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This is both a wiki (a website editable by all) and a blog (an online diary about the stuff Alex Schroeder reads and does). If you’re a friend or relative, you might be interested in reading Life instead of this page. If you’ve come here from an RPG blog, you might want to head over to RPG. There are other similar categories to be found on the SiteMap.

Für Rollenspieler gibt es ebenfalls eine eigene RSP Kategorie.

2020-10-21 Saving friends and family

I was recently talking with @dredmorbius and @Sandra on Mastodon. It all started with the Sophistical Refutations by Aristotle.

With the pandemic I’ve seen elements of COVID-idiocy in society. Sadly, I’ve also seen elements of it amongst friends and family online. I’m not on Facebook anymore, but my wife is, and sometimes she shows me stuff people are posting, and I’m despairing.

It’s the the typical mix:

  • COVID-19 is just a flu
  • staying at home means giving up your civil rights
  • wearing masks makes you sub-human, a slave

But what’s next? The state is trying to enslave us? The WHO is trying to enslave us? Bill Gates is trying to implant us with a chip? Who is trying to control us: rich people? Bankers? Jews? When does it end? No, the problem is that the right-wing extremists are going to be our friends all the way, encouraging us every step of the way, until we’ll finally join their cause. We start out protesting the wearing of masks because we don’t like it, we’ll continue to protest our enslavement by the state, we’re angy because of the 1% exploiting us, and then we’ll put nazis in power that are going to enslave us, and exploit us, like they did in the 20th century. They haven’t stopped trying and they’ve seen an opening: the pandemic and our dislike of it.

So, how are you fighting this disinformation? My own suspicion can be subsumed under the heading “these people need a friend, not an argument.” It includes the need for time and patience, but also the need to agree and bond on other things, first; to build trust; like student and teacher, like parents and children, moving through life together, at least for a while. In our society, we don’t often have time for it. Our loneliness destabilises us, makes us vulnerable – and unable to help.

I think what we can all agree on is that “more speech” seems unable to counter false news and conspiracies. The trouble is what concrete measures to draw from this. From what I’ve seen in the struggle for friends and family is that we react when it is too late. So now I make side channel emotional appeals: “Noooo, X, why did you share this on Facebook? I watched the clip and it’s not wrong but did you see who else comments on this guy’s messages? Reichsbürger and all sorts of other idiots! Don’t shares this, pleaaaaasse!!” It’s designed to make people laugh, and learn. Another example is to change the topic to something we share in common: “Nice pictures of a walk you’ve shared! Going for a walk is sooo much better than all the anger on Facebook. 🧘 🧘 🧘 Don’t focus on what makes you angry, X. Let’s meet one of these days and go for a walk. See the trees. See the river. See the birds. I’d love to do that.”

Increasingly, I’m starting to think that even this may not be enough. I don’t like making phone calls, but perhaps that’s what I need to do: to be a better friend.

I also suspect that replying to conspiracy posts with an argument is problematic for a different reason: the focus on single issues is a form of “solutionism”. If somebody believes Turkish immigrants are “bildungsfern” (Sarrazin) then I don’t think talking about the details of the situation is going to change their opinion. More information about the immigration, the social strata, the job situation, lack of accreditation of qualifications, language barriers, is not going to help. There is not easy “solution” to disinformation, there is no program to execute. What is required of us is a holistic approach to stronger interpersonal bonds, resilience building, working towards a healthier society.

Comments on 2020-10-21 Saving friends and family

And I’ve fallen into the trap again. Instead of calling somebody, I wrote a long reply, talking about the pandemic being something we all dislike but no amount of wishing is going to make it go away. Instead we must be responsible adults and deal with reality as it presents itself, that is: stay at home if we can, wear masks if we cannot; to let go of the belief that masks are there to enslave us because surgeons aren’t enslaved either; to not like or share such messages on Facebook because the algorithm is going to serve us more of the same, thinking that we like it, trying to maximise our attention; recommending that they watch The Social Dilemma, even if I disagree with the Silicon Valley boys now being asked for the solutions to the mess they have made instead of asking the critics that worked tirelessly in obscurity – and remain obscure because they’re no … Silicon Valley boys! But a good movie is better than no movie, I guess.

