Monday, October 8, 2018

Magus' Music of the Month - September 2018

Music released last month that I listened to and liked.
Title links are to Spotify, embeds are from Bandcamp (preferred) or YouTube.

Fit for a King - Dark Skies

I've always thought of Fit for a King as a middle-of-the-road metalcore band. However, they have stepped up their game for "Dark Skies," incorporating more diversity into their songwriting and sound than any of their previous albums. Clean vocals - often a hit or miss for FFAK due to lineup changes - have stabilized and are generally good and tastefully used across the album. Solid!

Wolfheart - Constellation of the Black Light

Wolfheart have been churning out "winter metal" (blackened melodic death metal, I say) at an impressive rate for years now. Quality has suffered somewhat for the sake of quantity, and Wolfheart hasn't really tweaked their formula since their inception, but "Constellations..." held my attention and left me feeling satisfied (but not blown away) by its darkly adventuresome atmosphere.

Petroglyphs - Ascension
Making a comeback with a largely fresh lineup, "Ascension" is Petroglyphs' most engaging and technical release yet. The new vocalist has delivered a heavy metalcore sound that suits the music well, and guitar leads are an excellent halfway-house between blazing and spacey.

This Will Destroy You - New Others Part One

Continuing in the vein of 2014's "Another Language," "New Others Part One" is fuzzy, experimental post-rock busting out ambient and post-metal as accents. I will personally always look backwards to This Will Destroy You's self-titled 2007 album, but "New Others..." has given me a helping of odd but soulful sounds to digest. I have excellent memories from seeing them live last year, and look forward to what "New Others Part Two" (?) might mean.

Monday, October 1, 2018

I Found Flame

This is a mix/playlist called "I Found Flame," and you can find it on Spotify, Mixcloud, and 8tracks.
Mostly melodic death metal. Art by Marat Ziyaev.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Rites of Bisection

"I am told that there lies a small monastery built into one of the many rocky crags which stands against the thirsty, encroaching Sands in the south. Its monks are a minor cabal of philosophes dedicated to some overwrought doctrine or another, similar to many such orders scattered about the vast hinterlands surrounding Innersey. I deem them worth mentioning for one reason only: their Rites of Bisection."

"These Rites are purported to turn one person into two, in a miraculous manifestation of the monks' secret dogma. I cannot lend such tales any credence. It is ridiculous that, as I have been told, a person may be split slowly and carefully down the middle, and each half grown back into a full person over the course of months. One would not survive such an operation; to start with, the heart is not centrally located - would one half-person thus do without a heart? Ha!..."

"Several merchant lords and mighty Magi have been reputed to visit these monks to undergo the Rites; their motives and fates seem more like moralistic fairy tales than real happenings, with the subject being murdered by their own shadow or doppelgänger, lost to a fit of extreme madness, or returning again and again to the monks as their bodies deform and minds ablate..."

- from the writings of Andras, Magus of the Fifth Order

Image uploaded by Carolina Baratieri to ResearchGate and used with proper permissions

This is a common trope in fantasy/sci-fi. Yes, PCs (or NPCs) can go to these monks and essentially clone themselves; the price will be dear, and may not be monetary. At first impression, both resulting characters will have the same body, mind, and memories of the "original," but absolute similarity will not last long... and may be illusory in the first place. (If a PC undergoes the Rites of Bisection, only one of the two resulting characters are under the player's control as a PC. The other is an NPC with, initially, identical goals to the "original." But things change...)

If used in a game, it should involve at least one moral dilemma:
- Are either resulting people the same as the "original?"
- Did the "original" die during the Rites?
- Corollary if the above is "yes": are either of the two resulting people even alive/ensoulled?
- Can a person resulting from the Rites undergo the Rites again? (How many times? Information entropy?)
- Some variation of the classic "nature vs. nurture" question

Monday, September 24, 2018

Mirror Reaper



So, this is pretty unusual music, as far as music goes, on the whole. Yes, the album is only one track, and the track is over 80 minutes long. Trust me, it all goes together, it all flows, it's all one experience.

The genre is "funeral doom." This means, at a minimum, you can expect "very low" and "very slow." In the case of Mirror Reaper, this means lots of very deep guitar chords or drones, hollow chthonic growls, and lurching, resonant percussion.

That's not all, though. The lighter solo interludes are melancholy and beautiful, echoing clean vocals (almost Gregorianic) form solemn choirs, and guest vocalist Erik Moggridge transforms the second half of the album into something heartbreakingly special.

