The City at the End of Time

My mind is a golden hive, swarming with myriad impossible insects. I reach to the back of my shining honeycombed skull, plucking forth a squirming opalescent grub. I let it crawl over the technicolor veins of my skeletal hands, each step of its stubby legs bleeds paint from my flesh.

I crush it between my fingers and mix its innards with my own chromatic blood in a small stone bowl. I stab a quill into the ink and set to writing.

There is a city at the end of time.

You would think there would not be but there it is, standing beneath the pale white light of the last star, the cities own glow blending with the fading sun.

It has many names: the Pheonix City, the City of the Ark, Final Hope, the Faith Machine, the Rebirth Engine...

Most just call it the City. It's the last one, after all.

At the End of Time, mountains of the detritus of civilizations pile up over vast wastes of ash. Forests of petrified trees and people sit in shadowed valleys. Strange fortresses of woven darkness rise. Beasts and abominations of the dying world haunt ruins that have yet to give way to complete degradation. Shadowy spirits of the dead roam aimlessly, their forms and identities gone.

At the End of Time, the mad cacophonic music of entropy has torn down the walls that divide life from death, past from future, what is from what could have been. Ancient heroes thought lost appear once more to take up the call of the City. Forgotten magicks are practiced alongside esoteric technologies. Things that never were stir in the darkness, hungrily leaping into the life that was denied them and lashing out at the creatures who were given existence in their stead.

In the City, there is hope. Cathedrals ring with the constant sound of hymns and prayers to power a machine whose shining pipes of gold and brass sprawl over the entire city. Massive libraries and museums are crammed into all the space they are allocated, tended by minutia-obsessed caretakers. A new renaissance leaps forth every day from desperation fueled artists, writers, and poets of all sorts in high observatories and hidden lounges. The walls are manned by the greatest heroes of the world that was, often plunging into the world beyond to recover their legacies from the claws of the creeping degradation.

Welcome to the End.

From Adventure Time

The Rebirth Engine

Sometime in the past, a madman knew that the world would end and began to build a machine: a mad glorious machine that made no sense to anyone, including the madman. Three things are known or at least guessed at regarding the machine.

#1 At the center of the machine, there is the Ultimum Principalem, the World Logic, the Fundamental Axiom, the Truth.

No one knows what the fuck it is.

Guessing or "theorizing" what this principal is is the work of the Theorists: a ragged collection of artists, philosophers, poets, and assorted geniuses who constantly argue and create to try and arrive at an approximation of what the Principalem is. More on them later.

#2 The machine is powered by faith. At least it seems to be. The Engine was basically unearthed when the fervent prayers of the people who live in the City before it was the Last City caused the machine to begin glowing this angelic white light. Then the mad scribbles of the architect were found and nobody could make heads or tails of them so they just kept doing what they were doing and never stopped. These individuals are called the Church of the Coming Dawn. More on them later.

#3 At some point, the machine will jump-start a new universe. Probably. Some Theorists claim that the machine in some way encapsulates the World Logic but does not actually properly contain it. That doesn't make sense, but no one cares. They think that one of them must feed the machine an axiomatic statement, a masterpiece of artistic endeavor, mathematic proof, or genuinely new idea to bring on the new dawn. The machine may require something that expresses the fundamental Truth of Being in order to fulfill its purpose. Or not. Like I said no one really knows.

The Machinists

The Rebirth Engine of Faith Machine is attended by the Machinists. No one actually knows how the machine works but these individuals have attained a level of mechanical skill that they were able to expand the machine to encompass the City and "maintain" it to the best of their ability.

It is a strange job. Have you ever tried to pump raw belief through copper pipes? It isn't easy. Its actually probably impossible but no one cares. The Machinists often have to deal with "leaks" of belief and creation energy. Gardens of completely unique plants burst into being and are then viciously cataloged by zealous Archivists (more on them later) who must be corralled. Unicorns are often born of the bursts of pure belief and now someone has to find space for them. The stables are getting quite full.

The Machinists might be called the metaphysical janitors of the City. They don't really understand the machine but they know how to kick the jukebox and where to set the Best Dad coffee mug to get the sports channel. Many of them are genius inventors of nonsense machines in their own rights and always want you to listen to their own mixtapes but it's their OC so don't steal or they will shoot a jet of anticolor at you from an Oolong powered gramophone gun, reducing you to a monochrome state, smelling slightly of vanilla.

