(But Not As We Knew It)

Overnight, the circus comes to town. But something’s wrong … very wrong.

The circus music, which should be cheerful, seems menacing. The attractions (especially the freak display) seem off, the cotton candy is a sickly shade of green, the knife thrower doesn’t miss and the clowns …well, the less said about the clowns the better.

One day, sooner or later, we were all young once upon a time.

My own youth was spent in varied places and ways but, when I was a teen/young adult, I spent a lot of time reading Fantasy/Science Fiction. As my tastes matured, I discovered not exactly Horror, more Dark Fantasy (most notably Clive Barker ¹ ) and … I’m not really sure how to describe the likes of Michael Marshall Smith ² … but, early on, I discovered RPGs (D&D was naturally the first, because really there was nothing else).

I spent, I’d guess, around ten years exploring the possibilities afforded by the hobby and built up a not inconsiderable library of games and magazines of all types … even getting published myself a few times (as whom will have to remain undisclosed here though ³ ).

[Paranoia was a lot of fun and I’m sure you can imagine the delight with which a mind such as mine pounced upon the potential afforded by the Crash Course Manual ⁴ ]

‎Eventually though, “I grew out of it” would, I suppose, be the best way to describe it; Life moves on, other people and things happen to us and we move with them, make space in our lives for them and, as a result, others become memories of things that once were but won’t be.

Recently, however, I’ve stumbled upon a couple of things that gave me pause to wonder if it mightn’t be a place worth … if not moving to as such, at least revisiting for a day or two.

Take Nobilis (the game of sovereign powers) for instance

If ever there were something that could make a reasonable claim to being (at least an attempt at) American Gods: The RPG … then Nobilis would have to be it. And as I do like it when Gaiman strays into Barker’s realm, it was bound to catch my eye as a result.

“One of the weirdest RPGs in existence. American Gods meets Call of Cthulhu meets Sandman. Players are Powers, sometimes called Nobles, who embody aspects of reality. Fire. Knives. Crime. Medicine. They work for often jerkface gods and fight a Forever War against invaders from outside reality.”

Oscar, here.

Any game in which “philosophy […] is a full-contact sport” and “an assault on the colour yellow makes sense,” is probably worthy of a little attention at least … a game in which the forbidden love between Yellow and Waves is betrayed by jealous Metaphysics to the power of Magnificence has got to be worth at least a look. After all, it reminds me of nothing so much as the writings of a teenage girl I encountered on the Jennifer Government Nation States site many moons ago, who devised the most impressively original material I’ve read … vastly superior to Gaiman’s characters and world — the major players (from Dementia to some six or so other archetypes decidedly more inventively original in conception than Gaiman’s ) were all locked in their own (purple) realms by some great power, whilst the spirit of Scott Joplin (reincarnated as a player piano) orchestrated his bid for world domination behind the scenes.

As it is, it would be one I’d enjoy contributing ideas to … or, possibly, participating in as an NPC with poetic licence … and reading tales of, rather than attempting to run as the HG.

As for possible resources, along with the obvious (Barker, Gaiman), Moers’ Zamonia stuff might be somewhat appropriate — most especially in the Cityback.

Ananda claims no kingdoms, countries,or multinationals as his own. Instead, he rules the Cityback, a subcontinent-sized Chancel woven beneath and behind the urban regions of the world. His masterwork took many more than a hundred deaths to build, and the cost continues: one murder a night, every night, from now until eternity. Ananda does not fear this cost, for all that it fills his land with Banes. The residents of the Cityback are more than happy to do his killing for him .

The scattered entrance and exits to the Cityback mirror the Earthly buildings where those exits lead. Around and among them, the wild has crept in — flora, fauna, and urbana, living shards of urban life (from the loping gray laboratories and six-toed alleyways to the fanged shopping cart packs that scavenge what a super market kills). Some are friendly, particularly to those who know their ways, while others are lethal.

If I were to recommend a possible player of significance … after running through lots of ideas, they all turn out to be (ha!) aspects of a principle, not one, encapsulating concept: Reality/History/Fate … are they siblings, rivals or both? Are Faith and Belief the same or not? And what is their relationship to Illusion and Delusion? Or are those latter more closely related to Imagination? What about Fantasy? It all gets a bit 847 very quickly indeed.

