Sunday, 25 July 2021

Artefacts of the Others

As explained in my last a recent post I think I'm nearly done with hand-wringing and "anxietising" over my post frequency (or lack thereof). Life is complex at the moment and I will just have to deal with it, hoping that the future will provide more opportunities to play and to create.

That said, I have plenty of drafts sat on the ol' slush-pile awaiting a cursory polish, and I will attempt to drip feed these out to you as the weeks and months go by. This is one such slush-post: the Artefacts of the Others...

Greyscale iamge dominated by swirling, worm-type creature emerging from the ground and sucking the a figure towards its gaping mouth, causing the figure to drop their assault rifle. In the distance, a similar figure appears to be strolling away, oblivious or unconcerned.
Roadside Picnic concept art by Alex Andreev 

This post is at least partly inspired by the novel Roadside Picnic, though the contents were originally designed for use in burgeoning Pariah adventure/sandbox City of Ghosts. Another inspiration—the great Semiurge of Archons March On—I shall pace the generator proper at the top of the pile:

The form, materiality and the effect these artefacts produce may not make any real sense: this is not a bug, it's a feature. A Neolithic person would have no idea what to do with a Marshall combi amp, but taking it apart they'd gain multiple capacitors capable of delivering powerful shocks, lots of shiny copper and a fuck-off big magnet. Similarly, artefacts are fragments of larger wholes, beyond the ken of the average pariah, but still capable of producing incredible supernatural effects.

Read on to find out how the generator slots together (1d20 tables listed below)

The Others

Precursor civilisation? Gods that fell to earth? The sidhe? Malevolent spirits of old?

You decide!

What cannot be denied is that they were very, very creative- bits and pieces of their magic/technology/art litters the remnants of their once great civilisation, ready to tear holes in your burgeoning Neolithic revolution.


This is how it appears to exiled hunter-gatherers only vaguely familiar with the tools and trappings of agricultural society. What looks to be an amulet or necklace might in fact be a fragment of a more complex mechanism way beyond their comprehension.

  1. Crown, helmet or mask
  2. Multiple interconnected chains forming a 3-DIMENSIONAL net
  3. Rod, staff or wand 
  4. Throne, seat or litter
  5. Disc or wheel
  6. Sphere
  7. Arrow, javelin or spear
  8. Bowl or dish
  9. Musical instrument
  10. Adze, war-club or hammer
  11. Canopy or parasol
  12. Box, chest or jar
  13. Gauntlet, glove or mitten
  14. Breast plate, pauldron or shin-guard
  15. Amulet, necklace or talisman
  16. Anklet, bracelet or ring
  17. Canoe, catamaran or coracle
  18. Statue of a humanoid figure or animal
  19. Tree-shaped sculpture
  20. Ladder that stands upright without any additional support

For a bonus, here is a table of descriptive phrases to add to the flavour of the artefact.

  1. Ancient and decayed
  2. Constantly glitching
  3. Enormous
  4. Elongated
  5. Foul-smelling
  6. Gem-encrusted
  7. Glistening
  8. Horned
  9. Levitating
  10. Ice-cold
  11. Miniature
  12. Over-sized
  13. Sapient
  14. Scorching-hot to-the-touch
  15. Slightly misshapen
  16. Studded
  17. Unusually heavy
  18. Vibrating
  19. Viscous
  20. Weird 


As with form, the materials are described using language familiar to the pariahs... whether they actually are made of tony meditating ape-men is... well, that one is definitely true.

  1. Long, sticky  and sinuous fibres of various red shades
  2. Fine porcelain the colour of turquoise
  3. Fine aggregates similar to sand the colour of ash 
  4. Organic material somewhere between fruit pulp and grub-flesh
  5. Bronze scales which angle themselves towards the sun
  6. Polished jade containing hitherto unseen hues
  7. Off-white marble with deep turquoise veins
  8. Glass as clear and flawless as the finest crystal
  9. Highly polished reflective star-metal
  10. Millions of tiny golden spheres, clinging together due to an unseen force
  11. Billions of tiny, iridescent butterfly-wing scales
  12. Organic material: as hard as seasoned wood, yet yielding and supple in places
  13. Soft fibres that stiffen on contact with intelligent fingertips
  14. Living bone
  15. Liquid mercury
  16. Multi-faceted, highly polished obsidian
  17.  Plasma (the stuff of stars themselves)
  18. Microscopic hairless apes in stoic meditation
  19.  Raw flesh — firm to the touch but coursing with rich, purple blood
  20.  Wispy smoke or vapour, which nonetheless appears to maintain a consistent form and solid state.


