Friday, 8 December 2017

Would You, Could You, on a Train?: Linear Dungeons

A linear dungeon is one in which there are, deliberately, no or very few options for lateral movement. The PCs either go forwards or backwards. 

One example would be a mile-high tower or skyscraper which the PCs ascend or descend. Each floor is a small level with a couple of rooms or, in the most high-concept version, a single room only. Instead of 10 dungeon levels each with an average of 30 or so chambers, you get 100 levels each with an average of three or so chambers - or 300 levels each with one chamber. 

Another would be an abandoned oil rig or mine shaft with the PCs simply going down, down, down, down, a very long and narrow hole. Periodically there are ledges where they get a chance to rest and fight ghost worms, sverfneblin, insane servitors, etc. 

A third idea is a train. Imagine a train made up of many carriages travelling through, say, the quasi-elemental plane of radiance on a vastly long track between two very distant places. You can't get out of the train because you will be blinded instantly. All you can do is move up and down the train, carriage by carriage. And in each one there is a different passenger. 

I find the possibilities of the long, narrow 'dungeon' intriguing. If the 'dungeon' is just train carriages or small floors of single/few rooms one after another, then you (of course) get to take advantage of a pattern. The DM can use, essentially, the same map over and over, with relatively minor changes. He just has to concentrate on content. The PCs, at the same time, also get used to the same patterns, so they can both forecast to a certain degree how things are going to look from level to level, but also be surprised when the DM throws them an occasional curve ball by mixing things up. 

The semi-linear dungeon is one which looks linear but where the PCs are able to advance (or retreat) in leaps and bounds by temporarily going outside it. Instead of descending the mile-high skyscraper floor by floor, sometimes they open a window and abseil down ten floors. Instead of moving carriage to carriage on the train, sometimes the PCs strap blindfolds over their eyes and try to clamber onto the roof and of the car they are in to make their way forward or backwards more expeditiously, and so on. 

Thursday, 7 December 2017

War as a Globalising Force

Google "war and globalisation" and you get billions of hits on the subject of whether globalisation causes war. You don't get many the other way around: the operationalising of globalisation through war. There is surely a book waiting to be written on this topic if it isn't out there already (and I would be surprised if it isn't).

By coincidence I am currently re-reading John Dower's Embracing Defeat at bed time and listening to Part II of Dan Carlin's "Kings of Kings" on my commutes, and both of them touch on this topic in fascinating ways. From Embracing Defeat (on the relationship between the Japanese Imperial House and the American occupying forces): 

"The imperial household...quickly [revealed] a genius for grasping the American's love of aristocratic pomp and pageantry. Invitations were regularly extended to high occupation officials to the court's genteel pastimes. Geisha parties became bonding places for the middling elites, but the upper-class activities to which high-ranking members of the occupation forces were invited were refined to a fault: firefly catching, cherry-blossom viewing on the palace grounds, bamboo-sprout hunts, traditional sword-fighting exhibitions at the palace, even an occasional wild boar hunt [...] While the media in the United States were chuckling and enthusing over the 'Americanization' of Japan, the Japanese were quietly and skillfully Japanizing the Americans."

The occupation, as Dower portrays it, may have been all manner of different things, but among them it was a globalising movement of quite unique power: over the course of the seven-year occupation more was done to Americanize Japanese culture than could have been done by a century of trade alone, and at the same time American elites became acculturated to Japan in a way they may never have really done otherwise. (Is it too much of a stretch to imagine that the lionization of Japanese business practices in the 60s-80s and the current obsession with Japanese pop culture around the world may have derived some of their potency from the fact that the most important global elite of all - American military and political leaders - were seduced so effectively by the emperor and his cronies in the late 1940s?)

Dan Carlin's description of the military campaigns of the Persian Empire are much more colourful, exotic and direct, and had me delving into Herodotus's Histories today over my lunch break. The Achaemenids ruled a territory so vast that they were able to conscript troops from lands ranging from sub-Saharan Africa to Afghanistan. Herodotus describes Persian armies of the era as comprising detachments of Sudanese warriors with their entire bodies painted half-white and half-red, "Black Ethiopians" from India who are thought by modern historians to have been Dravidians from the South of the sub-continent, tribesmen from the islands of the Red Sea, Colchians (from modern day Georgia) with wooden helmets, Chorasmians from the shores of the Aral Sea, and so on and so on almost endlessly - a veritable who's who of Eurasian geography. These peoples may have been loosely connected previously by trading networks spanning the continents, but what possibly could have been as expedient as war in bringing together representatives of all these disparate races, cultures and societies?

