Mythos: The Quest of Iranon

The Quest of Iranon

Into the granite city of Teloth wandered the youth, vine-crowned, his yellow hair glistening with myrrh and his purple robe torn with briers of the mountain Sidrak that lies across the antique bridge of stone. The men of Teloth are dark and stern, and dwell in square houses, and with frowns they asked the stranger whence he had come and what were his name and fortune.

Yup, Lovecraft’s writing fantasy again. This time our hero is the titular Iranon, a wandering minstrel who has come to a city where fun is frowned upon. It’s not quite banned, though, so he’s allowed to sing his songs in the town square.

At least, that’s how the narrative sells. Looking at what Iranon actually sings:

“O Aira, city of marble and beryl, how many are thy beauties! How loved I the warm and fragrant groves across the hyaline Nithra, and the falls of the tiny Kra that flowed through the verdant valley! In those groves and in that vale the children wove wreaths for one another, and at dusk I dreamed strange dreams under the yath-trees on the mountain as I saw below me the lights of the city, and the curving Nithra reflecting a ribbon of stars.[“]

Maybe the Telothians just dislike him for constantly singing about how his city is so much better than theirs.

In fairness to Iranon, he is an exiled prince of Aira, so he’s not just singing about how great his city is for pride’s sake, but also because he misses the place terribly and cannot return. The next morning, however, it turns out fun is soft banned in Teloth, when a city archon comes to tell Iranon that he must do boring, shitty work in order to live here:

“Thou art a strange youth, and I like not thy face nor thy voice. The words thou speakest are blasphemy, for the gods of Teloth have said that toil is good. Our gods have promised us a haven of light beyond death, where there shall be rest without end, and crystal coldness amidst which none shall vex his mind with thought or his eyes with beauty. Go thou then to Athok the cobbler or be gone out of the city by sunset. All here must serve, and song is folly.”

At least there’s guaranteed jobs.

Teloth kinda sucks, though, so when a Telothian youth named Romnod asks Iranon to go to a nearby city of artists and songs called Oonai, Iranon agrees. As far as I can tell, Iranon never even made it to his apprenticeship before leaving. Romnod even says that Oonai might be Aira, since names can change and Iranon’s been gone for a long time, but Iranon warns Romnod that he’s journeyed very, very far to find Aira, and early in his journeys he often thought that this or that city would welcome him and he could make his home there, but only Aira was ever truly his home, despite the many seemingly promising cities he visited on the way. The itinerary gets a Sarnath reference.

The weird thing is, if Iranon isn’t actually from Aira, how is he its prince? I’m starting to get suspicious of this story.

From the way Romnod talked about it, Oonai seemed like it was maybe a couple of weeks away, but it takes the two years to get there, and Romnod has grown into a man by the time they arrive, while Iranon remains unchanged. Also, Oonai turns out to be less of a dream paradise and more like Las Vegas.

When dawn came Iranon looked about with dismay, for the domes of Oonai were not golden in the sun, but grey and dismal. And the men of Oonai were pale with revelling and dull with wine, and unlike the radiant men of Aira. But because the people had thrown him blossoms and acclaimed his songs Iranon stayed on, and with him Romnod, who liked the revelry of the town and wore in his dark hair roses and myrtle.

So, y’know, everyone parties all the time and there’s tons of glitz and glamour and the whole town is dedicated to having a good time, but also the mafia is secretly behind it all and there’s probably some metaphorical or literal blood sacrifices going into propping up the whole glittering edifice. Also, Romnod ODs. No, really:

Then one night the red and fattened Romnod snorted heavily amidst the poppied silks of his banquet-couch and died writhing, whilst Iranon, pale and slender, sang to himself in a far corner.

I’m reminded of that Breaking Bad scene where Walter White tells Jessie that he could’ve saved his girlfriend from her OD, but he didn’t, because she was a methhead and he wanted her gone.