This is an immediately noticeable effect which might be harmful, neutral, beneficial or all three depending on circumstances.

  1. The artefact is magnetic. It will pull any iron, bronze or star-metal objects within 20' towards itself as though it had the strength of a cave bear.
  2.  Levitating four feet above the ground beside the last person that touched it, it is capable of bearing the weight of four adults. Heavier loads cause it to descend to a lower height. The weight of eight adults is enough to force it to the ground. It follows the last person to touch it until another sapient creature places their bare flesh against it.
  3.  The artefact emits a faint, almost ghostly light, permitting dim vision up to 3' from every surface in all directions. There is no way to deactivate this luminescence except via concealment
  4. All those within 100' are aware of the faint whirring noise the artefact makes, not unlike the noise of crickets or cicada. There is no way to silence this noise
  5. Strange purple, blue and magenta sparks dance intermittently across its surface, like a miniature thunderstorm. All those who touch it receive 1 point of lightning damage, except those whom it favours.
  6. The artefact is not always present in the same space and occasionally phases out of existence. Whenever it is needed, there is a 50% chance that it will have already dropped out of reality, returning to the last person who touched it in [dice] {turns|rounds}
  7. Objects within 10' of the artefact  either (1d6) 1-4 become 50% lighter 5-6 float [dice] feet from the ground. It is not known how this effect can be deactivated.
  8. All those that behold the artefact perceive it as the most glorious item to ever grace the Here & Now. While they will covet it, they will actively seek to assist the artefact's self-proclaimed 
  9. owner, while conspiring subtly against them. Upon the owner's death they will fight to claim the artefact
  10. The first intelligent being to touch it with their hand becomes permanently attached to it. They can only release their hand by placing their other hand upon it, or by chopping their hand off (the dead hand will thence drop to the floor). Other people's hands won't work.
  11. At sunrise, noon and at sunset it becomes entirely transparent for [dice] {turns|rounds}, rendering it invisible. Any humans hiding behind it (if possible) will also become completely transparent.
  12. All those who touch it for the first time feel completely compelled to reveal a secret. Those who resist incur [dice] WIS damage.
  13. Holding this artefact with both hands enables an individual to understand any language (including that of plants, birds, animals and the winds) clearly — but only while both hands touch the artefact.
  14. Additionally, it is absolutely covered with long, thin spikes (relative to its size) finishing at impossibly sharp points, which never seem to dull.
  15. During times of absolute silence it starts to emit an alien, polyphonic music which causes powerful emotional reactions in all who hear it (save vs spells 19 or be overcome by this emotion). The music lasts for 1d12 minutes.
  16. The wielder is able to hear the thoughts of everyone within 50'. Initially this is overwhelming, but with practice they can use the power of concentration to shut those thoughts out.
  17. Non-human apes are drawn to the artefact and venerate the wielder as a god.  
  18. The artefact makes everyone within 50 feet aware of the surface thoughts of the wielder. They are unaware of this.
  19. The artefact occasionally produces an intense burst of light, causing all those who gaze upon it to melt into pile of meat liquor.
  20. Once per full moon the artefact has a 50% chance of summoning a falling star. It will land at a random point within 0-9 miles (though never atop the artefact).
  21. When no-one is looking at it, the artefact moves... very slowly... but always in the same direction.

Obvious Feature

Cursory inspection of the device will active an obvious feature, which usually has a limited number of uses per day. Additionally, there are likely to be some drawbacks to using the features of the artefact..

