Good for 8 Levels

My friend sent me these dice from the London Science Museum. Each one is a d6 inside a d6 and, as can be seen, they roll independently of each other so you get a 2d6 roll with each die. I guess they’d be very useful for backgammon, but they could make high-level fireballs a little easier to roll as well.

They also solve the eternal conundrum of the RPG pedant everywhere. One of these babies is clearly “a dice,” while more than one are clearly “dices.” So, no more nitpicking with your friends over pronunciation.

As an aside, one of my players was particularly fanatical about this pronunciation (he was, unsurprisingly, German) which led to this amusing conversation between said player (let’s call him “German Pedant,” aka GP) and another player (“the bastard”) who likes to stir him up over this:

  • The bastard [with a sly look at GP]: GP, could you pass me a dice please
  • GP [fuming, through gritted teeth]: how many dice would you like, Mr. Bastard?
  • The bastard: I don’t care, so long as I can have at least one dice.

No such ribbing would be possible if every die was a dice, and all dice were dices. Who can fault such technological workarounds? I wonder if they could do the same thing with d10s? Then one really could roll a 100-sided dice.


The advent of Infernal materials, lighter and stronger than even the most advanced enlightenment metals, and Infernal magic capable of levitation and propulsion, opened the skies to humans for the first time. From the first experiments in balloons, to the massive and stately airships, and on to more advanced military technology, by the end of the Victorian era the peoples of Europe had developed a wide variety of airborne conveyances. This post provides examples of some of those more suited to adventurers. Most of these were developed after the period of the Compromise and Conceit campaign chronicled in this blog, being technology of the mid- to late-Victorian era.

The Cupola

One could hang a large insect from this...

The Cupola is a small and effective military observation and guard post developed and used extensively in the Crimean war. They are used heavily by the military as spying, forward-observing and aerial attack bases, and are generally designed to be invulnerable to small arms fire from below.  This flying machine is invested with powerful but simple magics inside its ponderous shell, which can carry up to 3 adult humans and a reasonable amount of equipment, both levitating and propelling them at a pace roughly equal to a horse’s canter. The cupola can operate for periods of up to 12 hours before needing to stop and rest for an equal period of time, during which it recharges. Most Cupolae also need to be returned to a major recharge point once every 360 – 720 hours, or the maximum duration of their operating periods begins to reduce considerably. Details as to how they are recharged and what their internal power source is are carefully guarded, and although most Cupolae are capable of operating even if large portions of their shell has been obliterated, they are designed to rapidly become inert and often to self-destruct if their operator is killed and they are shot down. Rumours abound that the power mechanism is somehow related to that of the Autonomous Sentinel Cannon, one of the more abhorrent developments of the modern infernal industry, so it is understandable that the secret of its power source is jealously guarded from outsiders.

Cupolae are currently only used in military and a few surveying tasks, and are always magically linked to their pilot, so that stealing them is extremely difficult. The simple magic involved in the Cupola’s flying mechanism prevents it from being scaled up, though occasionally one sees smaller, slightly faster cupolae in mountainous regions.

The Corvette

Treading only lightly on the laws of physics

The Corvette was originally designed as a small hermetically sealed flying vehicle, but has since grown into the most audacious and expensive Victorian project. The corvette is essentially a self-contained flying hull, varying in size from a 5 man reconaissance vessel to a massive troopship. The first vessels were used as transporters and heavy lifters for the initial actions in the Crimean war, and remained quite humble in design and scope. Subsequent developments in materials technology and the growing wealth of the Infernalist nations led to experimentation with the design, and by 1870 these ships had become much larger. They are powered by a combination of levitation magic, flight magic and various conjured creatures, and incorporate all of the various technologies available to the people of the time. The larger ones also incorporate a gas store for lamps, and possibly a steam engine (usually elemental-powered) to maintain atmospheric pressure or to move various objects (such as lifts) inside the ship. Almost nothing in a large Corvette is powered by anything mundane, however, and the vastly complex magic involved in their operation makes Corvettes ridiculously expensive. The English airforce possess only 3 Corvettes of appreciable size, and almost never field them in any but the most desperate situations. Most of the largest trading companies (such as the East India) possess one or two very small Corvettes, and most colonial administrations in the later Victorian era also possessed one or two light corvettes designed exclusively for the purposes of airborne terror. Although corvettes can be licensed for private use their purchase is always at the whim of the Queen, sold on only under extremely restrictive contractual obligations, and all Corvettes have built in self-destruction systems to prevent them being used by the wrong people, or investigated by their private owners.