Iranon then leaves Vegas to continue searching for Aira. Eventually, he finds an old shepherd, who reveals without knowing it that he knew Iranon when they were children:

“O stranger, I have indeed heard the name of Aira, and the other names thou hast spoken, but they come to me from afar down the waste of long years. I heard them in my youth from the lips of a playmate, a beggar’s boy given to strange dreams, who would weave long tales about the moon and the flowers and the west wind. We used to laugh at him, for we knew him from his birth though he thought himself a King’s son. He was comely, even as thou, but full of folly and strangeness; and he ran away when small to find those who would listen gladly to his songs and dreams. How often hath he sung to me of lands that never were, and things that never can be! Of Aira did he speak much; of Aira and the river Nithra, and the falls of the tiny Kra. There would he ever say he once dwelt as a Prince, though here we knew him from his birth. Nor was there ever a marble city of Aira, nor those who could delight in strange songs, save in the dreams of mine old playmate Iranon who is gone.”

So indeed, Iranon has fabricated Aira. But also he’s immortal. Except, not?

And in the twilight, as the stars came out one by one and the moon cast on the marsh a radiance like that which a child sees quivering on the floor as he is rocked to sleep at evening, there walked into the lethal quicksands a very old man in tattered purple, crowned with withered vine-leaves and gazing ahead as if upon the golden domes of a fair city where dreams are understood. That night something of youth and beauty died in the elder world.

Iranon, for context, is always described as wearing tattered purple. So either he was only young in his own mind, and when his delusions of Aira are shattered here, he realizes how old he is, and commits suicide, or alternatively, this being the dream world of Telnoth and Oonai and Sarnath, Iranon may have actually been young until this moment, when he realized there was no Aira, and all the aging he didn’t do caught up with him all at once.

Nier: Automata

I really need to get better about setting time aside to just play a bunch of video games or read something that I’m not reviewing for the blog or otherwise do stuff that isn’t some kind of work. I end up so burnt out that I miss a week’s worth of blog posts before finally taking an entire day off to just play Nier: Automata for like ten hours. Just as a hypothetical example.

I am super late on the Nier: Automata thing, despite having been meaning to play it for like an entire year now, but having finished the 2B playthrough and nudged my way slightly into the 9S playthrough, I’m not sure how much I was missing. The game has a great soundtrack and looks amazing, but I was soaking that in way before I first played it, let alone before I sat down to play it properly. The combat looks great, but it’s pretty standard light attack, heavy attack, dodge, counter kind of stuff, and the story is surprisingly flat once the novelty of its big ideas wears off. I hope this is because I have completed one out of three playthroughs, and that there is significantly more story to come, because even though the first playthrough builds up to a final boss and saving the world and everything, it leaves a lot of questions dangling. When combat android 2B first goes down to Earth to meet up with the resistance, the resistance leader acts as though she’s some kind of prophesied chosen one, but it’s never explained why. The vaguely authoritarian moon government has almost explicitly some ulterior motive or dark secret that causes androids to go rogue, and it’s never revealed what that is. There’s an implication that the friendly machine village’s efforts at peace with the Resistance/YoRHa/vaguely authoritarian moon government might meet with trouble, but it’s never really explored. An entire chapter of the first playthrough seems to serve no purpose except to introduce a character A2, who does not appear again.

Even as setup to a greater plot, though, the 2B playthrough is kinda weak. The main villains are factory standard creepy bishonen who don’t seem to have any thematic connection to our main characters at all. They challenge our heroes physically, but it’s not really clear what emotional obstacle they’re supposed to pose or symbolize, nor does 2B seem to have grown at all between the first chapter and the last (of her own playthrough, at least). At the end of the first chapter, 2B’s combat drone companion is telling her to abandon 9S because the combat doctrine of the vaguely authoritarian moon government calls for it (android soldiers like 9S and 2B seem to be very expendable to the vaguely authoritarian moon government), and 2B tells it to shut up and fights to save her comrade. In the final confrontation with the main villain, the exact same conversation happens: The drone recommends abandoning 9S because odds of success are low, and 2B tells it to shut up. If there’s one character arc that gets pursued beginning to end, it’s 2B warming up to 9S, but from the very beginning she was willing to fight to protect his life just out of sheer altruism to her fellow android soldiers, so her actions in the climax don’t really serve as the conclusion to a character arc.

The 9S playthrough has had some cool moments that use the “second playthrough” concept well. Setting up initial options is done diegetically in the first playthrough, with 9S walking 2B through her android options menu, and in the second playthrough I got to watch a recording of myself exploring the options menu, remembering my own thought process as I went through each menu looking for things I should tweak (you can skip the sequence at any time, although I didn’t spend very long in the options, so I didn’t feel the need to skip the repeat viewing), which gave a sort of out-of-body-experience kind of feeling, watching myself play 2B for a bit while now controlling 9S.