Think of the fantasy world equivalents. What different scattered exotic peoples might orcish empires bring together in unison? What might drow military campaigns do to shake up the cultural makeup of the Underdark? What random bands of mercenaries, deserters and routed wanderers from vastly distant places across the globe might be passing through the campaign map in the aftermath of a war? And how might a meeting with such people spark the imaginations of the PCs to get out there and do some travelling? 

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Mindfulness and Creativity

It's very unlike me, but I have been doing some experimenting with mindfulness meditation in recent weeks, mainly inspired by Sam Harris and Robert Wright expounding on it at great length in this podcast episode.

(On a totally unrelated note, isn't it amazing how, while everybody would tell you that in the internet age everything has to be short and punchy and superficial, many of the world's most popular podcasters - Sam Harris, Joe Rogan, Dan Carlin, etc. - make such hugely, luxuriantly lengthy episodes?)

After spending 10-20 minutes a day doing it pretty consistently, I think I can see very rudimentary effects - at least at the level that I can now very easily, almost automatically, identify when I am being sidetracked from a given task by distracting thoughts and bring my attention back to where it needs to be. By no means has this transformed me into a whirlwind of productivity, but it has at least managed to help me realise when certain thoughts (about work, money, family, whatever) are preventing me from fully focusing on what I want to be focusing on - whether that be listening to a presentation or the radio, reading a book, playing with my daughter, and so on.

Oddly enough, though, at a phenomenological level I think what I have gleaned so far from this basic mindfulness practice is a felt understanding (I think that is the best way of putting it) that the conscious mind - what I think of as me - is in a sense a passenger of the unconscious mind. Thoughts simply arise (in their tens of thousands, as I'm sure you're aware if you've ever tried the standard "focus on your breath" mindfulness routine) and the conscious mind assesses, confronts, responds to, analyses, and is influenced by them. It's as though your conscious mind is dancing around on top of  highly geologically unstable ground which is constantly shifting under its feet and blasting geysers and sulphurous fumes into the air. As you practice meditation more and more, you get to the point where the conscious mind is actually able to at least observe this going on and identify to a degree where it needs to go; before you have ever begun practicing, the likelihood is you aren't really aware that your consciousness and unconsciousness have this relationship except at the level that you often find yourself having uncontrollable unwelcome thoughts which you get caught up in and prevent you from concentrating (or much worse). 

The relationship of all of this to creativity fascinates me, because, of course, the creative process is dominated by the unconscious mind - that's where creativity happens. (This is why good ideas usually strike you when you're not trying to have them.) Creating is, in a sense, the conscious mind picking out material from what the unconscious mind spits up at it - identifying good ideas and then working on them, polishing them, carving them into something worthwhile. It doesn't control the process in any sense; it's reliant on what boils up in the geysers and hot springs underfoot. 

I wonder, then, how mindfulness might help - or even hinder - this. At the nuts and bolts level it can surely only help, in that it aids focus and concentration in the long-term and thus contributes to the whole "99% perspiration" element of creativity. But on the other hand, when it comes to having good ideas, is there nothing to be said for being as unmindful as you can be - maybe even anti-mindful - in order to allow your unconscious mind to simply broil away, as unedited and unfiltered and unnoticed as possible? Might monitoring the unconscious not aid to dampen creativity in some way? 

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

The OSR as D&D Stuckists

I am not a big fan of the moniker "OSR". I find it a little self-congratulatory, but also, being 36, I can't claim to have been on the D&D bandwagon long enough to feel comfortable adopting it. While I feel I have to use it, I regret doing so.

