Sunday, 12 April 2020

The Universal Printing Press, a printing press for more than just words! Calling forth limitless matter from the Fruitful Void – a limitless cornucopia for every man!

An additional innovation for Skerple's Magical Industrial Revolution. The innovations are broken down into six steps, each ramping up progress towards an world ending event. Will your players help or hinder the apocalypse?

Art by Heinrich Kley

1. Initial Innovation

A particular wizard has formulated a miraculous repurposing of the printing press. A printing press that produces matter not words. Rather than printing plates engraved with script these plates are being inscribed with a variety of magical symbols. These sigils, when etched in particular configurations interface with some foreign dimension (named the Fruitful Void) and can usher forth matter in predefined shapes and forms from that inaccessible world. The first few items produced by these printing presses are almost two-dimensional rectangles of hard grey matter, almost laughable really, but I’m sure with a little more experimentation more complex forms can be printed.


2. Public Introduction

Initially these presses produce only a hard-grey material that people use to produce cheap cutlery, crude trinkets and jewellery no one particularly wants to buy. Rather than repurposing traditional printing presses bespoke universal presses are beginning to be produced in factories. Many aspiring sigilists see potential and begin to experiment, producing different materials or more complex shapes. The presses are slow in producing things to start with but gain speed with each passing week. Savvy manufacturers begin to get nervous.

3. Widespread Adoption

Early experimentation proves fruitful. The printing plates are becoming more complex and widespread. Other materials are beginning to be produced; stringy liquids, chalky powders, sponges. Direct replicas of things are currently out of the printing presses scope but progress continues unabated. People are producing nutritious jellies in artisanal shapes. The majority of people prefer to buy real food but for the destitute a ready source of cheap food is very welcome. Soon workhouses are serving nutritious printed slimes rather than gruel – it’s cheaper. Cold houses are made warm by the smouldering of strange bricks of burnable matter. The military takes an interest but lacks the creativity to print more than canned rations.

4. Scope Alteration

An unnerving breakthrough. If you use forbidden, chaotic runes the presses work much better - your desired produce is given more readily by the Fruitful Void. No one pays this much mind; they want more stuff. More familiar materials of many types may be printed in theoretically any combination. If you can think of it, it is being produced, furniture, clothing, food. Traditional manufacturers become increasingly anxious and panicky as their wares are replicated perfectly at little cost to the printer. Still more and more complicated printing plates are being produced and with greater ease. What possibilities are yet to be printed?

5. Height of Ambition

Even complex printing plates have become laughable to produce and can be done at home by amateurs. People can produce whatever they please almost instantly. Coinage is obsolete – why bother when you can print gold? The economy has collapsed but who actually cares? You can produce as much free stuff as you could want! Poverty, starvation, work? These are concepts of the past! The streets are lined with one long, riotous carnival. Every man owns a press; every man is as an emperor. Milk and honey stream through the streets (which by chance are literally paved with gold). To keep out the rest of the yearning world cyclopean brickwork is printed and great walls are constructed at lighting speed. The press still has some limitations. It can’t print magical items or substances. Also, while the press has been able to print life it is limited to simple organisms like algae. In other news, the black market is increasingly open and completely unpoliceable. Producing pure black-lotus extract is child’s play. Narcotics flow freely. 

6. Terminal Events

The terror of desires met. What can a man want for if his every material need is met? His every desire is provided for? Power, authority. Power over other men is one of the few commodities the presses cannot print. At least not directly. While the universal presses may not be able to print authority, they can print a cannon.
It begins with people printing box-fed repeating rifles and ammunition. Criminals at first. There are shootings in the street. Then coups. The rule of law fades quickly. Migrants longing for the material excess of the universal press are handed a rifle by a street-warlord and expected to fight for it. The arms race escalates. If you can materialise a bullet you can materialise a bomb. If you can materialise a bomb then why not materialise a particularly vicious bomb? A bomb that burns or chokes? It won’t be long before someone prints some plague…
The constant and rampant unchecked use of satanic printing presses which tap into an unknowable dark dimension will undoubtedly have some apocalyptic consequences. However, home printed pathogens will probably wipe out a large percentage of the world’s population before that ever happens.

The Good and Natural Specialisation of Class, the true assumption of man within his industry or Industrial Human Speciation as a means of producing a more efficient worker

An additional innovation for Skerple's Magical Industrial Revolution. The innovations are broken down into six steps, each ramping up progress towards an world ending event. Will your players help or hinder the apocalypse?


Art by Heinrich Kley



1. Initial Innovation

Designer transmogrification spells have been present amongst the city’s decadent dandy crowd for some time. Inefficient and expensive spells that lasted a few hours and amounted to little more than beautification or novelty - A change of eye colour, a thinner waistline – an expensive and decadent form of fancy dress. Nothing practical by any means. That is until hardnosed and workmanlike sorcerer-magnate, Henril Fwerd came across this fanciful practice at a local fop’s opulent party. While wastrels cavorted about with glowing skin and stilt legs, he sat dreaming. Fwerd, a wizard with a specific and unsavoury view of the class system, had seen an untapped industrial potential in this form of magic and a means to reshape the city in line with his worldview. Leaving with haste to his smoggy wizard’s tower to review the magical logic of these petty transmogrification spells, to rewrite the archaic, amateurish prose and streamline the arcane symbology – to make these transmogrification spells purposeful, practical and cost-effective (even if it meant making the transformations permanent).   

