Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Anyone know the spell resurrection?

Sorry for the lack of posts lately guys.  I have been sick as hell lately.  The wife, the baby and my brother-in-law all caught bronchitis and passed it on to me and I have felt like death since last Thursday. So if you know Cure Disease or True Resurrection please send it my direction!   Hopefully be back soon.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

R is for Roland (and Rand)

The names of the main protagonist in my two favorite series begin with the letter R.  Roland Deschain of Gilead from Stephen King's The Dark Tower, and Rand al'Thor, The Dragon Reborn from Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time. While Roland is an anti-hero Rand is more of a tragic-hero.

Roland is The Gunslinger Born from Marvel Comics
Roland has many features which are the opposite of what you would expect to find in a true hero.  He is impatient and angry much of the time. He is condescending to those he consider weak willed.  He is above all selfish. Though Roland gladly risks life and limb for those he believes need his protection, he will not hesitate to abandon them if it took him another step toward his ultimate goal of reaching and climbing the Dark Tower. Over the course of the story Roland becomes softer and more caring but ultimately reaches his goal after sacrificing almost everything he ever cared about, damning himself in the process.

Rand however was the unwilling hero at first.  He denied being the Dragon Reborn until there was no doubt left that he was indeed the Dragon.  He tried running from his destiny, tried to escape but eventually gave up and accepted his fate. He sacrifices what he thinks he must in order to fulfill his destiny, in order to save the world.  His sacrifices include his family and home, his friends and even parts of himself, both physically and spiritually. Rand looses much never trying to retain anything for himself unless it is needed in his fight against Shai'tan, The Dark One.

Rand al'Thor on the Sun Throne of Cairhien
While these two characters a far apart in terms of their character arcs the two men eventually become very similar in personality and drive. They are both forced to become very hard men.  Hard so they can withstand the forces pushing and pulling and attacking them, preventing them from accomplishing their goals and meeting their destinies.

Another obscure relation between these two is their connection to King Arthur.  Both Roland's Mid-World and Rand's Randland have their King Arthur analogues.  Roland is directly descended (30th generation) from Arthur Eld, a great king of his realm.  Rand has many things connecting him to Artur Paendrag Tanreall, Artur Hawkwing, The High King. Among others Rand is compared as being even more strongly Ta'veren than Artur Hawkwing.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Q is for the Questioners

The Children of  the Light from The Wheel of Time are a religiously oriented military group disparagingly called Whitecloaks due to their characteristic white cloaks.  To most the Whitecloaks are mistrusted and feared due to their religious persecution and hunting of so called "Darkfriends".  But among the Children of the Light are a sect that are looked at askance and feared even by other Whitecloaks for their unchecked zeal and questionable methods.  This group is The Hand of the Light, also called Quesitoners.

The Hand of the Light are referred to as Questioners because when a darkfriend is found (or suspected of being found) they are handed over to the Questioners and they are "put to the question". In other words they are tortured into revealing their secrets, admitting they are darkfriends and repenting their crimes.  However, many believe that innocents are interrogated as well and are forced to admit to being a darkfriend simply to stop being tortured.  It is said that once a Questioner makes up his mind about your guilt there is no changing it. 

This group, along with the real world group that inspired them, The Inquisitors have lead to the development of a similar group in my worlds of Atlas and Verdenheim, called The Ministry of Light and The Holy Knights of the Creator. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P is for Paladine

Paladine, known as The Platinum Dragon, Draco Paladin, Valiant Warrior, E’li, Platinum Father and Thak the Hammer, is the leader of the Gods of Good in the Dragonlance books, by Margret Weis and Tracy Hickman.  Throughout the series we see Paladine most often in his human avatar, Fizban the Fabulous, the bumbling wizard who started the Heroes of the Lance on their grand adventure.  Much like Gandalf, Fizban is seen as a mentor and guide, but unlike Gandalf who it known to be powerful and intelligent, Fizban is a bumbling fool who constantly pushes the characters into more trouble instead of leading them to solutions.  

