Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Of Him the Harpers Sadly Sing (GLOG Class: Bard)

Nu sculon heriġean    heofonriċes Weard
Now we must praise    heaven-kingdom's guardian,
Meotodes meahte    and his modġeþanc
the Measurer's might    and his mind-plans,
weorc Wuldor-Fæder    swa he wundra ġehwæs
the work of the Glory-Father,    when he of wonders every one,
eċe Drihten    or onstealde
eternal Lord,    the beginning established.
He ærest sceop    ielda bearnum
He first created    for men's sons
heofon to hrofe    haliġ Scyppend
heaven as a roof,    holy Creator;
ða middanġeard    moncynnes Weard
then middle-earth    mankind's guardian,
eċe Drihten    æfter teode
eternal Lord,    afterwards made—
firum foldan    Frea ælmihtiġ
for men earth,    Master almighty.
    – "Cædmon's Hymn", by Cædmon c. 658-680 CE
I've decided to start rewriting the Carolingia classes as part of the total reworking of the hack that I plan to do, and the old Chanter seemed like a good place to start, since I really don't like it much and I think I'm going to remove conventional GLOG spellcasters from the game entirely, or nearly so.
Starting Equipment: A harp or other instrument, a leather helm, a small shield, and a weapon of your choice.

Skills: Music, Poetry, and 1d3: 1. Folklore, 2. Religion, 3. History
Damage: 1d8
A: Battle Cry, Beloved Voice, Legend-Smith
B: Tales of Heroism, +1 to-hit
C: Boiled Alive, Songs of Lore, +1 Save
D: Weeping Stones, +1 to-hit

Battle Cry: If you call out a battle cry at the beginning of a fight, your allies each regain 1 hitpoint immediately and gain +1 to-hit for the rest of the battle, while your enemies take a -1 penalty to Morale for the rest of the battle. However, if in a dungeon or other dangerous area, this immediately provokes a wandering monster check. 
Beloved Voice: When you let it be known that you are a teller of tales and a singer of songs, you gain +1 to reaction rolls with intelligent beings. This can be accomplished by reciting a song or poem, even if the listeners do not understand the language it is in. There will always be food and space in the mead hall for you, provided you perform. 

Legend-Smith: If you compose and recite a poem or song regarding an adventure (or misadventure) that the party got into, all involved characters gain 10 XP. Yes, you must actually write it and recite it. No, it does not have to be good, or long. It just has to exist. You cannot gain this XP for multiple events that happened in the same session.

Tales of Heroism: You know two of the following tales, rolled on 1d8, and may roll another for each further template of Bard you gain. Reciting a tale takes 10 minutes, at the end of which, everyone who heard it gains the detailed benefit. No one may benefit from any particular tale more than once per day, and you may perform no more than [templates] tales per day. Bonus points if you actually recite an excerpt from the poem. At the DM's discretion, you may make a poem you composed about the game into a Tale of Heroism, with a negotiated benefit.

1. Beowulf: Gain +1d4 to-hit and +1d4 damage on the next attack you make this day.
2. Cædmon's Hymn: Regain 1d4+level hitpoints.
3. The Dream of the Rood: Reduce the damage of the next attack that hits you this day by 1d4.
4. The Wanderer: Ignore the next 1d4 obstacles that would impede your overland travel on this day.
5. Widsith: If at least one person present speaks a language, all people present are conversant in it for the next 1d6 hours.
6. The Battle of Maldon: During the next fight you participate in on this day, all retainers and levies gain +1 Morale.
7. Wulf and Eadwacer: During the next fight you participate in on this day, when you would roll Death and Dismemberment, roll twice and take the lower.
8. The Seafarer: Adverse weather conditions will not affect your sailing or put your ship in danger for the next 1d12 hours.
Boiled Alive: In social situations, delivering a sufficiently cutting insult (and you know the drill at this point; you have to come up with the insult yourself or crowd-source it from your fellow players) will cause the target to wake the next day with a face covered in boils.
Songs of Lore: You have a [templates]-in-6 chance of knowing a fact, determined by the DM, about any person, object, creature, polity, or place if you hear the name or a detailed description.

Weeping Stones: The reaction bonus from Beloved Voice increases to +2 and now applies to all creatures, not just intelligent ones, as well as inanimate objects. You gain a further +1 reaction with beasts and inanimate objects for each hour you play and sing to them. On a reaction roll of 12+, beasts will become your loyal companions and natural things will obey your orders. This may not be used to make them act against their nature or harm their kin, but you could ask a stone to split or a tree to move a root, and it would do so.

Thursday, September 1, 2022

GLOG Prestige Class: Metamage

Yep, GLOG has prestige classes now.
You can take a template in a prestige class when you a) already have at least one template in a regular class, and b) meet all other requirements.

Requirements: At least one MD, the ability to cast spells, and 13 Intelligence (or your hack's equivalent).

A: Metamagic, +1 MD
B: Counterspell, +2 Metamagics, +1 MD
C: Editing, +2 Metamagics, +1 MD

Metamagic: You can use your magical abilities to enhance your spells in ways other than simply adding more MD to their regular effects. When you cast a spell with at least 1 MD, you may add any number of additional MD to a metamagical effect you know. MD rolled for the spell and the metamagic should remain separate, as they do not share their [dice] or [sum], but they do all count towards Mishaps and Dooms as one pool of dice. For example, if you cast a spell with 2 MD and add a metamagical effect at 2 MD, you roll 4d6. If they come out up as 2, 4, 6, and 2, the spell as a [dice] of 2 and a [sum] of 6, the metamagic has a [dice] of 2 and a [sum] of 8, and you suffer a Mishap as the class which the spell comes from. You may apply multiple metamagical effects to a spell, each of which has a separate [dice] and [sum]. Roll 3d6 on the table of Metamagics at A template to see which effects you know, then roll 2d8 at B template and 2d10 at C template.

Counterspell: When you notice a magical effect being cast, you may counter it by rolling any number of MD. Your [dice] is subtracted from the targeted effect's [dice], and the same is done with [sum], but the effect's [dice] and [sum] cannot go below 0. Additionally, your MD and the effect's MD count as being in the same pool for Mishaps and Dooms, but both you and the effect's caster suffer the effect of a Mishap or a Doom.

Editing: When you cast a spell, you may roll any number of additional MD, which do not count towards [dice] or [sum] but do count towards Mishaps and Dooms. This allows you to add a single word per MD added in this fashion anywhere in the spell's description (subject to the DM's discretion).

