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Day 27: Dice Games, 10,000 Words, Grotesque Roots, and Sending Evil to Ashes!

July 19, 2019 11 min read

So much dice! 

Brooklynn here! 

Those mad men over at Dice Throne are slaying it on their new Kickstarter campaign. They reached out and we picked each other's brains over spooky Kickstarter math. The lead designer was a real charm and hit me with some brain knowledge. 

We cannot wait to get our hands on the game!

While I've never played it myself, it was another Kickstarter I was going to back when I saw another campaign. So it's great to see it go live during the same timeframe as Middara. 

Choices, Choices, and more Choices! 

We've had some people hit us up and ask us if our decisions are real. They wonder how they might or might not change the story. Well, let me be clear, we have well over 10,000 words you'll never see on this campaign. Our choices are real, the unlocks planned are real, and the outcomes will in fact echo through future product.

With all that work and planning going into options, it's pretty exciting to see what our backers choose, even for us! 

Though I must admit, sometimes the figure or card I want doesn't always win... or in some cases, even get to be put on the campaign as an option. :\

 On to the Unlocks!

Grotesque Effigy
Grotesque Effigy

Grotesque Effigies are not the only sentient plants in Middara, but they are definitely one of the most dangerous. These ambulatory trees will attack anyone they encounter without provocation. They will hunt unwary or careless creatures and attempt to bind them in their roots while they sleep. It will then drag its victim into its trunk and devour them.

The roots of the grotesque effigy run deep into the earth and can sprawl over hundreds of yards. These roots can burst forth from the ground and attack, drag, or trap prey. The grotesque effigy can also use these tunneled roots to pull itself along, allowing it a surprising amount of mobility. Destroying these roots is usually the first step to killing the grotesque effigy itself. 

Occasionally, instead of eating a victim, a grotesque effigy will encase them in its bark, keeping them alive by feeding sap into their veins, slowly replacing the blood. Many of these victims do not survive the transfusion, but those who do are transformed into effigy dryads; twisted, malicious creatures with tough, woody skin and venomous fangs.

Effigy dryads seem to have a single purpose: to create new grotesque effigies. The moment it separates from its creator, a dryad will begin to seek out an appropriate tree to infect. The dryad will rip away the leaves, gnawing on branches and twigs, seeping its venom into the tree’s sap. Using its large, wide claws, the dryad will dig up the tree’s roots so that it may inject venom into the root system as well. It will continue brutalizing the tree in this manner for days, sometimes weeks, until it senses the tree has sufficiently rotted inside. Finally, the effigy dryad will burrow into the decayed wood of the tree trunk. Its consciousness is thought to pass into the tree, and it becomes a new grotesque effigy.

Naturalists are not sure if the grotesque effigy is a naturally occurring creature, or the result of some kind of magic gone awry. Regardless of their origins, however, they remain a danger to those who traverse the deep woods and swamps of Elenia.


For our Day 27 unlock, we will be adding FOUR miniatures to the KS2 Promo Box for the Roots Standees, featured in Unintentional Malum: Act 1. 

These Roots are used with the Grotesque Effigy miniatures already included in Act 1. 

To be clear, these miniatures are part of the KS2 Promo Box and are being given away for free as part of every pledge level at the "Through the Portal" level or higher. 

The cardboard standee versions that are already a part of the contents of Unintentional Malum: Act 1 will remain a standee. 


Devoted to Ame-no-Uzume, goddess of Dawn, Tomoe is struggling to find out what's hidden by the mist of her past, even if knowing what made her what she is might be too painful. After all, there must be a reason if some memories disappear...


Miniature is a work in progress.
Miniature is a work in progress.

(Check out the cards: Adventurer Card | Item Card | Discipline Card)

As a Day 27 unlock we're excited to announce our cross promotion with Axis Mundi and their wandering miko, Tomoe! 

While we love working with veterans in the industry, we also love working with those who are as new to it as us. More importantly, we love finding those niche indie games that we can't wait to see come to the market. The ladies and gentleman over at Axis Mundie Games put out the entrancing So Long, My World Kickstarter campaign last year. Since then they've been working hard to get the game into backers hands. 

In fact, I think they're shipping now with many of their backers already having their pledges! 

With late pledges still open, we made sure to grab ourselves a copy of this unique and strange looking game. 

However, Tomoe is a character from their upcoming cooperative JRPG style miniatures game called Sankokushin: Five Sacrifices. We genuinely loved the look of the game and couldn't help but ask to put Tomoe in our game. Plus, the lore behind the character was a perfect fit in Middara as she travels dimensions via vivid dreams in search of her purpose and forgotten past. 

Trenchworx is hard at work making the Resin miniature as we speak. As soon as we have something to show we'll be posting pictures of the resin kit. (Hopefully in the next three weeks.)

The Tomoe kit comes with a beautiful resin miniature (that will require assembly), an Initiative Card, a Discipline Card, an Equipment Card, and an Adventurer Card. 

