An Updated ZineQuest 2020 Calendar for May

An updated (as of 20 May 2020 @ 1953 CT) calendar of my ZineQuest pledge statuses.

I figure the time has come to revisit this little project. Following the end of ZineQuest 2020, I wrote a post containing the first version of this calendar. It seems like something I should check in on every now and then, so here's an updated one!

I have added a new color to the check marks. A yellow check mark indicates that I have received some of the total rewards from the campaign, but not yet all. This is especially noteworthy on the campaigns I backed at the Physical Print Tier, as many of those ZineQuest projects promised both the PDF and the print copy and some of these have delivered the PDF already but have not yet produced the print rewards. I added these yellow check marks because I want to recognize the efforts of these creators to get their work into our hands during quarantine and shelter-in-place (when many people need diversions most!). Many of those projects with partial fulfillment actually got their digital rewards out ahead of schedule for this reason and I want to show their progress rather than focus on any delays - which I think we can all agree are to be expected at the moment. I largely feel that delays and an attitude of understanding is to be expected in the time of COVID-19; everything is slower and delayed and thrown off kilter in one way or another. I am sure we all feel this in many aspects of our lives, and so it is no surprise that printers are impacted by local lockdowns or postal services are frozen or of course the many ways that we find new and strange issues in our plans of doing business and living our lives and creating our creations.
So, the point is, the completes are noteworthy and some even arrived early! 

Apart from that, it's worth noting that some projects have actually completed, on paper, but the rewards haven't yet arrived. There are a few with rewards which are shipping or have shipped or been sent to print/fulfillment, but with mail being so terrible and tracking for these things being basically nonexistent, I honestly can't tell what's in progress, what's shipped, what's lost, and what is about to arrive. The Phylactery comes to mind for this - I have read that physical copies are going out in waves due to post office issues, so that project is very near to a check mark on this chart, but I have not yet received mine so it has not yet gotten that check mark. I am sure other projects are in the same boat - so very close to completion but held up bit by bit by COVID-19 problems large and small alike. 

So, the point is, some incompletes according to this chart as finalized right now are actually done, but aren't reflected herein because the stuff hasn't landed due to external delays.

Finally, there are projects that are not yet due, and we continue to ignore those.

As an aside, I want to take a moment to draw attention to YOU GOT A JOB ON THE GARBAGE BARGE, because:
  1. It delivered the PDF version early thanks to Amanda's hard work; 
  2. It is, bar none, the most original, fun, interesting, charming little zine I have read in ages; 
  3. I am unbelievably, ridiculously, gleefully proud and tickled pink to have been included in something that is seriously so unique and great (and now I look cool by association, suckers). 

If you didn't back it, you can still grab the PDF over on Amanda's page and I strongly suggest you do because it's one of the best things to come out of Kickstarter and certainly a hall of fame ZineQuest project. I cannot wait for the physical copies!

Overall, the stuff I have received from ZineQuest 2 has been fabulous. Some I have been able to dig into; the Terror of the Stratosfiend print copy is gorgeous and I've truly enjoyed fussing about with Beak, Feather, and Bone in my spare moments - I regret not backing at the physical level for this, even though I did PDF only to try to spread my budget around to more projects. I hope to write about some of these projects as I steal time here and there for blogging.

Finally, I just want to say that my hat is off to everyone who has managed to stay on schedule despite this madness, but my heart of course is with those who have not. This is a truly ridiculous and dreadful time and I hope all the creators out there working diligently despite things falling apart know that their efforts are appreciated. If you're a ZineQuest creator reading this, be kind to yourself and don't sweat a schedule (at least in my opinion)! I hope all the creators working to make dorky stuff for everybody to play with take the time to stay safe, stay healthy both physically and mentally, and to take care of what is important (friends, family, self, community) before taking care of ZineQuest stuff. Much love to you all!

I have no idea if these posts are helpful to anyone out there but I figured I'd keep this going at least for the foreseeable future; maybe I'll do another in June or more likely July and check back in then. I'd love to know if this is of any value so I can decide whether or not to do it next time around during/after ZineQuest 2021.