Metamagical Effects (d10):

  1. Widen: Must be applied to a spell which affects an area. Every dimension of the area of the spell is multiplied a factor of by [dice]+1.
  2. Silent: Must be applied to a spell which requires speech or other noise in order to be cast. Casting the spell is now silent.
  3. Quicken: If the casting time of this spell is 1 action (if no casting time is mentioned, it's probably 1 action by default), it no longer takes an action to cast. If the casting time is longer than 1 action, it is divided by a factor of [dice]+1.
  4. Extend: Must be applied to a spell which has a duration longer than 0/negligible. If the spell's duration scales with [dice] or [sum], it counts as though the [dice] or [sum] of this metamagic are added to its own [dice] or [sum], but only for calculating duration. The duration of the spell is multiplied by a factor of [dice]+1.
  5. Enlarge: Must be applied to a spell which has a singular target. The range of the spell becomes [dice] miles. If the target is not within line of sight, you must know the precise location you are targeting relative to your own location, or, if the target is a location, you must be holding an item which comes from the location, or, if the target is a creature, you must be holding a piece of that creature's bodily matter. 
  6. Twin: Must be applied to a spell which has only one target. The number of targets increases by [dice].
  7. Still: Casting of spell is now completely imperceptible, even by magical means.
  8. Heighten: Must be applied to a spell which only affect beings of a certain HD or below, creatures making up no more than a certain number of HD, or to spells which only affect magical effects of a certain MD or below. The HD or MD affected by the spell is increased by [sum]+[dice].
  9. Empower: Increase the [dice] of the spell by [dice]*3.
  10. Maximize: The [sum] of the spell now includes the [sum] of this metamagic, and all MD rolled count as if they rolled a 6 for purposes of calculating [sum] and determining expenditure.

Monday, August 15, 2022

What Else Belongs In the Joyous City? (GLOG Class: Prophet)

Variations on a theme.
Starting Equipment: Ascetic's rags or rich trappings, a staff, and bleeding feet or a palanquin.
Skills: Preaching and 1d3: 1. Shepherding, 2. Pottery, 3. Tactics
A: Cult, Miracles, +1 MD
B: Augury, +1 MD
C: Oration, +1 MD
D: Divinity, +1 MD

Cult: You are the charismatic leader of a cult (in the traditional sense, not the modern)—or rather, you will be. You start with no followers, but gain 1d4 for every day you preach in the streets. Generally, your followers are simply regular people (1/2 HD, Morale 6), though their circumstances will vary depending on your creed, but every twentieth follower is a level 1 character with a template in a random class. They will not join your party, but they will be loyal to you within reasonable bounds. Your specific type of cult gives you a miracle and an ability.
Cult Types:
  1. Revolutionary:
    Miracle: Turn Tax Collectors
    Ability: S
    ecular and religious authorities are invariably opposed to you, but all your followers will die for the cause.
  2. Mystery
    Water to Wine
    Ability: Your followers require exclusive ceremonies and gathering locations, but they will tend to be wealthy and influential.
  3. Schismatic
    Dispel Heathenry
    Ability: Gain 1 additional follower every time you attract followers previously of the religion you abandoned.When you roll reaction with the faithful of that religion, a result of 3-7 counts as a 2 and a roll of 8-11 counts as a 12.
  4. Messianic
    Healing Hands
    Ability: Your followers view you as the ultimate authority in the world, and will never recant their faith.
  5. Oracular
    Roll 1d8 on the table.
    Ability: You gain Augury at A Template and your chance of receiving an incorrect answer begins at 0-in-6 rather than 1-in-6.
  6. Occult
    Bestow Curse
    Ability: When you perform a miracle while performing a taboo act in your society, you can increase either [dice] or [sum] by 1. If it's an irredeemable act, you can increase both by 1 or either by 2.
  7. Heroic:
    Righteous Might
    Ability: 1 in every 10 followers is a level 1 character, rather than 1 in 20.
  8. Apocalyptic:
    Doom of Cities
    Ability: Enemies have -1 to Morale checks if you preach to them of the impending end of the world.
Miracles: You have a pool of Miracle Dice (MD), which work exactly like Magic Dice in every way. In addition to the miracle you know from your cult, you know a miracle determined by rolling 1d6 on the table at the end of the class. Roll again with a d8 at B Template, a d10 at C Template, and a miracle of your choice from all 12 options at D Template.
Augury: You can perform a divination ritual about a course of action you or another person plans to take soon. The DM will tell you their opinion of the plan with one word: good, bad, or unsure. There's a 1-in-6 chance the DM will instead answer randomly, and this chance increases by one each time you use this ability that day, resetting at the end of the day.

Types of Divination (d6):
  1. Augury
  2. Haruspicy
  3. Astrology
  4. Geomancy
  5. Scrying
  6. Cartomancy or token casting
Oration: Any group of people will remain quiescent and receptive while you preach to them. This ends if any violent act is taken against them. If this ability is used to end a combat or quell those who are already immediately disposed to violence against you, it only succeeds if the targets fail a Morale roll.
Divinity: When in dire need, you may call upon a miracle that you don't know—either one from the class list or one improvised by the DM for your circumstances. All MD used to perform a miracle in this manner are automatically depleted.