Of course, in actual gameplay, 2B is just an AI companion just like 9S was before, so it was short-lived, and there were some missed opportunities for the second playthrough elsewhere. Upon first arrival at the hub area as 2B, I was lost. Returning to it now as 9S, I know my way around so well I don’t even need the mini-map. Would’ve been cool if, during the first playthrough, 9S had led 2B to the Resistance camp (the first location you need to reach to get the plot rolling), only taking on his standard AI companion behavior of following 2B around everywhere after reaching the camp. Then, in the second playthrough, the player-controlled 9S could’ve led the AI companion 2B to the Resistance camp, because the place is familiar to him. Also, 9S loses his memory of the entire first chapter, because 9S and 2B blow themselves up to take down a trio of mega-enemies and there was only enough time to backup one of their memories to the cloud before the detonation. This would’ve been a great excuse to skip that chapter, but instead we play it from 9S’ perspective. It’s one of the most-changed chapters from the first to second playthrough since 9S and 2B are separated for most of it, but nothing really happens in 9S’ part. In the 2B playthrough, tons of worldbuilding and character relations were established, but in 9S’ playthrough, it’s all a rerun. There was a perfect excuse to skip it entirely, but instead we get the exact same conversations with different gameplay. Plus, the conversations revolve around what 2B is seeing, and 9S’ version, where he’s just blasting random robot baddies unconnected to the subject of discussion, is just way less interesting.

I haven’t gotten too deep into it, but I’m worried that’s going to be a theme of the 9S playthrough in general: Watching the exact same plot and character arc unfold, but from a slightly less interesting vantage point. 2B and 9S were together for 80% of the first playthrough, and for most of the time they were apart, 9S was incapacitated. What’s there for this new playthrough to reveal? Especially during the first half, when 9S and 2B are constant companions? What can 9S see or hear that 2B didn’t?


I don’t have that much to say about this movie (although this will not stop me from stretching out my muddled thought process for the usual 2,000-ish words – this is gonna be one of those “probably better than missing an update completely” articles) and it’s basically all spoilers, so I’m going to put everything below the break except for a bottom-line review that Joker is good and you should watch it.

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Mythos: The Nameless City

Let’s call it Steve!

I should have known that the Arabs had good reason for shunning the nameless city, the city told of in strange tales but seen by no living man, yet I defied them and went into the untrodden waste with my camel.

This is the first real Cthulhu Mythos story we’ve had, one in which ancient temples in forsaken wastelands hold cosmic horrors. It’s not just a ghost story where the ghost is actually a scientifically plausible (according to the pop sci of the time, at least) alien, nor is it a dream journey to a fantastic otherworld. This is the same sub-niche of Lovecraft’s work in which Cthulhu lies dreaming in R’lyeh. It even introduces us to Abdul Alhazred and his famous couplet:

That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die.

Kind of him to make sure it rhymes in English, when presumably it would have been written in Arabic originally.

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Mythos: Sweet Ermengarde

Unlike the last time Lovecraft satirized prohibition, this comedy’s jokes are pretty apparent to me even writing as I am from 2019, nearly a full century after the end.

Her name was originally Ethyl Ermengarde, but her father persuaded her to drop the praenomen after the passage of the 18th Amendment, averring that it made him thirsty by reminding him of ethyl alcohol, C2H5OH.

That’s kinda funny. There’s another couple all in the first paragraph:

She had large black eyes, a prominent Roman nose, light hair which was never dark at the roots except when the local drug store was short on supplies, and a beautiful but inexpensive complexion. She was about 5ft 5.33…in tall, weighed 115.47 lbs. on her father’s corn scales—also off them—and was adjudged most lovely by all the village swains who admired her father’s farm and liked his liquid crops.

Ermengarde has a villainous suitor who hopes to marry her and so gain the vein of untapped gold that he alone knows is under her father’s farm. Why that doesn’t belong to her father is unclear. But Ermengarde has another suitor, one Jack Manly:

Close by the village dwelt another—the handsome Jack Manly, whose curly yellow hair had won the sweet Ermengarde’s affection when both were toddling youngsters at the village school.