2. Public Introduction

Word around town is that something strange has happened to some of the workers in Fwerd’s main factory. They look strange… their arms and chests all ropey and knotted with muscles, it’s not so pretty but I’ve seen one of them carry a load an entire team of labourers would struggle with. Fwerd himself has begun to experiment on his own workforce, paying them substantial sums to be his test subjects. Henril began with the manual labourers, offering to make their jobs easier by increasing their muscle mass and density. The stronger they are the more raw materials they can carry, the more material they carry the more the factory can produce. The success of the experiment draws the eye of the city’s industrial class who begin covet this new form of magic. At the moment only Henril knows the methods by which to shape and repurpose flesh and he has far bolder intentions than simply making men stronger. There are so many ways in which man may be better adapted to suit his industrial and social condition.

3. Widespread Adoption

Henril, ever eager to acquire capital has taught his veritable army of apprentice-clerks the specific and secret arcane formulas of his new transfiguration magic. These apprentices, hired out by rich industrialists are to continue Fwerd’s work, administering prescribed transfigurations to workers throughout the city. Workers everywhere are financially incentivised to get transfigured and many in their thousands do, they are poor and could do with the money. For now, the transformations inflicted on the working classes are still comparatively mundane. Reducing the need for sleep means you can work longer hours and few would refuse enhancements made to the lungs so that caustic factory fumes are less damaging. The increased output of the working classes is profitable but wealth flows upwards. The rich begin purchase their own bespoke transfigurations. New vogues emerge, flawless skin, svelte frames.

4. Scope Alteration

The benefit of transfiguring one’s peons is too profitable to pass up. The rich and poor alike clamour with increasing lust and desperation for more transfiguration than Henril’s mages can provide. Fwerd’s main factory-complex is being repurposed; conveyor belts of magic wands. Each shipment contains wands loaded with uniform body-altering spells, guaranteed to completely transfigure the inefficient human frame into something wholly more suited to industrial society. These wands are (under threat of unemployment) being administered as mandatory to all workers and new hires. Ten of thousands are given new inhuman forms. These final transfigurations take on many forms, ever more drastic. Workers are given mottled grey asbestos skin resistant to molten metal. The stiffening of men’s hides and the hardening their bones will protect against biting needles and whirring gears of industrial machinery. Luminous saucer-wide eyes improve vision in the factory gloom.
Meanwhile the city’s ruling classes descend into a twilight world of strictly enforced fashion trends and elitism.  They prance about in shivering, waifish golden-skinned bodies. Shimmering and delicate, their features are sharp and precise, a perfectly symmetrical androgyny.

5. Height of Ambition

The lingering human population find themselves obsolete and unemployable, they slowly succumb to stress and deprivation and are forced to leave the city or are transfigured themselves. With humanities departure the nascent post-human ecology is complete. A new industrial ecosystem broadly divided into two post-human species. The golden-skinned ruling-caste flock to skyline gardens above the smog that irritates their fragile lungs and the grey skinned labour-caste, maladapted to the light of the sun, congregate beneath the earth in subterranean tenements and warehouse-cities. The production of goods and the upwards flow of wealth continues for now, after all is it not what the labour-caste were made for?

6. Terminal Events

No, it isn’t. And it is not long till the labour-caste, bristling with muscles and stab-proof skin, begin to remember this. There are strikes, riots. The military-caste are brought in to corral the labour-caste like the cattle they’ve become but find their social positions and species are not dissimilar and join what is quickly becoming an open revolution. The city descends into bloody interspecies warfare but the ruling caste are far too few and physically ornate to compete. Some in the labour-caste begin to question; ‘why not eat the rich?’. Fwerd’s industrial citadel is stormed by the lower-castes. In the ensuing carnage, most, if not all, practitioners of Fwerd’s transfiguration magic are slain and the wands broken. Fwerd, who remained human, dies laughing. The now ruling labour-caste look out from their city and see a species to be utilized – humans.  



The Labour-Caste

Armour class: As chain
Hit dice: 2 HD +6
Move: as man (climb at equal speed)
Attacks: d8 iron bars or sledgehammers
No. Appearing: 1 or workforce, 2d20 
Special: Asbestos hide. Mundane and heat damage received reduced by 1 die size 
Strength of 16+
Lowlight vision and stunned by bright light
Alignment: Neutral

The Ruling-Caste

Armour class: Unarmoured
Hit dice: 1 HD +1
Move: as man x2
Attacks: d2 ineffectual slapping
No. Appearing: couple, 2 or party, 2d4 
Special: Frail. Bludgeoning damage received increased by 1 die size 
Strength and Constitution of 7-
Alignment: Neutral


A City of Sin, A Shining Gomorrah, or; the industrial process by which man is removed from the influence of the gods. ‘Do what thou wilt’ shall be the effect of this pill!