  1. Turn Tax Collectors
    Casting Time: 1 action
    Duration: [sum] days
    Range: 60'
    [sum] HD of authority figures within range must Save vs Magic or flee your presence immediately. If they were imposing their authority on a person or group, they will not bother them again for the duration.
  2. Water to Wine
    Casting Time: 1 minute
    Duration: -
    Range: 60'
    [sum]*[dice] gallons (slots) of water within range become wine.
  3. Sticks to Snakes
    Casting Time: 1 action
    Duration: [sum] rounds
    Range: 30'
    Turn sticks into [dice] HD worth of obedient snakes, divided as you choose (minimum 1 HD). Their bite attacks deal 1 damage, and the target must Save vs Poison or take an additional 1d6 damage. A 1 HD snake must be from a stick longer than 4' feet, a 2 HD snake from a stick longer than 7', a 3 HD snake from a small dead tree or log, and a 4 HD snake from a large dead tree or log. You may instead spend 1 HD to grant the snakes one of the following abilities:
    1. Instead of extra damage, the poison is now a Save vs Death.
    2. Wings and a flying speed of 60'.
    3. Human speech.
    4. Prophecy. 
    5. Fire breath (Save vs 2d6 damage, one use).
  4. Multiply Food
    Casting Time: 1 minute
    Duration: -
    Range: Touch
    One slot of food within range becomes [sum]*[dice] slots of identical food
  5. Amplify Voice
    Casting Time: 1 action
    Duration: [dice] hours
    Range: [dice]*100'
    Everyone within range can hear every word you speak, if you so choose, at an intelligible and comfortable volume. You may also shout, dealing [sum] damage and knocking every affected creature prone in a 120' cone. This instantly ends the spell. On a successful Save vs Magic, the damage is halved and the target is not knocked prone.
  6. Healing Hands
    Casting Time: 1 action
    Duration: -
    Range: Touch
    A target within range either regains [sum]+[dice] hitpoints or makes a Save with a +[dice] bonus against an ongoing negative ailment or injury, ending it on a success.
  7. Summon Bear
    Casting Time: 1 action
    Duration: [sum] rounds
    Range: [dice] miles
    An animal of your choice with no more than [dice] HD is summoned to you. After it arrives, it will serve you for the duration, then return peacefully to its business. For example, a wolf is 1 HD, a bear is 2 HD, a giant eagle is 3 HD, and a giant stag is 4 HD.
  8. Bestow Curse
    Casting Time: 1 action
    Duration: [dice] years
    Range: Hearing
    A creature who can hear you must Save vs Magic or become cursed for the duration. Choose one of the following options: 1. They can only speak in rhymes, 2. They can only walk backwards, 3. Animals will either run from them or attack them on sight while yowling loudly, 4. They become infertile, 5. They're always in shadow, even if they're standing outside on a sunny day, 6. Any product of their profession has a 3-in-6 chance of being non-functional or spoiled. If you cast the spell with at least 4 MD, it lasts indefinitely.
  9. Dispel Heathenry
    Casting Time: 1 action
    Duration: [sum] rounds
    Range: 60'
    A magical effect within range has its [sum] reduced by your [sum] and its [dice] reduced by your [dice] for the duration (this may end the spell instantly or eliminate its effect, in which case it does not resume after the duration). If cast on a magical item or other non-spell effect, the DM determines how many MD it has and rolls them. If this would reduce the item/effect's [sum] to 0, it shatters and is destroyed. Non-magical devotional objects count as 0 MD effects.
  10. Righteous Might
    Casting Time: 1 action
    Duration: [dice] minutes
    Range: Self
    For the duration, you have +[sum] to all Strength and Constitution checks you make, +[sum] additional hitpoints, and +1d4 damage on melee attacks.
  11. Divine Mantle
    Casting Time: 1 action
    Duration: [sum] rounds
    Range: Self
    For the duration, you have +[dice] to reaction rolls and +[dice] AC, while your foes have -[dice] to Morale rolls. Everyone present must Save vs Magic or exclusively pay attention to you for the duration.
  12. Doom of Cities
    Casting Time: [dice] days
    Duration: [sum] decades
    Range: [dice] miles
    After spending the duration in the targeted location while loudly and publicly prophesying a dire fate, the area within range is doomed. Plants will wither and die, drought or floods or plague will blight it, cities will burn and crumble. Nothing here shall prosper for the duration.

Friday, July 1, 2022

I Shall Build a More Peaceful World (GLOG Class: Martial Artist)

I wrote this class for my Seas of Sand game, so the locations and setting details are in reference to that. Mechanics are for a version of my Carolingia hack modified for the setting, but they should work for most systems with minimal adaptation.
Starting Equipment: A weapon used in your style, I have no idea what else but this class has been basically finished for more than a month so fuck it.

Skill: Wrestling
Damage: 1d8

You gain +1 HP for every second template of Martial Artist you possess.

A: Artistry, Style
B: Lash Out, +1 Technique, +1 AD
C: Branch Out, Intimidating Foe, +1 AD
D: Master, Signature, +1 AD

Artistry: You have a pool of dice, called Artistry Dice. You start with 2 of these dice (only one, if you're wearing armor or using a shield), and gain more as you level up. They may be d6s, d4s, or d2s, depending on how you're using them (see Style). They are depleted when you roll the maximum value, and return after a good night's sleep. You may add the sum of your rolled AD to attack or grappling rolls after seeing the initial result, and may add them to your AC after seeing an enemy's attack roll. You may also roll AD and add the total number of AD rolled to a damage roll after seeing the result. AD may only be used to attack when unarmed or when using a weapon favored by your Style, and may not be used to defend when surprised

Style: You are a practitioner of a style of martial arts. Each art has several components: a skill it gives you proficiency in, AD sizes for Attack, Defense, and Grappling, weapons it allows you to use with your AD, some favored moves (purely flavor), and several Techniques. You automatically learn the Basic Technique of your Style, and may learn others with practice: one month of daily study with a master for the first Technique you learn from that Style, two months for the next, etc. You also gain a Technique for free at B template, which doesn't count towards your learning time.

Lash Out: Once per round, [templates]-2 HD worth of enemies within striking range of you must Save or die (or be incapacitated or flee, at your discretion). The first enemy with <1 HD you use this ability against each round counts as 0 HD, but all further <1 HD enemies count as 1 HD.
Branch Out: With a month of study with a master, you may learn an additional Style. Alternatively, you may create your own new Style with a month of practice. In either case, you also learn the Basic Technique of this Style. You may, in the future, learn or invent yet more Styles, but it will cost you 10,000 XP each time.

Intimidating Foe:
When you attack an enemy, they must make a Save vs Fear or become frightened of you for 1 minute. Whether they saved or not you cannot use this ability on them again during this combat.

Master: You do not need to study with a master to learn Techniques, instead you need only practice alone. Wherever you go, 2d6 students will be willing to study with you, or even more as your fame grows. These students become Level 0 Martial Artists with a month of training even if they do not adventure, Level 1 with a year, Level 2 with 5 years, and Level 3 with 20 years. They are willing to support you financially and are willing to risk themselves physically for you, although they may grow rebellious if ill-treated, and particularly skilled individuals may eventually challenge your authority as master.

Signature: Learn the Signature Technique of one Style you know. You may, in the future, learn Signature Techniques as you learn Techniques.


A brutal unarmed martial art practiced in heroic trials in Zeghzouyan.
Skill: Wrestling (this bumps you up to Expert right away)
AD Sizes: Attack d4, Defense d2, Grappling d6.
Weapons: Cestus, sap gloves, and other fist-load weapons.
Favored Moves: Punches, gouges, throws, knees, elbows, chokes.
  • Basic Technique: Feats of Strength. You may use your Grappling AD for any non-combat rolls that use Strength.
  • Technique: Backbreaker. If you win an opposed grappling roll, your damage against that target is doubled the next round.
  • Technique: Eye Gouge. You may take a -3 penalty on an attack or grappling roll; if this still hits/wins, your opponent must Save. On a failure, they are permanently blinded. On a success, they are blinded for one round.
  • Signature Technique: Infallible Takedown. Enemies wielding weapons do not get to make free attacks against you when you go in for a grapple.

This style, practiced in the ascetic fighting pits of Qaam Maal, focuses on high kicks and staves.
Skill: Theology
AD Sizes: Attack d6, Defense d4, Grappling d2.
Weapons: Staff, spear.
Favored Moves: Roundhouse kicks, spinning kicks, blocks as strikes against the limbs.
  • Basic Technique: Headhunter. If you spend a round preparing, the next round you may loose a mighty kick, which, if it hits, forces the target to Save or be stunned for a round.
  • Technique: Best Defense. If an attack misses you after you used your AD to increase your AC, the attacker takes 1d4 damage (if unarmed) or must Save vs being disarmed (if armed).
  • Technique: Fighting Retreat. You may make two free attacks, rather than one, against enemies who attempt to grapple you.
  • Signature Technique: Crippling Blows. You may add [sum] instead of [dice] to your damage rolls when using AD.