Despite its possession of a small fleet of Corvettes of varying size, the mainstay of British Imperial power – such as it is – in the Victorian era remains the surface navy, with corvettes used primarily as support craft and advanced strike vehicles. Some scientists have claimed that a much cheaper and more effective airfleet could be built if infernal power were reserved only for propulsion, and more natural means – similar to the wings of birds – were used to obtain lift, but it is clear to all learned folk of the Victorian era that non-magical flight is purely the province of the birds, and cannot be achieved by men without magical aid.

Teleconveyancer Glyphs

One small step for man...

Probably the most expensive way to travel, Teleconveyancer Glyphs immediately transport anyone who steps on them to a distant location without crossing the intervening space. A simple magical glyph, they can be bought from the appropriate magical college at exorbitant cost. The cost of such Glyphs becomes even greater if their buyer intends for them to be reusable – in such a case they must be embedded in a specially designed plinth (usually referred to as a Ghost Step) which contains the energy for the Glyph’s repeated use. This can be a lump in the ground barely bigger than the glyph itself for a rune which teleports its target across the street, to a plinth taking up the entire floor of a church for a glyph which transports someone to Rome (such a glyph is rumoured to exist in Avignon).

Teleconveyancer glyphs are sometimes installed in the airships of the rich and famous, as single-use emergency escape devices, and are also rumoured to be used by certain spies and assassins. The infamous assassins of Araby are said to have their own, more esoteric methods of achieving the same effect, and of course it is known that some practitioners of dark arts can turn any pool of shadow into a teleconveyancer glyph of sorts. The military is rumoured to be developing a kind of rope or cord which behaves like a teleconveyancer glyph for anyone crossing it, and which throws its user a fixed distance forward in space. Some magical colleges are rumoured to be playing with movement through time as well, but such rumours are undoubtedly the mad ravings of heretics.

Nonetheless, the teleconveyancer glyph remains the ultimate escape mechanism, which every evil villain should invest in.

At the end of the campaign described here, the characters destroyed a sinister force known as The Iron House. However, a previous group (run in Australia) played in a campaign set in 1872 where they worked for an organization known as The Iron House, in the interests of the Queen. In an early session, they were dispatched to the 1872 Manchester Cornucopia of Arms and Armour, where the latest battlefield technology would be on display and one of the inventors was planning on defecting from Prussia to Great Britain. The characters’ task was to identify agents who might interfere with the defection, and if necessary kill them. This meant spending two days in the grounds of the Cornucopia posing as merchants, and so they were able to witness displays of a couple of the latest developments in infernal weaponry. Here are three examples of the kinds of things they saw.

The Steam Tank: In the age of the Essential Compromise, steam engines can be rendered very small through infernal summoning and materials, though the process is very expensive. A steam engine consists of two chambers separated by a turbine; in one chamber an imp boils water to impossibly high temperatures, which then passes through to a turbine before entering the second chamber, where it is condensed back to water and pressurized by a second imp. This imp forces it back through another turbine to the first imp. Thus a perpetual motion machine is produced based entirely on steam and the ceaseless labours of two very unhappy imps. The latest infernal materials prevent heat or cold leaking between the chambers or from the engine into its environment, so the small engine can be mounted in the middle of a small room or vehicle – though heaven help the occupants in the rare occasions that the engine bursts and the imps escape their confinement.

This engine has been put to its ultimate use in the development of the Steam Tank, a wheeled armoured vehicle crewed by two intrepid soldiers, one who directs its movement and one who fires a small cannon mounted atop the vehicle. In early models the cannon was a static mortar, and the vehicle little more than mobile artillery; but realizing the cost of the engine was such a great part of the whole, the Prussian Steamworks expanded its power and used it to drive a mobile turret, which now contains the latest in heavy infernal weaponry – an infernal cannon, or a nest of field rods of some kind. Rumour has it that a larger version is in development, that carries prisoners of war (or just prisoners) who feed an autonomous sentinel cannon from within cramped cells on one side of the vehicle, though the experimental version is said to have been simply a tumbrel dragged behind the tank itself.