The Church of the Coming Dawn

It is somewhat misleading to call them a Church as though they are some kind of monolithic religious group or have any kind of hierarchy. This would be wrong on both counts. The church does have an emphasis on rebirth and the coming of a new age no matter what, but the teaching of each fervent preacher can be completely different and they have spirited arguments over which gods, whether gods, or how God? (But no one seems to ask "How is God doing?" Come on, guys, a little thought for the big man please.)

Also technically everyone in the City is a member of the Church. Faith is a kind of currency here. You can buy things for a beautiful hymn or a blessing of good health, all captured in little boxes the Machinists make. Prayer beads, holy texts, sacred objects of any kind are traded around with great frequency for food and services. People will stack these up next to the part of the Engine that inevitably passes through their home to keep the machine running and to ensure that the reality around their personal residence remains stable and virile. Less common objects will require more esoteric shows of faith. Idols and symbols gleaned from the ruins beyond the City walls.

The whole City is engaged in the process of keeping the Engine running and so everybody takes shifts singing in the cathedrals though some make it their whole job.

The Theorists

Where else can you find a mostly naked man playing the violin like an ape while smoking a dragon's tail and sitting atop a pyramid of slowly moving ballerinas? In the soaring towers and smokey workshops of the Theorists, creativity is constant, such that it becomes cluttered and the clutter itself becomes art, as pieces and performances blend together out of mania and lack of space.

Theorists are loud. It is hard to be anything else. They are the barbaric yop sounding powerfully against the silent screaming of the end of all things. There is sorrow, yes but also joy. Profound hope and faith lead to pain turned into ecstatic visions where heaven meets earth and the body and soul are in perfect harmony. The sun-that-will-be peaks and peers out from behind every lament and tear-stained portrait.

And there is desperation. Desperation to find the World Logic, to uncover that absolute truth that will save us all. Among the artists, there are mathematicians there to uncover the genius proof to end all proofs. Anyone that creates is welcome among the Theorists. You could be good at arranging flowers or, like the famous Collin Mocherie, create paint portraits with your own feces, they still want you.

The Theorists are also a dangerous group in some ways. The Machinists keep a close eye on them for good reason. Artsy types are prone to doubt and doubt is a very dangerous thing in the City. Doubt, contrary to popular belief, is not anathema to faith, rather doubt and faith are interlinked more profoundly than we can often understand. However, doubt can give way to despair. Despair, the genuine lack of hope, drains the Machine. Too much doubt can cause blackouts in affected areas, where the light of the machine goes out and the world begins to fall asleep. People and things will petrify or vanish. This can sometimes be undone by the reactivation of the machine. Sometimes things are lost, never to return.

The Archivists

The Archive is the collection of everything that can possibly be salvaged from the world that was. The Archivists obsessively catalog every bit and bobble that they can. They are honestly quite kleptomaniacal and all of them are absolute hoarders, they will take everything they can get their gloved hands on, stick a tag on it and put it in alphabetical order. Many a common Citydweller with a cool necklace will walk up to an Archivist and walk away with their necklace, wallet, and underwear missing, though none of their external garbs has been removed.

They tirelessly try to find new ways of recording in increasingly efficient ways, going so far as manipulating space to fit more stuff into the Archive, thus they are great friends with the Machinists.

They are also workers of raw information-stuff. The information of the world that was wants to be found and protected, consumed by living minds once more. Pieces of great art will animate to drag themselves over piles of garbage to make their way to the City, into the loving arms of Archivists who restore them and catalog them. The memories of the old world gain a kind of consciousness and can be dangerous. Ideas can roam around free of minds to contain them. You really don't want to run into the manifestation of Post Modernism in a dark alley. Spells are such information stuff and they are dying to be found and some are furious that they were forgotten.

Archivists are skilled enough with working with this info-consciousness that they can compel creatures and devices from the old world to truthfully answer them questions, though few Archivists will ever ask any question of practical use. They are very scholarly but not very pragmatic. They will often know a grand host of spells but never really gain any power with casting them.

They also guard the dangerous artifacts of old that ought not to be let loose and keep a zoo of creatures from the old world.