The ancient martial art of Layoumlayla, which uses quick movements and acrobatics to escape harm.
Skill: Acrobatics
AD Sizes: Attack d2, Defense d6, Grappling d4.
Weapons: Sword, polearm.
Favored Moves: Sidesteps, head movement, jabs, spoiling kicks, joint locks.
  • Basic Technique: Foot-Dance. You may roll AD to jump 5*[dice]' in the air, wall-run 20*[dice]', or perform other similar feats. While doing so, you gain [sum] AC. Gain movement speed equal to [templates]*5'.
  • Technique: Arm-Bar. If an opponent misses three attacks against you in a row or you win two opposed grappling rolls in a row, that opponent must Save or suffer a fractured arm (or whatever other limb they used to attack you).
  • Technique: Parry. You may use AD to reduce the damage of an attack that hits you by [dice], but those AD are automatically expended.
  • Signature Technique: Sandstorm. You can leap with full power from a single toe and always land precisely where you mean to. Attacks you make from the air have +1 to-hit and if you moved your maximum movement last round, you have [templates] extra AC.
Traditionally the martial art used in trials-by-combat before the Volcanic Altar of Ilmensaal, this style largely uses armor and weaponry rather than unarmed combat.
Skill: Bureaucracy
AD Sizes: Attack d6, Defense d2, Grappling d4.
Weapons: Mace, dagger.
Favored Moves: Trips, feints, dirt in the eyes, hair-pulling, dagger to the armpit.
  • Basic Technique: Armored Warfare. You don't lose an AD for wearing armor (but you still do for using a shield).
  • Technique: Feint. The first time you use AD for Attack in a given combat, they don't deplete.
  • Technique: Sweep. You may spend AD to give opponents a -[dice] penalty on rolls against being tripped or otherwise knocked over. This becomes a -[sum] penalty on armored opponents.
  • Signature Technique: Crush. When you hit an opponent with a mace, roll hit location as if it was an injury. Your opponent thereafter has -1 to all rolls using that body part (if it's the head, that's all rolls). This penalty is cumulative.
The legendary art of the first inhabitants of the Seas, long since lost to time. Reputed to revolve around total domination of the combat on all levels.
Skill: Intimidation
AD Sizes: Attack d6, Defense d6, Grappling d6.
Weapons: Dart, dagger, javelin, greataxe.
Favored Moves: Heel kicks, open-hand strikes, pressure points, pushes and otherwise moving your opponent, mounts.
  • Basic Technique: The Maker. Every time you succeed an attack roll or win an opposed grappling roll, gain +1 to all future rolls you make in this combat. This bonus is cumulative. If an attack hits you or you lose an opposed grappling roll, lose this bonus.
  • Technique: G_d's Voice. You may use AD to issue an order, and everyone with fewer than [sum] HD who hears you must Save or obey for a few instants at least.
  • Technique: Old Man. Make an attack with a -5 penalty to hit a pressure point. If you hit, you may dictate what essential bodily function is disabled by hitting that spot.
  • Technique: Little Death. Once per day, you may choose to make an enemy you hit fall unconscious immediately.

Friday, May 20, 2022

The Highest Function of Ecology (GLOG Class: Wanderer)

The first backer PDFs of Seas of Sand by the illustrious SquigBoss is out, and it's awesome. I plan to run a game of it in the near future, so I'm adapting my Wanderer class to the setting, because it's really just a perfect fit.
Starting Equipment: A light helmet, any weapon (3 javelins count as one weapon, ranged weapons come with 20 ammunition), a dagger, a leather pouch of salt beef (⅓ slot, as a ration), and a staff.

Any two skills of your choice.


The Wanderer gains +1 Skill every template and +1 HP every second template.

A: Well-Traveled, Wanderer’s Trick
B: +1 Trick, +1 to-hit
C: Keen Linguist, +1 Trick
D: Constant Vigilance, +1 Trick

Well-Traveled: Roll 1d8 on the following table. If you visit another one of the locations listed in-game, you gain its benefit as well. Your DM may also grant you benefits from other significant locations you visit at their discretion.

1. The Volcanic Altar of Ilmensaal: You can cut through an hour of bureaucracy with 10 minutes of yelling at a functionary. When dueling a single foe with daggers or maces, you have +2 to-hit and +2 AC.
2. Shalmanesir's Oasis at Qilmqourab: Once per day, your soothing touch may grant someone an additional Save vs an ongoing disease or curse. Palm trees yield their sap to you freely with merely a word.
3. The House of G_d at Rahmanir: Once, ever, you may touch the sand and summon up a spouting well of pure, clean water, which will flow for as long as you live. The back of your hand bears a silver tattoo of the crescent moon.
4. Adan-Ayan, Rughtasum's Court of Mercy: You are dignified and imposing enough to enter into any sort of high society even if ill-dressed, dirty, and bleeding. Your arguments will always be listened to and given due consideration, even if the listener opposes them entirely.
5. The Labyrinth of Reach at Zeghzouyan: Wild beasts favor you and will not attack you without provocation. You are immune to the deleterious effects of drugs unless you wish to be so affected.
6. The Titanic Sarcophagi of Khousfalamin: As long as you avoid the touch and taste of animal products, you can see and speak with the spirits of the dead. If you violate your veganism, you must be ritually purified before you use this ability again.
7. Maryam's Beacon at Layoumlayla: You can always see the Beacon glimmering on the horizon, no matter how far or whatever intervening material lies between, and you are allowed to trade in that closed port.
8. The Court of the Psammeads: You have a fey air, granting you +1 on reaction rolls with prophets, madmen, and intelligent beings of the desert. When you meet a psammead, there is a 1-in-6 chance that it owes you a wish and a separate 1-in-6 chance that you owe it your youth.
Wanderer's Trick: Roll 1d12 on the following table. Roll again at Wanderer B, C, and D.