I have no expectation of any alternatives catching on, but I'd prefer to think of myself as a D&D Stuckist. Stuckism is an artists' movement which was established to promote "contemporary figurative painting with ideas"; it was started by a group of British artists in the late 1990s and took its name from Tracy Emin's accusation that Billy Childish, one of the founders, was "Stuck! Stuck! Stuck!" in the past. You can read its manifestos here, but in essence the group is about rejecting post-modernism in art, particularly in the way it is deployed in the contemporary British scene, and returning to humanist and universalist goals.

A lot of the Stuckist literature feels very teenage and deliberately provocative, although you get some nice soundbites out of it ("To call The Turner Prize 'The Turner Prize' is like calling bubble-gum 'caviar'"; "Today's critics display a disgraceful cowardice"). Two key concepts emerge: Remodernism and Anti-anti-art. The former is a plea for a re-engagement with Modernism - attempting to grapple with what it means to be human and with fundamental human truths through art. The latter is an assertion that Duchamp's insights may have been valuable in the context in which he was producing his Readymades, but that in the contemporary artistic establishment 'anti-art' had become the stultifying norm and true innovation was a return to 'spiritual art'.

D&D Stuckism doesn't need to be thought of as being quite so pretentious and porpentous as that. Quite the opposite. It's not about Remodernism and Anti-anti-art. D&D Stuckism (the 'OSR') has, rather, been about re-randomization and anti-anti-gamism.

Re-randomization is a return to, and re-engagement with, the creative power of dice, random tables, and sandbox play. It throws narrative control out of the door and reconnects us with processes which foster organic and surprising gaming session and campaigns.

Anti-anti-gamism is the reaction against two different movements which came to prominence in the 1990s and 2000s. The first strand ran through Dragonlance by way of the Old World of Darkness games through to 4th edition D&D. It emphasised story and deliberate construction and playing-out of narratives. The second ran through The Forge by way of Dogs in the Vineyard through Fate. It emphasised the spreading of narrative control from GM/referee to the players in order to make the creation of story the explicit aim of 'play'. Both of these movements were "anti-gamist" because they viewed the old ways of doing things - dice, dungeons, death saves - as embarrassingly like a game with winners and losers, and insufficiently high standards for hoped-for outcomes (a "story").

D&D Stuckism, in other words, isn't about reviving the old for its own sake; it's a desire to use old principles to revitalize what is current.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Mythic Underworlds/Hells for Other Races

If the dungeon as "mythic underworld", is somehow representative of human hell, could there be other mythic underworlds for other races, waiting to be explored? A hell for dwarves, a hell for elves, a hell for dragons, a hell for beholders, a hell for vampires, and so on?

Let's be serious about this now. Hell for beholders isn't just a world of fluffy bunny rabbits who are nice to each other, or an infinity of poking devices. Hell for elves isn't just an infinite army of woodcutters. Fantasy is about starting off with a crazy set of prior assumptions and acting as though they are real. What would a hell for elves really look like?

Hell for elves would, I think, be something like a gargantuan satanic-mills-style clockwork underground city - dark, artificial, regimented, industrial, hard-working. Like an ant's nest in the industrial revolution in which everything is run to the strictest of deadlines and in which everything is done for a purpose. Elves are William Morris on steroids, so their hell has to be Blake's Satanic London on amphetamines. 

Hell for dwarves would be an eternity of sky: a place where there are not only no ceilings or earth above your head but no floors either - nothing solid on which you can rest, let along put anything or dig. Somewhere in which everything floats, in which nothing is permanent, in which nothing lasts or remains fixed in place for any length of time.

Hell for vampires is easy: a sun-blasted desert or jungle where it is never night and everything is constantly exposed to the harsh white light of equatorial noon. 

Hell for goblins, who only understand theft and brutality, would be an extremely productive and healthy farmland, like Tuscany or Provence, in which everybody is forced by benevolent but strict overseers to participate in the creation of beautiful agricultural produce, wines, etc.

Hell for dragons makes me think of an old Eastern European proverb I heard once: A thief's hell is the fear of thieves. A place where no matter how much treasure you gather, another dragon always steals it when you're not looking. Maybe instead of caves there are only scrapes on exposed hillsides where everybody can see exactly what everyone else is doing and how much treasure they have. The "have nots" plot constantly to dispossess the "haves" and gang up on them to achieve this. Then the previous "haves" team up against the new ones. Eternally.

