Hasty half-baked half-priced sale

It occurs to me that I should probably place this information somewhere it can actually be found rather than floating on the rough waves of Google+, gone by morning. Here it is:

Issue 4 of The Undercroft is slithering out in the very near future. The suspense is almost too much for me, I can't begin to imagine how excited everyone else must be. (The answer is, of course, very) 
So, to help alleviate your suffering, I'm putting the PDFs on sale. Half price until the end of the month, only through my little shop front.
Coupons are "undercroftX" where X is the issue number. Let's hope the new PDF shop works!

You can get them over here. Share the knowledge about if you're feeling particularly benevolent today.

Lost Pages and Cunning Men

I recently received the latest offerings hot off the press over at Lost Pages, and they are as marvellous as ever. I've been carrying Wonder & Wickedness (by one Mr. Strejcek) around like a toddler with a blanket ever since it arrived. Now, I could review it, OR I could rip it off in an act of the most sincere  flattery. Yea, I think I'll do that.

(as seen in longer form in The Undercroft #3)

Folk tales are the leavings of an irrational mind, a black pearl formed around an ill-sitting grain of truth. It is passed around the fire, each hand polishing it more so they can better see the fear on their own faces. But the grain remains and some are not so distracted by the black mirror, intent on staring deeper.

Their arrival wasn't planned. First one, then another, drawn by dreams of a dark sun rising above the primordial canopy of the Fern Court. They didn't know what it was or what would happen when it rose, but they were compelled to find answers. The forest speaks to those with an ear for it, but it talks in omen and subtle metaphor, a growing knot that the cunning can unravel. And they were cunning. They, the kindly ones, the painted folk, the cunning men.

The Fern Court is old, the woods are deep, thick and storied. The villages found there hide behind palisades choked with rose vines, closing their ears to the scratching at the door. The homesteads and charcoal burners are far and wary, the pathways to their homes littered with charms and fetishes against the night. The people on its borders share stories of children being taken from their beds to dance under its boughs.

Indeed, those who call the forest home are isolated, paranoid and prone to eccentricity, but it is not the realm of death one is lead to believe. Merchants cross it, lords claim it, and the very story tellers decrying it lived to learn and continue their tellings.

The forest men  have long memories, and the cunning men loom large in them. A monolith of stability, as permanent and old as the forest, a coming and going as regular and inevitable as the seasons, roaming where their calloused feet take them. The woodsmen might not question the attention of so many magical practitioners but the cunning men do. Each of them was drawn to this place, haunted by dreams and omens until they found themselves beneath its rancorous branches. Now they spend their energies trying to understand why, what brought them here and what the black sun means.

Within the small and quiet world of the woodsmen the tattooed face of the cunning man is a good omen. They rove from settlement to settlement swapping news in exchange for food and shelter, sitting by hearths and hearing what news they have in turn, seeing their sick and blessing their children, and as the nights go on his questions will come. He will ask about the owls and the milk, about the patterns in the frost. Have they seen Baldanders? Did the sparrowhawk fly east at dawn? Did it return by night?

They will answer and he will leave, satisfied but burdened.

Their covenant is both newer and more organised than it would at first seem. Though they travel widely they always return to the seasonal moot to unload their weighted minds. Unusual amongst practitioners of the cunning arts, they share knowledge freely. Every scrap and clue is kept in the hopes of leading to answers, every detail tattooed on their flesh. Volumes are inscribed in their private script, in streaks and swirls the letters abound. In there is everything that they must know, both magical and mundane, it will be preserved and never stolen like other tradition's books of spells so easily lost or destroyed. They stand before their peers, sky clad, and allow an inspection of the season's happenings.

When one of their number dies they take great pains to retrieve and prepare them for one final moot. Their skin is dried and stretched, displayed on a rack for all to come and learn from before it is destroyed utterly.

Cunning Man illustration in issue #3 by Matthew Adams


The caster whispers unintelligibly while staring intently at his target. While the muttering continues the fellow will be unable to get their words out, spluttering and becoming confused. Additionally the caster may force the target to say one thing, one single sentence.

This trick can be performed with subtlety, where onlookers would only see the caster muttering like one whose mind had withered roots.

