Zalchis. He was commissioned by a local firm, Dralzog & Shmeng, to obtain the Memory of Hreem -- the miniaturized, living simulacrum of a city that vanished many, many aeons ago preserved inside a faceted rose crystal that adorns a simple iron ring. D&S provided Yarrow with the means to enter Zalchis. He is served by his demonic familiar, Tungleway, a thing that might be compared to a raccoon with a lamprey's head that walks on its hind legs. Tungleway acts as the Dr. Watson to Yarrow's Holmes and communicates to him in a private sign language.

Yarrow's home blog:

Text & Image used by express permission of the author/creator and are the copyrighted work of their creator who reserves all rights.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


"It is our expression that nothing can attempt to be, except by attempting to exclude something else: that that which is commonly called 'being' is a state that is wrought more or less definitely proportionately to the appearance of positive difference between that which is included and that which is excluded."
The Book of the Damned

By Charles Fort

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Angular Dreams of Machines

The lingering dreams of alien machines shift and shimmer through the debris and clutter of lost civilizations for whom no name is remembered, no epitaph known.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


"Every act of creation is first an act of destruction. ”
Pablo Picasso

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Monocrat

Circa 1991...
 The universe of Zalchis is dying. The universe was murdered by a mad and now nameless Monocrat in the ruthless pursuit of their unholy ambitions and unquenchable thirst for vengeance for wrongs no one remembers and no one ever recorded. A wrathful figure of implacable resolve, the Monocrat built the Eight Spires and set into motion the horrific processes that resulted in the collapse of an entire universe.

Entropy stalks the outer perimeter of Zalchis like a great hungry wolf, slavering in anticipation of the inevitable, inexorable end that everyone knows is coming.  Darkness permeates everything.  Even the few lingering suns that reel and roll along the circumference of the Great Ring, those few that haven't been captured and enslaved by the Seneschals, grow dimmer as they waver betwixt and between a death transfixed upon the black spires of the servants of the Monocrat or the final spiral descent into the Maelstrom and ultimate extinguishment within the crushing embrace of the blasphemous Anti-Sun at the very center point of what remains of their cosmos.

Orichalcum Spirals

In various locations throughout what remains of Zalchis, one might encounter one of the last few Orichalcum Spirals. These ancient, eldritch artifacts pre-date the Retrenchment of Parlassa by several Aeons and are the lingering legacy of a once-powerful teleportational transportation system that connected to myriads of worlds, moons and other places. Once, long ago, these mechanisms were the very backbone of a vast civilization that spanned the glittering host of stars that are no more.

Those stars are mostly gone now, dead or imprisoned or worse.

It is said that the Glyph of the Third Aeon might unlock the temporal pathways that lead back to the relict shadow-verse that persists from this long past age of mighty wonders and vast interplanetary empires.

Perhaps Nadume knows this Glyph. Possibly she might know someone who does, and who is willing to teach it to you...for a price.

Some of the remaining Orichalcum Spirals still function, most do not. Those that no longer connect to a world, or a moon, or any other such location have a tendency to open into the Maelstrom or directly into the Anti-Sun itself. It is for this reason that Orichalcum Spirals tend not to get tampered with except by those who think they know best how to wrest their secrets from them with powerful spells, impressive psychic talents or other means.

Some few, rare and specific Orichalcum Spirals in very particular places offer access unto certain of the Rogue Moons and a few well-known and well-looted sites out amongst the debris that orbits around the Outer Equator. But there are rumors of previously unknow and undocumented Orichalcum Spirals that lead to vaults, tombs and crypts long cut-off and isolated from what remains of the universe. Knowledge of such a thing would be worth much, to the right people and Powers.

The Orichalcum Spirals are a closed system. They only connect points within the dying universe of Zalchis, when they are able to maintain those connections. These gates offer no escape from Zalchis.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


"It was perhaps that which certain secret cults of earth have whispered of as YOG-SOTHOTH, and which has been a deity under other names; that which the crustaceans of Yuggoth worship as the Beyond-One, and which the vaporous brains of the spiral nebulae know by an untranslatable Sign—yet in a flash the Carter-facet realised how slight and fractional all these conceptions are."
H.P. Lovecraft & E. Hoffman Price

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Gem

You found this gem. It is warm to the touch, almost as if it were handed to you by the hand of the artisan who just completed carving it for you. It pulses softly, in synch with your own heartbeat or mental processes. The gem seems to almost cling to your flesh. Perhaps it has a life of its own.

