July 26, 2012

Noblesse Oblige

Being that I now find myself in a paternal way I haven't had much time to work on The Singing Hill, my meatspace campaign, or this weird thing I've been kicking around I call the Sea of Entropy. I did manage to finish off a series of character quirk tables for the old-school inflected science fantasy grimdark transhuman body horror Necromunda Adeptus Mechanicus BLAME! thing. Imagine the French nobility as inhuman superscience sorceror-kings using up the common stock of humanity in bizarre long-game projects that they themselves might not understand. They've started to glitch as millennia have rolled on, ossifying their existence into a series of rituals devoid of meaning, but their immortality, inhumanity, and immense resources make them almost impossible to interact with. PCs are normal humans touched by these schemes and then dungeoncrawls and revolution happen or something.

Babylon stands in the center of a vast wasteland of rust and ash. It rises, layer upon layer of endless galleries, twisting markets, cramped garrets, and cold squares. The teeming districts are hemmed in by vast walls, but none are so thick as the outer walls of the city. In places these huge pediments stand fifty meters thick. Rising above these are the estates of the Nobles, vast, dark, and strange.

Babylon is ruled by the Nobility, posthuman beings of incredible power and immense age. They have organized themselves into bizarre households led by an Elder. Their control is absolute, but rarely does that gaze drift from their strange obsessions. The city was built for the Nobles eons ago by vast machines that still make up the heart of each estate. Common humanity that live in Babylon do so only by the grace, or ignorance, of the Nobles. 

The city is populated by all manner of scientists, thieves, capitalists, madmen, fanatics, anarchists, mercenaries, and cannibals in constant conflict with one another. They have found entrance through a number of routes. Most natives are born into vassal servitude to a Noble house, while they may move more freely through the city they are owned body and soul by the estate that spawned them. Some come as slaves, delivered on the flesh arks from all corners of the globe and shackled to an endless number of Noble devices. Others gain entrance through the arenas that dot the city, forced to take part in strange bloodsports concocted by the inhuman Nobles. The truly pitiful find their way through the millions of tiny cracks in the city’s walls or climb up through the labyrinthine sewer systems that stretch miles below the surface.

Babylon is a swirling miasma of conspiracies. On top of it all the Nobles vie for control of their estates, each seeking to depose his Elder. They beat a ceaseless dance of plot and counterplot. Every step in their war of manners is bounded by ritual and demands exacting precision. This drives the Nobles to war by proxy. While they choose not to act against each other, their vassal houses are not so limited.

The tables below were created to give new characters a bizarre quirk and to cement how messed up anyone in Babylon is bound to be. It's rules-free, and could be used for anyone sufficiently effed up fantasy.

1Mental Conditioning: Whenever his Lord is mentioned by name this vassal must:
1) Shout the Noble’s praises.
2) Knock his head on the ground 1d4 times.
3) Cross himself.
4) Vomit.
5) Go limp.
6) Convulse for 1d4 turns
2Marked: This vassal has the house mark of a Noble’s estate etched in his face.
3Voices: This vassal constantly hears the voice of their Lord whispering gibberish in his ear.
4Scratch Paper: A Noble used this vassal for taking notes, leaving his cryptic scrawl written on the vassal’s skin.
5Thoughtvalve: A large circular port can be found somewhere on this vassal’s head. Whether it was for taking thoughts or leaving them behind no one can say...
6Porcelain Doll: This vassal was made into a beautiful object for his Lord. His skin has been replaced with flawless living porcelain. When broken it exposes the muscle and sinew beneath.
7Living Furniture: This vassal has been reshaped into a piece of furniture.
1) Couch
2) Endtable
3) Chair
4) Cabinet
8Abacus: This vassal's mind has been crafted into a calculating engine through cranial  reshaping. His skull is stretched and angular.
9Hindstep: This vassal's legs have been warped to a digitigrade posture like a deer.
10Sculpture: This vassal's body had been sculpted to meet his Lord's whim, giving him a horrific visage.
11Nightlander: This vassal came from an estate that is an cold, black labyrinth. His skin is pale and his sightless atrophied eyes are bulbous, he uses echolocation in its place.
12Amphibian: This vassal comes from a submerged estate, his lungs have been replaced by gills. He has a wetsuit for travel outside the estate.
13Lungswapped: This vassal has had his internal organs rearranged and replaced. His figure is gaunt and bulbous in weird asymmetry.
14His Master’s Voice: Most of this vassal’s lower face and neck have been replaced with a machine that speaks for him.
15Pristine Specimen: This vassal seems entirely normal, but has a maker’s mark etched somewhere on his body.
16Dyed: This vassal’s skin is an unnatural hue. The Noble prefers all his servants’ color to match.
17Brainy: This vassal’s frail body supports a massive skull and enormous brain.
18Hollow: This vassal’s skeleton has been replaced by an artificial construct. It tends to tear through the skin during physical exertion.
19Arboreal: All of this vassal’s fingers and toes are prehensile, required for the vertically designed estate from which he came.
20Key: An intricate series of teeth and gears is found on this vassal’s body, it seems he is a key of some sort.

