Balloon Tomb of the Ancient Aeronaut
Remember all those UFO and “spy” balloon shenanigans from a month or so ago?
They got me imagining a whole upper atmosphere region populated with lost kites, desiccated corpses of early aviation pioneers, and strange creatures like in that old Arthur Conan Doyle story “The Horror of the Heights”:
“A visitor might descend upon this planet a thousand times and never see a tiger. Yet if he chanced to come down into a jungle he might be devoured. There are jungles of the upper air, and worse things than tigers inhabit them.”
Anyway…dare you enter the Balloon Tomb of the Ancient Aeronaut?
Balloon Tomb of the Ancient Aeronaut is a brochure adventure for Chris McDowall’s Into the Odd and similar games. In it you will explore an ancient airborne bouncy dungeon tomb. The price tag is 3USD, but you should feel free to download a community copy.
Find it here: https://yesterweird.itch.io/the-balloon-tomb
Some GM tips from the playtest:
- Don’t sweat the getting there. An experimental Researchery airship dropped the party off and would pick them up when they wanted to leave.
- To describe the tomb builder’s culture I said: “Imagine the ancient Egyptians except all their jewelery is made from balloons.” “Inflatable ancient Egyptian stuff” went a long way when giving descriptions.
- I didn’t require any movement checks to move inside the tomb, but I maximized the bouncing. For this I used a d8 to determine direction then rerolling if they hit something before moving the full amount. Maximize the bounce!
- The first encounter was turbulence. This bounced characters apart and split the party. I recommend throwing that at them right away. It’s likely you won’t have to contrive things to do this because if they land at the top they will definitely be tempted to investigate the pilot balloons, thereby disturbing them, and making the whole tomb veer towards turbulence.
- The monsters might or might not be tough, but the fear of falling out of the tomb was a lot stronger.
February 2023 Reads
AUSTIN OSMAN SPARE: THE LIFE AND LEGEND OF LONDON’S LOST ARTIST by Phil Baker
Fun stuff, but 80% of artist biographies are basically “stayed home, drew” so the interesting bits are on the periphery. That periphery here involves occultists, the world wars, the end of one world, the start of a new, and the rise and fall of art movements. Reading about art magazines from the early 1900s is similar to reading about feuds in any zine scene except involving WB Yeats and George Bernard Shaw. And then there are the wizard fights in 1950s London in which everyone is taking some nonsense completely seriously. It’s a fun read even if it’s mostly a downward spiral about people over-thinking having a wank.
TO WRITE AS IF ALREADY DEAD by Kate Zambreno.
An autofiction novel far from my usual wheel house. It’s a novel about not writing a novel, friendships after friendship, and pandemics after pandemics. I liked it but felt like a stranger exploring an unfamiliar genre landscape. Not sure how much of this I could read in a row. Also, modern philosophers should all be forced to wear clown clothes.
LEECH by Hiron Ennes
This read like Gormenghast/Fifth Head of Cerberus narrated by a surgeon who happens to be John Carpenter’s The Thing. (The world of the story has universal health care but all the doctors are infected hosts for the Thing keeping tabs on the world, which I thought a neat idea.) Some gory body horror scenes as you’d expect. CWs abound: infestation, bodily autonomy, abuse of multiple sorts, a gory birth scene, dogs survive but children don’t. It’s a horror novel. I liked it!
OPERATION SOLSTICE RAIN by Kai Tave (Massif Press)
I remain impressed by the modules made for the Lancer TTRPG. This one is an introductory adventure where the players get caught-up in a diplomatic mission gone bad. I am not much of a fan of military SF, but Lancer could make me one. Not that I would ever run a game, but play? Certainly a definite maybe.
Some Yesterweird Books
I make it a habit to check new uploads to Project Gutenberg.
Some recent highlights:
Freak Trees of the State of New York by Gurth Adelbert Whipple. Gurth Adelbert Whipple is a great name. Here people send Mr. Whipple pictures of freak trees and Mr. Whipple decides the freakiest! “Treebeard, you so nasty!”
Was It a Ghost? The Murders in Bussey’s Wood : An Extraordinary Narrative by Brent. This is about this awful murder case in Boston that features a criminal named “Scratch Gravel”. The Jamaica Plain Historical Society has an informative write up of the case.
Early British Trackways, Moats, Mounds, Camps, and Sites by Alfred Watkins. I love the cover. Leylines come from this book but it’s likely Mr. Watkins would not be happy to know what the New Age Movement has done to his theories,
Meanwhile on the Patreon, I’m doing a read through of JK Huysmans Against the Grain. It’s a novel about a guy who doesn’t leave the house and is great fun. You can join here to follow along. You’ll also get access to the game stuff I make before it shows up on itch and elsewhere. (Or while it’s a WIP that hasn’t come together yet. Looking at you Champion’s Mark, my Orlando Furioso inspired fantasy supplement.)
Later this month I’ll be releasing an adventure inspired by all the UFOs and “spy” balloons the USA has been shooting down lately: Balloon Tomb of the Ancient Aeronaut. It’s designed for Into the Odd and has players exploring an ancient airborne bouncy castle. Join my Patreon and you can grab that now!
Books January 2023
Here’s the stuff I read and liked in January 2023.
Under Hill, By Water by Josh McCrowell
My gaming group’s current game. It’s silly. It’s fun. It suits what my group wants from games at the moment. And the Shire we’ve made has become something of a playground for revolving GMs. This is good. If your game group likes to have a small game on the back burner in case someone needs to take a break this game is perfect for that.
Inspiration for my solo game One Too Many.
The Peripheral by William Gibson
I enjoyed this, but could understand someone putting it down. The plot feels driverless. The idea of it, however, is fascinating. It’s hard to explain what’s going on in it. Basically a version of time travel exists but it only allows signals to pass between eras. This means it’s possible to skype and remote work in different timelines. And then of course there’s a murder.
A Stitch In Time by Andrew J. Robinson
A Star Trek novel about Garak written by the actor who played him. It shares some DNA with John Le Carre’s earlier (more genre) novels. Plotwise it’s pretty jumpy, but, honestly, Garak’s the only Star Trek character where shame and self-loathing are integral to the character and I can relate to that. I hear all this got retconned out of existence by the Picard show, which is too bad. It’s a fun read.
The Last Days of New Paris by China Mieville
A novel set in the 1950s in a Paris where World War Two remains ongoing and surrealism makes literal weapons. This read as a love letter to the Surrealists, but the best bits had more John Blanche (of Games Workshop/Warhammer fame) than Max Ernst.
The Cadaver of Gideon Wyck by Alexander Laing
This was a weird novel. Written and set in the 1930s, it’s very much for readers who read Lovecraft a decade earlier but had then moved on to mysteries. Gideon Wyck is an awful professor at an isolated medical school in rural New England. His experiments are decidedly strange and he earns the animosity of most everyone he meets. Various events unfold and the whole thing walks a fine line between a natural or supernatural explanation. A decent read, but pretty grisly at times in a clinically medical way.