I'm not even really into "funeral doom," but I love this.

Mirror Reaper is for listening to when exploring cyclopean ancient ruins, dreaming of depths and shadow, or contemplating the inevitability of the erasure of all that you hold dear.

Give it a listen. It's not distracting from whatever you happen to be doing for a quiet hour.


(Yeah, probably gonna write up a "mirror reaper" and/or "bell witch" for my tabletop game at some point, haha. Not today, though; I'm tired, and packing for a move.)

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Your Giant Spiders Are Boring

I was thinking about spiders today, (probably because there is now a big one with a web attached to my sink faucet and I was doing dishes and I do not like spiders,) and it occurred to me that some predatory spiders do some kinda funky things in order to score their meals. (Bolas spiders and trapdoor spiders were the first ones I thought of.) But, spiders in, like, monster manuals usually only have some combination of 1) venomous bite, 2) traditional webs, or 3) shooting webs (or venom), which seems like a silly thing for an actual real-life spider to do and therefore probably a game-ism. (Click for spoiler)

So, I went to Wikipedia, naturally. Anyway, here's how to spice up giant (or regular) spiders in your chthonic dice game of choice:

Roll 1d12 at least once, but more is definitely fine:
1) Spider spins a small web between its forelegs, which it tangles prey with as it pounces
2) Spider spins a line with a sticky blob on the end, swinging it around a few times like a bolas and then hurling it at prey to snare it and draw it in
3) Spider builds a webby home underwater, detecting ripples on the surface to locate prey - yes, this is totally a spider that will burst out of the water and nab your swimming adventurer to drown them
4) Spider has a concealed trapdoor which it will pop out of and nab you
5) Spider mimics some other organism - bonus points if it does something creepy like mimic a human... or treasure chest lel
6) Spider shoots janking darts at you when it feels threatened - these may or may not be poisonous
7) Spider spits sticky web fluid at prey - yeah, click the link, this is actually real
8) Spider spits venom at prey - this is actually the same spider above - their attack is actually a combination of both
9) Spider runs up and bites you - pretty standard
10) Spider jumps/drops from distance and bites you - also common, but scary
11) Spider spins sticky webs, which it can detect vibrations from - but your adventurers will totally notice any web thick enough to snare them unless it's real dark
12) Spider spins non-sticky webs or tripwires, which it only uses for the purpose of detecting prey - these are very fine silk, and difficult to notice

Oh, and even better? You can totally reskin a lot of these to work with something non-spidery if you want. (A lot of them already exist in non-spidery form, anyway. Manticores and mimics and snakes and such.)

Use this in your game! I will.


(No pictures of spiders for this post, because I don't like spiders, and I don't want to comb through dozens of spider pictures to find a good one and discomfit both myself and arachnophobiacs who are reading this. Cheers!)

Monday, September 17, 2018

Magus' Music of the Month - August 2018

Music released last month that I listened to and liked.
Title links are to Spotify, embeds are from Bandcamp (preferred) or YouTube.

Tides of Man - Every Nothing

 A great follow-up to Young and Corageous. Alternately pensive, hopeful, and adventurous, as excellent post-rock tends to be.

Dance with the Dead - Loved to Death

DWTD is not content to be just retro-style synthwave. They've been incorporating driving guitar riffs and soaring leads into their electronic music for several albums, but Loved to Death pushes the envelope with such tracks as the thrashy opener "Go!" and frankly crushing closer "Become Wrath." It's likely my favorite album they've put out, and probably my top pick from the dark synthwave genre as a whole. (You will have to excuse the poor artwork though, haha; DWTD love their campy old horror films!) They put on a great live show, too, and I'm planning on catching them again next month!

Waiting Room - Pray for Sound

Pray for Sound decided to switch it up a bit with this one. Normally chunky post-rock with the emphasis on rock, Waiting Room is a slow, ambient affair built around reverbant clean guitar and quiet piano touches. It's touching, and calming.

Erra - Neon

Impressive progressive post-hardcore. I've been a fan of Erra since early in their career; yes, their sound has changed, as this is now their fifth release, and bands change over that amount of time. I'm not totally on-board with it, but there is still plenty here for me to enjoy. I'll be seeing them live next month for the... fourth? fifth? time, and fully expect them to deliver as they always have.


Has anything listen-worthy dropped into your lap lately?