Hell for beholders needs to play on their main traits: vision and xenophobia. Beholders live underground normally, so their hell must be above ground, but in a land swathed in thick fog that restricts visibility to a few yards. In it, all beholders are forced to work together by psychic hive mothers who control their slaves in such a way that they are fully aware of their lost autonomy and of the fact that they will spend the rest of eternity associating with their most despised brethren.

Hell for orcs is a tough one. They're the antithesis of humans, so maybe orcs in the human world of towns, villages, farms, orchards and so on are in their version of hell already. 

Monday, 27 November 2017

Thoughts on the Post Apocalypse

I was thinking the other day about the worst days in my life. (Don't ask why I got onto that subject.) I tried to come up with a top 5. I quickly decided that by a long stretch, the top of the list was 11th March 2011, the date of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. That was the biggest negative watershed that there's been in my life: relationships almost irreparably damaged; treasured belongings destroyed; loved ones in mortal danger; financial ruin for the extended family. The actual physical experience was easy to get over and I don't remember at any time feeling any great sense of fear, but the aftermath was literally indescribable. The best I can do is to say that it was like living in an Etch-a-sketch picture which God suddenly grabbed in both hands and violently shook into disintegration for no reason. Or living in a kaleidoscope which had been stuck on one pattern for years and years and was then suddenly twisted repeatedly by a capricious child, throwing everything into utter confusion.

But fast forward 6 1/2 years and things have stabilised, as they inevitably do. There is a new normal. Recovery is underway. Homes have been rebuilt. Huge white-elephant "economic stimulus" public spending projects of the kind in which Japan specializes have been completed. Children have been born and others have grown up. Time has healed psychological wounds. Thing will never be the same as they were - the land is permanently scarred, friends and family members have died, the decline in the population levels in coastal towns may never be fully reversed. Yet the post-apocalypse, it turns out, is the green freshness of spring. Sometimes the apocalypse isn't an apocalypse at all; but it takes years to find that out.

*

One thing I'm always struck by when in the hills of Scotland, Wales or Northern England is that walking through those landscapes is to walk through the aftermath of an environmental catastrophe that in totality if not in scale far eclipses the deforestation of the Amazon. Once, Britain was almost entirely covered in woodland. In 1919 only 5% of the country was forested. The hills have been stripped bare. Entire ecosystems have disappeared, to be replaced by bleak windswept humps picked clear by sheep. What remains has great beauty, but it's almost a dead landscape. Just the merest fragments are left - some songbirds, badgers, foxes, the occasional buzzard. Refugees of a disaster that took place in slow motion over thousands of years. To them, modern Britain is like Gamma World.

It isn't over yet, though. Sheep were the unlikely harbingers of doom in previous centuries. Now it's monocultures and other modern agricultural practices. Turtle doves have declined by 97% since 1967. When I was a kid vast clouds of starlings would swarm in city centres at dusk. Their population has crashed by 89% since 1967. Sometimes a post-apocalypse isn't the end of the matter. Sometimes the apocalypses keep on coming.

*

Sheep - innocent, stupid, fluffy sheep - are often at the forefront of the apocalypse game, as it turns out. Visitors to the Scottish Highlands and islands are usually staggered by the emptiness of the landscape. It's one of the least-populated areas of Europe. The reasons for this are complicated, but one of the main ones is that during the 18th and 19th centuries landowners decided sheep were more profitable than people, and the latter had to give way as a result. An entire way of life disappeared over the course of a few generations; the island of Tiree had a population of nearly 5000 at one time; now it's a little over 500. Gaelic culture effectively no longer exists, the language is barely spoken, and all that's left is whisky distilleries, the occasional ceilidh, and holiday homes for rich people from Edinburgh or England.

A post-apocalypse may have its benefits for outsiders.

Monday, 20 November 2017

The Autumn Wyvern Shoot

Each autumn, for just two weeks, the forests and mountains of Taynedale fall silent. Everybody knows what is coming: as the leaves begin to turn brown the cloud giants who rule the valley release their wyverns for their annual shoot. Nobody sane leaves sight of their bastle house until the leaves are beginning to fall and the hunt is over.