This kit comes in all "With Swag" Pledge levels and can be added as an individual add-on for $20. 

Don't hesitate to go check out Axis Mundi Games at their website and facebook.

“—through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.” Christopher finished with the sign of the cross. Only then did he finally release the rosary, letting it settle against his chest. He listened for a second, as though the witch Circe would catch fire at his prayer and be burned to ash by the time he returned.

But he heard no screaming, no sound at all through the round metal doors. Christopher stood on the other side of that final door, the one that led to the blasphemous font. “What do you think, Pocky? Is the witch burning yet?”

Pocky
Pocky

The dog was sprawled on the ground not far away, though not actually within reach. Uplifted animals were always smart, but Christopher was sure this one was smart enough to resent him. You’re the one who offered your life, dog. I was supporting your decision. For his part, the dog only grinned open-mouthed up at him. And you think this is funny.

He rose, shoving up against the door one last time. But it didn’t budge, didn’t even flex in its frame. He doubted he would have much better results even if he went at it with a crowbar. “I’m done sitting around. You want to save that girl with me, Pocky? I’m going back.”

The dog rose instantly to his paws, watching as Christopher walked away through the hall of strange mirrors. It didn’t take long—just a few more steps—before Pocky hurried to catch up. At least if I get myself killed doing this, you can warn the others.

Retracing his steps wasn’t easy, even though he’d been watching the route up carefully. Mostly he’d been searching for open windows, balconies, anything they might be able to use to escape the Ziggurat after they reached the top and started killing witches. Unfortunately, he’d seen none. There were a few windows in public areas, but all were either too small to fit through, or reinforced so heavily that they wouldn’t serve as a way out.

In a way, the alien confusion of the Ziggurat was the only way he managed to reach his destination. Each new sculpture or display was its own unique flavor of revolting. By the time he returned to the cells, Christopher was certain he’d seen every mortal sin explored and glorified in explicit detail. I’m going to see this place in my nightmares.

The Incubus guard was still here, with the same spear resting over his shoulder. He hardly even seemed to notice Christopher as he approached, his eyes focused on the cell. 

“Please, you need to release me. I need to save them, and I can’t save anyone from in here.”

Tomoe
Tomoe

She was still in there, the girl that looked so out of place for this awful tower. Not just the tower—as Christopher looked more closely, she seemed like she didn’t belong in Elenia at all. Her dress was strange and long, inspired by no fashion he’d ever seen before. Her desperation hadn’t changed—she gripped hard on the bars, her knuckles white.

“Quiet,” the Incubi said. There was none of the respect the slaves showed to their witch masters. Was that enough to know that this wasn’t all a trap? It could still be bait. She’s disguised, waiting for evidence that we’re breaking the rules. 

But it didn’t matter to Christopher anymore. There was doing the smart thing, and doing the right thing, and just now they were opposed. “Hey.” He kept his voice low, his weapon undrawn. He stopped just out of reach of the spear, far enough that he should be able to react if the guard attacked him.

But the Incubus only turned. He straightened, striking a comically perfect pose. And under all that perfection is a soul already ensnared in Hell. “Honored guest,” he said, glancing past Christopher. But whatever he was looking for, he didn’t find, and he soon relaxed. “I’m afraid I cannot assist you right now. I’ve been given trust of this prisoner. But I’m sure there are others who can fulfill your desires.”

As though I could be tempted by demons. He kept his tone flat, nodding at the cage. “I see you’re wearing a key. If you help me free her, we can take escape from this place too. We have a ship waiting, and the support of the Jeong family.”

The Incubus’s face froze—then split into mad laughter. He nearly dropped his spear, his laughs the only sound in the empty prison. Finally, he stopped. “I’m not a slave, honored guest. No one is a prisoner in this tower. We came here willingly, from every corner of Middara. The Dark Mother promised to accept our offering and grant us a place. She keeps her promises.”

Christopher looked past him, through the bars. The girl inside, Tomoe she’d called herself, did not seem like she was a willing guest. He nodded slightly to her, then turned away, his gesture suddenly exaggerated. “Of course. Forgive me—I am a stranger, to all Elenia even. Understanding your ways hasn’t come easy.”

The demon relaxed. Maybe satisfied that there would be no violence after all.

Christopher yanked the rosary from around his neck. “I wonder… would the Mother accept my offering?” He held up the necklace, letting the light catch in its gemstones. “Perhaps you could give it to her on my behalf.”

“Of course.” He let go of the spear with one hand, catching it in the crook of his other arm while he extended a hand. “We’re always grateful for offerings. It would be my honor to deliver yours.”

Christopher tossed the necklace gently, curving it between them in a wide arc. 

The Incubus caught it in both hands, eyes wide with greed. But his eyes kept getting wider, his mouth opening in a scream of pain.