Coloured version of the Whore of Babylon illustration from Martin Luther's 1534 translation of the Bible, via Wikimedia Commons

Edit 17 May 2020 @ 1555 - Adjusted a line break or two and removed one duplicate clause. Also added that classic image up there just to spruce things up a bit. All in all, surprised by the coherence of this article given its origins.

Monolithic religions in Dungeons & Dragons are not exactly my cup of tea. They have their place; there are times it is fun to play a world where one major religion is present in all aspects of life like how Catholicism ruled over much of Europe for many centuries – this can be an enjoyable evil foil or an easy justification for the player characters to work together and to be compelled to venture forth. But, by and large, I prefer to play D&D in a world where societies are numerous and localized, where empires have been and fallen and the world is dotted by tiny enclaves of civilization in a vast and uncaring wilderness.

Pursuant to this, I prefer my religions fragmented and small in scale rather than universal, and I like for them to raise more questions than they answer. I prefer a village that quarries stone to place its faith in the Earthmother and strive to appease her to avoid cave-ins (and I want it questionable how the clerics of that faith actually make magic happen, if they do at all!), and I want the neighboring port city to be faithful to a pantheon of petty water deities leftover from a seafaring empire that collapsed decades ago. And I really want there to be a sincere lack of consensus on all of this. If one town believes there is a Snake Goddess who demands blood sacrifice, it’d be swell if there were a nearby city that believes there is a Snake Goddess who wants absolute veneration of eggs and warm summer sunshine, and I’d like them to think each other to be quaint heathens who have it, at best, half-right. What I want are local cults and sects, and I love when there are minor differences.

I love schisms and I love sects. That is a sentence that is hard to say aloud in public. But, nonetheless, I like the idea of one church believing ABC, and another church considered nominally faithful to the same deities to believe XYZ, at odds with the teachings of ABC – and even better if they still see each other as the same religion when compared to Those Crazy Snakeworshippers.

In real life, religion and faith are touchy subjects. In Dungeons & Dragons, though, as long as everyone is on the same page with regard to fictive beliefs, it’s usually a ton of fun for everyone. Some of the funniest moments I’ve had as a DM and as a player have come from unexpected turns. I remember playing AD&D2E as a teenager and being a paladin (WHICH WAS DEFINITELY ROLLED LEGITIMATELY, STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT) and I asked a church dedicated to my deity, St. Cuthbert, for a favor. Being that they were of my faith despite being in an unfamiliar city, I assumed they’d help me further the cause of capital-G Good; instead, my DM – a notorious dick, to be fair – rejected my pleas on the ground that they were from a different branch of the church of St. Cuthbert. Rather, they were the church of St. Cuthbert, and I had come from a splinter sect; they didn’t recognize my deeds and considered me to be one step above a nonbeliever and required proof of my adherence to their version of the word of St. Cuthbert. It seemed they were in the midst of a grand inquisition of blasphemers! The hilarious Monty Python-style NOBODY EXPECTS THE SPANISH INQUISITION hijinx aside, it was a massive shift to realize the world outside our “starting area” of a few hexes was a big place with room for a million differences and details beyond our assumption. It made the world deeper, and more interesting, and more real. Nobody agrees all the time, least of all on important things!

On that note, I’ve prepared a number of sects here that hopefully will slide right into your own home games; they’re generalized enough that they should require only a little bit of tweaking to fit alongside the “mainstream” faiths of your game. Hopefully, they slip in unnoticed and send your players for a loop, upending their assumptions of a monolithic religion!

1 – The Forge God

All who revere the Forge God believe him to be benevolent and helpful, for his help elevating humans (or dwarves) from mere animal to tool-wielding dominant force! The Forge God stole fire for man, or taught dwarves the value of gold, or revealed the riddle of steel to the Cimmerians. Whatever the role, the Forge God has a positive effect on the account of history.

Unless, of course, you belong to this sect, which believes the Forge God brought the secrets of ore and alloy – bronze, steel, mithril, gold – to mankind for one reason and one reason only: to foment war. The adherents of this sect still venerate the Forge God, sure, but they do it for totally different reasons. To them, he is the sower of chaos and bloodshed. His hand moves man to murder. His gifts bring whole civilizations to clash against each other in hideous, empire-forging combat.