All year, the wyverns are fattened up on goats' meat and adolescent humans - one from each village. They are housed in special adamantine cages in each of the giants' estates, so small that they are unable to fly - this keeps their wing muscles artificially weakened. The combination of obesity and enfeeblement means that, when they are finally released, they can only manage short stuttering flights and must spend most of their time rushing about in the undergrowth until startled by the hunters.

The hunters themselves go out a week after the wyverns are released. Armed with huge composite bows, they stride out into the woods in search of their prey, accompanied by packs of tamed dire wolves who rove through the trees aiming to flush out quarry. The goal is to kill the flapping wyverns with single arrows through the heart or neck, although this takes exceptional shooting; more frequently the reptiles are brought down like pincushions by volleys of arrows and then savaged by the dire wolves when they crash to earth. Their bodies are hauled back to the giants' castles by teams of human servants with teams of oxen, and feasted on throughout the winter; sometimes the spoils are shared out among the local human serfs in special yuletide feasts.

Anybody travelling through Taynedale during the first half of the month of November may encounter wyverns, hunting parties, or both. Replace half of all entries on the random encounter table for those hexes with "wyvern" (75% of replaced entries) and "hunting party" (25% of replaced entries).

Wyvern: HD 7+7, AC 4, #ATT 2 (bite 2d6, stinger 1d6*), Move 60/Fly 120 (E). 
*Stinger is deadly poisonous on a failed save vs death
*Can only fly for 120 yards and must then rest for 6 turns

Hunting Parties consist of 2d6 cloud giants (HD 16+2, AC 4, #ATT 1 (short sword 3d4+11, composite bow 4d6+11), Move 180). Of these, 1 in 4 will be unarmed wolf handlers accompanied by 1d6 dire wolves each (HD 4+4, AC 6, #ATT 1 (bite 1d6+2), Move 180).  

There is a 1 in 3 chance each hunting party is accompanied by 1d3 teams of oxen with 1d4 human handlers. These are unarmed and 0-level.

Hunting parties generally have no interest per se in hunting humans, adventurers or otherwise, but their dire wolves are not so discerning. 

Friday, 17 November 2017

Detective Work on Forgotten RPG Fanzines [Part I]

Somebody has, perhaps unlawfully, uploaded scans of the complete back catalogue of legendary 1990s role playing magazine arcane to t'internet. I've been enjoying reminiscing and being struck by how many things I remember in some of the editions; it's funny how vividly memories can come back to you even 20 years after the fact.

One feature that I had forgotten about was a regular update on RPG fanzines: basically, fanzine creators would send their wares into the magazine and the editor would provide details on how to get them. Out of curiosity, this evening when I got home from work I started googling some of them. I quickly found myself descending into a rabbit hole. There is something unbearably nostalgic in reading about these artifacts of an ancient era - the time of geocities, letters, international postal reply coupons, photocopies, staplers, the post. You can't help but feel an overwhelming sense of affection for that distant and optimistic decade, and a huge warm fuzzy glow for all of these dedicated amateurs slaving away over labours of love for (presumably) scant reward.

Here is what I have found regarding the 'zines mentioned in Issue #2:

Sumo's Karaoke Club: Described as a "well-written" 'zine respected for its direct attitude (the publisher "isn't afraid to print what he sees as the truth"). It seems to have been primarily focused on board games. It cost £2.95 per edition. I have managed to track down an index and some further information to this site (http://pages.pacificcoast.net/~greg/); apparently it ceased trading in 1998 but has a still-living descendant, Counter.

For Whom the Die Rolls: A play-by-mail 'zine which ran its own games (including Rail Baron and Railway Rivals) and had articles on how to run PBM games. It is listed as costing 30p plus P&P. Staggeringly, it still apparently existed through to 2014 (2014!!) and had 215 issues in its run. Its website and a back catalogue are all available here: http://www.fwtwr.com/fwtdr/

The Ides of March: Another play-by-mail 'zine specialising in Diplomacy. It is described as being "held together by one cock-eyed staple in the top left corner" and having a "lively" letters column. It cost £1. I have had difficulty finding information on it, although it is listed as number 64 diplomacy-archive.com's list of Greatest UK Diplomacy Zines of All Time (yes, really); in the same website's 1995 Zine Poll it came in at number 7 (although the publisher is castigated for his "insistence of winding up his subscribers through his own brand of moral Conservatism" - the snail-mail version of shitposting?). 