1. Camel's Endurance: You can go 3 days without food or water before suffering the effects of hunger and thirst.
2. Sailor's Nose: You can predict the next day's weather with 99% accuracy.
3. Merchant's Tongue: You have a 5-in-6 chance of knowing someone in every city who can find you a random good at a 70% discount. You have a 3-in-6 chance of knowing someone in a haven and a 1-in-6 chance of knowing someone in a village.
4. Canter's Secrets: You learn one Mage, Witch, or Xerimancer cantrip and spell of your choice and gain +1 MD.
5. Loremaster's Learning: You learn one Chanter spell and Epic of your choice and gain +1 MD.
6. Prophet's Eye: You may take damage equal to your maximum HP to reroll a Revelations roll.
7. Lawyer's Mind: For each day you study, there's a 1-in-6 chance you can find a convenient loophole in any law. You automatically know the cost to bribe anyone you meet.
8. Hero's Reputation: Scholars and fellow wanderers have a 4-in-6 chance of having heard of you, 3-in-6 for spellcasters or nobles, 2-in-6 for commoners. Roll 1d6 for what they've heard: 1. Bad things, 2-3. Neutral things, 4-5. Good things, 6. Fantastic things. These may be true or they may be rumors. Bad things give -1 on reaction rolls, good things give +1, and fantastic things give +2.
9. Raven's Voice: You can mimic any sound you've ever heard perfectly, and can do perfect impressions of anyone you've heard talk.
10. Scoundrel's Hands: You're very good at any small task requiring manual dexterity, such as picking locks or pockets.
11. Animal's Heart: You are friends with an animal not larger than a cat or smaller than a tree frog. It will follow you around and will understand and obey any order you give. If your familiar dies, you can gain a new one by befriending another appropriate animal.
12. Captain's Touch: Your retainers and crew gain +1 Morale; your allies gain +2 to Save vs Fear when you are present.

Keen Linguist: Whenever you encounter a language you don't already explicitly know, you have a 4-in-6 chance of being able to understand that particular phrase, inscription, or the like. You have a 2-in-6 chance of also being conversant, although not fluent, in that language.

Constant Vigilance: You can't be surprised, and you act in the initiative phase before you would otherwise act. 

Monday, March 14, 2022

Through the Black Amnesias of Heaven (GLOG Class: Space Witch)

I've mostly been writing short fiction recently rather than working on RPGs. I was trying (and failing) to write a story about a space witch when I realized that it would make an awesome GLOG class, so here we are. The implied setting is some sort of science fantasy thing with technology more advanced than ours in some ways, but not by that much, with the shortcomings being made up for with magic. I don't think there's any computers or any long-distance communications more advanced than radios either. Maybe I'll try to extrapolate this out into a full hack, but honestly I'm not sure what other classes would fit and not get totally overshadowed by this one. Without further ado!

Starting Equipment: An antiquated spacesuit, an aluminum staff (1d4), a snub-nosed revolver (1d8, -1 to-hit per 3 meters past the initial 6 meters) with 12 rounds, 3 sticks of incense, a stick of chalk, a lighter, and a random piece of space gear (at the end of the class).

Skills: Orbital Mechanics and 1d3: 1. 0g Movement, 2. Nuclear Physics, 3. Xenobiology
For every template you have in this class, gain +1 to Navigation rolls.
A: Magic, Rite of Propulsion
B: Augury, +1 MD
C: Transceiver, +1 MD
D: Void's Embrace, +1 MD

Magic: You know how MD work, probably. Deplete on 4-6, Mishap on doubles and Doom on triples, all the usual stuff. You know 2 spells from your list, rolled on a d6. Roll again with a d8 at B template, a d10 at C template, and a d12 at D template.

Rite of Propulsion: You can see the eldritch winds that flow from the sun and dance amidst the moons and rings. Given a lit stick of incense, an intricate chalk diagram, and a spaceship equipped with arcane sails and a well-maintained shrine to the Nameless Lady of the Void, you can cause the ship to accelerate at up to [templates] gs. This is subject to the vagaries of eldritch weather. The direction of the thrust is at your will, but it doesn't provide a great deal of maneuverability - Piloting checks for fancy flying roll with disadvantage while under this thrust.
Augury: You can cast bones, read tarot cards, or perform some other minor divination ritual about a course of action you plan to take soon. The DM will tell you their opinion of the plan with one word: good, bad, or unsure. There's a 1-in-6 chance the DM will instead answer randomly, and this chance increases by one each time you use this ability this day, resetting at the end of the day.
Transceiver: When touching a piece of metal suitable for use as an antenna (such as the staff in your starting equipment), you can transmit and receive audio transmissions as if you were a radio.

Void's Embrace: You can breathe in a vacuum and will suffer no deleterious effects from the pressure or temperature. In the absence of food and drink, spending at least 18 hours in every 24 in direct sunlight will sustain you. At any time, you can apply acceleration of up to 1g to yourself in a direction of your choice. This requires total concentration, and if used for flight in significant gravity (or an approximation of such with rotational acceleration), also requires an Int check to avoid losing control.