Over the next few days you experienced strange dreams of a truly weird place where the stars were mostly dead and the ones that survived were either imprisoned within rings of weblike metallic filaments spun from the fragments of times that-never-were, impaled upon impossible spikes of violet-cored blackness that is a condensation of space itself, or left to wander and roll about erratically through a terrible black abyss until they finally were sucked into a vortex and dragged to their deaths inside a grim and implacable Anti-Sun at the center of a Great Ring of debris accumulated from the wreckage and ruins of what once was a thriving universe.

By the third night you knew this other place as Zalchis.

Soft whispers emanate from the calmly pulsing green gem. One such as you might do well in Zalchis.

True, Zalchis is a ruined and destroyed place, but it still has much to offer and many an ambition could be furthered within the shadows of a universe such as this one. There are secrets buried beneath the rubble and lost below the bitter-barren wastes that could change everything for the right person. The wealth of empires linger on in sleeping vaults hidden behind implacably grimacing seals of enchanted metal. Incredible caches of long lost wisdom and all kinds and sorts of arcane knowledge, unspeakable blasphemies and unnameable abominations are trapped within forgotten tombs, waiting to be unleashed one last time before the universe ends. There is great power in this place. And not all of it sleeps contentedly as time runs out.

Few sleep in Zalchis, contentedly or otherwise. The Oneiric Cacophony surrounds all forms of consciousness capable of dreaming, insinuating itself into every subconscious, polluting every last nook and cranny of the collective unconscious like a tidal wave of plague crashing across all the accumulated cast-off dreams and nightmares of uncounted beings who remain within this dismal and dying place. Do not dream in Zalchis, warns the gem--it is a dangerous thing to tempt the Oneiric Cacophony.

The gem offers to teach you ways to defend your dreams, to elicit a sleepless state, or to address the matter in a variety of other ways.

Sleeping and dreaming undefended can presage a brutal and gruesome fate, often one far worse than simple death or dismemberment. One needs to learn ways to stave off sleep, to banish dreams, to erect barriers that can grant some measure of reprieve from the all pervasive echoing dissonance of the Oneiric Cacophony--but that is not the only subtle danger one must contend with in Zalchis.

Just as the uncounted dreams of unnumbered dead worlds echo and resonate within the realms of the Great Ring, the Ectosphere seeps into the manifest realms wherever the living spend any amount of time. The collapse of the universe brought about by the Monocrat's Mechanisms has exerted a tremendous pressure upon the Ectosphere, forcing it to erupt into the manifest with the slightest provocation, invitation or tiniest crack or fracture. The dead are very restless in Zalchis and they are desperate to make the most of what time remains before everything comes to an end. You will need to learn how to ward off the insinuations and temptations of the Ectosphere or lose more than your mind to the things that prowl at the very sheerest margins of separation between the manifest and what lies beyond. Crossing over between the realms is no longer a difficult task to accomplish, as in the olden days when people tried to communicate with the departed, now it is a terrible thing that erupts forth if one just stays in one place long enough. One must defend onesself from these unwanted advances and invasions.

The gem offers to teach you ways to defend your soul and to preserve your lifeforce within the dark regions of Zalchis. Some are more palatable than others, but it merely makes them available to you--the decision as to how you wish to deal with the matter is entirely yours.

As with any undertaking or venture into unknown territory, there are preparations to be made and matters to attend to, and the gem offers you advice and counsel in addressing these matters. It is very helpful, very knowledgeable and you sometimes find yourself asking just what is in it for the gem...who made this thing and what is it intended for? Why is it being so helpful?

But the gem, alas is an inanimate object and not likely to yield any satisfactory answers. All you have are vague recollections and some disturbing dreams...and a few new spells that seem to have come from nowhere. Spells that are of little use outside of certain rarified conditions or circumstances.

They are spells meant to be used in Zalchis.

Perhaps a person such as you would do well in Zalchis...

But Zalchis is not a place for the timid, nor the weak. The soft comforts of sanity are long since fled and the sleep of reason has bred horrible things in this place. Unfounded assumptions kill in Zalchis. Arrogance is its own reward. Hubris is a toxic elixir milked from the vein by Hags cackling behind golden masks in Ashadan.

The gem has bonded with you. It is comfortable with you. It is yours to use as you see fit, perhaps it can unlock more secrets of Zalchis, possibly it could teach you more of the sorts of things one requires to survive in such a dangerous place, maybe it has further Zalchis.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


“There have been times when only a hair's-breadth has intervened betwixt myself and the seething devil-ridden world of madness; for the hideous knowledge, the horror- blackened memories which I have carried so long, were never meant to be borne by the human intellect. ”
Clark Ashton Smith

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Cilia-Fields of Draxu

Amidst the bitter wastes and the forlorn fragments of dead worlds scattered across the width, bredth and depth of the Great Ring of Zalchis, there are a number of highly specialized biomes, peculiar territories and eldritch environments that defy description. So we'll ignore them for the time being and focus instead upon those territories and terrains that we can at least attempt to describe in the hope that it might do someone somewhere some good some day.

