How are you still alive?

1 – Duct tape and epoxy putty. You just stuck yourself together. Further examination of your body shows multiple patch-jobs concealed under your clothing – fishing-line stitches, sawdust and staples instead of organs, and so on. You are entirely unsure why you haven’t died yet, but it seems to be working.

2 – An angel with neon hair and bluescreen eyes came down from the skies above and brought you back to life with a binary whisper. Everybody saw it but no-one’s really… talking about it? Maybe they don’t want to admit that they think it’s real. On camera, it shows up as a blistering anomaly, or it just flat-out fries the hard-drive that the video records to, so it’s all eyewitness accounts and nothing else – unless you can get a polaroid of it.

3 – You’ve replaced most of your internal organs with car parts (specifically: parts from a 1977 Ford Thunderbird), which makes you almost invulnerable to harm. But not tearing.

4 – The bullet went right through you, and now sand is pouring out of the hole. Wait: not sand, gold-dust. Weird. Anyway, it’s running through your fingers, and passers-by are partially concerned and partially interested in stealing the stuff.

5 – You shudder, and add another ghost to the swarm that follow you around, then get up and walk away. You’re on twelve, now; two small ones from the same day when you went camping in the forest as a kid, one from heart disease, a couple of car accidents, and so on.

6 – You’re the God of Mirrors. The woman who shot you through the chest is face-down dead with a ragged exit wound in her back. You have a bet going with several noted deities that they can’t kill you, and are welcome to try, because you’re getting bored of being alive and interested to find out what’s next.

7 – Because you are the True King (or True Queen) and commoners cannot hurt you. You’ve only ever been hurt by those of noble blood, and the more noble blood they have in them, the easier it is for them to hurt you. You’re petrified that a royal family (from another country, not your country, because the royal family in your country are a bunch of charlatans) will find out and use it against you somehow.

8 – You’ve never once stepped on a crack in the pavement. (Ironically: your mum’s in a wheelchair.) Also, you avoid walking under ladders, turn around when you spot a black cat, never open umbrellas indoors, and so on. But honestly, it’s just the cracks that work.

9 – You flickered out of reality for a split-second, just when it would have hit you. It saved your life, but you went somewhere else for the duration (which felt like hours to you, even though no time passed at all as far as everyone else was concerned) and you come back reeking of spoiled milk and hot plastic. You can’t remember much about where you went; you’re not sure you want to.

10 – You’re soul-bound to your brother, and you have to die at the same time in the same way or it just doesn’t… take. Still hurts, though. Your brother’s been trying to kill you (and, by extension, himself) for the last three years. At the moment he’s in hospital following his last attempt.


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.

Image by Salva Graziano on Flickr

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 are these dwarves doing?

1 – They’re all getting married to each other, simultaneously. (Dwarf marriage is strange.) They need to find wedding dresses, traditional beard cosies (it’s winter) and wedding gifts for one another. Oh, and the roasted corpse of some giant subterranean beast for the reception, like their mothers and fathers had.

2 – They’re creating a fake gold rush, having purchased some hostels and camp-sites near the local mountains (and converting their ancestral home into a range of affordable B&Bs); they rock up to bars, engage in dwarven stereotypes and yell “drunkenly” about all the gold that’s up in them thar hills, and then clean up when chumps come to explore the area for treasure. The non-dwarves are digging without respect for proper tradition, and therefore are unearthing all sorts of nightmarish things from underneath the mountains: drow empires, fungal lords, liquid infectious darkness and animate curses.

3 – They’re refugees from a lost dwarven kingdom that was too far beneath the surface of the world (and too protected by ancient magic) to survive the cataclysm that sheared the multiverse away from the prime material. They’re looking for help to build an enormous vessel to get back, and for stout folk to crew it.

4 – They’re poets. Dwarven poetry, like all good things, is hewn from rocks and refined by skilled artisans; it’s powerful stuff, and they recommend that you don’t read it if you’re pregnant or looking to become pregnant in the near future.

