Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Exquisite CΔrpse: Red Knife Heresy

Recently I ran a "Exquisite CΔrpse" on the Phlox GLOGscord. It's like the game of Exquisite Corpse, but instead of drawing we're writing abilities. You can read the rules here. Special thanks to SunderedWorldDM, Locheil, Phlox, Lexi, Spawk, Squigboss, Owlbear Chickenhawk and a Random Wizard for participating. As well as Hawk-Moth for helping with coming up with a name for this thing.

Δelta: Red Knife Heresy

Despite the best efforts of the Church, various heresies, secret societies and mystery cults hide within the cracks of society like weeds. A worryingly large amount of seemingly unrelated sects and stray occultists have converged on similar themes of Blood and flint knives. The madmen who fit under these themes are dubbed Red Knife Heretics and their leaders are the Red Knife Heresiarchs,  who hold strange and twisted powers. They know something about the world that we do not.

The Eye of a Heresiarch sees things about you that you cannot, they look right through you. 
The Foot of a Heresiarch lands eerily, like they are not walking on the same earth as us. 
The Hand of a Heresiarch twitches as if brushing over unseen strings, that it is itching to pluck.

The knife is a tool with many uses, it can kill but it can also be used to prepare bread, whittle a nice smoking pipe, or draw blood. A sharp blade is a versatile tool even in the hands of an ignorant peasant. With the Eye, Foot and Hand of a Heresiarch a Knife can do so much more. It can precisely draw out the power in the pulsing of Blood.

The Blood of a Heresiarch is an undeniable red that stains and binds.

Thus they are called Red Knife Heresiarchs, because the the flint knives they use end up as knives that are red. Their goals an methods may not seem to make sense, but for them the powers they get are just natural consequences of how the world works. They are hunted down and silenced because these bastards tend to cause trouble. 

Each Heretical Power follows the format of a Name in bold and ranked, a requirement in italics which describes how one could gain the Power and description in normal text, which describes what it does. Some Powers have multiple effects. To get a Power you need to have at least 1 Power of a lower rank. This Delta set is MOSAIC Strict.

(0) A Secret: (Gorinich)
  • Have it revealed to you when initiated into a secret society or mystery cult. Piece it together from confounding ancient texts. Or learn it from the lips of an alien being. You know a Secret.
  • Your Secret is precious! That's why you always notice if your your being followed, and feel it when your being watched.
  • Your Secret is ineffable! Discussions about your Secret sounds like gibberish to those unaware, and as the Secret touches everything you can talk on any topic in a way they won't understand. Those who know this Secret will understand you clearly.
  • Your Secret is illuminating! You now recognize new patterns that were there all along! There is a method to the madness! You can hear the angels in the walls the winds the waters, even if you can't make out their words. THEY ARE THERE!
  • Your Secret is simple. You no longer fear the unknown, because you know a Secret.