Let us begin with the Cilia-Fields of Draxu, if for no other reason than they are close at-hand and rather notorious, and thus perhaps already somewhat familiar to at least someone in the audience. Yes, I noticed you three Scavengists and that psychodelver sitting in the back. One doesn't get to be as old as I have without being able to notice such things. Welcome. All of you. Perhaps I might prevail upon some of you to elaborate upon my presentations with what information you would be inclined to share from your field experience? Good. Good. Many thanks to you ahead of time.

So, The Cilia-Fields of Draxu.  Hmmm. Yes, very unpleasant places indeed. Hungry places. Living places. The Cilia-Fields are the remnants of gargantuan bacterially-colonized arthropods that have adapted to their new ecological niches within Zalchis in spectacularly gruesome ways. Where once they were mobile, having something of a swarm-like consortium-style existence, the Cilia-Fields are now more like layers of living scrum that congeal and fester within deep ravines, nooks and gaps within the wreckage and rubble of what passes for a landscape in Zalchis. They infest deep pits and deeper abysses, growing to cover the walls of shafts and caverns alike, filling grottoes and growing rampantly over valleys and gorges to form living forests of waving cilia the size trees. Cilia that have been known to entrap, enwrap and crush to death even a Vhadduk in order to infiltrate the body and absorb all nutrients, all memories, all energies and every last bit of the victim's ectoplasm, spirit or soul.

Yes. The Cilia-Fields are vampiric, but not in an undead sense--they are exceptionally efficient at draining any and everything from their victims in order to use these ill-gotten things are building blocks for the colonys' continued growth and expansion.

The Cilia-Fields are highly territorial, possessed of a fantastic drive to acquire more and more space, to fill every nook and cranny with their flesh, and to devour all who come into their power as completely as possible. And yes, it is true: the Cilia-Fields exude their own incipient atmospheres so as to lure and entice would-be prey to come into their folds, to draw nearer to the trunks of the colossal cilia if only to refill ones air-tanks or to take a breath of air. They even manufacture a form of false-gravity in some instances, allowing their prey to wander deeper into the maze-like depths of their flesh before terminating the gravitational effect and swallowing them up like a vast carnivorous plant.

Since the Cilia-Fields of Draxu exist across a vast span of planes, timelines, phase-states, and more, they are a hazard to navigation to nearly all species and beings who attempt to travel or explore the outer surfaces or inner regions of Zalchis. They are known to tap into the Ectosphere, they drain the life from umbrallic echoes, and they greedily devour the souls of those lost within the Maelstrom whenever a particular colony achieves enough mass and is able to extend cilia outwards into the swirling curents of matter and energy falling past the Great Ring towards the central Anti-Sun. But only the most adle-pated fool would disturb such a thing as it feeds upon the last vestiges of the universe.

So of course you all now want to know how one can escape from the Cilia-Fields. I just bet you do.

Well, that will be covered in our next lecture. Class dismissed.

Sunday, January 2, 2011


"What is a television apparatus to man, who has only to shut his eyes to see the most inaccessible regions of the seen and the never seen, who has only to imagine in order to pierce through walls and cause all the planetary Baghdads of his dreams to rise from the dust."
Salvador Dali

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Nadume of the Ashen Maze Welcomes You

Not quite a goddess, but more than a mere demon, Nadume  walks a dim and twisting path haunted by things other than ghosts.  For a small quantity of your blood she can tell you your fate and for a portion of your soul she can help you to forget.  Lamias fear her, succubi revile her, the barren hags of the razor crags mock her, but none of them can claim to have rejected the Tyrant Himself, who once sought to make her one of his sacrificial concubines.

It was on account of the unwanted advances of the Tyrant that Nadume first donned her smooth, silk-silver mask to conceal her beauty.  No one has seen her face in over a thousand years.  Some say that Nadume no longer has a face any more, that she has become an empty spirit, one cursed to spend the rest of what days remain wandering the ashen wastes where once a mighty forest grew.

It is also said, in a more quiet voice, amongst the nomads who send their young girls to wait at one of the sacred wells for Nadume, that she might teach them certain spells and grant them such blessings as is in her power to bestow. She also knows how to open the way to many desolate and abandoned places where a clever person might find something of more than passing value.  But one must be careful in bargaining with Nadume, for she has many uses for men's souls.