1Broken-down: This slave is old and worn out. His form is bent and broken.
2Pickled: This slave worked in a chemical factory or refinery. His skin is mottled, pustulent, and wrinkled.
3Oven-Stoker: This slave worked in an oven or smelter, his skin is blistered, leathery, and raw.
4Fanmonger: This slave worked in a tremendous engine. The ceaseless noise have left him deaf.
5Gasman: This slave worked in a toxic atmosphere. A gas mask has been bound to his head. It cannot be removed.
6Pincushion: This slave has been used as a toy by his Lord. His body has been pierced by Noble iron.
8Witness: This slave's tongue has been cut out, but he has seen strange acts perpetrated by the Nobles.
9Blinded: This slave's eyes have been plucked out, perhaps as punishment for seeing too much. He gets by alright.
10Scarred: This slave's body is criss crossed by innumerable ugly scars.
11Shattered: This slave has taken horrific damage, leaving much of his bones broken. Baroque leather and iron braces support his shattered frame.
12Mummer: This slave's face has been replaced by an expressionless mask which leaves him unable to speak.
13Incomplete: This dreg has lost a limb in his service.
1) Leg at the knee
2) Entire arm
3) Arm at the elbow
4) Entire Leg
5) Foot
6) Hand
14Toolkit: This slave’s hands have been replaced by a large number of intricate tools.
15Fused: This slave was used as a conductor for a bizarre machine. He has circuit contact points on his hands and feet.
16Loupeman: A system of lens has been grafted to this slave’s skull. His eyes can focus on objects 10 times smaller or more distant than unaided vision.
17Patchwork: After a horrific accident this slave was repaired with cast-off pieces of other slaves, few of which match.
18Example: This slave was brutalized as an example for the rest. His body bears a warning to all who see it.
19Hulk: Long years of hard labor and adulterated food have turned this slave into a mountain of muscle.
20Willowbone: This slave has crafted to work at great heights. His bones are hollow and incredibly light.

1Toxic: This dreg crept into Babylon through a noxious outlet pipe. His body has absorbed the toxins of the sewers. His grasp causes metal to rust and paper to molder.
2Verminhaunt: This dreg has seen the things that live beneath the streets and faced them to enter Babylon. He is wary, listening to the whispers that murmur through the sewer lines, and jumps at shadows
3Rattletrap: This dreg’s lungs have been permanently damaged by the vapors and smoke, he entered the city through some high smokestack.
4Enginekissed: This dreg found entrance through a huge machine. His body is a patchwork of fine scars.
5Crushed: Creeping through an assembly line crushed this dreg’s body. His features are flattened and squashed.
6Runny: This dreg swam oceans of toxic runoff to enter the city, his entire body appears melted.
7Birdbrain: This dreg entered the city carried on the backs of countless trash birds. He has strung hundreds of brass rings through his skin and bones to attach the tethers.
8Morlock: This dreg hails from one of the myriad degenerate subterranean races that hide in the dark recesses of the city. He is pale, misshapen, and taken by odd appetites.
9Parasitized: This dreg didn‘t arrive alone. A microcosm of terrible crawling things live within and across him.
10Moldman: Horrible discolored patches of mold and fungus grow across the body of this dreg.
1) Hallucinogenic spores
2) Truffles
3) Black mold
4) Toxic mushrooms
5) Choking spores
6) Bioluminescent mushrooms
11Twitchy: Whatever route this dreg took to get into the city put major strain on his nerves, he leaps at at any surprise.
12Pipecrawler: This dreg’s limbs are stretched and jointed in odd places and he is incredibly thin. He found his way into the city through narrow pipeworks.
13Topman: This dreg hails from a race that lives their entire lives high above, clinging to vast smokestacks. His features are long and angular and his hands long with digits slightly sticky.
14Degenerate: This dreg is a genetic degenerate, he will not reach more than 4 feet and has only four-toed feet.
15Organ-legged: This dreg paid a terrible price to be smuggled into the city. He's missing some essential organs. It's only a matter of time.
16Flensed: This dreg's skin has been torn away, exposing muscle and sinew. Infection never seems to set in.
17Walking Ghost: The dreg is pale, wan, and hairless. Ugly burns cover much of his body. Technology tends to fizzle out at his touch.
18Magnetized: Crawling into the city through strange machinery, this dreg has become magnetized.
19Carrier: This dreg carries a nasty infectious disease. It’s catching.
20Nightmare: This dreg is a twisted hunk of flesh and bone. He looks inhuman and monstrous.


  1. Replies
    1. Tsutomu Nihei is an amazing artist, his cyborg stuff inspired a lot of my visual ideas for what the nobles look like.