Anyway, what I’m trying to tell myself: Alex, pick up a phone every now and then for heaven’s sake and call your friends and family instead of writing a blog post. 😭

– Alex


The idea of reaching out to people and forming friendships to better convince them of something is always a good idea, but I think it’s especially important in the present circumstances. I don’t think most anti-mask people start off thinking Bill Gates is trying to microchip them, but rather that they get there because they keep looking for excuses not to wear a mask or worry about the pandemic. The more reasonable arguments (it interferes with breathing, it’s just an overhyped flu) are also the easiest to disprove, so gradually they shift to more and more ridiculous theories until... I don’t think they’re too far gone or anything like that, but it gets exponentially harder to convince them that they’re being fooled.

But I think the reason people feel that way about this pandemic is because the way we’re supposed to fight it is by staying at home. Washing our hands, wearing masks, and keeping our distance are all easy to do, but it’s the not going out with friends or to your grandkid’s birthday or to in-person classes or work that drains people’s energy. We’re social creatures. In the opening to the Decameron, Bocaccio describes the people who tried to isolate themselves during the Black Death as “[tending] to a very barbarous conclusion”. We know that it’s the best way to fight this, but it’s also the antithesis of one of our deepest desires - to be around other people. So when people can’t find a way to disprove the usefulness of such measures, they try to find a way to disprove the necessity of them at all, but that would require scientists to be lying about the disease being dangerous, which would require a grand conspiracy, which is where we get people thinking that it’s being spread by 5G.

So reaching out isn’t just a better way to convince someone they’re wrong through getting them to listen, it probably also helps by easing the problems that push them to hold such beliefs in the first place. Suddenly the measures being put in place aren’t as scary as they were before, and sober heads can prevail. That, and it’s just a good way to cope with the general anxiety everyone’s feeling now.

Malcolm 2020-10-21 17:50 UTC


Yes, all of that!

I did call the person in question, and we had a long chat about the weather, the job situation, eating in restaurants, wearing masks, the injustice of lock-down measures if the state is unwilling to foot the bill. Even here in Switzerland, some people had a hard time getting their compensation; and it’s much worse in poorer countries. We talked about leftist governments failing to help the people and how disappointing that is, about the iron framework of the European Union, the need for reform, the state of health care in the US, the numbers of new infections in Switzerland and in the US, the upcoming elections in the US, and of a great many other things. It was a good phone call.

– Alex 2020-10-21 19:41 UTC

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2020-10-18 Making Bread

Yes, I’m still making bread. There is no more lockdown, but I got used to the sourdough bread I’ve been making since then (see Bread blog post from April). We did buy one loaf of bread in all this time I didn’t like it any more. Am I going to be a bread snob for the rest of my life?

Since I felt I needed a lot of encouragement to get started, and since I was very confused by all the instructions, I decided to document how I make bread. I guess that’ll add to the confusion – but at the same time I hope it will show that making bread is super simple and flexible. Whatever mistake you make, you can still eat it! 😀

So, for two adults, I like to bake a very small load of bread:

  • about 120g of sourdough started
  • about 300g of flour
  • about 180ml of water
  • half a tea spoon of salt

Gallery

(Click images above for details.)

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For my own reference, using a selection of the images from the thumbs directory: montage -background transparent -tile 5x4 -geometry +1+1 IMG_E6860.jpg IMG_E6861.jpg IMG_E6863.jpg IMG_E6864.jpg IMG_E6865.jpg IMG_E6866.jpg IMG_E6867.jpg IMG_E6868.jpg IMG_E6870.jpg IMG_E6871.jpg IMG_E6872.jpg IMG_E6874.jpg IMG_E6876.jpg IMG_E6877.jpg IMG_E6878.jpg IMG_E6880.jpg IMG_E6881.jpg IMG_E6884.jpg IMG_E6885.jpg IMG_E6887.jpg bread.jpg – JPG is much smaller than PNG, but JPG doesn’t have transparency and so I had to use a 1px black border instead of leaving a 5px transparent gap. Oh well.