Vigilante: A free (yes - all you needed to do was send an SAE with international reply coupons to the Irish publisher) RPG 'zine specializing in WoD games. It is described as "pushing hard to achieve professional status" with "surprisingly good layout". I can find out absolutely nothing about it on the internet, and it seems to have disappeared without trace. 

Flagship: This seems like it was a big fish in the PBM pond - it even had separate editions for the UK, USA and Europe and its own Wikipedia entry. "Slick, clean, and extremely useful for anyone who is remotely interested in PBM games". It was £3 and staggeringly (again) it lasted for absolutely ages - 1983-2010. Its website states that it widened its coverage to board games and RPGs in later years.

Life's Rich Pageant: Another PBM specialist - a "grassroots fanzine that simply bubbles with enthusiasm". Information on this one is thin on the ground, although I found mention of it in another Diplomacy zine, Spring Offensive. (Why do I begin to get the impression you could write an entire PhD thesis on the world of Diplomacy 'zines?)

PBM Zine: An "amateurish" looking affair with well-written advice but "annoying" layout. It cost £1.50 and looks like it was very yellow. It has such an un-Google-able title I just couldn't find anything on it online. I expect there must be something on it somewhere.

One Man's Rubbish: Described as being expensive because it is £1 (£1!) for 24 pages, this is another PBM-focused affair which also published reviews of RPGs and card games. It "does not have any content of sufficient interest to make it worth buying regularly" (ooh, the burn). Oddly, there is an entire scan of one volume available online - you can read it here: http://www.whiningkentpigs.com/DW/oldzines/rubbish2.pdf. It is an amazing thing - articles on the Proper Care of Floppy Disks nestling alongside rules for Armchair Cricket and a History of Motorsport. It already had fifty readers by its second issue and what looks like a lively correspondence with its readership; to think that we used to actually communicate with each other with letters and do so voluminously. How the world has changed in 20 years.

Games Games Games or G3: Originally titled Small Furry Creatures Press, this 'zine seemingly had ambitions of getting into retailers and had a good reputation "as an oracle of advice and reviews for gamers". It was £1.95. There is a Wikipedia stub entry for the publisher; I also dug out this page, which says the 'zine went quiet in 2001 after its anniversary issue - which staggeringly (again, again), was #150.

Games Gazette: A "genuinely amateur magazine" stuffed with reviews of all kinds of games. It seems to have been old even in arcane's day (it had recently celebrated its 15th - 15th! - anniversary) and, staggeringly (again, again, again) still exists in the form of this website (which definitely has the same owner, a man called Chris Baylis).

There is way more - way, way fucking more - of this to follow.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Pupa Man Hates Person Man

Person man eats noisy mess chewing spitting swallowing lips throat teeth. Person man stinks oily sweat excretes toxins pores oozing. Person man and person woman mating masturbating sleeping fleshy hairy bodies arms legs squirming writhing grunting. Person man writing scribbling books paper meaningless drivelling nonsense thoughts feelings words words words.

Pupa man hates person man.



Pupa Man: HD 1+1, AC 14, #ATT 2 (1d2/1d2), Move 120, No. Enc. 3d20
*Pupa men attack relentlessly, chanting their hate. For inspiration, roll 1d20 on the following table:
1 - Pupa man hates oily sweat!
2 - Pupa man hates noisy chatter!
3 - Pupa man hates swallowing lips!
4 - Pupa man hates oozing pores!
5 - Pupa man hates fleshy skin!
6 - Pupa man hates hairy bodies!
7 - Pupa man hates squirming legs!
8 - Pupa man hates wriggly fingers!
9 - Pupa man hates floppy arms!
10 - Pupa man hates grunting coughs!
11 - Pupa man hates stupid eyes!
12 - Pupa man hates reedy voice!
13 - Pupa man hates gibbering words!
14 - Pupa man hates veiny hands!
15 - Pupa man hates mammal stink!
16 - Pupa man hates phlegm-snot-spit!
17 - Pupa man hates breeding organs!
18 - Pupa man hates filthy orifices!
19 - Pupa man hates feelings!
20 - Pupa man hates person man!

