On the OSR New Wave: Patrick Stuart of False Machine

The OSR is currently today, vibrant in a way it has never, ever, been. The ideas are bright and strange and
more creative than can be believed.

I've interviewed some of the most prolific and creative bloggers in the OSR with some non-standard questions. We are going to start this week with Patrick Stuart of False Machine. I first became aware of his blog with a link to shadow biology and how it relates to Dungeons and Dragons. He is currently involved in producing content on his blog eventually to be collected in a great work of the ultimate tool for underdark creation for the DM called Veins of the Earth.

A short quote from Fungal Ambassodiles disscussing how crocodiles are the ambassadors of fungal kind.
"There is a food chain of decay. A sun-linked chain made by plants. A red chain of animal flesh. A dark chain of dead and dying things. The doomed feasting on the ruined who ate the dead. A pyramid of ghouls. Crocodiles survive every extinction. They are a final link of the negative chain. Slow. Patient. Waiting for the world to make a mistake. The river-dwellers eat the things that ate the things that ate the world. They live on."
He is brilliant and you should read him in spite of his protestations.

Without further ado, Patrick Stuart:

Pitch me on you and your blog right now before I get bored and stop reading this article!

I probably never will. I have deeply ambivalent feelings about people actually reading my blog. I like attention and having my ideas validated by a public audience, I am also a strange introverted antisocial crab-thing creature who feels the gazes of others like a whip across his skin.

I deal with these powerfully conflicting impulses by being odd on my blog. I make no attempt to be normal, reach a wide audience, advertise or pump up my page hits. I don’t link much to others (which I feel vaguely guilty about). I keep a blog list on my sidebar so people can see what I’m reading and because it seems unfair not to let people link out to other blogs from mine when a lot of my hits come from other OSR blogs. I G+ something if I think it’s any good and if I think the people on G+ might like it.

Someone asked Alan Moore why he wrote the first chapter of his book in an invented 1st person pseudo-neolithic minimal-vocabulary style designed to reflect the world view of a mentally challenged young man in a prehistoric world. He said “to keep the scum out.” The only people reading the rest of the book are the ones who could get through the first chapter. So you don’t have to deal with any stupid questions later on. My blog is a bit like that.

Which cartoon not named "Dungeons & Dragons" is  most like Dungeons & Dragons?

Probably Adventure Time? There is a more clever, funnier answer out there somewhere I’m sure. Like maybe one of those strange stop-motion Russian animated shorts from behind the iron curtain about woodland animals because they are actually a bit like being in another world. Or Ray Harryhausens animated work because the monsters, or any 80’s group-hero show because they are paratactic* like D&D games and they group has to strive endlessly to end up back in the same place by the end. But it’s probably Adventure Time

*paratactic means something is like a string of pearls, each thing goes in sequence, but could easily be unrelated to the other things, one thing does not necessarily mean another has to happen.

If you ran across a group of baby orcs in a game;  what do you do with them?

Leave them alone probably. If I had the time, maybe take them off to a ruined monastery and raise them as ninja-turtle-style kung-fu heroes. Probably you should take them back to the orc parents, but you killed them didn’t you. Yeah you gotta raise them now. That’s your campaign.

You all have highly creative blogs. Bryce over at tenfootpole.org has reviews of adventures that are simple and direct, mostly involving killing things in rooms and getting +1 swords. Describe your philosophy behind why those aren't good enough for you?

I have eaten enough culture. I think like a lot of people of my age and generation, I grew up choking down everything in popular culture like a fat man eating buttered white bread. Sometimes you get the original thing, but most of the time you get the ironic re-imagining of the thing. So I was introduced to a lot of good ideas by reading jaded cleverclogs making ironic fiction based on the weaknesses in the idea, then years later, I get the original idea that everything was about. I think this must be a strange way to grow up.

Anyway.. I have eaten most culture and the patterns are within me now. If I absorb something, most times, stuff from the thing is just like the old patterns. It’s like if you could only eat old meals. Like if every week you could only eat stuff you had the week before, but you could change one ingredient. Only one each time. How frustrated would you be? Just waiting and waiting and waiting for that new taste.

It’s not really a philosophy, I don’t think things through like that. When I experience something and it has a gem of imaginative energy inside, when there is something new or lively or beautiful or something I haven’t seen or wouldn't expect then it kind of lights me up inside. Some part of me vibrates in sympathy. A E Van Vogt said that when he wanted to know if a book was worth buying he would pick it off the shelf and read the first page to see if it contained ‘story energy’. That is a good phrase to use, it can’t be broken down to any particular abstract analysis, no school or method will be an absolute guide. I am hungry for the energy. I do not know what it is. It will be like walking into an unexpected room, or finding an unlikely view unfold between mountains or when it snows your school off and you wander round a familiar place alone with everything changed and alien. I am hungry for something to change me, for something that can’t be explained in terms I already have.