– Alex 2020-10-18 18:23 UTC


Comment on luminar’s capsule:

In short: it’s not an exact science and when looking for recipes and the like, pick the simplest one, the one with the least number of steps. Such a good point!

– Alex 2020-10-20 09:14 UTC

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2020-10-18 Fractals

@neauoire’s dotgrid, and the C variant, seems to have inspired @l3kn to write a similar small C program called quad using the SDL library to create fractals. You can read more about the general idea on Leon’s blog post Quadtree Grammars. Anyway, I decided to download the program and give it a whirl!

The first problem was that my laptop monitor is too small. I therefore had to halve the constants for SIZE, MENU_SIZE and MENU_WIDTH. (Note that this is now much improved: you can provide the size on the command line as an argument!)

The next problem was the user interface with no explanation. (Note that this is now also much improved!) You basically have to stare at the definition in the menu on the left and reproduce it in order to get it: start with the first square; into the four quadrants you either drag some patterns from above, or you drag one of the tiny squares from elsewhere in the menu, and do that recursively – in order to generate the sub-quadrants... recursively. It is a fractal, after all. Essentially, you have eight “rules” to generate the four quadrants and you start with the first one.

Here’s a little progression of increasingly complex fractals:

Image 1 Image 2 Image 3

As I recently mentioned Postscript, also note the Quadtree Grammars using Postscript blog post. So cool!

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2020-10-17 Switzerland’s exceptionalism

The problem is that Switzerland is rich and people don’t know how much of that is due to banks, and how much of that is due to our legals framework, and how much of that enables pain and suffering abroad. And because we are ignorant and rich, the explanation must be that we work hard and we are honest and there is no corruption, because that is what we see.

And so we get to Corona. Since we must be so intelligent, as we are so rich, our measures must be good. But Corona isn’t as easily bluffed and all the talk of responsible behavior, of “Selbstverantwortung” (everybody being responsible for their own actions, that is: no state intervention) are shown to be tepid air and hand waving.

Since we are so rich, and therefore intelligent, it can’t be true that the state must pass regulation to change our behavior. Ergo, this must be a dictatorship. We have no experience with dictators, they all happen elsewhere, but I guess when somebody tells you what to say or what to do, that must be it. Since this view is prevalent, politicians also hesitate. Everything is slow and panders to the loud mouthed. Even our so-called dictatorship is apparently incompetent.

The dream of the “Führer” is strong, even if well hidden. Our federalism has health departments in all the cantons, and the federal government can only overrule them in an emergency. They did that for the first time during the spring lockdown. Many complained. Now the government says the cantons must act on their own. And a different set of people is now complaining. They want a strong lead because the cantons are cowards. But the federal government is also full of cowards. How is that going to improve things?

Of course this is not going to improve things. The federal government is doing what needs to be done for all: gathering data, publishing reports, buying into overpriced snake oil. The actual measures to take are up to the people close to the people: the cantons. But that’s what they want to avoid. We always want somebody else to blame.

I like federalism. I want our own cantonal health departments to do what is necessary without having to wait for strong leaders (!?) to tell us what to do. I want people to stop complaining. The impossibility of what seems like such a simple thing breaks my head.

It doesn’t even require any coordination between the cantons. I understand that Geneva might need different measures then Glarus. That’s fine. But nobody wants to be the first to take a single step forward, nobody wants to impose stricter regulations because they need the excuse of the federal government forcing their hand. Then everybody can be angry at the federal government and the cantons can point fingers and say whatever. They’d rather take no responsibility than stand up for federalism.