  1. Find Familiar
    Casting Time: 8 hours
    Duration: Indefinite
    Range: -
    Summon a spirit in the form of an animal with no more than [dice] HD. It is intelligent, speaks the languages you do, and will do your bidding, but may have its own agenda as well. It can survive in vacuum and ambulate in 0g without any obvious means. Casting this spell requires [dice] bottles of alcohol and [dice] kg of enriched uranium, which are consumed.
  2. Arcane Spacesuit
    Casting Time: 1 action
    Duration: [dice]*2 hours
    Range: Touch
    The target of this spell is encased in a transparent and fully functional spacesuit for the duration. The suit cannot be depressurized by punctures, but will be destroyed when you take a total of 5 damage. 
  3. Catapult
    Casting Time: 1 action
    Duration: -
    Range: 100 m
    Fling an object of [dice] slots at a target within range. The target must Save or take [sum] damage. If in a 0g environment, you can instead move [sum] slots or [dice] creatures at a speed too low to cause any damage.
  4. Magic Missile
    Casting Time: 1 action
    Duration: [dice] hours
    Range: 30 m
    You create [dice] arrows of magical energy, which float around you for the duration. As an action, you may fire as many of these arrows as you wish at one or more targets in range, which take 1d4 damage per arrow with no Save or attack roll.
  5. Overheat
    Casting Time: 1 action
    Duration: [sum] rounds
    Range: 30 m
    You may target a metal object, mechanical device, or electrical system within range. This target overheats for the duration. Anyone touching it must Save or take [sum] damage every round they remain in contact. If it's a mechanical or electrical system, it shuts down for the duration, and there's a [dice]-in-6 chance it is permanently damaged or even destroyed. Large, complicated, or hardened systems may be less affected at the DM's discretion.
  6. Resist Gees
    Casting Time: 1 action
    Duration: [dice] hours
    Range: 10 m
    For the duration, [sum] targets within range have the effective g-force on them reduced by [sum] gs (to no less than 0g) for the purposes of deleterious effects stemming from that acceleration.
  7. Empower
    Casting Time: 1 action
    Duration: [dice]*10 minutes.
    Range: Touch
    The target is charged by a powerful electrical current. At 1 MD, this is equivalent to a car battery. At 2 MD, a 120V outlet. At 3 MD, a spaceship's power grid (aka a small nuclear reactor). At 4 MD, a space station's power grid. If the target isn't equipped to handle this sort of power (this includes all creatures), it takes [sum]+[dice] damage (Save for half, this just fries electrical systems and probably blows them up sometimes).
  8. Recycle
    Casting Time: 10 minutes
    Duration: -
    Range: Touch
    Transform [sum] slots of manufactured objects back into their constituent raw materials. Alternatively, purify [dice] cubic meters of fluid (turn the carbon dioxide in the air into oxygen gas and a tiny bit of carbon dust, remove the urea from urine to make fresh water, etc.)
  9. Speak With Machine Spirit
    Casting Time: 1 minute
    Duration: [dice] minutes
    Range: Touch
    You may speak with the resident spirit inside anything reasonably construed as a machine for the duration. At 1 MD, this machine may be no larger than a refrigerator. 2 MD, a nuclear reactor. 3 MD, a spacecraft. 4 MD, a space station.
  10. Commune With Void
    Casting Time: 10 minutes
    Duration: -
    Range: 10,000 km/100,000 km/1 AU/solar system
    Speak with the Nameless Lady herself and learn one of the following things about the area within range: 1. The orbits and local names of all of the celestial bodies, 2. The orbit and identity of the nearest spacecraft or artificial satellite, 3. The orbit and identity of the largest spacecraft or artificial satellite, 4. The orbit/location of a specific (by name) location, vessel, satellite, or person, 5. The orbit/location of the most powerful spellcaster, 6. The orbit/location of the most politically and socially influential creature, 7. The orbit/location of the largest concentration of sentient creatures.
  11. Translocate
    Casting Time: 1 action
    Duration: -
    Range: 10^[dice] m
    Move [sum] creatures (may Save to negate if unwilling) or 100^[dice] kg of matter that you can see to a location within range (you don't need to be able to see the destination, and if you're transporting a spacecraft or the like, this can contain the occupants). The transported objects maintain their velocity. You cannot purposefully translocate to a destination that is within solid matter, but if there's a chance you might do so accidentally, you must Save vs shit getting really messy.
  12. Fission/Fusion
    Casting Time: 1 action
    Duration: -
    Range: [dice]*100 m
    Induce fission in a concentration of fissile material no more than [sum] + [dice] kg in mass. If this mass is critical, it causes a criticality incident, and unless this is contained you just set off a nuke. Alternatively, induce fusion in a mass of fusable elemental matter within range. What counts as fusable matter varies depending on [dice]: 1. Hydrogen or helium, 2. Hydrogen through neon, 3. Hydrogen through argon, 4. Hydrogen through iron. Unless this reaction is contained, you just set off a fusion bomb.
Mishaps (d6):
  1. Take 1d6 damage.
  2. Take +1 damage from all sources for the next hour.
  3. Glow so brightly for the next hour that you become temporarily blind and anyone who looks at you must Save vs blindness for 1d6 rounds.
  4. Accelerate all loose objects in the vicinity in random directions - if it's not flung off into the void, anything breakable is broken, and everyone must Save vs [dice] damage.
  5. ~0g becomes 1g in the most sensible direction; if there is gravity, it becomes 0g. Fills the room or 50 m radius, lasts 2d6 rounds.
  6. A random nearby non-critical mechanical or electrical system malfunctions.
  1. Your left hand burns with glowing heat and your right with biting cold. Touching anything with them deals 1d6 damage.
  2. Whenever you cast a spell, you gain a local gravity field with a radius of 3 m and a magnitude of [dice]*0.25g. It lasts 1d6 rounds.
  3. Become a random celestial body (d10):
    1. Comet, 1d10 km radius, elliptical orbit of local star occasionally bringing you close to a planet of your choice.
    2. Asteroid, 1d100 km radius, orbit of your choice.
    3. Ring system around the planet of your choice.
    4. Moon, orbiting the planet of your choice.
    5. Dwarf planet, your choice of orbit radius around local star.
    6. Rocky planet, your choice of orbit radius around local star.
    7. Gas giant, your choice of orbit radius around local star.
    8. Dwarf star, your choice of location between 10 AU and 50 ly away (yes, 10 AU is very close).
    9. Main sequence star, your choice of location between 50 AU and 100 ly away (50 AU could totally destroy all life in your solar system, so make sure everyone is ok with this).
    10. Something weird (d4):
      1. A neutron star, 50 AU - 100 ly away.
      2. A quasar, 50 AU - 100 ly away.
      3. Star-mass black hole, 50 AU - 100 ly away.
      4. Supergiant star, 1-500 ly away.

Space Gear (d20) (thanks to Archon and Squig):

  1. Space Pen: Writes in 0g!
  2. Space Ice Cream: Ice cream in 0g! Tastes terrible, 3 rations, 1 slot.
  3. Space Sword: Just a sword. 1d6 damage, 1 slot. 
  4. Space Recoilless Rifle: More of a rocket launcher than a rifle, really. 2d8 damage, disadvantage to hit anything smaller or more agile than a fridge, 3 slots. 1 round of ammo, 1 slot.
  5. Space FM Radio: You can strap it to your forearm and get all the freshest space beats. 1/3 slots. (Don't worry, your spacesuit already has short-range radio comms.)
  6. Space Battery: Useful for extra power. 1 slot.
  7. Space Jetpack: Allows you to maneuver in 0g, but requires a Dex check to control. 2 slots.
  8. Space Grappling Gun: 100 m of extruded carbon nanofiber cable, interchangeable magnetic and adhesive heads. 1d6 damage, -1 to-hit per 3 m past 9 m. 1 slot.
  9. Space Boots: Toggle-on magnets keep you rooted. 1 slot.
  10. Space Patch Kit: Seals leaks smaller than 1 m by 1 m. 10 patches, 1 slot.
  11. Space Tracking Device: Tiny and adhesive. Range of 100,000 km, transmits on FM frequencies.
  12. Space Absinthe: Weird alcohol. In space. 10 doses, 1/3 slots.
  13. Space Medkit: Bandages, painkillers, etc. 10 uses, 1 slot.
  14. Space Chalkboard: Has a static charge so that chalk dust doesn't get everywhere. 1 slot.
  15. Space Aloe: Alien plant that just so happens to be exactly like Aloe vera in every way. 10 doses of healing goop (1 hp each), which regrow at the rate of 1/day so long as there's at least one left. 2 slots, fragile.
  16. Space Wand: Laser pointer, also a laser gun. 3 charges in the capacitor, takes an hour to recharge (1d4 damage, -1 to-hit per 3 m past 20 m). 1 slot.
  17. Space Health Potion: A hypodermic needle full of morphine and magic (cocaine). Heals 1d6 hp, gets you really high and also probably addicted. 1/3 slots.
  18.  Space Love Potion: A ton of stimulants, hallucinogens, and barbiturates that really shouldn't be mixed; gets you incredibly fucked up. 3 doses, 1/3 slots.
  19. Space Cat: A horrible tentacley beaked thing with too many eyes, vaguely cat-sized. Loves you, hates everyone else.
  20. Space Oddities (d6):
    1.  Resilient Sphere: Crush this little glass capsule and a transparent bubble filled with breathable air springs up around you, but you can't break it with your own strength, even with tools.
    2. Ioun Asteroid: Fist-sized, orbits your head.
    3. Space Cauldron: Spins around to keep the contents under gravity. Terrible idea, works surprisingly well. 2 slots.
    4. Universal Wrench: Handle with a liquid metal head that shifts form to whatever shape you want it to be in. 1 slot.
    5. Heat Gradient Stick: About a foot long, one end is liquid nitrogen cold (~ -200°C), the other is about the melting point of copper (~1000°C). The middle is nice to hold. 1/3 slots.
    6. Brightburn Wand: If you tap yourself with it, you gain +3 MD and +2d6 max HP, but you die in 24 hours. Nothing can prevent your death. 1/3 slots.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Xeno Reviews Books

Entirely inspired by Throne of Salt's book reviews.