Bad news for Squire McVillainous, the childhood friend always wins. Jack proposes, and Ermengarde is overtaken with joy:

[“]Such is your natural nobility that I had feared—I mean thought—you would be blind to such slight charms as I possess, and that you would seek your fortune in the great city; there meeting and wedding one of those more comely damsels whose splendour we observe in fashion books.[“]

Shit, you think that would work? Maybe this proposal is a mistake.

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October Humble Monthly


The big ticket item for this month’s Humble Monthly, and one I’d been idly meaning to pick up for months, so this worked out great for me. Most of the time, the big ticket for a Humble Monthly is something I either already owned or had absolutely no interest in, which I think is a problem for the big tickets generally. Pretty much by definition, they’re not an undiscovered gem, which means if you want it, you probably already have it. It’s usually something whose price has already come down to something like $30-$40, tops, which is more than a single monthly bundle costs even if you pay month-to-month, but is still cheap enough that if you can afford the Humble Monthly, you can probably afford to buy it.

I was in the perfect sweet spot where I wanted Battletech, but not enough to get around to actually buying it. And then it turns out my machine isn’t quite up to actually running the game. I have no idea why, but it takes something like 2-3 minutes to load each mission, which slows the pace down to the point of being unbearable. I only wound up playing through the opening mission, and the gameplay seems solid, although I’m not sold on the story. The opening of the story has you and your mentor figure escorting a space princess to her space coronation in your space robots, then her evil uncle attempts to usurp the throne, the three of you all try to flee, and you’re the only one who survives. You’re picked up by some mercenaries and with nothing else to do, you join them. You’re now a merc with a grudge against the reigning authority.

Great so far, but then there’s a three year time skip. Now, if that opening sequence hadn’t represented some 10-ish minutes of loading screens between loading chargen, loading the opening cut scene, loading the first mission, loading the second cut scene, and loading the second mission, I probably wouldn’t care so much that this early mission turned out to be pretty much completely unrelated to the start of the actual plot, and what later relevance it will inevitably have could’ve been filled in when it was important. It’s not like I spent any significant amount of time getting to know my giant robot mentor and the space princess he liked so much. It’s kind of like Dishonored, they’re getting betrayed within five minutes of my first conversation with them and I don’t know them well enough to care that much. Like, I’m trying to meet the game halfway and do some roleplaying in this roleplaying game, I was ready to get invested in the situation of the immediate aftermath of that battle, scampering with the friendly mercs to the far end of the galaxy to get my mech fixed, pay off the debts incurred for that, and then see about making enough money to somehow get revenge on the evil usurper uncle with, I dunno, a mercenary army or something. Opportunities for revenge tend to present themselves to successful mercenaries with a dark past.

But with the three year time skip, I am apparently actually supposed to be several years removed from those events, which yanks me right out of the headspace of caring about them at all. The momentum built up by the first scene is suddenly gone. And again, if it hadn’t been a 2-3 minute long loading screen to load the second cut scene, followed by a very brief dialogue with the mercs, followed quickly by another 2-3 minute long loading screen for the second mission, the strength of the turn-based mech fighting gameplay probably would’ve been enough to carry me through another mission or two, and then maybe the new situation would’ve built up some momentum the way the old one had. I don’t think the problem here is that Battletech is incredibly poorly optimized, because my computer has trouble loading things all the time. I didn’t have the money to spring for an SSD, and this is a machine that desperately wants to be running on an SSD. I should’ve gotten a slightly lower end model that’s actually designed to work with the hardware it’s got. Lessons learned, and in the meantime I can’t throw a thousand dollars at a new laptop just to keep up with all the latest releases. So that’s what ruined Battletech for me. Poor hardware choices.

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Mythos: Nyarlathotep and the Picture in the House


There’s a fellow named Nyarlathotep who came out of Egypt and who ruins every city he comes to. Despite this, not only do people not try and keep him out, they willingly show up to attend his lectures. The protagonist is one such person, and after exiting the lecture, he finds himself with the rest of the attendees in Silent Hill.

Once we looked at the pavement and found the blocks loose and displaced by grass, with scarce a line of rusted metal to shew where the tramways had run. And again we saw a tram-car, lone, windowless, dilapidated, and almost on its side. When we gazed around the horizon, we could not find the third tower by the river, and noticed that the silhouette of the second tower was ragged at the top.