Archivists have a mixed relationship with Heroes. They often need heroes to deal with all the apocalyptic problems that come with running the Archive but Heroes often want to use their shiny toys and Archivists don't like sharing. Archivists will begrudgingly part with some of their artifacts in exchange for Heroes' services. The Archive is downright hostile to the Theorists who will often paint over their creations before the Archivists have time to archive them! Theorists also want to read and examine archived items and works of art but have nothing to really offer in return. Archivists will very cautiously allow the viewing of art and the reading of books, always with an Archivist present to gently turn each page. The Theorists have gotten so tired of dealing with the Archivists' stinginess that they occasionally just steal stuff which infuriates Archivists to no end, as stealing stuff is their shtick.

The Heroes

Many that were dead or lost find themselves in the City. As time dies, the people that were lost through its many orifices are spat out once more. The shades that wander the wastes sometimes walk into the Cities light and are alive once more. Adventurers and heroes of all stripes can find themselves in the City in these ways and some new heroes are born from the circumstances of the End. They are only the Heroes and not Adventurers for the simple reason that tomb-robbing is a public good that the people of this City are more than happy to reward you for as Archivists constantly research for the locations of places where precious treasures of history might be kept to complete their Archive before the new dawn comes.

Here are some (1d6) notable heroes:
  1. Adonis: This one-armed Grecian statue was not content to stay in the Archive. His strength and poetic spirit have seen him lounging amongst the Theorists or fighting in pitched battle among the Heroes. He is pretty much constantly followed by Archivists with butterfly nets, pitifully attempting to archive his precious body over his objection. Archivists are not a practical sort, so Adonis is in no real danger.
  2. Gwarthur, the King that Never Came: Once there was a king who fell in battle and was taken to a mystical isle to return on the day his people needed him most. He never returned for his people but Time has seen fit to return him to the land of the living to defend the City. He is very moody, drinking a lot, and seeking redemption for the failure of leaving his people to die. His title reflects his tragic background rather than his sexual proclivities (you sickos).
  3. Bedelia Birdheart: Her plane got lost in her flight around the world only for her to arrive at the End of Time. Her plane still works but it is a risky way to travel with the laws of reality breaking down. Nonetheless, she makes for an excellent defender of the City, where reality is mostly stable. She can fly defenders to needed spots, drop bombs, and carry gunners. The Mechanists have been working on a Faith Cannister to let her fly reliably over the wastes.
  4. Thundaer the Lightning Lord: This god has lost much of his powers as the End has come but he will not give in and fade away nor flee to realms beyond like his fellow deities. He will stay and fight. The Mechanists can hook him up to the machine to fire huge blasts of lightning at those attacking the City.
  5. Ayo, Drunken Monk: Long ago in a distant land, Ayo got really drunk and went on a grand quest to appease her Pleasure God, becoming quite the badass in the process. She fell through a portal of absolute darkness and showed up at the City, providing the much-needed debauchery that the City lacked.
  6. Pheobe, Goddess of Purifying Flame: This peasant woman managed to become a homicidal flame godling in her short life before being killed by a giant Green Flame Jackolantern. Now she has a new lease on life and death has just made her crazier.
The Choir of the Distant Song

Mortals who live outside the city are either the occasional weirdos who have somehow managed to stay alive despite being outside the City's light or they are in the Choir. The Choir rejects the old world, staying alive through devotion to the entropic sound, believing that the old world must be utterly washed away for a new utopian universe of endless music to take its place. Thus, they are very much at odds with the City. 

They are crazed creatures of chaos and degradation, little better than undead, their skin bubbling with the midnight corruption of the End. Their leaders remain somewhat conscious and intelligent, capable of planning. These Choir Lords use the power of the music to animate and command the petrified creatures of the old world, each building legions of ancient terrors.

The Neverborn

Not all were given the privilege of existence. Being was reserved for the few compared to the infinite masses that never were. Creatures that came to be if a decimal point moved in the core mathematics of our universe, the thrown-away scribbles of the gods, the things that very nearly could be but weren't.

For so long they stewed in their would-be-worlds and unnamable places, their hatred and jealousy of the things that got to Be. Now, as the barriers between the possible and the impossible break down, they emerge, triumphant over the corpse of the world they have desired for so long. The City represents the final stronghold of their oppressors. The Neverborn believe the world has been left to them to exist in and want things to remain just as they are so they view the City as a tremendous threat.

These are things that should not be. They exist in twisted impossible shapes, perverse and repulsive to nature. A great many different creatures make up the Neverborn. Some walk on impossibly spindly legs, thin as shadows with all too human eyes. Some have their biology based off uranium or boron rather than carbon. Some are bizarre hybrids of lizard, insect, and mammal. Some genuinely look like unfinished drawings, projects the gods forgot.