  1. fires bolts of lightning if tapped in a certain way
  2. can be made to increase or decrease its surface temperature enough to boil water or freeze blood
  3. absorbs [dice] spell-spirits or magical effects and stores them to be re-invoked at a later date
  4. increases the holder's awareness of their surroundings to an incredible extent
  5. permits instantaneous teleportation to any point where the user has previously held the object, purely by concentrating for [dice] rounds. There is a 10% chance the user will be transported [dice] {days|weeks|months|years|centuries} {forwards|backwards} in time also
  6. enables the user to enlarge themselves by a factor of 1d20+1 for [dice] rounds. Alternatively, they may shrink one target visible to the user by a factor of 1d20+1 for [dice] turns. This may be used multiple times   
  7. enables the user to shrink themselves by a factor of 1d20+1 for [dice] rounds. Alternatively, they may enlarge one target visible to the user by a factor of 1d20+1 for [dice] turns. This may be used multiple times   
  8. permits users to "ghost walk" as a spirit-touched
  9. can be made to increase or decrease its size by a factor of 10
  10. grants the power of flight for [dice] rounds [dice] times per day
  11. through concentration, anybody touching it can project their thoughts as a realistic, three dimensional illusion
  12. three times per day the artefact can be made to issue a continuous, high-pitched tone. This tone attracts any large game to the area at a rate commensurate with their frequency in the area. Once [dice] creatures have arrived, it stops emitting the sound
  13. produces a sticky resin which, when applied to wounds, rapidly regenerates damaged tissue. In sufficient quantities and given sufficient time the resin can even restore lost limbs. The resin is useless if taken more than 5' from he artefact
  14. the holder is able to learn of the precise location of a person or object if they can touch the artefact and concentrate for one turn.
  15. up to 3 times a day the user may issue a command which must be obeyed by its recipient
  16. grants the holder the power to transform themselves into (1d4)  1- bear; 2- eagle; 3- leopard; 4- serpent; 5- tree; 6- pool of yellow slime. The transformation is permanent, but may be reversed by returning to the artefact. However, for each day spent in animal/tree/slime form the transformed one becomes closer and closer to their animal kin...
  17. can <i>summon</i> any person, object or thing to the artefact's holder instantaneously: so long as the holder is aware of the person or thing's present location (and that location is in the <i>Here and Now</i>), they may be teleported across any distance.
  18. emits a magical vapour when manipulated in a way clear to the holder. All within 100' fall into a magical sleep for an indefinite period. The holder is unaffected, and can end the spell at any time, so long as they are in contact with the artefact. Only one "spell" may be active at any time.
  19. cause the gradual ([dice] rounds) petrification of one target once per day. While petrified the target remains in a state of suspended animation and can be returned to their state prior to petrification through magic... however, any harm committed to the statue will manifest on the living person if they are ever "restored" 
  20. allows the holder to reflect any harm or magical effects placed upon them straight back at those inflicting that harm or magical effect. Through concentration the holder may suspend this effect.


These effects are a) usually negative and b) activated by using the "obvious feature" of the artefact generated above.

  1. ...each time this feature is activated one point is drained from the user's {HP|CON|STR|DEX|INT|WIS|CHA}
  2. ...whenever the artefact is used in this manner a spirit of the BEYOND is drawn inexorably closer: after [dice] cumulative uses, it manifests
  3. ...use of this feature causes the sudden onset of [dice] mutations in the user within [dice] rounds. The mutations each take 3 rounds to manifest, during which time the user will be gripped by unimaginable pain. A mutation will remain until the user is able to sleep for at least eight ours, after which they will simply fade and they will return to their prior state  
  4. ...using this feature causes a small lump to appear somewhere on the holder's body. With each further use the lump grows, becoming gradually more human. After [dice] uses the fully-formed homunculus drops off, a miniature clone of the holder. It believes itself to be the <i>true</i> version of the individual, not a clone, and will plot to obtain the artefact for itself.
  5. ...the user becomes afflicted by the thirst, and each use causes a new affliction to manifest, ultimately transforming them into a blood-drinker.
  6. ...the user becomes afflicted by the hunger, and each use causes a new affliction to manifest, ultimately transforming them into a ghoul.
  7. ...the skin hardens and limbs stiffen as the user is slowly petrified. They lose one point of dexterity with each use of the artefact- this damage can never be healed or improved so long as they are carrying the artefact. At 0 dexterity they transform into an immobile statue, though they will still possess consciousness.
  8. ...with each use of the artefact in the above manner, the user will be unable to eat for [dice] days. Attempts to force-feed oneself result in [dice] damage to their constitution. Even water is potentially harmful during this period: they must make a save vs. poison or suffer equivalent damage to their strength with each drink.
  9. ...slowly the user becomes less and less corporeal, gradually fading out of reality. Initially this manifests as a 50% chance of them being non-corporeal whenever they are making a crucial action, but after 1d20 uses of the artefact the state of non-corporeality is permanent.
  10. ...with each use, the holder loses the ability to feel one of the following emotions, in sequence: envy, lust/desire, regret, guilt, fear, anger, disgust, joy, sadness, satisfaction. Once they have lost the capacity to experience any of these emotions they become an NPC under the GM's control
  11. ...the first time this power is activated, the user seeks to do it again- at least as many times as they can per day, and again each day thereafter. If they are prevented from using the artefact for some reason, they incur 1d4 points of wis damage.
  12. ...from the firs time the user activates this power, and every time thereafter, the user becomes increasingly convinced that their friends and colleagues are attempting to steal the artefact from them. They become progressively covetous and unwilling to allow others to come close to the artefact.
  13. ...with each use there is a 50% chance the user's spirit is temporarily ([dice] minutes) transported to the Realm of the Dead, as though they had ingested a heroic dose of sorcerer's sage.
  14. ...with each use there is a 50% chance the user's spirit is temporarily ([dice] minutes) transported to the Realm of the Dawn, as though they had ingested a heroic dose of shaman shrooms.
  15. ...with each use there is a 50% chance the user's spirit is temporarily ([dice] minutes) transported to the Realm of the the Sun and Heavens, as though they had ingested a heroic dose of desert rue.
  16. ...with each use there is a 50% chance the user's spirit is temporarily ([dice] minutes) transported to the Realm of the the Moon, as though they had ingested a heroic dose of sleepflower.
  17.   ...with each use there is a 50% chance the user's spirit is temporarily ([dice] minutes) transported to the Realm of the Dusk, as though they had ingested a heroic dose of cactus buttons.
  18. ...with each use there is a 50% chance the user's spirit is temporarily ([dice] minutes) transported to the BEYOND, as though they had engaged in a forbidden ritual.
  19. ... every time the artefact is used in this way the user feels a burning need to tell somebody their true name. Each day that passes without them telling someone will be as though they had not eaten any food. They will be unable to prevent themselves from starving unless they tell someone their true name.
  20. ...with each use, the user sense of dread that something awful is going to happen increases, but nothing ever does.