2 – The Royal Lineage

There exists a Holy Book. It has spawned two differing sides to the same faith. The same gods are worshipped, the same values given precedence. The difference comes in the interpretation of the words of the book, which, depending on opinion, imply that those of royal blood are either figuratively or literally descended from the gods themselves.

This sounds fairly minor, but it’s spurred ages of warfare and division. Those who subscribe to the Literalist dogma are of the opinion that the royal family are not quite of this plane of being; not truly mortal. They believe the royals to be vaguely fae or Olympian or similar, simultaneously alien and greater than humans. The Figuralists believe the royals to only be ordained by gods, and therefore flawed humans no better than themselves. You’d think this would be a minor difference, but it absolutely turned out not to be, and centuries of rhetoric by gifted orators in the priesthoods only worsened the divide.

3 – The Moon Denialists

The moon is not real. It’s a trick, played on the denizens of the world by the goddess of illusions to woo the prince of thieves. At least, that’s the belief of this sect of moon worshippers, who pay lip service to the deity of moons in a bid to curry favor with the goddess of illusions by proving their appreciation for the greatest trick ever played.

Adherents of this sect are, at face value, fans of the moon god or goddess. They go to moon deity temples. They celebrate moon holidays. They offer moon prayers. They just do so with the belief that the moon deity isn’t real, and is merely an aspect of the illusion deity, and that the illusion deity will deal with all the faithful according to their ability to see the reality of things when the time of reckoning comes to fruition at last.

4 – The Repentists

These cultists believe the words of all gods were given to the mortal races in error, and strive to repent for the sin of knowing. They believe all religions to be unforgivable encroachments on the privacy of the great gods, who are and should remain beyond mortal ken. They believe that to ponder or question the gods is tantamount to sin and value ignorance as a virtue.

As a result, naturally, they venerate illiterate babes and those who escaped the cruel yoke of letters and symbols. They burn schools, they destroy placards and tomes, and they secretly slaughter teachers and sages. They seek to plunge humanity into an unaware paradise state devoid of awareness of the traffic of gods.

5 – The Holy Necromancers

Death being a natural part of the life cycle is a given for most. It is a relief for adherents of the teachings of the death deities. But it is a mere suggestion for members of the death cult sect dedicated to the art of the necromancy. Though they claim allegiance to the beliefs of the mainline death cult, they split when it comes to explicit adherence to the scriptures that proclaim that death and the transition to the beyond are the natural and correct path. They believe death is not merely part of an equation, but rather a field of study and work, and they delve deeply into the necromanctic dark arts. Differing from most religions, though, they believe necromancy is the most holy order of magic possible, the highest good and the most generous kindness possible in the mortal experience.

They resent the characterization of outsiders as monsters and liches and graverobbers and madmen. They raise up the lost and the mourned; they give the grieving a new lease on their loved ones. They ply the secrets of this life and the next; they spare some souls from their eternal torment and deny others their reward. They seek balance and venerate the universality of death as the great unifying equality between all mortal beings.

6 – The Sea Worshippers

Surely all those who live near the seaside offer prostrate fealty to the fickle gods of the ocean and its many storms – but some take it a little further than most! Whereas mainline sea pantheon worshippers seek to placate the dangerous masters of the waves, the members of this sect believe that those lucky enough to be water-breathing deep dwellers are closer to godliness than the filthy landborne creatures of the surface world. Whether it is a simple salmon, or the cruel sahuagin and kuo toa, or the more otherworldly and alien denizens of the dark sea floor, all of the ocean’s children are nearer to the glory of godhood than anything breathing the fresh air of the world above the blue.

Believers of this sect are considered radicals by the mainstream worshippers of seaborne deities – though some consider them merely well-meaning zealots – and their extremist actions in protection of water habitats and aquatic creatures are broadly condemned by everyone else. Not to be confused with environmentalists, they are known for their cruelty and condescension towards all land-based people, places, beliefs, and concerns. They seek to join their aquatic “brethren” and the highest proof of devotion is to drown oneself in an attempt to prove fealty to the gods of the sea and be made whole by rejoining the ocean-dwellers. Some believe enough faith is rewarded with gills and a stead in the Deep City. All funerals are burials at sea.