In the night sky above Krynn Paladine can be seen as the constellation Platinum Dragon, and during the War of the Lance his constellation is missing from the night sky as he is physically on Krynn indirectly preparing the forces of good to fight the forces of Takhisis.

At the end of the War of Souls Paladine gave up his divine status and power to become a Mortal Elf named Valthonis.  Paladine gave up his godhood in order to maintain the balance of good and evil in the universe when Takhisis was forced to become mortal by the other gods; Good, Neutral and Evil.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O is for Oy!

Oy! is the pet and member of the Ka-Tet of Nineteen and/or Ninety Nine in Stephen King's The Dark Tower series. Oy is what is called a billy-bumbler, a creature that resembles a combination of badger, raccoon, and dog, with a long and graceful neck.  Oy is described to have large, gold-rimmed eyes which are intelligent, even for a bumbler, which are known to have a limited speaking ability, similar to that of a parrot. Oy's voice sounds "low and deep, almost a bark; the voice of an English footballer with a bad cold in his throat."

Oy becomes more emotional and intelligent than other bumblers and this is remarked upon by the other member of the Ka-tet several times.  Oy is a constant source of amusement through out the series and often lightens the moods of the ka-tet. 

Eventually Oy is killed by one of the arch nemeses of the Ka-tet of Nineteen and/or Ninety Nine, Mordred.  Mordred is also the son of Roland Deschain, both of whom will be discussed in tomorrow's post R is Roland (and Rand) along with Rand al'Thor of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time.

N is for Narg

So I have decided to change it up for the latter half of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.  During the first half of the Challenge I focused on weapons, items and people from the real world (or from mythologies of the real world) who inspired portions of my campaign setting Verdenheim and my personal gaming style. For the remaining time I will focus on fictional weapons, items and people that have also inspired me.

To kick this off we have Narg.  Narg is a monstrous character from Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series. Narg is one of the first Trollocs we see in the first book, The Eye of the World, and the only one (as of Towers of Midnight) that we ever experience speaking. Limited and coarse though his vocabulary was, Narg’s short dialogue has become infamous with WoT fans the world over.  It was jokingly postulated that Narg is the one who killed Asmodean (one of the Forsaken, a powerful baddie, who was teaching the protagonist, Rand al’Thor, how to use the One Power, the magic of Randland)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

M is Matchlock

Before the invention of the matchlock firing mechanism a match was required to be lowered by hand to the so called Flash-pan, in order to operate a firearm. With the invention of the matchlock a person was able to fire more accurately by keeping his eye on his target and holding the gun more steady by holding it in two hands. 

The Matchlock works by clipping a slow burn match or fuse to the serpentine of the gun, which could then be released or dropped onto the flash-pan igniting the primer and thus igniting the main charge of the round. This type of mechanism was favored for its accuracy but was unpopular because the match was required to be lit continuously in order to be useful. If the match went out for any reason (such as weather or snuffing itself out in the flash pan) the weapon became an expensive metal stick until the match could be re-lit. However, this mechanism and its drawbacks are what brought about more economical and more versatile firing mechanisms. 

L is for legion

"My name is Legion: for we are many.”

Legion was a biblical demon or a collection of demons first encountered in Mark 5:9 of the New Testament.  Legion was the group of demons possessing a man from Gadarenes, and whom were subsequently cast out of the man and into a herd of pigs.  Those pigs then drowned themselves in the sea of Galilee.  

This story has spawned many references and allusions in popular culture.  Television shows have used the idea of multiple possessions or personalities as a plot device, even going so far as to name the character Legion or to reference the famous quote. Shows like Angel and Supernatural specifically depict demons who claim to be the actual Demon Legion. Even Gargoyles referenced it in an episode titled Legion. Legion is even a movie based completely on the character concept from the bible and transformed into a modern day graphic novel-esque movie

In literature, especially comic books, Legion is a popular subject. Numerous books are based around the demon Legion or some variation on the theme. The character Randall Flagg is referred to as Legion several times throughout both The Stand and The Dark Tower.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

K is for the King's Table

For over four centuries the King’s Table was a symbol to the court and to those foreign rulers who dined with the King and Queen, of the King’s power and status.  The King’s Table was the banquet table used by the monarchs of Britain.  The table was carved of solid stone and used for coronation feasts and state banquets from its creation in the 13th century. Among its other uses King Henry VIII used the table for the banquets following his marriages to Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn.