Christopher shoved his arm hard against the demon’s chin, silencing his scream. The demon writhed and contorted, his hands turning white around the necklace. If only he’d been holding it a little looser, maybe he could’ve let go. He didn’t, though. “A heart like yours could never hold something so sacred.”

The Incubus kicked and struggled, his eyes burning. “The mother will… protect me… from your enchantment! Your act… is...” After a few seconds the body crumbled away, bits of chalky ash piling up at his feet. 

Christoper wouldn’t learn just what his act was. And if the Mother had protected him, it wasn’t in a way Christopher could see. 

He reached down into the debris, lifting out the iron keyring from among the demon’s clothes. He strode forward, trying to ignore Pocky’s pointed glares.

“If he wasn’t evil, he wouldn’t have died,” he muttered to the dog. Pocky only vanished, reappearing beside the corpse, and pawing at the ash.

Christopher turned away, testing a few keys in the lock before finally finding one that would turn. He twisted the door open, then yanked backward, wincing as the metal creaked loudly. 

There was the strangely-dressed girl, watching with horror. Her fear only grew as he tossed the necklace to her, just as he’d done for the demon. She had no space to move out of the way, and reflexively raised her hands to cover her face. She caught the rosary there, hanging between her fingers, squeaking with surprise and fear.

Nothing happened. Finally, she opened her eyes, staring down at it in shock. “I’m still here? But your weapon… how does it work, if I’m not dead?”

“It detects evil,” he answered. “Do you want a rescue or not?” He stepped back, out of the way.

The stranger ran her fingers over the beads, then held it out to him. “I don’t think evil is as simple as that...”

His mouth hung open. He might’ve kept staring, but Pocky nudged his leg, nodding towards the dead demon. The message was clear even if he didn’t speak it. We can’t stay here. They’ll find this body. Or what’s left of it, anyway. 

“I don’t know how simple or complex evil is,” Christopher said. “But my enchantment says it isn’t you.” He extended one hand for the rosary. 

She seemed eager to be rid of it, because she practically threw it at him, wiping her hand on the back of one sleeve.

Christopher took the necklace, replacing it on his neck. The gemstones felt slightly warm to the touch, but otherwise nothing had changed. 

He let Tomoe pass him, then used his boots to shove what was left of the demon into the cage. 

No one coming, but no telling how long we have until the guard changes. “This way.” He gestured back to the top of the tower. “My friends are up there. Our best chance of getting out of his tower is together.”

Tomoe followed, one hand playing with a bead. “I’m not… sure I should leave the tower. Haven’t… finished what I came for yet.”

“Neither have I,” he said, glancing back one last time as they rounded the stairs. But no one came. We still have a little time. “So that’s perfect.”

She didn’t argue with him, not all the way back to the round metal doors and the sanctum beyond.

Nyx and Ai Chen were waiting outside the outer door, on the other side of the mirror hallway. Christopher tensed, expecting to see some demonic change like the witch Katya. But he couldn’t see anything different, only wonder if they’d be able to touch his rosary now. He glanced past the door for any sign of the high priestess, but he couldn’t see her anywhere.

Nyx rose as they emerged from the stairs, glaring over his shoulder. She gestured angrily at Tomoe as she spoke, eyes dark. “Please don’t tell me the Ziggurat and every witch inside it is about to come down on us.”

Pocky darted past him, settling beside Ai and nuzzling her. She barely even responded, reaching sideways to pat the dog. Her eyes were distant, though not glazed over with strange magic. She was contemplative instead.

“No,” he answered. “Not for a while. No one saw me do it.” No one still alive. “Where’s the witch?”

“Gone,” Ai whispered. “Finished with us.” Christopher waited for her to say more, but she only looked back down.

Nyx didn’t wait. They’ll still realize she’s gone. Who else could’ve rescued her?” Nyx folded her arms, tail whipping the air behind her in her frustration. 

“Well now I know you’re still you,” he said, smiling faintly. “You’re right to be upset, it was stupid. But it was right. Tomoe, this is Nyx and Ai. Girls, Tomoe. Now we’re introduced—are we still going through with this? Can you still… fight?”

Ai Chen finally looked up, her eyes focusing on him for the first time. “Are you satisfied, Amaya? Does solving one more murder, one more kidnapping—why should it matter?”

He shook his head in response, dropping down to one knee beside her. “Ai, what happened to you?”

She shared a look with Nyx, then looked away uncomfortably. The silence might’ve gone on indefinitely if it wasn’t for Tomoe.

“I’m here to save someone,” she declared. “It might be one of you. It might be someone else—I can’t remember. Are you going to take me there?”

Nyx cleared her throat. “We can get to the ritual now. We don’t need to wander around anymore.”

“Until they see Tomoe and attack her?” he asked, voice even. “I shouldn’t take her into danger.”

“Then you shouldn’t have—” Nyx stopped, taking a deep breath, turning away. “They won’t attack her if she’s with us. Come on, we don’t have much time. They’re almost done.”

Alex Hansen
Alex Hansen



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