This tank is being used only by the Prussian military but – perhaps as a political symbol of Prussia’s growing military might – one and one only has been sent to the Manchester Cornucopia for demonstration purposes[1]. Invulnerable to infantry weapons and too mobile for artillery, it forebodes a revolution in cavalry warfare.

The Reanimator Field Rod: The ultimate in infernal field rods, the Reanimator Field Rod carries this line of weapons to its ultimate conclusion. Usually carried into battle by a priest or wizard, the rod fires a cone-shaped blast of dimly visible grey-green light, which animates any fresh corpse in its area of effect. This corpse is then under the control of the Rod’s wielder, who must himself be attuned to the rod through a specialist ritual. The French army is said to have established a few squads of their infamous battle-priests armed exclusively with these rods, and will send them to the rear of the first wave of soldiers to enter the fray. Though these soldiers may be cut down or horribly decimated, their opponents will find themselves then facing the dread prospect of fighting again not only those they just killed, but those of their friends and allies who were also sacrificed in the melee. Every defeat of the enemy is redoubled by these priests, and every loss partially reversed. Who can doubt the terrible effect of this on the morale of those who fight, and on the judgment of those who lead[2]?

Persian Anti-personnel bombs: aka Turkish Delights, are a nasty little invention of the Ottoman Empire, which has been developing considerable skills in pacifying aggressive populations during the food riots of the past two years. These bombs are barely large enough to significantly injure an armoured man, being roughly marble sized. Presented by the handful in a special magical bag, they are completely inert in the bag, so a Turkish soldier has no risk of blowing his chest out when he dives for cover from an Anatolian death-archer. However, once out of the bag they are immediately primed, and explode after three sharp impacts, such as occur when they are thrown down steps into a basement, bounced along a corridor, or skipped across the surface of a fountain. The resulting explosion is concussive, but will easily kill or seriously injure an unarmoured rebel (or his family, if they are sheltering in the basement with him). Such devices have obvious uses in England, given the recent riots over corn laws and the other unrest being fomented by capricious foreign powers. They are also useful in ship-to-ship warfare.

fn1: During the adventure this tank was stolen by the defector’s Chinese lover, and they finished the adventure chasing it through the streets of Manchester while Prussian agents attacked them and tried to capture it and the defector it held. Much of central Manchester was laid waste in the process.

fn2: Not to mention the judgment that will be placed upon those who use such a weapon…

You’ve done it! 120 years after the introduction of the Bismarck system, a mere 60 years after the foundation of the National Health Service, 40 years after you put a man on the moon, and a mere 35 years since Australia introduced Medibank, you finally have a system of universal health coverage. Welcome to civilisation[1]! Admittedly, a lot of people are claiming it’s barely a universal system at all, no-one actually understands it, and 14% of your population now think that Obama is the antichrist, but at least you’ve got your foot in the door.

Of course, some people seem to think that it’s a short and slippery slope from universal health care to armageddon, but 3 of the other nuclear-armed nations have it, and they seem to have avoided nuking each other yet. And on the bright side, public systems are much more likely to respond effectively to a massive public health disaster like armageddon than private ones are.

I’m not so sure that a cobbled-together mandate that no-one really understands is a better approach than to have just, say, imported one of those existing, functioning systems wholesale – or even, just to have set up a government insurer for the 40 million uninsured and watched the rest of the country come flocking to it – but from this point the debate changes, doesn’t it? It no longer becomes “should we/shouldn’t we,” but “how can we improve what we’ve got?” And from there the only way is up up up that slippery slope to socialism and death panels for everyone!

Well done, America! Next, illegal wars and oil dependence… surely they’ll be easy to fix now you’ve overcome this massive challenge?!??