For perspective, if you live in a bigger country: Switzerland has about eight million people and 26 cantons. Zürich is the largest with 1.5M people. Appenzell Innerrhoden is the smallest with about sixteen thousand (!) people. These are all small cities and towns elsewhere. A big yodel musical with 600 attendants in the canton of Schwyz with infected choir members and a nine day lag before the info was made public led to three small cantons being on Germany’s red list.

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2020-10-16 A tiny drawing web app

Linja Lili is a tiny web app to draw things. It’s very particular kind of program, though. I want to use it instead of Inkscape for map icons. The trouble with Inkscape is that it is a program to create great vector graphics with all the SVG bells and whistles, and it generates big SVG files full of extra information that Inkscape needs... and all of that is unnecessary bloat when looking at it from a map icon perspective.

A map icon, as far as I am concerned, is just a bunch of lines and polygons. Ideally, represented as a single path element in SVG. I always wanted a tool to strip an SVG document back to basics instead of writing SVG by hand in a text editor, like an animal. Which is what I’ve been doing.

Or indeed, after seeing dotgrid, I thought that maybe I could write a super simple tiny web app to create SVG files. That’s what Linja Lili is. Don’t forget to read the Linja Lili Help page.

References

Path elements in SVG are elements using commands such as “move to”, “line to”, “rectangle”, “arc”, and “quadratic Bézier curve” to create shapes.

Here’s a thread by @zens on Mastodon talking about the drawing primitives used in Postscript, how it was used as the basis for the NeXT operating system and the NeWS unix system, how it got renamed to Quartz for Mac OSX, which got a canvas tag, which made its way into HTML5, but also how it ended up in SVG.

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2020-10-14 Drinking Tea

I like drinking tea, and I buy moderately expensive tea. Today I was skimming Mastodon and saw @mnw saying “I’m not sure how long to steep green tea.”

Usually, expensive green tea has instructions; but in a pinch I use water that isn’t quite boiling (85°C), let it steep for 45s to 60s, drink it, repeat twice. If you have very good tea, you can keep doing this, steeping it up to five or six times. As long as it tastes good, keep drinking it. Usually the colors start to fade after the third steeping (in my price range).

Wikipedia says:

  • 75–85 °C for green tea (80 °C Typical)
  • 85–90 °C for white tea (90 °C Typical)
  • 95–100 °C for oolong tea
  • 100 °C (boiling) for compressed teas, such as pu-erh tea

Please ignore all the talking of utensils. You don’t need any of that unless you want them because it looks cool and you feel happy performing a little ceremony for yourself or some friends.

When I started, I used a very simple heuristic: boil water, pour into a cup and wait for a few seconds, then pour it into another coup and repeat. Assuming each change of cup reduces the temperature by five to ten degrees. It’s a nice way to get lower water temperatures without a thermometer. 😅

For delicate Japanese green tea, for example, I will use even lower temperatures: 50–60°C, and first steeping 45s, second and third steeping just 10s each.

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Ah, tea!

I’ve taken to just leaving the leaves in and drinking white tea cold. Makes me pee a lot.

– Alok 2020-10-19 06:21 UTC


But that’s true for almost anything...

– Alex Schroeder 2020-10-19 07:28 UTC

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2020-10-13 Passage to Niflheim

The fantastic thing about writing random tables for Hex Describe is that they keep building on each other and so even if you write just a little thing, the result can be baffling.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about the road to Niflheim. And then I figured, actually, I could reuse the “lair of the netherworld elves” rules as a result for the “exit to Niflheim” rule which is part of all of this... and suddenly:

A few stunted larches grow in these highlands. This is the edge of the 「Green Grove」. This fir forest is home to a pack of 17 wolves (HD 2+1 AC 7 1d6 F1 MV 18 ML 6 XP 200).