Oliver Cromwell destroyed the table and buried the pieces at the Palace of Westminster. Cromwell was the English Military and Political leader who over threw the monarchy and replaced it with the Commonwealth of England which ruled for eleven years before its failure and England’s return to the Royal Family.  

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J is for Jack

Jack is an ubiquitous character in English and Cornish fairytales. The tales revolve around an often weak but clever character named Jack.  Though the tales are generally grouped together as the Jack Tales, the stories do not necessarily involve the same person.  Included in the Jack Tales are stories such as Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack the Giant Killer, and Little Jack Horner. Jack is a character known to be a folk hero because of his lack of strength or skill as a warrior that puts him within reach of common folk.  Unlike most heroes who are strong and virtuous, Jack is known to be lazy and a bit of a trickster, often getting himself into trouble through his antics, even though he often gets himself out of trouble with his quick wit and clever tongue.

Several characters in modern fiction and many RPG characters are based on the Jack archetype. Matrim Cauthon from Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series is a prime example of the Jack archetype, so much so, he is tied to the name Jack through out the series, as in Dance with Jak-o’-the-Shadows.

Bad habits always payoff in the long run” –Matrim Cauthon
(find picture of Mat)

Jack-o’-Lantern is also the subject of many characters in folklore, fiction writing and in RPGs. From Jack of the Lantern in British, Welsh, Scottish and Irish folktales, to  The Scarecrow in Batman, and Jack Skellington in A Nightmare Before Christmas. Jack o’ Lantern has been explored many times and inspired many stories, both modern and contemporary. Jack o’ Lantern can be seen as a victim, as he was tricked by the Devil and wanders the world in the afterlife, with no place to go. He lived his life to sinfully to be allowed into heaven and he tricked the Devil to never take his soul so he is not allowed into hell either. Alternately he can be seen as a villain as he is tricky and seen to haunt graveyards and the Irish countryside. 

I is for Incendiaries

“Behold from your walls the lands laid waste with fire and sword“ –Livy The History of Rome

Incendiaries are a bedrock of warfare, fire has brought cities and nations to their knees for millennia. Fire has always been a dangerous tool for man, and when applied to warfare it is absolutely devastating. Whether it be a simple torched tossed in building or Greek Fire being hurled in the faces of enemies, fire brings a whole new element to combat.

One of the simplest tactics involving incendiaries was known as the ‘scorched earth’ policies.  This involved groups of soldiers surrounding an enemy keep or stronghold and burning the crops to the ground.  This policy destroyed food, supplies and trade routes. Often times a besieged city would use this tactic on their own lands to deprive their attackers of the resources and of forage. 

Another form of incendiary is hot substances such as heated oil or sand, which would  get under armor and clothes burning the flesh of the victim.  Even boiling water poured on person could melt the skin right off the bone.

I intended to write more for this post but the baby was crying when I was writing this, so I will see you guys next time

Monday, April 9, 2012

What's in your haversack?

I am going to post a What's in your haversack? for today's letter, H, in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

Tyvern Wernithal is a human barbarian hailing from the plains North of the Tadrat Desert.  Tyvern was exiled from his tribe for a dishonorable fight he was in, with a man he believed his wife had been with while he was on a hunt. Tyvern was enraged and resulted to some nasty tricks which he normally would not have.  As a result Tyvern was taken captive and stripped of his personal possessions. Once this was done he was given provisions and was sent into the desert expected to cross the desert and return with a rock from the valley of the ancestors on the other side to prove his worthiness to return to the tribe.  He has made it across the desert to the valley of the ancestors and retrieved his stone.  He is now in middle of the desert on his return journey.  Let us look in his haversack and see what he has...

In Tyverns haversack you find...