Attuned Power

By spending a specified amount of time (see below) with the artefact, pariahs become aware of the greater capability of the artefact (though of course this still might not have been its original purpose)

  1. It can be harnessed as a weapon of mass destruction
  2.  It can create something from nothing: the only limit is the bearer's imagination and concentration
  3.  It can alter matter and bend it to the will of its wielder, transforming and distorting however they so desire
  4. The artefact can distort space: distances can be reduced or increased, larger volumes can be placed within smaller ones, pocket dimensions spring up wherever the wielder desires
  5. It can manipulate time: forwards, backwards... even lateral excursions into parallel worlds. Practice is required, but the wielder is on the cusp of something truly awesome 
  6. It can open gates between realms: the Here & Now is a nexus point, an interzone... manipulating this artefact opens up portals and routes to place once only accessible to the unconscious. Beware: there may be more than turtles all the way down...
  7. It can summon a demon of unimaginable might. Such an entity is way beyond the power of spirits the pariahs have encountered already, and its intentions may be opaque. 
  8. It can animate dead flesh: the artefact conjures mute spirits of the dead and binds them to corpses, arresting any further decay in the process. Up to [dice] corpses may be animated in this fashion each day, and will obey any instruction issued by the wielder of the artefact, so long as they would have understood this instruction in life
  9. It can restore the dead to life: so long as the corpse is relatively intact and the spirit has not yet journeyed through the Land of the Dead, life can be restored
  10. It scries, projecting a view of a distant land, object or individual known to the wielder. The image produced also provides sound and smell, too.
  11. If the artefact increases is the fertility of all animals and plants with which it comes into contact: birth rates increase, foraging becomes more reliable and arable land dramatically increases its yield.
  12. The wielder becomes inspired to create a truly wondrous work of art. It could be a sculpture, megalith, piece of rock art or an entirely new medium. It will take 10d20 days to complete in total. the wielder may break up that time as they see fit. Once completed it will inspire all sapient beings who experience it: the wielder may charm demons and spirits as well as humans with this incredible work.
  13. The wielder is recognised by all animals, plants and spirits as the titular ruler of all lands within a 30 mile radius. Nomads, hunter-gatherers, herders and pariahs will follow suit. Settled communities may take persuading.
  14. Word of the artefact spreads across the land, and pilgrims are drawn to it and, by association, the wielder. A loyal cult grows into a devoted community.
  15. Three times per day the wielder can pause time for 1d4 rounds: all creatures and the spirits of the Here& Now will be frozen in place, though the wielder and spirits of other realms are unaffected,
  16. By combining the artefact with a series of vats (the exact design will gradually be revealed to the wielder in a dream) the wielder is able to clone and splice together existing life-forms and create entirely new creatures.
  17. The artefact can grant sapience to previously simple creatures or even non-sentient life forms and objects. The newly intelligent creature will possess its own personality and desires. It's mode of communication and locomotion is limited by its physical form, though previously inanimate objects might be able to slowly hover in a desired direction.
  18. Over a prolonged period of time the wielder will take on the size, appearance and great intelligence of a titan, the hermit-like precursor race and sworn enemies of the Others. Other titans will perceive the wielder is one of the Others and will attack them on sight.
  19. When no-one is looking invisible forces assemble the natural materials around the artefact into a kind of shrine or temple: this process of construction is continuous and, if sufficient time is allowed to pass, the building will grow into an enormous metropolitan complex. Ultimately the artefact will transform all adjoining land into such a megaplex, bound only by the oceans and the polar ice.
  20. The wielder can use the artefact to create an entirely new artefact, the effects of which will also be entirely random. The process takes 1d100 days, during which time the wielder will work tirelessly, requiring no food or water and not sleeping. If the two artefacts are placed beside one another, they will combine to form something even stranger...