These wolves are blessed by Hel. At night, they sleep in the painted Cave of Mountain Lions, decorated with animals. At the far end of the cave is an iron gate decorated with a group of trolls. It is guarded by a chimera (HD 6 AC 5 1d6/1d6/1d10/2d10 or fire F6 MV 9 ML 10 XP 600; fire (3×/day): as much as the chimera has hp left, save vs. dragon breath for half; 「chimera blood is worth 5000gp to an alchemist」) for it leads to Niflheim

The tunnel walls drop away into a black void and all you are left with is a stone bridge spanning the emptiness until it comes to apparently endless wall. There, the tunnel continues. There are bigger caverns to cross every now and then. Bats can be heard overhead and their excrement covers the floor. This particular cave, however, also hosts a family of 10 wolf spiders (HD 4 AC 6 1d6 + paralysis F2 MV 15 ML 7 XP 400; climb).

The tunnel walls drop away into a black void and all you are left with is a stone bridge spanning the emptiness until it comes to apparently endless wall. There, the tunnel continues. Finally, the tunnels lead you to the underground Palace of Dagrail.

The entrance is protected by a chasm 100ft wide. A thin bridge without rails crosses the chasm. If you climb along the walls, this alerts the 7 giant spiders (HD 4 AC 6 1d6 + paralysis F2 MV 15 ML 7 XP 400; climb) living in the chasm itself.

The central space around which the elven mansions have been built is a fungus garden. 14 myconids tend to it (HD 3 AC 8 – F3 MV 6 ML 7 XP 300; read mind, dominate, knockout, gravity control (3d8): save vs. spells to avoid; silent message). 「3000 gold coins. 400 platinum coins.」

19 elves live here (HD 1 → 1d6 AC 5 1d6 or silk 1×/day E1 MV 12 ML 10 XP 100), led by Dringatond (level 10). The spells known are based on The Book of Weaving by Iauniel the Hidden: 1. silk, spider climb, rope command, 2. glamour, liquefy, spider senses, 3. web, observation, phase walk, 4. return, kill, network, 5. fate, transmigration. 「A potion of flying (sparkling wine colored, 1h). A scroll of moving ice (grow an ice bridge up to 30m long from existing snow or ice). A goblin assassin’s black iron crossbow +1, decorated with the seven heads of Set. A suit of dwarven plate armour +2 with dwarven runes naming the owner: Tóki Copperkeg of Thunder. A helmet of the bull, grants an extra attack when charging into a fight: on a hit, an opponent no larger than yourself is thrown to the ground such that your allies get a +4 to attack them.」

The robin egg blue gate from the eastern courtyard is decorated with many icicles. It leads to the other side, to Niflheim.

An acrid stench lies in the air. The outside world is covered in a warm, yellow fog that smells of metal, of burned flesh, of acid rain. A soft wind moves back and forth. This is the breadth of Niđhöggr, the gargantuan dragon sleeping amidst the roots of Yggdrasil somewhere down here in Niflheim, forever poisoning the world tree.

In the east, you can see a fantastic jumble of walls, gates, moat, towers with gallows jutting out over the waters, swinging cages holding the dead and the living near the bridges, ravens on every rooftop. This festering castle is Ejudnir, Hel’s hall in Niflheim, guarded by 800 trolls (HD 6+1 AC 4 1d6/1d6/1d10 F6 MV 12 ML 10 XP 600; regenerate unless burned or dissolved in acid), watched over by 30 harpies (HD 3 AC 7 1d4/1d4/1d6 F6 MV 15 ML 7 XP 300; charm song), and filled with ten thousand despairing souls of cowards and the weak, moaning.

Truly, this is hell.

I guess Hel’s hall in Niflheim can be a megadungeon... Perhaps one day, somebody will write a great dungeon generator for it. But not today, and not while filling in hexes on my mini-setting. This is already incredibly long!

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2020-10-10 Adding rivers to the post-apocalyptic maps

Still unsure about the colour of rivers but there are now rivers in the post-apocalyptic maps. As this map algorithm doesn’t have an underlying height model (unlike the Alpine maps), the river flow is much more random:

  • every mountain is a source, every swamp is a sink (this is where all rivers end)
  • no rivers flow into mountains or into deserts
  • rivers merge if they run into each other
  • rivers never flow off the map

For such a simplistic algorithm, it doesn’t even look so bad!