5 – It’s a dwarven feast day, and as heroes of the town, you’ve been invited! (If you’re not heroes, assume it’s a case of mistaken identity.) Can you survive a dwarven feast? Better men than you have tried and failed, and the dwarves don’t consider a party a success unless someone dies from eating too much butter. To them, it’s as honourable as dying in battle – but a lot more comfortable, at least until the end.

6 – One of their number is gravely ill, and has got the idea into her head that she can replace her malfunctioning meat parts with metal cogs, springs and sprockets. It’s a common dwarven delusion, and her friends are doing their best to stop her as she’s just making herself worse, but she keeps doing it.

7 – They’re selling fairy-tales – or fairy-tale experiences, anyway. They have all the illusion spells and a wide stable of trained actors on hand, and they can transport you to a world of whimsy and excitement for a modest fee. Ever wanted to meet the Prince of your dreams at a ball at midnight, only to have your carriage turn into a pumpkin? They can do that. Also, for not-so-modest fee, they offer to inflict fairy-tales on other people; not the nice ones, either.

8 – They’re selling moody cigarettes by the case, claiming that they’ve found a secret door to the Interdimensional Plane of Smoke. The markings on the packets are weird (ever heard of Fiddler’s Heel brand cigarettes? Or Bletchley-Harringdons? Or seen warnings that smoking damages your second heart, or endangers your alternate selves?) and they taste… well, they taste like moody cigarettes that’ve been dropped in a river and dried out on a washing line round the back of the pub. But they’re cheap, and the dwarves say they can sort you out with some cheap wine, too, if you’re willing to help them escort it out of the dangerous coastal region of Kahlay.

9 – They’re holding a funeral; a unit of thirty of them, grizzled veterans all, are heading off in the morning to attempt to liberate a lost hold from kobolds. Given the dangerous nature of the mission, the clan is holding their funerals before they go; even if they return, they’ll be legally dead, and the other dwarves will shun them. (You occasionally see dwarves who’ve returned from these suicide missions living on the edge of dwarf society, surviving off whatever scraps they can get. A lot of them become adventurers.)

10 – They’re buying an army. A few years ago, dwarf recruiters popped up in every town for miles around, offering pay and free training to join their militia. A lot of the region is now informally policed by dwarf-led soldiers, which has both upsides and downsides; and they’re gearing up for something big, too. Rumour has it they’re rebels, kicked out of the overly-conservative dwarf holds to the west, and they’re massing an army of Tall People for a single decisive assault.

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 Tanya Hart on Flickr

What’s at the bottom of this well?

1 – The top of the other well. We don’t talk to the folk down there – they’re strange. Sometimes music leaks up, so plug your ears with wax when you go to collect water during a solstice, else you’ll be drawn down beneath.

2 – A very stuck dragon. We couldn’t get him out. He’s clearly embarrassed about it. Throw him a copper – he says he’ll tell you your future if you do, but he clearly can’t. Problem is: the older a dragon gets, the bigger it gets, and he’s starting to buckle the ground around the well.

3 – A Sphere of Annihilation. It’s like a garbage disposal, but you don’t need to worry about putting a fork in it, because it’ll destroy that too. A wizard put it here (of course it was a wizard) after plucking it from the Elemental Plane of No, and after burying it didn’t work (it annihilated the dirt and the shovels) they just built higher and higher walls around it.

4 – A branching myconid (fungus-folk) colony which is infecting people with waterborne spores. They have dire news from the Land Beneath and are trying to make an ambassador that has a human mouth, but it’s going really wrong.

5 – During the day, nothing but water and the occasional frog. At night: a lank-haired witch-thing, skittering about on bent and broken limbs, who steals livestock and drags the bodies, still kicking, back down the well to feed. The villagers are working out whether it’s best to keep placating her or try to stop her nightly rampages.