Seriously, though. I get the impression that getting this through has been a lot of work and a serious challenge. The US health system as it stands is an astounding shambles, and without a public solution at some point was going to become an untenable mess. If this system works even half as well as the rest of the world’s public systems, then you’ll get

  • reduced infant mortality
  • reduced health care costs
  • better health care
  • better public and preventive health
  • more rational health decision-making, and more public say in how healthcare money is spent
  • 40 million more people (at least) getting access to healthcare
  • greater labour flexibility
  • more entrepeneurs
  • lower costs for business

which is maybe not good news for all those countries (like Japan and Germany) whose heavy and medium industry has been dining out on American businesses’ hidden healthcare costs, but it’s all round good news for Americans. Antichrist or not, that Obama chap is a miracle worker!

fn1: see how we spell that with an “s”, not a “z”? It’s a slippery slope from universal health systems to British English… even Sarah Palin knows that!

No keel-hauling for these sea dogs...The only significant enhancement on the tall ship in 200 years, the Spindrift Clipper represents a considerable performance improvement over standard seaborne vessels for a limited additional cost. Behaving in every way like a normal vessel, the Spindrift Clipper has had low-power levitation magic added to its hull so that it can become airborne when needed. This has considerable advantages, enabling the ship to move much faster in fine weather and to avoid the risk of running aground or being damaged by reefs or wrecks. It also enables the ship to avoid being swamped in storms, though in instances it may be driven significantly off course. Many advanced Spindrift Clippers come with a special “storm anchor”, an emergency flight device which forces the ship to ride against strong winds, keeping it from being blown off course. Most Clipper pilots prefer to use their levitation to their advantage, rising from the water and riding ahead of stormclouds in the hope of regaining their course when the clouds have gone – better to survive at sea than to risk all for a few days lost journeying, after all. The Spindrift Clipper has made long-distance trading and exploration much easier and cheaper due to faster trips with lower risks of shipwreck or mutiny. Spindrift Clippers do not fly high, however, as their levitation magic is always weak and the ship is not designed to survive the stresses of such heights.

The characters themselves stole a small spindrift clipper, the Unfortunate Lapse of Discipline, from the Iron House, and renamed it the Inappropriate Response. It took them to Greenland and Ireland and back to America during the final stages of adventuring to date, and although it did not protect them from some of the less pleasant monsters of the Atlantic, it at least gave them some advantage in battle against the forces laying siege to New York. The Inappropriate Response relies for its levitation magic on a weak antipathic magic, cheap to install but requiring large bodies of water to move over. Later models of the Spindrift Clipper, particularly those designed for river travel, would have true levitation magic built in, so that they could act essentially as hovercraft or helicopters. These innovations would be another 100 years in development, however.

The Reverend Mike (whose site burns my eyes with its insane redness) is hosting this month’s RPG blog carnival on War (my, how topical!), and I want to contribute with a selection of the types of nasties which are used in the world of the Essential Compromise for the prosecution of that most loved of infernal activities, slaughter. We have already seen the Battle Thumb and the Autonomous Sentinel Cannon, but below are a few of the other toys which a good Infernalist can play with when it comes time to terrorise the locals.

Cancer Labora Host Armour

cancer-labora1Host armours are designed from a semi-living infernal construct as a heavy-duty harsh-environment armour shell, within which a human soldier can safely nestle. Like all Host Armours, the Cancer Labora enhances the physical and sensory capabilities of its occupant, as well as providing some environmental control and heavy armour. It is intended primarily as a heavy attack unit for dealing with infantry, with its armour thick enough to provide protection against all but the heaviest of infernal weaponry or cannons. The Cancer Labora is made of a type of thick hide modelled on the crab shell, with the plates connected to one another by a special fireproof Infernal material. The human occupant climbs in through the back and operates the various arms using his own hands, and fingers for the smaller arms. The largest arms are weapons in their own right, but can extend small gripping devices to hold additional weapons. The armour shell can also have Infernal weapons embedded, though they must have no recoil. The Cancer Labora is the only Host Armour with an environmental seal suitable for operation underwater, though even then the seal is not perfect and the Labora must return to land within a few hours. In addition to enhanced strength, armour and weapons powers, the Cancer Labora offers nightsight and enhanced hearing magic.