An additional innovation for Skerple's Magical Industrial Revolution. The innovations are broken down into six steps, each ramping up progress towards an world ending event. Will your players help or hinder the apocalypse?


Art by Heinrich Kley

1. Initial Innovation

Until now Alasdair Creedlee was known as a petty occultist conman, an effete lothario and notorious self-abuser. Alasdair, an incendiary hedonist, has forever railed against the authority of the church, it’s god and its moral prescriptions. For years he has been vying to escape the influence of the divine, to impugn god, but now he claims to have succeeded. One night, after dallying with sailors, he was gifted a cursed ring that had been smuggled out from some decadent desert kingdom, the ring of Ra-Har-Akht. The ring grants an immunity clerical magic (Save against all clerical magic with a +4 bonus. On success, the magic has no effect). It was almost perfect but while Creedlee couldn’t replicate the ring’s effect to spread his crusade, he could use it in a grand lie. He’d claim the effect of the ring was the result of a new pill that he had invented. A placebo, the pill purports to temporally sever one’s connection to the divine, leaving them to sin freely and it ‘not count’.

2. Public Introduction

The pills are easily produced, a handful or cheap alchemical ingredients, some very weak hallucinogens and a phony chant to bless the batch. The pills are somewhat harder to sell. Alasdair and his gang of occultists flaunt about the city being nuisances. Unsurprisingly, the pills only circulate among Creedlee’s cult but not much further. Alasdair wants money. An audacious marketing strategy is called for. Creedlee – drunk and accompanied by a pair of statuesque prostitutes lord into the grand cathedral and interrupt the High-Inquisitor’s communion. Creedlee is protected by his ring so the Inquisitor’s spells bounce harmlessly off of him. Alasdair knocks the Inquisitor to the ground and throws a handful of pills into the congregation. By Jove Alasdair’s actually done it! News spreads through the city like wildfire, a pill that lets you do anything you want. People are curious.

3. Widespread Adoption

The pills are condemned widely but the illicit trade is proscribed in name only and bans are unenforced. The pills are fun and besides, these are revolutionary times. We should put those antiquated ideals behind us and make some real progress. Pill-pushers stand on every street corner and middle-class wastrels swan around doing as they please with general disregard for wider society. People are becoming ruder, they blaspheme openly. Festivities are increasingly boisterous and immoral and the crime rate ticks ever higher.

4. Scope Alteration

The pills are a hit. Casual usage is commonplace and accepted. Lords and politicians are taking them to commit acts of infidelity and their wives are taking them for the same reason. The pills are legalised. To meet the market’s demand, the production of these pills must be fully industrialised. Industrialists are supportive even if they don’t understand how the magic works (just trust Alasdair – the magic’s far too complicated). From a certain point of view producing the pills could be doubly profitable. The church teaches things about human rights and morality, environmentalism and anti-materialism. All things that could have been impeding a corporations’ profits for all this time, well no longer. In the street, one lone man, bedraggled with a tatty book of holy scripture in hand, shouts ‘The end is nigh! Repent!’ but is drowned out by pill hawkers and the roar of hellish furnaces.

5. Height of Ambition

Everyone takes the pills and you’re vilified if you don’t. Societal function and norms fall by the wayside. Lotharistic hedonism is the law of the land. The city is awash with sin and incredibly dangerous. To an outsider the inhabitants of the city are monstrous. Industrialism runs rampant, pollution spouts into the streets and church halls are bulldozed or repurposed into factories. Wicked bacchanalian horrors are perpetrated publicly. Still, there have been strange happenings in the city as of late. Pale men in black flowing robes have been seen in the city. They linger atop the spires of ruined churches and belching smoke stacks, no one knows their origin only that they are watching us. Judging. We’ve tried shooting at them with no success, they whisper at us to ‘repent’ so we shoot at them some more.

6. Terminal Events

Something is wrong. Our souls feel heavy. Cool whispers wend through the streets. We can hear a soft ancient exhale over the thrum of our powerful machinery. It is not drowned out by our raucous festivities, our drums and shrill flutes. Those scant few who know what is happening, who have no swallowed the pills, flee to the gutted churches for refuge. The breath sweeps aside the heavy smog that pervades the city and a shining light is revealed in the now clear night sky. It’s a man. A man with a golden trumpet. A single clear tone rings through the city as he plays - the machines seize up. The lamps go out. The sky darkens as the stars disappear. The moon grows black. It starts slowly at first, from the heavens a tendril of fire descends, a pillar of flame strikes the heart of the city. Then another. And another. The ground shakes and cracks. The wailing of the citizenry is matched by the wailing rising from the depths of the earth. Nightmares crawl out of the polluted streets and prance wickedly through the chaos. The city is dragged, quite literally, to hell. 


The Pills
How to placebo your players? Each pill supposedly lasts 24 hours. Should a player take one explain that “there isn’t really a mechanic for sin but you can have a +1 on rolls to do naughty things if you want”. If a player inquires about magical immunity, be vague and hint that you might be altering numbers on your side of the DM’s screen when in actuality you aren’t.