(1) Freed from Fungus: (SunderedWorldDM)
  • When you manage to find some cure for the fungal infection that plagues you.
  • Plants are instinctively afraid of you, and will do all in their power to avoid you, and if not, submit to your greater will. With enough time, you can destroy any plant by crushing it underfoot.
(1) Pigeon-Wrangler: (Lexi)
  • Spend a week feeding the pigeons (or similar intelligent, flocking pests) in an area. When you move or stop feeding them for more than a day at a time, restart.
  • With a shout and pointing out an appropriately-greasy sacrifice of food, you can summon a cloud of d10*d10 pigeons (or similar flocking pests) to surround the food until it runs out. If you hold the food, they'll protect you. If someone else has the food, the pigeons will attack them until they get it. Deals 1 damage per attack for every 10 pigeons in the cloud, round up.
(2) Freed from Fury: (Loch)
  • When you manage to find some cure for the unreasonable anger which plagues you.
  • Animals are instinctively calmed by you. You may instantly befriend any ordinary beast or creature with bones.
(2) Furious Freedom: (Phlox)
  • When you manage to find people who accept and support your unreasonable anger.
  • You can communicate a minutes-long message in only a few seconds, assuming it is all totally heartfelt and communicated through the medium of shrieks or yells. 
  • With a day of prowling in an urban environment, you can earn the service of 1d4 malcontents until they get too hurt or annoyed.
(2) Gremlin-Child of the City: (Spwack)
  • Never eat anything you haven't found, stolen, scrounged, or made yourself. Stealing scraps is always fine, accepting charity is barely permitted.
  • While you are in a city where you have never purchased food, you always land on your feet whenever you fall, in every sense. No matter if it is a fall from a great height, a sudden betrayal, theft, or the assassination of your companions, you always manage to stick the landing, and hold onto a just a little of what you had.
(3) Finger-Taker: (Squig)
  • Steal and eat the fingers of a human, elf, dwarf, goblin, orc, and dragon. 
  • If you wish, you can touch and grab things without your fingers being felt: if you touch someone's arms, they feel neither pressure nor heat. This makes you very, very good at pickpocketing, stealing random accessories (belts, rings, etc.), and checking someone for weapons.
(3) Eye-Taker: (RandomWizard)
  • Steal and eat the eyes of a child, corpse, dragon, and capital-W Wizard.
  • Nobody can sense or tell you're looking at them unless you wish it. Once per day, you may blind and paralyze someone for as long as you can maintain an unbroken stare at them. Stabbing them in the back repeatedly or stealing something from them does not break the stare.
(3) Eye-Giver: (Owlbear Chickenhawk)
  • Remove an eye from your head and throw it down a well. It will not go to the worms. If someone finds your eye, repeat this process, with your old eye or a new one.
  • If you carve the eye out of a creature and eat it, you can see through its other eye. While you are not looking through it, the eye cannot see. They will be one-eyed and blind forever, except when you are watching with them.
(4) Flint Knife Midwife: (Gorinich)
  • Poke a hole in yourself with a flint knife and feed a pint of your blood to at least 3 targets of your secret powers, they are now your acolytes. The blood does not have to have to be fed all at the same time for it to work. If any of your acolytes literally bites your hand or makes you their acolyte, grow terribly sick and lose this template.
  • Each of your acolytes feels a deep and unshakable affection towards you. They love and trust you with more certainty then they know anything else. Their rational mind can recognize the unusual reason for their affection, but acting on it is instinctively as difficult as chopping off one's hand usually is.
  • You feel a deep and unshakable affection towards your acolytes. If you harm them and don't make an attempt at healing them within a fortnight, your body will naturally feel betrayed and betray you in turn. You will grow sick more easily, fatigue after only moderate exertion and shake when your trying to be still.
(Flint Knife Midwife) Judas of the Flint Knife: (SunderedWorldDM)
  • Kill a dear friend forevermore in the sight of another with your flint knife.
  • You have no attachment to your acolytes whatsoever, and can treat them as expendable freely. However, you only ever get the three, so use them wisely.
(4) Prophet: (Lexi)
  • Obtain a harbinger, a follower who will proclaim your deeds and feats far and wide. The harbinger need not be human, but its appearance is irrevocably associated with your name and reputation.
  • You can see through your harbinger's eyes, and give them visions from your experiences and memories.
(5) Call to Outcasts: (Phlox)
  • Topple a settlement's government within three days of arriving there.
  • When you send a harbinger into a city or town you haven't been to before, you acquire 1d8 acolytes.
(5) The Last Choice: (Spwack)
  • Anoint a blade or other weapon with your blood. If you are struck with it, your soul is obliterated.
  • Whenever you slay something with your weapon, it's soul follows you as well. If you are slain, all the souls following you are released again. Powerful spirits that would be reincarnated, or creatures that wouldn't be killed by such a weapon, are likely to be very irritated with you.
(5) Bloodmonger: (Squig)
  • Taste the blood of a merchant, a lord, a prince, a king, and a demon. 
  • You can smell the blood of living creatures through nearly any barriers from up to a hundred paces away, and you can identify any creature by the taste of their blood.
  • As long as you are consistently being fed blood—through injection or ingestion either—you will not die, no matter the wound.
(5) Blood Diviner: (RandomWizard)
  • Create a pool of your own blood and drown yourself to unconsciousness in it. If the pool is spilled or dispersed, start again.
  • When you spill the blood of another creature, the blood forms into letters only you can read, containing 1d4 dire predictions of the future (5% chance per prediction of being wrong).
  • If you spill a droplet of your own blood onto the ground while reciting the name of a hidden secret, the droplet will flow about a hundred paces along the ground towards the secret. It can move up slopes or even up walls, but can't fly or burrow into the ground. If expected to go into a different dimension, it just goes in a random direction entirely.
(6) Lure of the Knife: (Loch)
  • Make one of your acolytes drink your blood without force or violence.
  • You may now gain new acolytes by arming them with weapons you made yourself.
(7) Eyes of Esotery: (Owlbear Chickenhawk)
  • drink a liter of human blood every day for a month. Each liter must be from a different person. If you miss a day, start again.
  • You may shoot a beam of burning light from your eyes, wherever they may be. Anyone who sees you do this will hear your Secret in the screams of the fallen and the Singing sounds of the beam. Therefore, they must die.

