What’s weird about these elves?

1. They’re feral, like all elves are until the age of 100 or so. Up until that point they dwell in the forests in caves, or improvised lean-tos; they hunt with their nails and teeth, leaping out of trees and tearing the throats out of deer. At the end of their first century, they undergo a sort of awakening and become the book-reading, spell-casting, dress-wearing elves you’re used to, staggering away from their latest kill and naked, stinking cave-mate in abject horror.

2. They’re plants. They photosynthesise, which is why you never see them eat, and instead they sleep with their feet buried in soft earth. (They extend little roots down there to suck up moisture and nutrients; it’s gross.)

3. They were created by True Elves many years ago (hundreds? Thousands?) and, even though their towering and alien makers have died, the elves continue to function. They are complex machines of stolen bone and ultrafine metal wires, kept taught and wound up nightly to power their bodies; they cannot breed, but they can make inferior copies of themselves in turn, and those copies can do the same, and so on; like worn-out photocopies, badly-sculpted and malfunctioning elves populate the poorer places of the world.

4. They come from painted worlds; in works of fine art, occasionally an elf will appear in the background, and slowly move forward in the frame, and then one day they’ll emerge. (This destroys the painting, or rather, turns it into an elf, so collectors are generally against it.) They seem to be able to find each other once they emerge, and they’ve formed a culture.

5. There’s only three of them. When one dies, another one is born. Or: arrives. Anyway, there are minimum three and maximum three elves at any one time, and they all work in concert.

6. They only exist in moonlight. Or they’re only visible in moonlight, which makes more sense, but they tell you they don’t exist if the moon isn’t shining on them. There are various folk stories about moon elves stalking unwelcome hunters through the forests, only visible as strobing images.

7. They aren’t born; they happen. All elves start off as beautiful, famous humans – as big as celebrities can get in fantasy worlds – and as more stories are written of their exploits, and portraits commissioned of their visages, the adoration poured upon them physically changes them. They grow taller, thinner, more cruel.

8. They’re all drunk, all the time. You wouldn’t really be able to tell unless you knew; but when an elf sobers up, their refined mannerisms and graceful movements become even more refined and graceful, turning them into alien creatures who are largely impossible to communicate with outside of a sort of high-pitched vibration they use instead of speech. They drink to bring themselves down to our level, which is kind of them, even if it doesn’t really work.

9. They’re hollow vessels for ghosts. Generally, an elf will be filled the spirit of an ancestor when they come of age so their elders can continue to advise on courtly happenings; when the body dies, the ghost takes over and carries on. That’s why elves live so long: most of them are already dead.

10. They eat gold. Or: anything that’s expensive, because they derive nutrition from value. Gold is the easiest way to do it, but it doesn’t taste of much, so when an elf wants to treat themselves they’ll eat gems, crowns, phylacteries, oil paintings, etc. They don’t pass solid waste; they just absorb everything they eat. (Wizards reckon this is out of reasons of politeness, and also because it could be quite painful to shit out a crown).


Remnants is a series where Chris and Grant, the creative leads behind Rowan, Rook & Decard, create a fantasy world through the use of Dx tables. Because who has time to read a full setting book?

[REMNANTS] Once upon a time, when the dragon-kings ruled the aetherealms and the Witch-Queens fought grand duels over generations with arcana of unimaginable power, the worlds split apart. There was too much magic, and reality couldn’t bear the weight any longer. The otherworlds splintered apart like ships crashing against a shoreline; but the pieces remained, shards of reality, and they pierced the material realm. A thousand dimensions, all attached to various degrees, to the prime material: some forgotten, some overrun with new inhabitants, some spawning monstrous creatures into the world, and some ripe for plundering.

Header image by Angie Trenz on Flickr

WHAT DOES THIS UNICORN WANT?