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Gigaku Demons [Work in Progress]

These evil spirits manifest themselves as pitch black, semi-corporeal figures who move with an unusual dance-like grace and wear face masks which are distinctly corporeal - one might say hypercorporeal - in the vividness of their colours and the way those colours seem to burn themselves into the retina like lights. Through the eye holes stare very human-looking eyes.

If the mask is ever removed the spirit is banished; this can be done by making a successful grappling attack with both hands and then winning a straight STR check against STR 16. The spirit is instantly extinguished from this world, never to return.

If a human being wears one of the masks then they gain the ability to invoke the relevant magical abilities of the spirit owner, but the mask cannot be then removed - doing so results in the wearer's instant death. The wearer's speech, vision and hearing are restricted and he is at a permanent -4 penalty to initiative rolls, DEX checks, reaction dice, and any dice roll requiring clear sight, speech or hearing.

Some of the gigaku demons also carry additional corporeal paraphernalia with magical or non-magical effects. Their use does not have the same drawbacks as wearing the masks.

The gigaku demons are as follows:

Governor of the Way: A male figure wearing a mask with a tall black head dress and long silk sheets flowing down the back like a cape. He can open and close portals at will, and force up to 15 HD of enemies to dance uncontrollably in a procession in any direction for 400 yards, 3 times per day. Victims are allowed saving throws if this would force them off cliffs or into water or other clearly life-threatening scenarios. He also carries a war fan which can be used to send messages over long distances; the user whispers his message and then flips the fan around back-to-front, and this sends the message to the desired target as long as he or she is in eye-shot.

HD 7, AB +8, AC 16, #ATT 2 (War fan 1d4+2, Tetsubo 1d6+2), Move 120 

Lion with Tamers: One of these figures wears a big, bright red lion mask with staring eyes and a grinning snarl. From the back of the mask flows a vivid blue cape which swirls behind the Lion as he dances and capers. His two companions wear brown head masks with ruddy red cheeks and carry poles with hoops on the ends; they attempt to capture the Lion but never succeed. The Lion can bestow curses three times per day, and the Tamers can remove them and all other maledictions, likewise three times per day. The Tamers' weapons protect them from any attack by a wild beast, making them impervious to harm from teeth and claws; they function as lassos. 

If encountered, both Lion and Tamers will plead for aid in defeating the other. Each will immediately betray the PCs as soon as they make a choice, attacking from behind when combat is joined.

Lion: HD 4, AB +5, AC 14, #ATT 2 (Bagh nakh 1d4+1 x 2), Move 120
Tamers: HD 2+2, AB +3, AC 14, #ATT 1 (Lassoo), Move 120

Duke of Wu: A mask portraying a stylized vision of a Chinese nobleman, with a black cap, placid features, and a supercilious beatific smile. The shade-like figure wearing it walks serenely back and forth with folded arms, taking small graceful steps and gazing about itself with an arrogant air. 

The Duke of Wu can cast charm person once a day, hold person three times a day, confusion three times a day, suggestion three times a day, and feeblemind three times a day.

HD 7, AB +3, AC 14, #ATT 1 (Cane, 1d4), Move 120

Wrestler and Strongman: Two figures who are always seen together, guarding the Duke of Wu. Their semi-corporeal forms are big and somehow hulking; the first wears a top-knotted mask with jowls, the second a brutish bald visage. The Duke of Wu may amuse himself by offering gold, magic items and so on to anyone who can beat either of his guards in a grappling bout; beforehand the challenger must also put forward a valuable item as a "stake". The Duke of Wu's stakes are:

1 - A random magic item
2 - A random 'special' treasure
3 - A random gem stone
4 - A random item of jewelry

The Wrestler and Strongman both have STR 18.