Here's what I think about some stuff I've read in the last year-ish.

Annals of the Western Shore: Gifts, Voices, and Powers by Ursula K. Le Guin

Published 2004, 2006, and 2007; 149, 188, and 280 pages.
This trilogy deserves to be ranked among the greatest young-adult series of all time, up there with the Earthsea Cycle and His Dark Materials, and I'm not sure why it isn't better known. All three are coming of age stories, and very good ones, but they're so much more than that. They're about books, about poetry, about stories, about violence, about freedom, about finding one's place in the world. One of Le Guin's consistent virtues is her conciseness, and these don't disappoint, with the first two clocking in at less than 200 pages. Not a word is wasted, the stories are tight and contained, and yet they still drip with more and better flavor than a dozen lesser fantasy novels. You aren't left in question as to how people live because every moment is deeply immersed in everyday life. The series as a whole has an interesting and unorthodox structure; Gry and Orrec, the protagonists of Gifts, play a major role in Voices but aren't the main characters by any means, and they and Memer of Voices show up in the end of Powers as well, though their role is fairly minor. This leaves it feeling cohesive without being tied to any one location in the world or continuing the stories of someone whose story is done, who has completed their arc.

There is one rather large problem I do have with the Annals of the Western Shore, and specifically with Gifts and Powers. Violence against women is a major theme throughout the series, but the main protagonists of the first and third book are both male. Women are hurt and die to further the stories of men. It's done better than most other occurrences of this shitty trope, they're fully developed characters and exist as more than shadows and cheap shots, but it's still there. There's one incident in Powers in particular that, while reinforcing the themes of the book and being a genuinely heart-wrenching moment, is still particularly egregious. You'll know it when you get to it.

Conclusion: Fantastic books slightly hamstrung by one issue that doesn't get anywhere close to ruining them. Read them.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Published 2014, 333 pages.
This is the sort of book where someone takes the tropes of a genre that's derided as immature and not really literature (in this case, post-apocalypse), does them up in a way slightly more palatable to the literary establishment, and then gets praised for how creative and novel it is and ends up as a National Book Award finalist despite the fact that it's all been done before. Nonetheless, it's not a bad book, and I did enjoy it. It's very character-focused and small-scale, jumping in time between various intersections of a web of a dozen characters who touch each other's lives despite having, in many cases, never met or met for but a moment. The problem that arises is that it's a very "tell don't show" book, which does mostly work, keeping things moving and reasonably fast-paced in a complex, tight narrative, but it unfortunately extends to the emotional state of the characters too. It spells things out way too much, which ends up depriving the characters of interiority and making them feel like cardboard cutouts dangling from strings. This is, as you can imagine, a really big problem for a book that is trying very, very hard to be introspective and relying on the characters to carry it.

Conclusion: Trying to be a Le Guin novel and getting like 80% of the way there, which really isn't all that bad of a score. It's worth a read, but don't expect it to be mind-blowing unless you've never engaged with any sort of post-apocalyptic media in your life.

A Memory Called Empire and A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine

Published 2019 and 2021, 426 and 496 pages.
A Memory Called Empire might be the best science fiction novel to come out since Ancillary Justice. It's fast-paced and exciting while still being very deliberate in everything it does. I normally am not a huge fan of political thrillers, but this is a total exception. It manages to capture that Kim Stanley Robinson feeling where everyone is sleep-deprived and doesn't really know what to do but things are going horribly wrong and someone has to do something about it. I absolutely adore the down-to-earth worldbuilding of both Lsel Station and the Teixcalaani Empire, and the book just oozes with love for poetry, for writing, for words. The central mystery of "what the hell did Yskandr do?" is compelling, while Mahit is a perfect reader stand-in, knowing enough to exposit sufficiently and being confused and out of her depth enough to be relatable and to not throw you right in the thick of things immediately without a period of adjustment. All of the characters are generally excellent, especially Three Seagrass. To borrow a quote from Jane Austen, she is "As delightful a character as ever appeared in print," and yes, I do think she manages to measure up to Lizzy Bennet in that respect.

The sequel, A Desolation Called Peace, is a very different book from the first. No longer a political thriller, it's a first contact drama. Lots of very good interpersonal drama, lots of aliens who actually feel properly alien. It is missing some of the driving energy that makes the first so very compelling, but it has other things going on to compensate. A worthy successor, although I don't think it's quite as good.

In conclusion: Both truly excellent books; the second isn't quite as good and it is rather different but if you liked the first, you'll still like it.

This is How You Lose the Time War by Max Gladstone and Amal el-Mohtar

Published 2019, 198 pages.
I'd describe this book as high-concept transhumanist time-traveling epistolary lesbian romance. That's quite the tagline, and I imagine already very interesting to many of the people who read this blog, but the thing that really surprised me about it is how amazing the prose is. If you inserted a bunch of arbitrary line breaks I'd absolutely believe it was written as poetry. Lush, indulgent, sensual, gorgeous sentences just pile up and do not stop coming. I was sad when it ended, even though the story concluded precisely at its due time, just because I wanted to keep reading more of those lovely words. The wordplay makes you feel smart for reading and understanding it. There's not that much more to say. It's really good.

Conclusion: Wholeheartedly recommended, but be warned that it is rather abstract in broad strokes, though not in the little details, if that's not your thing.