Heresiarchs of Belodin

As a consequence of the fractured nature of this Delta, I think it can lead to characters with very different feels to them that none the less are connected by a common thread, I think that's very intresting. I'll illustrate this by writing about several Heresiarchs who will soon be fighting over the fine city of Belodin.

Duke Vincent Belodin
An older gentlemen from a minor noble house who married into the Belodin family. Despite the scandal surrounding the untimely death of his first wife, he is the respected ruler of the Belodin Duchy. Known among the nobles for being a erudite scholar and once being an avid hunter. Known among the people for being a cruel master who rarely leaves leaves the manor.

Goals: Desires to have it all. Having already acquired temporal power from his marriage into the Belodin family, he seeks to use occult powers to secure it permanently. To that end, he's learning blacksmithing "as a hobby", discreetly sends agents to aquire a dragon's finger and the blood of a king and desperately searches for a way earn more acolytes.

Assets: He is the Duke of Belodin and has all the power that entails. In his manor there is a secret library of occult lore. Has 3 acolytes, Duchess Maria Belodin, the Bishop of Belodin, and his favorite hunting dog Sergie. They respectfully make him the ruler of the land, affirm his moral character and is a good boi. He always carried a flint knife hidden in his coat, and a cloud of ghosts. While the Bishop and Maria do remember being transfixed by Vincent's stares, Sergie is the only living being who is allowed to know, precisely because he's just a hound.

Weaknesses: As a Duke Vincent is paranoid about anyone finding his Secret, meaning he doesn't trust his Spymaster to do all his dirty work, incase they start to suspect him of his Heresy. This means his complicated web of proxies and agents are slow to maneuver, for he only trust his acolytes. He is too afraid of being found out to attain Eye-giver, Prophet or Blood Diviner even thought he knows how.

Powers: A Secret, Freed from Fungus, Freed from Fury, Eye Taker, Flint Knife Midwife, The Last Choice, and Judas of the Flint Knife.

Hooks: Belodin may (indirectly) hire the players to slay a dragon. The players might be investigating the disappearance of around 30 odd people that have gone missing. It's obvious that Belodin killed his first wife, someone needs to do something about this! Grandma Soil
They say there is an one-eyed witch who lives in the sewers of Belodin, from where she lords over the pigeons and the gnats, they say during the day her ghost wanders the streets in search of children and during the night she crawls up to snatch them away and takes their minds with their eyes. This is untrue, Grandman Soil's grandchildren give their eyes by choice. If your on good terms with the Crook Street gang, you can be allowed to meet her and receive a divination.

Goals: Wants to survive and look after her own. This means remaining an urban legend, ignored by the Church. The Duke and We-Will-Make-The-World-Anew are the greatest threats to her because they also know the Secret. If Soil plays her cards right, the two fools with destroy each other.

Assets: Intimate understand of the sewers from years living there, she could disappear in there forever if she had to. Her Harbinger is her daughter Tulip, who is a vagabond and spreads the wild rumors about Grandma Soil. Tulip is a Red Knife Heresiarch in her own right, but according to family tradition will only become an Eye-giver and start taking up Midwifery after Soil passes. Grandma Soil refers to her acolytes as her grandchildren, they consist of a handful one-eyed blind homeless people, and a flock of pigeons, and some poison Ivy, acting as her eyes and ears out in the world. Grandma Soil has an arrangement with the Crook Street gang, where they will look out for her grandchildren, and she preforms divinations and reconnaissance on their behave.

Weaknesses: She's old and near blind. If her cloak of obscurity were to fail, then she'd be easy pickings for her enemies. She's quick to anger when her grandchildren are threatened or someone implies that her love of them is a weakness. There was one time that she abandoned a grandchild, and her ailing body isn't so bad as the guilt.

Powers: A Secret, Pidgeon-Wrangler(for many vermin, not just pigeons), Furious Freedom, Gremlin-Child of the City, Finger-taker, Eye-giver, Flint-Knife Midwife, Prophet, Blood Diviner, Lure of the Knife

Hooks: The players need to find a secret that cannot be uncovered by normal means, and have a lead about a witch that might be able to help. The players have a run in with the Crook Street gang, and kill a one-eyed blind member they have. A pigeon flies over to you with the goal of killing the Duke and promise of a great reward.

This morning a precession has come into the city, guards armed with dragon bone, guarding a palanquin made of dragon bone. From inside the palanquin is a manticore that foretells the arrival of thier's master. Their master who is crowned with crows, their master who tramples the old oaks, their master who's eyes are cold fire, their master who will save this world! If the good people of Belodin submit now then the master promises them justice and freedom, otherwise they will know their master's power firsthand.

