Archive | February 28, 2023

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:

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

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.

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.