There you have it: six (it’s also a 1d6 table, naturally!) sects and cults for your world, to upend assumptions about the stability and uniformity of religions they interact with or to serve as small, localized faiths for towns and settlements in any world like those I like to ply!

If you find these useful, tell me! If you find these bothersome, tell me! You can post below or you can hit me at @DungeonsPossums on Twitter, where I post way too much for anyone to tolerate!

Monsters: Three Nasties

I. The Cave Tick

HD:AC:MV: 60’ (20’)
SV: Dwarf 1 ML:Treasure: Nil
Attk: Bite 1d6 (save vs Poison or take 1d4 extra damage)
(did you know MS Word for iPad doesn’t copy/paste the table formatting itself, just the contents?)

The Cave Tick is a pale, fleshy creature about the size and color of an overstuffed kitchen garbage bag. Other than its narrow, sharp teeth, the Cave Tick has little to no skeleton. It has the texture and unpleasant dampness of pruny toes fresh out of a bathtub. Cave Ticks cling to the surfaces of subterranean caverns and chasms with their tentacle-like appendages covered in grooved suckers; many hide between stalagmites or hang from stalactites awaiting prey. They see movement extremely well even in pitch-black environs, but are frightened by fire.

II. Ocular Sludge

HD:AC:MV: 60’ (20’)
SV: Fighter 3 ML:Treasure: Nil
Attk: Throw Sludge 1d4; 1 Spell per Turn (random cast 1d6: 1 Charm Person, 2 Sleep, 3 Magic Missile, 4 Invisibility, 5 Shield, 6 Web)

There's a wet splatter in the dark area ahead in the second sub-basement of the tower of the mad wizard, Korthos. Before the sound finishes echoing, the stench reaches you, the stone tunnel awash in reeking waves reminding you of the outhouse you passed out in after your last night of carousing. There it is, out of the inky shadows: animated sewage slapping and sliding across the flagstone floor, its bizarre eyes popping out of its vile corpus and hovering, fixated on you, before being subsumed once more into the fetid slop. You shudder as it forms hands that reach for you; you clasp your gauntlets around your buckler and grosses messer - and then you reel with exhaustion. Your vision dims. Your eyelids grow heavy. The last sight you see as the sloppy mess of sewage slides towards you, arms outstretched, is one pale floating eyeball glowing an uncanny green.

III. The Ravener

The Ravener is a legendary cryptid. Some say it is a wizard's failed pet project. Some say it is an extradimensional parasite from beyond. Some say it is an ancient beast from the primeval underworld. Some say it is not real, and those unfortunate souls found as exsanguinated, pulpy sacks of bones in the woods were attacked by all other manner of animal depending on the talk of the taproom at the time.

But it is real.

It is real and it is twelve feet tall with a whiplike appendage where a head would be and a flexible arms terminated in sucking mouths surrounded by locking claws. It moves in most directions equally easily on three legs, and its gaping central maw crushes and tears its foes apart. Worst of all, its three-pupiled eyes float separate from its body, whizzing this way and that, hovering silently and unnoticed amongst the trees before streaking past on their way to new vistas. The Ravener sees much. It is always watching its territory. And when it sees prey, it marches toward it inexorably.

HD:AC:MV: 90’ (30’)
SV: Fighter 9 ML: 10 Treasure: Nil
Attk: Whip (2d4), Draining Grasp (1d6 – save vs magic or suffer 1 point of randomized stat damage per turn), Consume (2d8 per turn)

I doodled and wrote these monsters up separately days and days apart from each other and yet somehow there is definitely a theme of floating eyeballs! Unintentional, but cool - I love weird monster gimmicks. Floating eyeballs are awesome. 

Hopefully this trio of monsters helps you ruin the days of some player characters. If you use them, I’d love to know about it! Post below or drop me a line via email or Twitter: @DungeonsPossums