Image 1

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2020-10-02 Hex describing the post-apocalypse

Josh Johnston has been sending me entries for new Hex Describe setup. New map algorithm, new terrains, new encounters (new rules?). I’m pretty excited.

If you’re curious, visit the Hex Describe, click on “random Apocalypse data” in the second paragraph, pick “Josh Johnston” in the radio group below the Submit button, and submit it. 👍

I think it’s interesting to see how such a thing starts to grow from nothing. Two lines for the various terrains. Another two lines for the terrains. An encounter. The encounter needs a name of the people encountered. A name for the leader of these people. They must be doing something (herding animals). They must have a problem of some sort (a tiny adventure seed), a way to get involved. For example right now, there’s just one such encounter: the bovinoids living in the grass lands need help dealing with a pride of lions.

The grasses hum with a radioactive intensity. There is a camp of bovinoids (AC 8 HD 1+1 1d6 MV 120; a successful charge of 16+ throws the target 10’ back and prone) of the The Twinkling Planets Clan led by Mad Horns (HD 3+3). They are herding goats. A pride of lions (HD 5 AC 6 1d6/1d6/1d10 MV 150; surprise on 1–4 in 6) has found that goats hunting is super easy. Mad Horns is asking you for help.

I like it already! 😀 Let me know if you have tables to contribute.

I guess if I were in the lead, I’d take a look at Rangers & Rabits, but I don’t know where Josh wants to take it.

Oh! And a new map generating algorithm. 😍

Post Apocalyptic Map

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Comments on 2020-10-02 Hex describing the post-apocalypse

Here’s something I recently wrote:

  • tables for a kind of fort settlement
  • three secret factions generated for the map
  • potential trouble brewing between factions
  • fancy names for people and factions

Example:

An old Police station has been repurposed into a crumbling shelter. Several figures can be seen moving through the shadows. There is a large laser weapon on the roof. About 20 humans (TODO) led by Lisa the Best of all Clans (TODO) live here.

Visitors are mostly travelling merchants. The trade post run by Jason is fairly well known. The House of Rich Traders is open to all.

Two secret societies are involved in a turf war, here: The Wise Garden True-Men have arrived and are in the process of kicking the Friendly Tree Cyber-Servants out. The Wise Garden True-Men are led by Wise Carol who claims that the Friendly Tree Cyber-Servants are no good and failing their members. They are led by Monster Jeremy who is a sad excuse of a leader and deserves to be kicked out. If you talk to Monster Jeremy, however, it sounds that this is not true at all and you get a proposal to double-cross the Wise Garden True-Men. “Let’s set them a trap!” says Monster Jeremy.

Check out the list of post-apocalyptic tables. Click on the links to get ten examples. The first paragraph links to the table itself. Click on the “fort” rule to see a bunch of forts, some of which are plagued by conflicts between secret societies (an idea I ported over from my previous set of maps, but with a new set of tables to determine the names).

I’m still wondering how to do stats for non-player characters that are compatible with classic Gamma World, Metamorphosis Alpha, or Mutant Future as I never played any of them.

I also wonder what sort of names would be appropriate for people in the post-apocalypse. For now I used the 200 most popular names of the last 100 years from the US based on Social Security card application data as of March 2020. I feel like this list needs a bit more diversity. Where are all the minorities? Or perhaps we should misappropriate trademarks, or other words? Like something based on the 2000 most frequent words based on the Brown Corpus?

Anyway, if you feel inspired, leave a comment, or send me some mail.

As for the map algorithm – it’s pretty simple:

  • the default map is 20×10 hexes
  • the total hexes divided by 5 is the number of “seeds”
  • each seed gets a random type (forest, desert, mountain, jungle, swamp, or grass)
  • the remaining hexes are looked at in random order: if they have a neighbour with a type set, they take the same type (if they have no neighbours, the get a random type); this makes sure that “patches” grow
  • 10% of all hexes get a random settlement type (ruin, fort, or cave)

That’s it. It’s super simple. No implied height. No water flow. No rivers. No trails connecting the settlements. There’s certainly room for improvement, if you have any ideas.