1 – Elf flesh. Its horn functions as an always-on Hand of Glory, which immobilises any elf who looks at it because it’s so beautiful. Then the unicorn eats them. But it hasn’t evolved canine teeth yet, so it takes a while, and they’re alive for most of it.

2 – It’s an emissary from the forest people, and they are demanding that the two most beautiful people come back with it to the deep woods to be their king and queen. Some people are jumping at the chance to grab at what they see as easy power, but the elders of the village understand all too well the terrible price that such a position holds.

3 – To retire and live fat and lazy with the indulgent wizard recluse who lives at the top of the village. But it needs to get an audience with her, first.

4 – To hunt people: despoilers of the forest who have burned the trees and poisoned the earth, that are hiding out in the village. It has sworn an oath to destroy them, no matter the cost. Are they performing dark rites out there, or are they just trying to make a living off the land?

5 – Sanctuary from the band of horn-hunters that have been tracking it back from the forest; it’s injured, limping and bleeding. Later on, you learn that – while the horn hunters are black-hearted bastards – they’re doing it to make a curative potion that will save the life of someone important to the players if delivered in time.

6 – Protection for its young. The unicorn has a foal – a tremendously rare creature – and all sorts of organisations are coming to abduct or simply kill and harvest the horn off it, so it approaches the village begging for help. (Also: the foal is as smart as a seven-year-old, but much faster, and is eager to go off on adventures – even if you tell it not to.)

7 – Tithes. It stomps up on market day and demands tribute of gems, silk and labour to bedeck its forest kingdom in finery, and threatens reprisals from the wood-folk if its demands are not met. To prove its point, it summons a mighty oak that bursts through the ground and demolishes the central clock-tower.

8 – Cure light wounds potions. It got hooked on them – don’t ask how, it was running with an adventuring crew a few years back and things got out of hand. Its body is a weird mix of swollen flesh from gout-like side-effects and bulging muscles from the excess Positive Energy, and it has precisely zero patience left. Using trickery, ambush, robbery or begging, it’ll track down a fix.

9 – To escape the dominion of the Dryad Queen who rules the forest; it wants to leave and meet more unicorns (or maybe some young men and women, for strictly platonic arrangements) but the Queen demands that it stays to bolster the forest’s ecosystem. Can you talk to the Queen on its behalf? Or… deal with her in some other way?

10 – To cover up the fact that it got a talking horse pregnant when it was on holiday in a nearby village, and now she’s asking for child support, except she’s a horse so doesn’t really understand the concept? Anyway, deal with the mother and the kid, put them up somewhere nice and make sure that the elves who pay the unicorn’s wages don’t find out about it.

Remnants is a series where Chris and Grant, the creative leads behind Rowan, Rook & Decard, create a fantasy world through the use of Dx tables. Because who has time to read a full setting book?

[REMNANTS] Once upon a time, when the dragon-kings ruled the aetherealms and the Witch-Queens fought grand duels over generations with arcana of unimaginable power, the worlds split apart. There was too much magic, and reality couldn’t bear the weight any longer. The otherworlds splintered apart like ships crashing against a shoreline; but the pieces remained, shards of reality, and they pierced the material realm. A thousand dimensions, all attached to various degrees, to the prime material: some forgotten, some overrun with new inhabitants, some spawning monstrous creatures into the world, and some ripe for plundering.

Photo by Jenny Brown on Flickr

How did you get The Sight?

Header image by Teeejayy on Flickr

1 – Dad wasn’t around a lot when you were growing up, because dad was a kitchen god that mum summoned with some back-pocket voodoo and bodged-together mystic resonances she bought off some guy out of the back of his car. Sometimes, when you go back to visit her, she’ll compel dad to possess the body of a family friend, and the three of you have dinner together.

2 – There’s some elf in you. And not in a “grandma was tall and pretty and spent a lot of time in the woods” sort of way – you’re infected with elfdom. It’s a disease; you caught it off a particularly dazzling young man you got off with at a party a few years ago. You don’t know how many people you’ve infected since.