HD 5, AB +6, AC 15, #ATT 1 (Sumo rush 1d6+2), Move 120

Old Widower and Old Widower's Child: the former is a bent, warped shade wearing a narrow-faced head mask from which are draped long, frail-looking wisps of grey hair and moustaches. The latter is thin, as though an adolescent; his mask is smooth, red-cheeked, and has a bowl-like shock of shortish black hair. 

These spirits claim their wife/mother was stolen from them by the Duke of Wu, who forced her to suicide when he tired of her. They will say that they seek help in gaining revenge, in return for the granting of a boon which they will bestow on the most powerful of their future helpers. But the "boon" in fact binds the recipient to the Old Widower and his Child in perpetual service; it is a geas which they cast on the recipient as he bows before them, binding him in perpetual servitude and causing him to die if his new master is destroyed. The Old Widower and Child will use their new servant to amass wealth, sending him out into the world to bring them gold and silver. This geas can only be undone by a powerful magician using a remove curse spell.

The Old Widower can also cast Command, Glyph of Warding, Sticks to Snakes, and Insect Plague three times a day.

Old Widower: HD 3, AB +2, AC 12, #ATT 1 (Stick 1d4), Move 90
Old Widower's Child: HD 2, AB +1, AC 12, #ATT 1 (Tanto 1d4) Move 120

Garuda: a lithe humanoid figure wearing a mask depicting the divine bird-man of legend - a sharp yellow hooked beak, like a scimitar, and a vast semi-circular head-dress of colourful foot-long feathers extending all around the top of the skull. In each hand it carries a Karambit of Sharpness. It acts like a predatory bird - rapacious, intelligent, perceptive, implacable.

The Garuda is only interested in hunting, stalking and killing.

HD 7+3, AB +9, AC 16, #ATT 2 (Karambit 1d6+2 x 2 [special]), Move 120

Chinese Maiden: a diminutive, sylph-like form maintaining her elegant movements despite her tiny crushed feet. Her mask's features are thin, expressionless, and cold; a long braid of hair hangs down from the back almost reaching to the ground.

The Chinese Maiden is pursued everywhere by the Drunken Persian King and his Followers (see below); she is almost never seen without them being within earshot. The Drunken Persian King longs for her hand in marriage; she will never give it, but will call on him for aid without compunction.

The Chinese Maiden undertakes to marry anybody who can bring her a blue rose. She can cast ESP, Audible Glamer, Phantasmal Force, Stinking Cloud, Confusion, Fear and Passwall, all once per day.

HD 3+3, AB +1, AC 12, #ATT 0, Move 120

Drunken Persian King with Followers: A corpulent figure with exaggerated movements demonstrating the strange agility intoxication can bring. His mask has a long beard of horse hair and a tall gaudy brass hat. He carries a gourd from which he occasionally takes a swig; it never runs out of its contents and instantly intoxicates anybody drinking from it (-4 to all dice rolls) for 12 hours. The Drunken Persian King is accompanied everywhere by 12 followers, all of whom wear crude masks with incompetently-carved features.

The Drunken Persian King is a suitor of the Chinese Maiden. He and his followers are always loitering near her so that if she looks their way they can demonstrate the King's virtues as a husband. This might involve showing he can knock his followers over, lift them above his head, leap over them, and so on. 

Drunken Persian King: HD 5, AB +6, AC 14, #ATT 1 (Sabre 1d8), Move 120
Followers: HD 2, AB +3, AC 14, #ATT 1 (Halberd 1d8), Move 120

Monk: A small stooped figure carrying a gnarled cane and a begging bowl. His mask is bald, and lined with deep exaggerated wrinkles cut into the wooden "flesh".

The Monk begs for money for sustenance, holding out his bowl. Nobody he asks for money can resist giving him all of the coinage which they have about their person. This they deposit in his apparently bottomless bowl. The money is transported to the Monk's grotto, where he retreats each evening; there is always 2d1000 gold pieces' worth of random coinage in this cave.

If the Monk is attacked or his bowl stolen, it is revealed to be empty.

The Monk's cane can be used to cast Teleport three times per day.

HD 2+1, AB +1, AC 12, ATT 1 (Cane 1d3), Moe 90