Impulsion Field Rod


The Impulsion Field Rod does not do damage per se; rather, it throws its target back a distance of tens of feet, knocking them off their feet in the process.  The Impulsion Field Rod is particularly frightening in combat on rooftops or alpine terrain, though in the latter case it has been known to cause avalanches. The Impulsion Rod usually has between 10 and 50 charges and must be recharged at a specified camp or location, though occasionally essence packs can be used to recharge it in the field, if it is needed for an extended campaign or mission. Some soldiers learn to use the Impulsion Rod in their off hand during melee combat, gaining two attacks (though the Impulsion Rod attack may be at a penalty). Frequently they use the Rod to repulse a charge or in the first moments of combat before engaging in melee. Impulsion rods, unlike the more horrifying brands of field rod (ennervators, confustors or quickeners, which are made of bone and wood) are usually made of beautifully crafted mixtures of wood and iron, not unlike rifles. Wizards sometimes use impulsion field rods, in which case they are usually enchanted to be lighter than their appearance would suggest.

Of course, all field rods are infernally crafted, using infernal essences bound to a manual trigger to enable even the most magically ignorant of soldiers to use them.

The Death Suit

The Death Suit is in every sense a normal suit of armour; however, it is imbued with a sacrificial Demon which is invoked on the first occasion that the wearer suffers a mortal blow. The Demon leaches from the Death Suit directly into the body of the wearer, absorbing most of the damage of the mortal blow (which is reduced to a serious wound). The armour is ruined and the wearer experiences certain immediate effects – the wearers eyes go very pale (permanently) and he or she suffers the immediate loss of 1 point of constitution. This effect is instantaneous (some scholars even believe the Demon in the suit has the ability to sense a moment ahead in time) and applies to most mortal injuries. Those which  would completely destroy the body, or which involve massive damage to the head, are not covered by the Suit, though it is rumoured one can purchase a helmet with the same qualities. The Suit works for anyone who wears it, but before the effects can be applied to that person they must rub the armour completely with a salve made of a combination of rose water and their own blood. This process is usually draining for the person who performs it, requiring several hours of work and making them so weak that they cannot perform strenuous activity for a period of time far in excess of that expected given the amount of blood lost.  The benefits, however, are obvious. The suit usually comes as leather or chain, though it can come in the form of an undergarment (at considerable extra cost). The suits can often be identified by their odour of roses.

The equipment and weapons of the Victorian Era were either simplistic mechanical constructions or complicated magical devices. By this time the peoples of the Old World had become so enamoured of magical and Infernal technology that investigation of the natural sciences was seen as a second-rate hobby, interesting in its own right for those with enough time and money to devote to it but of limited use when compared to the great achievements of the magical arts. 


Scientific discovery ended with the discovery of the gas lamp and the steam engine, and since then Architecture and mathematics were the only fields to continue to develop, both being intricately connected with the Infernal and magical arts respectively. Even medicine ceased to be a viable field of study with the development of the Healing Arts and the return of Witchcraft to rural communities. Europe entered the Victorian Era without electricity or medicine, and with no chance of developing them.  


The Europeans also found little use for Gunpowder. Muskets had fallen out of favour with the military after the development of Demon Weapons, and although cannon retained some usefulness in fortifications, especially as magical and infernal arts made them bigger and more powerful, it was generally believed that any weapon devised using gunpowder could be made more portable, more ferocious and more reliable using magic. So the military returned to the Demon Bow, with elite units using rarer and more powerful weapons and officers carrying old pistols only for show and duelling. Some few gunpowder weapons were developed to a better standard but they always remained cumbersome, inconvenient and ineffective. The Victorians also distrusted gunpowder as an Oriental invention, which the Chinese especially seemed to be far better at turning into a weapon than the Europeans. 


Posts on this topic describe some of the common mundane and magical weapons and equipment of the Essential Compromise Victorian era. The era was full of innovation and individualism in the Infernal Sciences, and so there are many other items than these available in the larger cities of England and Europe; but these posts should suffice to display the common themes in adventuring goods of the time. 

The chief means of getting about Europe remained the Steam Train, the Horse and Carriage, and the Steamer. By 1875 England was well-served by an extensive network of railways; prior to this more extensive use needed to be made of the horse and Carriage. International trade and travel was made possible by the Steamer and (until the very late 19th Century) the Tall Ship. Various magical and Infernal improvements on these standard designs will also be described in the posts to follow.