  • 3 Waterskins (1 empty, 1 full, 1 almost empty)
  • A stone from the Valley of Ancestors
  • Shortbow, horn
  • Unused bowstring
  • Used bowstring, still serviceable
  • Hunting dagger
  • Tribal necklace, which he must carry but not wear
  • Rations
  • Jackrabbit carcass
  • 2 jackrabbit skins
  • Rattle from a rattlesnake 
  • tortoise shell, small, used as bowl
  • small clay jug with firewater (traded with a caravan merchant for some turquoise found in the Valley of Ancestors)
  • Iron rod, one hand long, pitted from sand and weather.  Use unknown, hums and vibrates when held.  Also found in the Valley of Ancestors

Saturday, April 7, 2012

G is for Griffin

The Griffin, (also griffon or gryphon) is a medieval amalgamation of lion and eagle.  The lion being the king of beasts and the eagle the king of birds was thought to be a majestic and extremely powerful heraldic creature. The Griffin has the powerful body and hindquarters of a large lion and the head and wings of a massive eagle.  The forelimbs are interchangeably the talons of the eagle or the forelimbs of a lion depending on the author or artist depicting the griffin. Also, differing from the eagle, the griffin is shown often with erect ears, sometimes those of a lion, sometimes more resembling a horse, while in still other instances the ears are feathered.

In heraldry, the griffin was a depiction of courage and bravery, often seen battling other fearsome creatures. The griffin was formerly used in denoting military strength and courage as well as leadership.  The combination of avian and beast is meant to convey both strength and intelligence to the viewer of the heraldic symbol. 

The lesser known male griffin in British heraldry is depicted without wings, but with a mane of spikes and a horn similar to a unicorn's on its head. The female griffin is the most commonly found in heraldy. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

F is for the Fountain of Youth

Immortality.  That is the end goal for many villains.  There are many roads to the fabled state of immortality.  Lich-dom being one. The Fountain of Youth is another. The Fountain of Youth is a legendary spring or well with waters that miraculously restore the lost youth of the drinker. Throughout time there have been several proposed locations of the fountain.  One location, proposed by Herodotus was the land of the Ethiopians, which explained their uncanny longevity. In The Travels of Sir John Mandeville the Fountain of Youth is located at the foot of a mountain outside Polombe, which is modern day Kollam.   Possibly the most famous supposed locations for the fountain are the mythical Caribbean island of Bimini and somewhere in Florida, possibly the Everglades.

The waters are said to cure disease and reverse the aging process, returning the person drinking the water to their physical prime.  These restorative powers were so great that an aged man in his twilight years could drink of, or bathe in, the waters of the Fountain and be restored so entirely that he could return to the hunt, take a new young wife and beget more children.  Some say there is a difference in whether you drink or bathe in the water of the fountain, claiming that bathing in the water would restore your youth, while drinking would cripple or even kill you. Bad guys beware. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

E is for Excalibur

Debatably the most famous of all swords, Excalibur was the sword held by Arthur during his reign as High King of Britain.  Not to be mistaken for Clarent, The Sword in the Stone (See previous post C is for Clarent a.k.a. The Sword in the Stone).  Some legends regarding the role of the swords overlap causing confusion, and occasionally Clarent is completely replaced with Excalibur. Excalibur is described as having “two chimeras on the golden hilt; when the sword was unsheathed what was seen from the mouths of the two chimeras was like two flames of fire, so dreadful that it was not easy for anyone to look.” —From The Mabinogion as translated by Jeffrey Gantz.

When first drawn in battle to test Arthur’s sovereignty the blade gleamed bright, blinding his enemies with the light of thirty torches.  When wounded while wearing the scabbard of Excalibur, his wounds would not bleed and he would not falter or fall to such wounds as to make a man bleed.  It was this property of the scabbard that prompted Morgan le Fay to steal the scabbard and throw it into a lake, never to be found again.

Chief among its special qualities however was its supposed indestructibility. No blade could shatter it and never did it need sharpening. Some of the legends claim Excalibur could cut through the steel of another blade as easily as through wood.