Ultimate Toll

Becoming attuned to the artefact's hidden power comes after spending a great deal of time next to a highly magical and/or radioactive device. there are potentially catastrophic consequences to this, but by the time the pariahs realise, it may well be too late.

I need ten more of these...

  1. ...slowly, the lands in a 3 mile radius about the artefact are becoming twisted and strange. Life continues — thrives even — but it is growing in a direction that the original inhabitants of the area find terrifying.
  2.   all those who behold the artefact once its greater power is activated (aside form the wielder) will die within 1d4 days (saving throw pending).
  3. ...each dawn flocks of birds will circle above the artefact, and by noon they will all fall from the sky, dead from exhaustion. This will be seen as an ill omen by all neighbouring peoples and spirits, who will try to avoid interacting with this accursed spot.
  4. ...tribes and settlements within a 9 mile radius of the artefact begin to report an unusually high proportion of children born with a mutation  
  5. ...the dead within a 9 mile radius are unable to find peace, their spirits are instead drawn towards the artefact. They are (mostly) harmless but there presence disturbs neighbouring communities who want for their deceased relatives to find peace in the next life.
  6. ...a titan has awoken and intends to destroy the artefact, along with all those associated with it.
  7.   a religious sect of a distant human settlement have been alerted to the artefact's discovery and are plotting to steal it.
  8. ...that the wielder is now immortal. Their spirit is bound to the artefact, and if their body is destroyed the spirit returns to the artefact and takes possession of the next human (or other sapient being) to come into contact with it. 
  9. ...anyone who has been in close proximity to the artefact for this length of time has contracted a slow wasting disease, initially manifesting as the loss of all hair, then to fingernails, then teeth and finally bones, at which point they die... aside from the wielder, who is sustained by the magic artefact: a hairless, toothless blob.
  10. ...the "obvious feature" is no longer functioning, as though its charge had been lost. Nonetheless, the wielder feels increasingly reluctant to let go of the artefact.


In the end it often transpires that these things are far more trouble than they are worth, and to prevent future generations from becoming corrupted by them it's necessary to destroy the artefact. This is never going to be an easy task, as they seem all but impervious to  most attempts to cause it harm...

  1. Sorry, it's indestructible.
  2. Drop in volcano.
  3. Ancient titan weapon.
  4. Present it to one of the Others.
  5. The Lord of the Sun and Heavens can destroy it if the wielder is willing to be his eternal servant.
  6. Queen Aziza of the Dawn Realm can re-absorb it... if the wielder is willing to enter her service for 100 years.
  7. Struck by lightning.
  8. Feed it to a dragon Turtle.
  9. Ask the mountain spirit to crush it over ten thousand years.
  10. Ask the Lord of Death to take it into his realm. He will do this, only in return for a life...
  11. Petition the Four Dimensional Cockroach Goddess to take it away for research purposes.#
  12. Enticing the Deep One to swallow it whole (though you will have to awaken the Deep One...)
  13. Petition the four warriors of the wounds to tear it into four pieces
  14. Take it to the frozen north and bury it beneath the ice.
  15. Submerge the artefact in the Silver Lake of the moon.
  16. It has 100 HP but regenerates 1d100 HP each round. Keep hitting it until it hits 0 for a third time, at which point it will be unable to regenerate.
  17. Ask a Roc of pure spirit to carry it high into the sky and then drop it onto the salt flats. If it is corrupt in any way it will keep the artefact for itself...
  18. Travel to the Not Here Never with the with the artefact and presenting it to the Nightmare inhabits of that realm
  19. Build it a prison on the surface of the Yellow Moon... someone must volunteer to act as its eternal guardian...
  20. Submerge in salt water.

* * *

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  1. This is super handy! I've been running a derelict alien city (a la Mountains of Madness) as a mega-dungeon and I'm always in need of strange artifacts.

    1. Very glad to hear it- yes, sounds like this could be an ideal complement to such a site, I'll have to investigate your blog now and found out more about your mega-dungeon!