As regards writing things. There is a book of poems by my bed by Gerard Manley Hopkins. It’s about as thick as my fingernail. It’s the best of his lifes work. There is no-one else who could have written any of them and nothing else they could possibly be. They are a world themselves. I would like to leave something behind me like that.

(as an addendum, there is nothing really wrong with liking or playing or reviewing  or making stuff that is vanilla, the point of an adventure is the people playing it, the activity of play and the contact with others is the real thing, the actual solid thing, the stuff written down is just a pale ghost, it seems more permanent because it is a material thing and not a process but it is not, the play is real. If an adventure gets people playing then it is good, if someone wants a +1 sword than get the fucking sword, kill that orc, live that thing, the rest is noise)

I think probably I have failed to answer that question. If I can’t do it with that much blathering I doubt I can do it at all.

What is the most important house rule or change you make to the game?

Ahhhh, I got nothing. I like the ‘daggers explode’ rule because I have a mild knife fetish. Maybe the drinking spirits in the dungeon lets you swap points from WIS to HP temporarily rule, drunk adventurers are fun. Sometimes I start games by telling people ‘you do not have to like each other but you do have to be on the same side’, is that a house rule? I bolt a lot of crap on but no one thing seems more important than any other.

 What's your favorite edition and why?

Man I don’t really know anything about all the different editions. I started with 4th, found it quite difficult. Started reading the internet and found out about LOTFP, since then that’s all I use for D&D. My RPG history is shamefully short. I only started playing in about 2010 I think? So I have probably played less games for less time than almost anyone else with an RPG blog. I am kind of a faker Johnny-come-lately. I have played BECMI 2nd Ed with my friend.

Why is LOTFP good? Its very short very simple very cheap and written with clarity and rigour. It’s fucking amazing that Raggi put it together, if you look at his online persona, the rules he made, or the way he made them, are almost like the opposite of his personality, they feel like the construction of a careful puritan.

Other people have talked a lot about the benefits of a simple ruleset. You can bolt anything on to them, mix anything from almost any other scource. With LOTFP in particular, the game is harsh so I don’t have to be. I have a hippy art teacher aspect to my DMing style where I really want the players to pull together and win, I use open rolls to keep me honest and Raggi’s rules are like having a complete bastard dm the game with you. They lend a toughness I might not otherwise posess.

Thieves? Clerics?

Clerics, obviously yes. Every cleric is evidence of a strange and unpredictable god. Religion is one of the weirdest and most powerful forces in human culture so yes it should be in the game. There are so many things you can do with that

Thieves, yes, if you want. I agree with Raggi that the name thief is a bit stupid and makes people behave in stupid ways. Specialist is a bit dull. I replaced it with ‘Artifex’ which is the latin translation of specialist and sounds cooler.

My friend Noisms doesn’t like thieves for the relatively sound reason that the skill system lays on top of the other systems like a bad rug and maybe persuades other PCs that they should not do stuff they could obviously do because they don’t have the skill for it written on their sheet.

He’s right but I don’t care. I love the idea of the Indiana Jones figure, or the black cloaked dude with a grapple and a bag full of useful tools, or the girl with rope and all the knives, the idea of just being really fucking professional at something and having lots of cool shit to go with it.

Violence, Magic, Faith and Greed. Imagine setting out to make a story with the four characters powered by some of the most fundamental strangeness in human culture, how could that no go horribly wrong and be amazing?

What are your thoughts on the proliferation of rulesets for sale?

I don’t have many, probably good? The dawn of life was marked by many proto-organisms swapping genetic code back and forth, this increased adaptivity and probably helped lay the groundwork for the genetic complexity and sophistication that allowed the creation of higher forms. The mitochondria in your cells are a pirated from some ancient bacterium, its why you can move around and do stuff. So make more make stranger make better.

How long before the inevitable saturation occurs and we go though the classic fox/hare die-off?

Soon? Two or three years. As 4th sinks into the ocean of time things will begin to change. The 4th escapees will join together and work their strange and vengeful art on some new ultraweapon to destroy us all. 5th will war with Pathfinder in the stores. Hasbro will work out there is no money in this stuff. Someone in the mainstream will work out how good Vincent Baker is. G+ will slowly grow until somewhere in google a meeting is had about how to profitise it. They will try some new fucking bullshit, not ads, some new ghastly thing, and G+ will likewise sink into the waves and we must all swim for the distant shore by the light of dying stars while the drwoned ghost of 4th edition curls between our toes.

Do you get to play? 

Yes. I play in my friends games. Once or twice a week. I should play more over G+ but I have a weird schedule and I am a neurotic anti-social.

What is your favorite class?

Probably the Thief/Specialist/Artifex, for reasons given above. Any class can think but with them its assumed both you and the character are thinking in the same way maybe? Use the environment, don’t get sloppy, survive.