Nyarlathotep’s audience is then beckoned like lemmings off the edge of a cliff and into a terrible abyss. You’d think after the first couple of times this happened, people would stop asking Nyarlathotep to give demonstrations in their cities.

This very short story is based on a nightmare, and it shows. There are compelling ideas, but they are held together by pure dream logic. First the protagonist is in a theater seeing terrible visions, and protests that they must be scientifically explicable. An enraged Nyarlathotep throws him and the audience out into the city, which slowly decays around them, and they are pulled towards a great rift that swallows them up. It has a mood, but no plot or even really any characters. Things happen, and those things fit the atmosphere, but they have no causal connection to one another.

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Mythos: Celephais and From Beyond


We’re back in the dream world today, and our protagonist dreams because there is nothing left for him in the waking world:

Perhaps it was natural for him to dream a new name; for he was the last of his family, and alone among the indifferent millions of London, so there were not many to speak to him and remind him who he had been. His money and lands were gone, and he did not care for the ways of people about him, but preferred to dream and write of his dreams. What he wrote was laughed at by those to whom he shewed it, so that after a time he kept his writings to himself, and finally ceased to write. The more he withdrew from the world about him, the more wonderful became his dreams; and it would have been quite futile to try to describe them on paper.

So I guess that’s the end of the story, then?

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Space Madness!

I was hoping to save this for Friday, but now there’s a limited time offer that I want to give people a chance to get on top of. Most people follow my blog for my chapter-by-chapter book reviews, not my RPG stuff, but for people who like both Lovecraft and rolling very large amounts of dice, I have good news for you: Space Madness now exists and you can get 20% off by clicking on this link right here. Provided that no more than 49 other people have already used that offer. Space Madness is an atompunk Lovecraftian RPG set in an era when humans have expanded out to the limits of the solar system. The party play as space rangers, bold heroes of the Federation who seek to explore the far reaches of the solar system braving not only the Federation’s arch-rivals in the Union-Republika, but also such horrors of the solar system as Venusian man-lizards, Moonbeasts, and Yuggothians.

Also, there’s a bunch of wands that you use to do stuff. The whole thing was written as part of a challenge to make an RPG based on three words selected at the whim of the challenge-issuer, and those words were atompunk, Mythos, and wands. You might think that the RPG is a half-assed weekend project, given that backstory, but no, designer Bobby Derie spent months (maybe over a year? I was on the forum where the challenge was issued, but I forget exactly how long ago it was) working on creating a complete and playable 268-page RPG. Bobby Derie used to write for Shadowrun and I would not be surprised to learn that he is one of the most knowledgeable Mythos scholars in the world, so he is probably the most qualified person in the world to write this very specific idea.

The link up above is for a softback version. You can also get a .pdf version for $5, which is practically nothing, although it’s also got no interlinking, which is annoying. The actual content is all there, though, and if you want an atompunk Lovecraft game set throughout the solar system, there’s not a whole lot of alternatives.

Yahtzee Made Video Games

Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw is probably going to be “the Zero Punctuation guy” right up until generational turnover turns him into “who?” He’s already getting there. Zero Punctuation hasn’t been a big deal for like eight years, there’s gamers today who’ve never even seen one.

I was in his target demographic right when he became a big deal, though, and in addition to watching the complete ZP archive, I also went to Yahtzee’s site and dug up all his games. Yeah, turns out Yahtzee is an indie game dev in addition to being a game critic. There’s a reason you haven’t heard of his games, though. They’re not agonizingly bad or anything, many of them are a perfectly enjoyable way to spend two or three hours of your life, but not above replacement level. If you picked out another (completed, non-asset flip) indie game at random, then you’d probably get something about as good. None of them are really spectacular, but a few of them do rise above replacement-level, and I need a Tuesday article and don’t want to play a bunch of new games to get it, so we’ll be looking at each of Yahtzee’s games briefly, because I already played them all back in high school.

Also, Yahtzee’s currently doing a thing where he develops a video game every month for a whole year. I won’t be covering any of those right now because I stopped following Yahtzee by the time he made them, although I am leaving open the possibility that I’ll come around and look at those once the year is up and I have a full set of twelve to poke at.

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