Spleenful led

The caster must have in their possession a fragment of the target: a strand of hair, seminal fluid, toenail, blood and such. With this, they must bind it in mud or clay and throw it as far as they can, out of sight. The target must save vs. magic or from then until the next morning be unable to find their way.

For that period they cannot reliably find their way anywhere without someone leading them forcefully. They will take wrong turns, leave the trail and generally wander aimlessly.

Protection from rain

The caster is immune to the effects of turbulent weather. No rain nor hail will touch him, lightning will dance around him, the wind will die at his tread. But only him, mind. The elements have no strong feelings for his companions.

Read entrails

The creature being used for this spell must be slaughtered especially for this purpose. Creatures stumbled upon or killed for utilitarian purposes are not suitable. For each HD of sacrifice the cunning man may find a vague detail of the answer to one question in the entrails. Hair colour, mannerisms, times, smells, directions, all delivered in as obscure a manner as possible.

Pick up sticks

Some signs are not so subtle as to require a mind awash with magic; the woodsmen mistrust the owls and know to shutter their windows on the new moon. With the knowledge of how the forest connects meanings the caster throws a pocket full of twigs, bones, furs and feathers in the air. Those viewing must save vs. magic or fall to the ground obsessively picking up the assorted debris. Can effect 2HD of sentient targets per caster level.


The cunning man must take off his clothes and arrange them neatly and deliberately in a hidden place. Naked, they must walk into the wilderness and with each step lose their mind and body until eventually taking the form of an animal. They may choose what animal to be, but it must be appropriate for the environment and they must try their hardest to imitate the creature or else the trees will notice and the spell will end.

While in animal form they cannot be found through magical means. They may maintain this form for as long as they like, but must save vs. magic every new moon or else lose their minds to the beast and stay that way forever. To return to their old ways they must find their clothes, whereupon they will be reformed.

Many cunning folk have lost their mind through the divine sublimation of the zoanthrope. They still search the forests for Old Father Aldous, whose skin was almost black with writing, who they say glimpsed the horizon of the black sun before he retreated into quietude. At every hamlet and homestead they always ask after sightings of the black hare.

Brittle Twigs & Bird Song

The caster takes a dry twig and snaps it across his knee in full view of his foe. They must save vs. magic or take 1d8 damage and suffer the effects of a broken appendage (caster’s choice).

Path of Guilt

The caster makes a poultice of thorns, rags and soil, with this they scrub the soles of the feet until they bleed freely (1d4 damage). While the blood flows they count as having 6 in 6 stealth and the evidence of their passing is invisible to the mundane eye. Once the bleeding stops the spell wears off and the bloody footprints appear for all to see.


  1. The sorcerer is always covered in moss and small insects. They scutter in and out of his clothes and beard. If he was to sit still for long enough he would eventually look like a rotten tree trunk.

    1 in 6 chance a rare and highly toxic hallucinatory mushroom grows in his armpit. He eats them constantly.
  2. A flash of insight into the meaning of things! The sorcerer must immediately go to a certain place and do a certain thing. This thing will be seemingly mundane and meaningless, such as placing a sandal half way up a certain mountain, or standing under a certain waterfall while reciting the Strictures of Merrywell. If the party do not join him at the next free moment he will disappear on his own for 2d6 weeks and do it himself. 1 in 6 chance he never comes back.
  3. The sorcerer is overwhelmed by implied meaning and endless connections. Before him is a vast conspiracy between the squirrels and the daffodils, they hide their nuts in the pattern of the constellation of the Bull and only remove his eye on Wednesdays, the oak leaves fall but spin only counter clockwise... They are paralysed with the truth and can only be forcibly lead around for 1d4 days. They may memorise twice the normal spells during this period, since the sideways logic comes more naturally.
  4. For one random fellow close to this catastrophe the veil of lies is ripped and the black sun replaces our own. It will bleed, thick puss dripping down the sky. The trees will buckle, the walls will fester and boil and they will fall to their knees as their sanity leaves them in a boiling puddle of filth.