Saturday, September 15, 2018

WOTC D&D Survey

Well, WotC put out another D&D survey. Take some time to do it. Here's why:

Yeah, we're all busy people. But it's indubitable that Wizard of the Coast's Fifth Edition is how the biggest chunk of new blood first encounters tabletop RPGs these days. It might be worth letting WotC know what "we" expect out of a tabletop RPG - whether we're playing Fifth Edition or not. Let's be heard.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Coral Colossus



"If the unseen stars are aligned just so on the night of a new moon, when rain pounds upon the surface of the ocean, the shape of a giant rises from the surf. A towering figure of coral, standing and striding along the shore."

"It is known that coral is an animal and not a stone, but its spirit is slow and its dreams are deep, awakening only rarely. When it does, it sends forth a coral colossus from its bed, to find a new place near the shore to lie down and sleep before day comes, seeding a new bed of coral."

"Coral giants have been known to tread through fishing villages and wharves in their waking-sleep, bringing ruin to docks and small vessels beneath their rock-hard feet. This is likely not malice; after all, how often do we knock asunder anthills in our walking, never minding the fragile dirt of which the swarms build their palaces."

"Reportedly, the fisherfolk of Whitecliffs have an old custom of lighting a large bonfire in the midst of their village for every new moon, with the stated purpose of "quieting the coral," a ceremony attended by quiet singing reminiscent of birdsong. I believe this may be a means of protecting such communities from the misfortune of an encounter with a coral colossus, who may be tricked by the fire-light into thinking the sun is close to rising, therefore returning to the sea to sleep and grow. Indeed, many coastal hamlets of Whitecliffs are surrounded by labyrinths of coral beds, imperiling navigation by ships larger than a sloop."

"It is written that the horde of one of the mage-kings of old had a giant of coral at its vanguard, but how even a powerful Magus of the ancient world would lure a colossus away from the shore and into war is beyond my guess."

- from the writings of Andras, Magus of the Fifth Order


Coral colossi are not supposed to be a foe to fight, but a puzzle (with a time limit) to solve. (Thus, I have not provided a statblock.) If player characters hear that a massive coral giant is approaching a nearby coastal village, or even larger town, it may fall to them to figure out how to stop or divert the threat. (My first thoughts are either tricking it into thinking the sun is soon to rise, as above, or perhaps providing a good solid rockbed near the shore for falling asleep upon. Or, you know, beating it up, but that is difficult considering its size and durability - I was thinking thirty or forty feet in height, but more wouldn't hurt if it would fit with the tone of your gameworld.) Coral colossi don't really think in terms of fight-or-flight, not having any natural predators, but might try to eliminate something that just badly wounded them. Or, y'know, wade into the safety of the ocean. Mission accomplished, in that case.

Coral colossi might just be an atmospheric tidbit, too. The grinding of salted rock and roar of broken waves as a massive figure moves against the dark horizon lets the players know their characters aren't just on a long walk on the beach.


(Edit: coral giants were inspired by the song above, "Colossus" by In Mourning, but it appears I am not even the first to put a coral giant in a game)

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Housekeeping (9/11/18)

- Added a sidebar gadget Ars Magisterii Elsewhere, which leads to my Spotify, G+, Mixcloud, 8tracks, etc!
- Overhauled post tags to be actually useful! Moving Parts are stuff I use in my game that you can use in yours, Rules and Rulings is how I run my game, The World Without Welkin is just information on the setting I made to game in (more on it soon, probably), Music is self-explanatory, In Action contains play reports and play artefacts, and Palimpsests contains worthless jank that I nevertheless don't want to totally delete.
- Reinstated links at the top of my blog, which now lead to an appropriate tag from above!
- My blogroll (on the right) continues to grow!
- Quit my fucking job, so am now unemployed with no idea what to do next!
- Still suicidally depressed! Been over a year since I actually attempted to kill myself, which is a debatably good thing?
- Posting about the above on a fucking blog! As if one couldn't sink lower.
- Probably coming soon: more content that isn't housekeeping and isn't worthless whinging!

Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Burning Horizon

Well, I'm trying something new.
I made a mix/playlist. It's called "Burning Horizon," and you can find it on Mixcloud, Spotify, and 8tracks. It's like 40 minutes long, which I find to be a pretty optimal listening length for one slab of something.
It's death metal, but I'm probably going to make at least one or two more, and they won't all be metal.
Art by Chris Cold, who was kind enough to give me permission to use his piece.
Cheers.