Goals: Dreams of fixing the world. We-Will-Make-The-World-Anew sees that the power of the Red Knife could be used to mend the bridges between people and nations. If only the leaders in each polity had the population as their acolytes, then they would not mistreat them. If the leaders of each polity were acolytes of each other, then they would not mistreat each other. Of course this would be a bureaucratic nightmare to organize, that's why We need to take the reigns of the world first.

Assets: They have their inner circle of disciples from before they became a Prophet. Thier right-hand orc, Thraw the Wizard who gave World-Anew her eye and finger and wields a dragon-spine staff, the gobbish alchemist Flitch who gave his step-brother's finger (because their an asshole).The three have access to so much dragon materials because they slayed the Red Terror of the West, and wasted no time putting each part of to good use. They have a whole damn wagon full of daggers to initiate acolytes with, and more dragon-sinew rope then a reasonable person knows that to do with. They have gathered a mob of fervent but not particularly competent acolytes on their campaign. The towns behind them are either burned to the ground or have had their rulers made to be acolytes. World-Anew's harbinger is the manticore Gorge who's loyalty was first won with dragon-flesh and then with memories. Their cult is called the Red Covenant, after the dragon it was founded on.

Weaknesses: While this campaign has momentum, it's unsustainable. The random gathering of miscreants that follow under Anew's banner will run out of steam eventually. Another issue is that Anew can't bring themselves to give any commands that would endanger the acolytes even if it's necessary. This leaves tactical operations to Thraw who is loyal to the cause but so callous as to be hated by the acolytes and Flitch who everyone likes, but tends to act selfishly. 

Powers: A Secret, Freed from Fungus, Pigeon Wrangler(crows), Furious Freedom, Finger-Taker, Eye-taker, Prophet, Call to Outcasts, Blood Monger, Blood Diviner, Lure of the Knife, Eyes of Esotery.

Hooks: Players might want to save Belodin from the invading threat. Or the manticore's promises sound good and they would like to join.


There is a lot of this thing that I can't really discuss because I haven't written most of the templates, but I did write the intro and 3 NPCs.

I wrote A Secret thinking that it would result in something like Cultist Simulator but instead of moths being mystically connected with scissors, the resulting lore would have it's own connections. That ended up panning out, but I don't think I faithposted something that actually explains how all these separate abilities thematically tie together.

I feel that I messed up a bit with Flint Knife Midwife because that made almost all the templates after it blood or knife themed. Blood, eyes and knives are really easy themes to converge around and I think if another Exquisite CΔrpse were to be done it might take effort not to do it again. Then again if a lot of the same participants are involved, people wouldn't want to repeat the same thing again. I also feel like I should have written something about angels in the my second template, but it was already on the larger side when I finishes writing it.

Flint Knife Midwife was written to have an almost symmetrical effect but with the Heresiarh being saddled with more responsibility because I think that's more interesting then making them being easily expendable shmucks. I choose to read that each time it says 'acolytes', they follow the same rules as in Flint Knife Midwife. I think Judas of the Flint Knife should interact with Lure of the Knife by adding the requirement that your new acolyte needs to murder the first to take their place, that feels right. I'm not sure how JoFK and Call to Outcasts should interact, the spirit of JoFK is that it makes acolytes nonrenewable and I want to keep that, even if that effectively means you lose CtO if you gain JoFK. The power of Blood does not like it when you try to cheat it.

It amuses me that Finger-take and Eye-taker are some of the more difficult to access abilites, due to the rarity of dragons and Wizards. I also think that Finger-taker would make a good theme ability if you changed the requirement and name. If there was a template I feel is missing from this set, it would be something called Finger-giver and I'm frankly scared to imagine what that would entail.

I do however like how thematically coherent each rank of powers turned out. It suggested a path from being some crazy hobbo to domain play. I wrote up the three NPCs to show how this pattern could play out in specific cases.

Rank 1 is entirely about mastering nature in what can be assumed is a city environment. 
Rank 2 continues that but also has the Heresiarh come to come up with a choice about their unreasonable anger. 
Rank 3 is all about giving and taking. 
Rank 4 asks you about if you see yourself as a 'caretaker' or truth-bringer, which fairly character defining. Rank 5 consists of the various ways you can develop your blood magic.
Rank 6 will likely be a freebie in most cases, but it means that after you develp your various blood magics, you can really start building an army.
Rank 7 lets you shoot eye-laser, what more could you want?

Overall I think this thing turned out very silly but in a good way. I hope to do this again sometime, but with someone else making the starting template, and maybe with the passing order being more varied, so that we don't get receive and give to the same people each round.

No comments:

Post a Comment