6 – Gold coins. Loads of them; they’re covered in grime, but you can see the glint of something valuable down there. Now, the whole village around it is abandoned, but presumably that’s got nothing to do with it. (Of course: it’s not gold coins. Well. It is gold coins, stuck to the camouflaged shell of something between a wyrm and a squid, designed to lure in careless treasure-hunters.)

7 – It’s not a well: it’s a chimney from a waterlogged dwarven forge that got stuck down there when the multiverse imploded. Springs and tiny cogs keep coming up along with the water.

8 – Goblins, filling the buckets with water, presumably as part of a ruse.

9 – The corpse of a unicorn. Its horn and bones are turning all the water to low-grade healing potions, making this village the healthiest one for miles around.

10 – Gin. A wizard magicked it this one time for a party and never changed it back, making this village one of the least healthy for miles around.

11 – An adventure! There’s a guy down there, all covered in robes and stuff, and he says that the well conceals a portal to the land of the dead. If you can survive the seven trials and challenges ahead, you can rescue lost souls from the underworld. (Sounds like a ruse? About one in four people in the village claim to have been rescued from down there. But maybe they’re lying, too.)

12 – Clouds. And, beneath them, a desert of bone-white sands and endless black skies, where hungry ghosts trade coins from a damned kingdom for blood, and tattered madmen lead packs of semi-intelligent dogs to raid ruined libraries.


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.

What’s weird about these goblins?

credit: Hammermancer image by Iguanamouth

1 They worship seagulls, after being caught at sea on a particularly treacherous voyage, and view them as pecky angels. The worship is not at all mutual and many of the dropping-caked goblins are blind in one or more eyes.

2 They love explosions. They were raised in a mine, turfed out by expansionist dwarves, and now they roam the countryside with a cartload of stolen dynamite and a grudge to settle. (They can hurl mining explosives, dealing moderate area damage, and they defend their cart with terrifying, chew-through-your-ankles zeal.)

3 They killed a first-level adventuring party, and have therefore levelled up. One of them is convinced he’s a cleric, another a wizard, a third a rogue, and so on. They all wear armour that’s far too big for them, but they can fight better than the average goblin.

4 They feed off insults thanks to an old fey pact. They’ll try to get people to swear at them or toss garbage their way, at which point they gain a handful of temporary hitpoints and maybe a bonus to hit for a round or two. To encourage insults, they dress as offensively as possible and like throwing turds at people.

5 They live inside a giant beehive full of giant bees, and they serve the queen. They paint themselves yellow and black in an attempt to fit in; this may or not not just be part of a ruse to steal some giant honey.

6 They’re not a joke; they’re anti-dwarf tunnel-fighters, trained to make improvised traps and lay ambushes. Their kind can see in total darkness, and they all inflict sneak attack damage as though they were rogues. (They’ll run like hell away from a fight, too, if it looks like they can’t win. Tracking them down is half the battle.)

7 A necromancer wove spells of undeath over the wrong graveyard, so now they’re skeletal goblins. Not much else has changed about them; they retain their mischievous nature, and often enjoy swapping heads or playing each other like xylophones as a gag.

8 They’re not interested in fighting, and are on a sort of fund-raising mission to get enough copper pieces to repair their dungeon roof, which has been leaking something awful. They’re doing okay so far, but they need a solid donation to ensure they can stay homed through winter.

9 They made off with a sizeable portion of a dragon’s hoard and are living like kings – and they’re clad in stolen magic armour that makes them hard to kill. They’re not the real threat, though, because the dragon can smell stolen gold, and she’s coming to get it back.

10 Devoid of morals and finding it easy to sneak up on people, the goblins have set up a sort of protection racket in the village; the inhabitants leave out food and drink for them on their back steps at night, and in exchange, the goblins keep them safe from low-level threats and non-goblin burglary. They’re not doing too bad a job of it, either.

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.