However … Curiosity … now, there’s an interesting character — orthogonal to Pratchett’s Lady (in more Gaiman/Barker-esque form) perhaps.

REALLY doesn’t like cats 😉

I’d enjoy playing it myself — a good HG could make it very interesting indeed. But … it could be difficult for the HG to administer as a PC and could be decidedly difficult company for other players (in D&D terms, they’d be Chaotic Neutral, so not someone you can rely upon to put the team’s interests ahead of random whim). Could be an interesting NPC though: taking action against a (sort of) Loki without the malevolence is a lot more morally ambiguous than it traditionally would be.

I think Knowledge must really be the power/estate/domain (the character) … Curiosity an aspect thereof (the personality) … and Enquiry an expression, or approach (the tool)

What if there’s some essence of cat with which Curiosity might imbue themself, thus attaining immortality?

This is most perplexing and needs to be got to the bottom of.

Yes … all things considered … I think I’d have to be Curiosity 😉

But Aura would have to run the game (maybe in cahoots with Forrest the Great, if I were feeling brave) I’d make it far too dark:

But, what of the adventures? What tales might be told?

Well, let’s consider my influences — not least Ray Bradbury.

Barker, Gaiman, Bradbury … they all deal with twisted takes on Faerie one way and another (as though Faerie itself weren’t twisted enough, eh?). Read John Connolly’s The Book of Lost Things: the first werewolf was born when Little Red Riding Hood forced herself upon a wolf sexually and wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.

You can see, therefore, how Little Fears might appeal

After all …

A few ̶y̶fears spent in Psychoville … then taking flight for Roofworld … a fall to London Below …cowering from the wild tomes roaming the Labyrinth of Dreaming Books … an escape to Abarat … Nobilis could be a thing of twisted beauty in the right hands (Stephen, RehnWriter and John Tinney take note).

I mean … if you thought monsters were terrifying as a child

… try growing up only to learn the thing is still at the top of the stairs and you’re trapped in the playground — this isn’t your chancel … it’s the Cityback (and someone big is headed your way).

Adult god‎s with all the power of children, running and hiding in dimension after dimension … reality after reality … pocket universe after pocket universe … whilst the big scary hunts them down.

Will they realise their true nature before it’s too late?

Or will the Excrucians catch up with them, destroy their toys and swallow their souls?

I think we know the answer to that question, don’t we?

Give me some time to re-tailor the lining and I’ll have you rocking and mewling in a ball of piss and snot in the dark in the corner, whilst nightmares you never even knew you had pour, slithering and suffocating, from the recesses of Shadwell’s newly befouled jacket.‎

“Children, the voice said. We hate ’em. Foul things. They laugh at what they doesn’t understand. They laugh at things they should be afraid of. Oh, but we know. We know what the circus hides. We know what all circuses hide. Foul children. We make them laugh, but when we can . . .

We take ‘em!”

— John Connolly, Some Children Wander By Mistake

Not every child is the same.

They are different than other kids.
Some would say strange.
Some might say cursed.

But they are called the blessed.

Some are born without souls.
Others, with more than one.
Some are secretly monsters.
Others are children of faith
given powers beyond belief.

And then there are those
who wander this world
long after death.
Searching. Wanting.

Hoping.

Praying to die
or to live again.

Every child is special.

Some more than others

Little Fears, Nightmare Edition, Book 3: Blessed are the Children


¹ No, not the tedious, quasi S&M of the Books of Blood (or whatever they’re called) … the Hellbound Heart nonsense … but Weaveworld, Cabal (Nightbreed), Imajica, Galilee, the Abarat series (hurry up and finish it, Barker!), that kind of thing.

² His stuff always starts out as straight-up SF and then, halfway through, takes a sharp detour at 90 degrees to Reality into something … metaphysical.

³ Private, Professional and Public are strictly demarcated in my life and I never cross the streams.

⁴ All of the darkness without the burden of the humour … and no more safety net for the players (dead is dead) 😉

⁵ Death? Really? How pedestrian — he’d been done to … well, death … long before Sandman.

⁶ Now then, Ms Flory … what have you been writing recently?

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Where Angels Fear

Where Angels Fear

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There he goes. One of God's own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live and too rare to die.