    Save vs. magic or die. If it dies, then the caster must save vs. magic or die as he sees the light in the burst flesh bag that got caught up in this mess. If he dies then everyone within sight of him must save or die. Closing your eyes won’t help, you won’t need eyes when the dark sun rises.
  5. The cunning man learns that his life is linked to another in the vast web. This can be an object or place. His health and theirs is linked from this day on. Think like a Dryad and their tree, but potentially with a weasel, blueberry bush or toothbrush.
  6. Caster loses their mind. Believe themselves to be an animal or tree. This lasts for 1d6 days, reroll 6's and add it to the total. Players may control the PC as long as they play along convincingly. Spellcasting ability is lost.
  7. Rose vines burst out of the cunning man in a huge plasmic sneeze. Everyone within 20 metres of him must save vs. device or be impaled by the foliage for 1d6 damage. The plants are ferocious weeds and will continue to grow. Very pretty, but in a few weeks everything will be covered in spikey rose vines. The cunning man is unharmed, but must disentangle himself from the vines now growing out of him.
  8. The cunning eye sees the purest empyreal fire, suffusing the darkness with a light so far from the prosaic rays that struggle through the canopy as to be an insult to name it as such. That beauty is seen by few but holds an indescribable fascination for those that have. A feeling beyond words or any other tawdry attempts at communication. It can only be shown.

    The caster will emanate light with no fixed point of origin while babbling incoherently. Anyone viewing the light must save vs. magic or grow uncontrollably as the light fills them. They will spontaneously sprout new limbs, their flesh will flow like a flood and they will grow exponentially until the light fades. Their flesh will remain forever malleable and readily absorb more. From here on they are considered horrifying monsters by all, and are very likely blind, deaf, and insane (2 in 3 chance of each).

    If you know to do so and are prepared, looking away will avoid this unpleasant fate. However, anyone caught in the area of an individual glutting on emyreal light will be absorbed into the target, dealing 1d10 damage per turn as they are melted into their loving embrace. If they are cut free they will suffer d6 permanent damage from missing flesh and skin.
  9. The caster mutters constantly, with occasional outbursts. It resembles Tourettes, but instead of obscenities he blurts out cutting truths.
  10. The recipient of this curse is dragged under the earth by thick roots, whereupon he is stored in a small encystment. He will not starve and cannot escape through normal means, though he can be dug up. Those recovering his encystment will find a sack of flesh, inside of which the poor fellow will be held.

    After a time a tree grows on the spot, the fruit of which will fall and split into animals of some local variety. They will speak of the trapped individual, but only to the young and the lonely. After 2d6 years the tree will split like a lily to reveal the sorcerous sufferer, naked and new.
  11. The sorcerer casts off his clothes and equipment. His takes a sharp stick and ash and inscribes his magical knowledge into his flesh. This takes 1 day per level, during which he will refuse to be disturbed. He will never again wear clothes or bags of anything else that separates him from an intimate connection with the world. Can memorise 2 extra spells.
  12. The cunning man can talk with animals and plants. However, they all talk like the Cheshire cat and bad lsd dreams. Constantly.

Concerning Mudmen II: Son of Mudman

A vicious, quiet competitiveness sits in the corner on top of the book case kicking its legs. When one sees what is good and beautiful it pipes up. Push it push it push it, push it 'till it breaks. To its merit it doesn't want to destroy everyone, just beat them. But saying "it could be worse" invites it. Instead one must use the newer chant: "Mouth shut, eyes forward and make the things." Intone it 'till the table vibrates with your powerful AUM.

All this is still true. The following may be true also.

The Mudmen don't call themselves Mudmen, though they do not consider it especially insulting. They are the Tan, they have their own language and culture on the fringe of civilisation.

Their culture is based entirely around hiding from Tolhoth, god of forge fires, who is intent on eliminating them to ensure his victory against all other gods, as foretold by the Oracle of Pellan and explained previously. While covered in the mud of Loch Doldrum they are invisible to him.

Tolhoth only killed most of his followers. As result he only killed most of the gods.

The grey clay they use to cover themselves is the finest clay around. The Potters Guild at the foot of Holy Mountain have made a name and fortune for themselves on the stuff. The mudmen do not like this one bit.

"The flames treat the clay and turn it hard and strong."

The mudmen know they are the only humans left. all others are ghosts, vengeful and jealous that they did not escape the flames. This, combined with the Potters's continued exploitation of them has made them exceedingly hostile to outsiders. Or ghosts, more accurately.