3 – You’re not entirely sure, but every time you see something strange, a black cat turns up about five seconds before everything kicks off. On one hand, it’s a great early warning system (and has saved your life on more than one occasion); on the other, you freak out pre-emptively every time you see a black cat.

4 – You only get it when you’re drunk; the mind control doesn’t work on you when your brain’s moving slower, so you can outwit them, except you have to be drunk, so. But this one time you did some cocaine at a party and saw an entirely different class of weirdness, so maybe different substances adjust your brain to the wavelengths of different supernaturals? The implications fascinate and terrify you.

5 – You know how you’re supposed to wait until the ghost says “GOOD-BYE” at the end of a oujia board session? Yeah, well, your stepdad came home early and you had to hide it before you finished, and now you’ve got a ghost stuck in your head. It can still only communicate using text, though, so you navigate the supernatural underworld by letting yourself get a bit possessed and tapping out instructions to yourself on your smartphone’s notes app.

6 – Clove cigarettes. There’s a reason goths smoke ‘em so much – they make hidden supernatural phenomena visible, a bit like the way regular cigarettes reveal laser traps. (Strong clove cigarettes do, anyway, which is why you hear so many folk talks of gruesome monsters coming out of Indonesia: they’re the world’s largest producer.) Unfortunately, it means you can’t hunt ghosts in public buildings, or outside if it’s windy. And you’ve heard they banned them in the US, too; presumably some sort of government conspiracy to keep the undead and fey under wraps.

7 – You crashed your truck into a mirror warehouse. It was late, and yeah, you’d been drinking, but the deer came out of nowhere – it was bad luck, ironically. Anyway, you shattered three hundred and twenty-seven mirrors in a handful of seconds, and now you can see ghosts, vampires, the fey, through governmental dazzler shields, and so on. It’s done nothing but get you into trouble, which you guess is karmic punishment for all the mirrors.

8 – You opened your eyes during prayers at Sunday School, even though you’re not supposed to, and God was there. He looked like… well, it’s hard to say. He looked like a thousand exploding lightning chariots, and He leant down and kissed you on the forehead (you still have the scar), and He cleared your vision of the clouds that keep humanity ignorant. You never opened your eyes during prayers ever again.

9 – A gutter-wizard on the run from a fey hunting party hid in your dreams one night five years ago, and he refuses to leave. While he takes up residence he appears in every dream (even the sexy ones) and, as a side-effect, allows you to view the world as it really is. He never tidies up after himself, and your dreamscape is an absolute tip.

10 – Six months ago, you woke up to see your doppelganger standing over you holding a pillow getting ready to smother you in your sleep; but was slower than you, and you really didn’t want to die, and you kicked the shit out of it in your bathroom. It was identical to you in every way aside from the way it bled printer ink. You didn’t know what to do. You tied it up and shoved it in your attic; it refuses to die, even though you haven’t fed it, and you can’t bring yourself to kill it. Every day it looks less and less real. Its skin turns to newsprint, its teeth and hair turn brittle and glassy and fall out.

And then: you touched the filaments that surrounded it like pine needles, and a handful of them burrowed inside you, and the thing laughed, and now, when they think you aren’t looking, the buildings get up and walk around and you can smell the stench of a ratkin carrion-feeder two streets away.

Glimmers is a series where Chris and Grant, the creative leads behind Rowan, Rook & Decard, create an urban horror world through the use of Dx tables. Because who has time to read a full setting book?

[GLIMMERS.] The city is alive. The city is connected, with streams of light and noise and people, to every other city; they are all the same being, all branches of the same concrete-and-glass tree. There are streets between them, forgotten streets, with secret names and grim inhabitants. (And: there are wild-lands, dark places, the Spaces Between, where nothing seems right. Airport waiting rooms. Churches, at night. Backwater villages.)

There is vast power in the thrum of machines and the buzz of traffic, and it can be yours, for a price.