The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2020 ed. Diana Gabaldon

Published 2020, 388 pages.
This is the most recent edition of a series of short story collections that's been assembled each year since 2015, although I've only read the 2020 and 2019. I don't always agree with the editors' taste, but that's inevitable, and it's a nice round-up. I'm going to give these number scores, even though I'm not doing it with the novels, because there's a lot of these and I want to keep them all pretty brief without waffling on too much.
  1. "Life Sentence" by Matthew Baker. A fairly by the numbers dystopian story in the well-trodden "what if the punishment for crimes was getting your brain fucked with" category. In this case, the punishment is getting your memory selectively erased. Good treatment, none too inspired. 6/10.
  2. "Another Avatar" by S.P. Somtow. To be honest, this one confused the hell out of me. A Thai orphan finds out that he's the next Chosen One, selected to avert climate change. It really feels like there's something here, but I couldn't tell you what it is. ???/10.
  3. "Between the Dark and the Dark" by Deji Bryce Olukotun. A very creative story about politicians back on Earth trying to police the emerging culture on board a generation ship growing farther and farther away. The parts back on Earth are, to be honest, rather boring, and really mess with the pace of the story, but the concept carries it. 8/10.
  4. "Thirty-Three Wicked Daughters" by Kelly Barnhill. A rather trite moral parable about the thirty-three daughters of a king, who are demonized and attacked for making things better for women and the poor, then eventually come up with a clever plan to murder their opposition, enact all of their improvements that were prevented earlier, and then leave for a place they'll be appreciated. Not bad per se, but it doesn't really have anything interesting to say. 4/10.
  5. "Bullet Point" by Elizabeth Bear. The last woman left on Earth in Las Vegas meets the last man, and shocker, he's a terrible person. Short, effective, and to the point. 8/10.
  6. "The Eight People Who Murdered Me" by Gwendolyn Kiste. An attempt to give Lucy Westenra, a character from the original 1897 Dracula, a rather fairer shake than the novel does, and I think it succeeds quite admirably. Would probably be more effective if I'd actually read Dracula. 7/10.
  7. "The Archronology of Love" by Caroline M. Yoachim. An archive of all which is, has been, and will be - but it's irretrievably erased by viewing it. A collapsed extraterrestrial colony where the families of many on the newly arrived colony ship were already living, with no signs remaining of the cause. Good setup, good payoff. 9/10.
  8. "Shape-ups at Delilah's" by Rion Amilcar Scott. All the men in a Black community mysteriously lose the power to give good masculine haircuts, but the women retain it. I'm definitely missing out on some cultural context, but it was a really interesting read. 8/10.
  9. "The Galactic Tourist Industrial Complex" by Tobias S. Bucknell. The Earth is turned into an interstellar tourist trap. A tourist commits suicide out of the back of a gig driver's flying car. Things escalate from there. Very much a satire of tourism, the gig economy, and capitalism in general. 7/10.
  10. "The Bookstore at the End of America" by Charlie Jane Anders. The US has split into two nations, one of which is conservative and "traditional" while the other is progressive and technological, and there's a bookstore spanning the border. There's some real potential here, but sadly, it's incredibly "enlightened centrist" both-sidesy. The transhumanist/gender non-conforming leftists (it's unclear what their actual economic system is) are equated to the intolerant fascists way too often for my tastes. 3/10.
  11. "Ten Excerpts from an Annotated Bibliography on the Cannibal Women of Ratnabar Island" by Nibedita Sen. A meditation on the fetishization of racialized people, but you're left to tease out the occurrences being discussed and the subject of the paper it's ostensibly the bibliography of yourself. Saved from tedium by being very concise. 8/10.
  12. "The Freedom of the Shifting Sea" by Jaymee Goh. Man-eating lesbian bobbit worm mermaids. That's all the description you need, it's really really fucking good, go read it. 11/10.
  13. "Sacrid's Pod" by Adam-Troy Castro. A young woman is imprisoned in an impenetrable prison by her fundamentalist family, but it may be less of a punishment than intended. Good concept, goes on for way too long. Apparently it's part of a loose series (which I have no further interest in reading from this example). 5/10.
  14. "Canst Thou Draw Out the Leviathan" by Christopher Caldwell. An escaped slave discovers his lost traditions (and a boyfriend) aboard a doomed whaling ship. I don't have much more to say about it. 7/10.
  15. "Thoughts and Prayers" by Ken Liu. Another take on the ubiquitous cautionary tale of "social media bad" with the particular flavor of deep faking is scary, but it's redeemed by being particularly awful and written with an understanding of how trolls operate. Still, it doesn't go much beyond "wouldn't it be fucked up if...?" 7/10.
  16. "The Time Invariance of Snow" by E. Lily Yu. A thoroughly confusing... parable? fairy tale? about a mirror the devil made and a woman who reassembles it after it shatters. Very enjoyable and somehow poignant even though I'm still not really sure what's going on after reading it something like five times. 8/10.
  17. "The Robots of Eden" by Anil Menon. A Brave New World-style dystopia by way of chemically induced happiness, but it avoids tiredness and cliche by remaining very human and small. Some interesting digression into the meaning of books and stories. 7/10.
  18. "Erase, Erase, Erase" by Elizabeth Bear. It's got the classic sci-fi thing where you're really, really confused at the start and things come together quite nicely as you go. It's not too neat, which I appreciate. A woman finds herself insubstantial and disappearing as she tries to forget her past, and saves herself by writing. 8/10.
  19. "A Brief Lesson on Native American Astronomy" by Rebecca Roanhorse. The traditional Tewa folktale of "Deer Hunter and White Corn Woman" adapted into a near-future tale set in Hollywood. Apparently Roanhorse is quite controversial in both Ohkay Owingeh pueblo, where this story is from, and the Navajo Nation, which she is also a member of, for her use of traditional stories. As I'm entirely unqualified to comment on this, I'll just say that I enjoyed it a lot and it lead me to read the original folktale, which is also excellent. 8/10.
  20. "Up From Slavery" by Victor LaValle. A fascinating re-examination of Lovecraft's shoggoths from the perspective of race and slavery. I won't say much more, because you should just read it. I should also really get around to reading At the Mountains of Madness one of these days. 10/10. 
Conclusion: This is a generally pretty darn good short story collection overall, much better than the previous year's selections. Definitely worth picking up, or just look up the highlights online. You can almost always find any short story for free on some website or blog.

The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter by Theodora Goss

Published 2017, 402 pages.
It's a bit of an odd one. A mystery set in London in the 1890s, the main characters are an array of the daughters and female creations of various villainous mad scientists from the horror stories of the era - Dr. Hyde, Dr. Moreau, Dr. Frankenstein, and such. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are also major characters. I don't have a great deal of knowledge of those tales, so I had to look a fair few things up to get the full context. The book is definitely a younger teenager sort of YA, which isn't bad by any means but wasn't exactly what I was expecting. It's got a very basic girl-power theme and tone to it, which feels a little bit trite, but is totally acceptable given the target audience. I do think it could do a little more examination of its ideas of womanhood, but maybe that's just me as a transfeminine person. Maybe I'll get around to reading the sequel, but I'm not going to go out of my way for it.

Conclusion: Well-paced and fun, but very little depth, which is a shame given the potential in the premise. I wouldn't really recommend it to adult readers, but it'd make a good present for a younger relative.