They were once the Tan, who lived beyond the mountains and worshipped all manner of domestic gods. Most of these gods are now dead, victimes of Tolhoth's crusade, but while the mudmen live he cannot finish the job. The mudmen fight for your religious freedom.

One of the gods they consider to have survived the purge bears a remarkable resemblance to Vorn.

The Potters know exactly who and what the mudmen are and have suppressed the knowledge so that they can continue to rob them of their clay. If the church knew they were orthodox worshippers they could possibly be afforded some protection, in as much as any human would, from the depredations of the potters. But they aren't human, they're Mudmen.

The Burrow is what the potters call the Mudmen's city. Burrow is more of an accurate term than city, as it is literally a series of warrens cut into the mountain side and decorated in air dried clay embellishments. The actual name of the city is Great Strenk.

Mudmen are only without their masks when under the mountain. If caught without a mask they will fall into a catatonic coma and consider themselves to be dead. If other mudmen witness this they will agree, they are indeed dead and treated as any other ghost: determinedly ignored at best, attacked at worst.

The potters sponsor adventurers to go into the burrow, claiming it is a dungeon full of treasure. It is indeed full of treasure, and dungeon-like. The mudmen will not stand for anyone entering, they can't let outsiders see their faces.

They leave the burrow to hunt and gather clay for their disguises, returning there at night. If a mudman gets stuck outside they will bury themselves in the muddy shore with reed breathing straws. They cant risk their hats falling off while they sleep and having Tolhoth coming back and stomping them into dust.

Disturbed mudmen, covered in thick mud, pouncing from their partial burial. This is responsible for rumours of them being actually made of mud

Some potters are concerned that the mudmen are right, and tolhoth will destroy the gods is they succeed in driving the mudmen to extinction. They are a small minority, and still mostly content to let all their money console them.

The abuse of the mudman population by the potters is occasionally opposed by other civilised folk. However the potters are rich and maintain the only standing army for leagues around. As "guides" for those extracting the clay.

Ultimately, the mudmen just want to be left alone.

Magic is...

... a physical burden. You carry them around like invisible squirming infants that you birth the night before. The more you have, the heavier your stride.
... ju-ju sticks. With years of training anyone can make them. You write the names of gods in resin and blood, then snap them with your thumb.
... parasitic. Plasmic entities sit inside you, contained and ready to be released. While inside they drain you steadily.
... religious. It's all a matter of knowing the right gods to call and hoping for the best.
... psychically degenerative. Magicians are distracted and forgetful, their minds are only so big. They must give up their memories for the spells to fit and their knowledge to stay. While empty they are listless and dull.
... addictive. Casting spells depletes your precious reserve. Much better to hold the power within yourself and watch the swirling impossibilities.
... a journey. The shaman travels in a spiritual landscape to find the cunning tricks of his trade.
... easy. Simple tricks that you could teach a child. The wizard is different only in the quantity he maintains.
... a contract. Every gain costs a small part of you, or a favour, or a thing. Monkey paw.
... love. An expression of irrational will and desire, focused. A Carebear Stare.
... alchemical. Potions and unguents, you sound like the milkman when you totter about.
... internal. There is no evil but that of the mind, no power than that which you create.
... a gamble. Sorcerous power is only limited by you willingness to put you health and sanity on the line.
... academic. Years of learning, wizened and frail.
... vital. Your body and mind are are an expression of your overpowering will. If you cannot change yourself how can you enact change on the world?
... tempting. Anyone can reach out and take it, but not many do. It is a bright fire, a tiger's tail.
... physically degenerative. Energy cannot be spontaneously created. It all comes from within you. Excellent for weight loss.
... arbitrary. It helps or hinders at its mindless whim. Those who practise it practise only risk management.
... a performance. The caster assumes the guise of others and plays a part. A god, a peasant, a king.
... communal. Seers and wise men, raised up from their community to guide it. They can see to the border stones and back.
... suggestive. You live the change you want to see. Voodoo dolls and vision boards.
... chaotic. This world of ours is a scab, easily picked. Look for patterns and then break them.
... lawful. Magic creates perfect order, beyond the entropy of this world.
... ancient science. You work what was lost, through rote and experimentation.
... blood. Cut to create.
... sacrifice. Life for life.