And now I’ve added vat-people…

0204: Two meter tall crickets chew the rainbow grass contentedly.

There is a hidden cave entrance barely big enough to squeeze into. The smell is overpowering and impossible to identify. The 14 vat people (TODO) living in these caves have gained access to bio-genesis labs and have used them for self-improvement. The chief genetic improviser Stephen the Hungry is in charge of the research program. It requires a lot of organic base material from the surface.

The vat people are served by 20 plantoids (TODO). They are mobile, mute, appear to be totally subservient. If you can communicate with them telepathically, however, you’ll soon discover that they often squirrel away nutrients and have an entire hidden community of 90 mobile plantoids living in the canals and sewers below the lab. Revolution is brewing, down there….

Sadly, the vat solutions have contracted some sort of infection. Stephen the Hungry says that Law & Order Lisa (1203) might be able to help. “Will you go and ask them to come and have a look?”.

As you can see, the stats still elude me.

– Alex

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2020-09-30 The road to Niflheim

As I was working on Anthe, I realised that I needed a lot of random results to name orcs, villages, diseases, and so on. And I opted to use the same format I use for Hex Describe ­– well, a simplified version since I don’t need all the map features. All of that put me in the mood to return to Hex Describe, however.

I decided that I wanted more “encounters in depth”. That is, I want more than just a simple lair of something, but I also don’t want a dungeon with its own map. I was thinking of those more elaborate three to four paragraph setups we have for witches, druits, spider people, and so on. I decided that the places where you can find gates to other realms would make good places to get started. Somehow these come up in my games sooner or later. Such passages are excellent: they start with a lair at the surface, that leads to a gate, which is possibly guarded, a passage, possibly dangerous, and a location “on the other side”, wherever that is.

I started to work on “the road to Niflheim”. Sometimes, you can find one of them as you wander through fir forests, higher up in the mountains. Here’s an example.

It’s colder up here and the 「Moon Grove」 is dominated by junipers. This fir forest is home to a pack of 8 wolves (HD 2+1 AC 7 1d6 F1 MV 18 ML 6 XP 200).

These wolves are blessed by Hel. At night, they sleep in the Cave of Howling Wolves. At the far end of the cave is an iron gate decorated with many icicles. It is guarded by a chimera (HD 6 AC 5 1d6/1d6/1d10/2d10 or fire F6 MV 9 ML 10 XP 600; fire (3×/day): as much as the chimera has hp left, save vs. dragon breath for half; 「chimera blood is worth 5000gp to an alchemist」) for it leads to Niflheim

The tunnel is wide, the walls are black. It winds itself ever further down into the bowls of the earth. There are bigger caverns to cross every now and then. Bats can be heard overhead and their excrement covers the floor. This particular cave, however, also hosts a family of 11 wolf spiders (HD 4 AC 6 1d6 + paralysis F2 MV 15 ML 7 XP 400; climb).

The tunnel walls are made of stone but overgrown and split by gargantuan roots. The power of Yggdrasil is all around you. Finally, you reach a black lake in a giant cavern, the walls covered in green ice. Far above, there’s a round opening and from it descends a long iron chain with a big bucket at it’s end. Anybody entering the bucket is carried up, but there’s no boat to carry anybody out into the cold lake towards the elevator bucket. The bucket itself is operated by 3 trolls led by Boulder (HD 6+1 AC 4 1d6/1d6/1d10 F6 MV 12 ML 10 XP 600; regenerate unless burned or dissolved in acid) living up above, at the behest of Hel.

Icicles hang from giant trees and the cold is piercing. The stunted growth of the Forest of the Peak of Chained Humans around you is covered in snow.