There is an alternate universe where the tedious 1980's sitcom was bypassed and instead replaced by D&D. What is the worst thing about this alternate reality?

You mean instead of sitcoms there is D&D? For everyone? Everywhere? I don’t know, no Fraiser? No Friends? Probably everyone having a fucking opinion  It’s bad enough as it is on the internet when there is a pretty powerful cultural filter. If I imagine the shit I have to read in magazines and papers about normal stuff, just the inane blathering claptrap, but now about something  actually care about, that would be bad.

What is the worst player you've ever had?

I had a friend who went a bit mental and killed a kid in the first session. Don’t see much of him anymore.

You gain the ability to summon anyone living or dead, and if they are dead, grant them a permanent corporeal form. You take this radical power and do the only logical thing with it. Build a bunker where you force anyone you wish to play Dungeons and Dragons with you. Who do you summon? Who is the DM and what are everyone's characters?

Thomas Cromwell from Hllary Mantles Wolf Hall can be the DM.

Id like to have met Slippery Jim DiGriz, he can be the thief.

Julie d'Aubigny can be the fighter

Jessa Crispin because I’ve always wanted to hang out with her, she can choose her own class.

Cleric cleric cleric… Gerard Manley Hopkins

Maaaaaaage James Tiptree/Alice Sheldon in either of their genderforms.

And I will play Richard G’s Monster trainer class

And I want to play inside a Space Hulk from 40k.
(Cromwell is a killer DM, this game will not last long)

Which is best: Adventure, hexcrawl or mega dungeon? Why?

I have not played enough of any of those to be able to make a meaningful choice. I suppose a hexcrawl can contain both a megadungeon and multiple Adventures, the same is not true of the others.

What is your own personal appendix N?

Everything I have ever read and I read constantly. Let me look though my shelf and pick out a few of the more pertinent ones

The Master and His Emissary by Ian McGilcrist

A paradise built in hell by Rebecca Solnit

The Book Of The Courtier by Castiglione


The Muqaddimah

Atrocitology by Matthew White

The 40k universe

Walt Simonsons Thor comics

Alan Moore and Grant Morrisons collected works

Jeff Longs the descent was a good book

Too much there is too much, I don’t base my games on any of it, it just piles into my head and stuff comes out later, I do not have a Canon, I have a process, a kind of journey that I am on.


If you want to know more you could try here http://falsemachine.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Appendix P

Or here http://falsemachine.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/I read a book

What can we expect from you in the future?

Maybe one day in a trillion years time I might actually finish my Veins Of The Earth Vornheim inspired  Underdark book. It seems it will never be done, however it keeps building up so I cannot deny it is possible that it might eventually enter a state of completion. If I ever finish that I might turn the City Without a Name into a thing.

I am a moody loser and a massive flake though, I am the king of flakingham palace where I wear a crown of welsh slate and live with Tony the fucking Tiger, I have never finished anything in my life except meals, so don’t hold your breath.

That was a rather grim end wasn't it? Sorry.

Patrick Stuart on G+
False Machine, Patrick's Blog


  1. Just FYI, but it's apparently Patrick Stuart, not Patrick Stewart.

  2. He started with 4th Edition?! Wow, this is the sort of convert we need to keep bringing into the old-school fold! Come back to the past, younglings...join us...it's so nice here...

    1. This is why it's important that mainstream, official D&D needs to be right. Can you imagine how many people were disappointed with their first D&D session, and were turned away with 4th being the first and only impression? It bums me out. Then you got the guys that love it and think _that_ is 'true' D&D.

  3. Good interview! Also, most of his answers would pretty much stand for me, too. Especially the bit about looking for something that isn't the same as last time but with one element changed.

  4. All this time our character classes have been Violence, Magic, Faith and Greed, and no one noticed until now?!

  5. The comment about Raggi's personality and LotFP is gold. So is the baby orc part.

  6. Excellent!
    Do Tom Middenmurk or Scrap Princess next

    1. I think Scrap was on the same list I was, I would also add Tom Middenmurk as well

    2. Ha! I'm flattered. I would just like to say this interview is the best OSR-related thing I've read in a long time.

      And Yes, do Scrap. She's a slightly different variety of abundantly human genius person.

    3. Yes make Tom talk about himself, the more people pressuring him to produce Middenmurk the better.
      (and that was a really good interview)

  7. I want to thank you for posting this excellent interview...I had never heard of Patrick's blog, and it is a wealth of crazy-awesome material that will enrich my next campaign.

    But Patrick, if you're reading this...for the love of the dead gods, where are the answers to the riddles you gave the teens ('The Riddlemaster')!? I haven't finished digging through your whole blog, but if I don't find them I think I will go mad.

    1. I never put the answers up just to mess with people. Scrap got all of them right within about half an hour.

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


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