This is a setting for your dead characters that you'd like to play again, especially FLAILSNAILS characters. It is especially useful for FLAILSNAILS because the logic of the world is highly amenable to that kind of play. Your characters show up out of nowhere and no one blinks an eye. Everyone in the City knows exactly the kind of work to give you. The transition in currency from gold to objects of faith creates a new economy that can act as a soft reset for characters that have become obscenely wealthy. It gives a lot of opportunities for fun anachronism and weird characters.

The End has come. So take up your sword, your pen, your cross, your wrench, your song. We are canceling the apocalypse.

(Blog Announcements)

I am not dead. I was merely stuck in a ghost haunted town in Arkansas by a hippie Inn Keeper and cleft-lipped tigers. I got pretty burned out on work, blogging, and even my many games projects. My creativity stalled but I am hoping to get it going once more. I feel revitalized by my escape from the drunken kazoo bands and creepy automatons of Arkansas. Eureka Springs is quite a town.

If you wish to help my output, leave a comment and turn on notifications, because I respond to every comment that seems to want a response and love talking to you. In this post G+ world, I think it is a practice we all should do more. Comments feel me with glee and a rush of neural stimulants that make my axons quiver with delight.

I have been working on a very long table of monsters at a moderate pace so that might come out at some point. Let me know if there is anything that you would like me to blog about, like series you would like to see more of, or whatever.

Special thanks to Patrick Stuart for inspiring this post. His many weird fantasy cities with potent central ideas please my gray matter greatly.


  1. Hey, serendipity -

  2. This was excellent! I totally get the burnout haha, still trying to get my groove back as well, but if this is you "trying" to get your groove back then I wouldn't worry too much, i think you've more than succeeded haha.

    This definitely has a Weird hub-city vibe that I really like. I also like the Heroes- I've always been a fan of doing a sort of "Justice League" of various gods, historical figures, or fictional characters that you wouldn't normally see together.

    This also reminds me of the Restaurant at the End of the Universe from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

    1. Thanks, Max! Honestly I feel like I would have a hard time tracking too many of my inspirations on this one. Patrick Stuart and the Magnus Archive are definitely two.

  3. This is quite cool. Reminds me a bit of Dark Souls 3, which I'd like to combine with Risk of Rain and Darkest Dungeon to get a similar sort of thing. I'll add this to the inspiration pile for that idea.

    I'd also like to write something with a Stranger Things style alternate dimension, and this might be yet another point of inspiration: perhaps the "primary" dimension is the City at the End of Time, but before Time Ended, and then the PCs have the ability to (or can find locations to) move to the future, which is all ruined and strange like in this post.

    1. Thank you! The City is technically a sort of otherworld for my current campaign, as well. I don't know how much the PCs will actually interact with the City but they are definitely dealing with some monsters from the End of Time. I might offer some ways for them to make it to the City but perhaps it will be an end game sort of deal.

    2. That's pretty neat, hopefully your PCs take a trip there.

      I think maybe the most interesting method of travel is A) static, one-way portals between the dimensions and B) consumable items that let you swap instantly from one to the other, no matter where you are. The static portals are reliable in use but they require some commitment since you need to travel to them and you can't go back the way you came. The consumables are easy to spam, but eventually you'll run out, and if you get in trouble in BOTH dimensions then things get really dicey, which is fun. I'm thinking of a challenge like that level in Titanfall 2 where you go back and forth between a functional and ruined version of a research facility, and the different versions have different obstacles and enemies. At one point, I was in a fight in both versions, so it was difficult to retreat to the other dimension to heal. I bet End-Time monsters would be good at creating that sort of situation.

    3. Plus if you consumable takes you to a spacialy congruent place, then you might end up in a far more dangerous location that you might not really know what to do with. An empty dungeon room in the main world could become a hive of Neverborn Uranium Bees at the End or an open field in the main world could become a sea in the End. There is room for all kinds of cool shenanigans.

      Also the monsters of the End are particularly hostile to creatures of the World-That-Was. Neverborn hate them for obvious reasons and go out of their way to hunt them down. The Choir wants to wipe out all sign of the old world or recruit them into their degenerate ranks. Coming to the End is bound to get you in trouble especially since food would be far more scarce and there are likely Entropy Storms where the music of the End lashes out, leaving swaths of petrified or mutated creatures.

    4. Exactly! That is some cool shit, man.


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