In the south, you can see the Peak of Bound Souls. On it lives the troll-king Famine with his 15 trolls (HD 6+1 AC 4 1d6/1d6/1d10 F6 MV 12 ML 10 XP 600; regenerate unless burned or dissolved in acid), 7 harpies HD 3 AC 7 1d4/1d4/1d6 F6 MV 15 ML 7 XP 300; charm song, and his entourage of harpies, eternally feasting, served and defended by his 20 human slaves (HD 1 AC 8 1d6 F1 MV 12 ML 7 XP 100). 「12000 silver coins. 1000 gold coins.」

Here’s another example:

It’s colder up here and the 「Ghost Wood」 is dominated by junipers. This fir forest is home to a pack of 8 wolves (HD 2+1 AC 7 1d6 F1 MV 18 ML 6 XP 200).

These wolves are blessed by Hel. At night, they sleep in the Maw of Howling Rocks. At the far end of the cave is an iron gate decorated with an endless forests. It is guarded by a chimera (HD 6 AC 5 1d6/1d6/1d10/2d10 or fire F6 MV 9 ML 10 XP 600; fire (3×/day): as much as the chimera has hp left, save vs. dragon breath for half; 「chimera blood is worth 5000gp to an alchemist」) for it leads to Niflheim

The tunnel walls are made of stone but overgrown and split by gargantuan roots. The power of Yggdrasil is all around you. There are bigger caverns to cross every now and then. Bats can be heard overhead and their excrement covers the floor. This particular cave, however, also hosts a family of 8 wolf spiders (HD 4 AC 6 1d6 + paralysis F2 MV 15 ML 7 XP 400; climb).

The tunnel walls drop away into a black void and all you are left with is a stone bridge spanning the emptiness until it comes to apparently endless wall. There, the tunnel continues. Finally, you reach a black lake in a giant cavern, the walls covered in green ice. Far above, there’s a round opening and from it descends a long iron chain with a big bucket at it’s end. Anybody entering the bucket is carried up, but there’s no boat to carry anybody out into the cold lake towards the elevator bucket. The bucket itself is operated by 8 trolls led by Fist (HD 6+1 AC 4 1d6/1d6/1d10 F6 MV 12 ML 10 XP 600; regenerate unless burned or dissolved in acid) living up above, at the behest of Hel.

An acrid stench lies in the air. The outside world is covered in a warm, yellow fog that smells of metal, of burned flesh, of acid rain. A soft wind moves back and forth. This is the breadth of Niđhöggr, the gargantuan dragon sleeping amidst the roots of Yggdrasil somewhere down here in Niflheim, forever poisoning the world tree.

In the west, you can see a fantastic jumble of walls, gates, moat, towers with gallows jutting out over the waters, swinging cages holding the dead and the living near the bridges, ravens on every rooftop. This festering castle is Ejudnir, Hel’s hall in Niflheim, guarded by 500 trolls (HD 6+1 AC 4 1d6/1d6/1d10 F6 MV 12 ML 10 XP 600; regenerate unless burned or dissolved in acid), watched over by 120 harpies (HD 3 AC 7 1d4/1d4/1d6 F6 MV 15 ML 7 XP 300; charm song), and filled with ten thousand despairing souls of cowards and the weak, moaning.

Truly, this is hell.

As you can see, the chances of repeats are real, but at the same time, the entire thing is going to be rare on a map. For now, I can just keep adding to the entries I started, and it’ll be more interesting.

Anyway, it’s a great opportunity to spend a little time writing for role-playing games, immediately useful if you use Hex Describe, it works even for small additions, and the nature of these tables makes the entire system richer if you add to some tables as they can be reused. For example, sometimes nixies in water hexes will tell you that they have a problem with a chimera sighting nearby. Guess what it is guarding? Another road to Niflheim, of course!

I love it.

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You probably want to contact me via one of the means listed on the Contact page. This is probably the wrong place to do it. 😄

– Alex Schroeder 2020-05-22 12:19 UTC

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