When Arthur lies on his death bed, after suffering mortal wound inflicted by his illegitimate son Mordred with his previous sword Clarent, the Sword in the Stone, he asked Griflet son of Don, one the first Knights of the Round Table, to return Excalibur to The Lady of The Lake.  Twice does Griflet fail to throw the sword into the water, as he does not believe such a great sword should just be thrown away.  On the third attempt however he finally complies with the last wishes of Arthur and throws Excalibur into the lake.  The sword is caught by the hand of the Lady and is taken down into the depths of the lake.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

D is for Drawbridge

When it comes to medieval times and RPGs set in the middle ages you cannot get much more iconic than the drawbridge. The drawbridge is a type of movable bridge that protects the entrance to a castle or keep in conjunction with a moat or trench.  In the early days before the chain and hinge drawbridge there were collapsible bridges, wooden or stone bridges with a built in weak point which when pulled or otherwise dislodged would bring down the entire structure. There was one major issue.  Once the bridge was collapsed it was gone. These bridges quickly fell out of favor once the hinged and infinitely reusable drawbridge was developed.

Consisting usually of wood banded with iron and studs drawbridges were placed just outside a main gatehouse at the entrance of the castle. When raised the bridge would be flush again the wall and gate of the castle which consisted usually of more wood banded with iron and at least one or more portcullises. The bridge could be raised or lowered using a chain or rope pulley system until the more sophisticated counter-weight system was produced.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Seven Wonders of Verdenheim: The Chancel at Cinisula

Cinisula is a large isle between The Commala Rice Fields and Nemorosus.  Most of Cinisula is a desert with forested areas along the coast. High up on the solitary mountain of Cinisula rises the ruins of the Chancel of Man.  Here men once lived and thrived, for the whole island was once a lush paradise with much to eat and drink.  Men grew arrogant and started praising and worshiping himself.  Eventually Man became so pompous that he built himself a temple at the very peak of the Mount.  This temple called the Chancel of Man was a grand structure.  Many spans tall and more wide.  The temple took up the entire peak of the Mount and dwarfed any temple to the three gods of Verdenheim any where on Cinisula.  The Gods were angered by this and in order to teach man a lesson the gods brought forth a drought that dried up all the fresh water, killed the vegetables and eventually drove away all animal life on the island. Soon Man could no longer sustain himself on the island and left.  When he left the Chancel of Man, now called the Cancel at Cinisula, was left whole, untouched by war or decay.  As grand as the day men left, but unseen for centuries.

These ruins, though not actually destroyed can be seen for miles, even from the coast on some parts of the isle. The pristine white walls echo the arrogance and past grandeur of man.  Many have set out to reach the walls of the Chancel of Man to find the treasures that are said to have been left when man abandoned the temple. Those who actually reach the walls (or say they do) come back with stories of an eerily abandoned city on the top of the Mount, and a single man, called the Great Omi in the Apse of the the Chancel.  The Great Omi is a monk and prophet in the Chancel of Man. He is aged beyond belief and tattooed from head to toe, which is apparent as he only wears a serviceable loin cloth and a loose open robe. The Great Omi has pointed teeth, which are said to be his heritage from a demonic ancestor from which he gains his prophetic powers. His eyes are also reported to glow red when he enters a trance and has a foretelling. 

C is for Clarent a.k.a. The Sword in the Stone

The legendary Sword in the Stone.  Often mistaken as Excalibur, Clarent is the sword that Arthur pulled from the Stone proclaiming him as the true King of Britain. It serves as the central force behind his rise to power and his symbol of his right to rule. Late in his life it serves as the instrument of his death as well at the hands of his son Mordred. 

According to legend, Clarent was Uther’s sword and the ancestral sword of the High Kings of Britain.  Merlin, Uther’s counselor and magician took it upon himself at Uther’s death to use his magic and run the sword in to the Stone.  He casts a spell upon the sword so it can only be drawn by the rightful King of Britain.  There came a day when Sir Ector and his son Kay attend a tournament with Ector’s other son Arthur who, acting as squire to both his father and brother goes in search of a sword to replace Kay’s broken one.  He comes to the stone and easily pulls the sword free and runs to give the sword to his brother.  Kay seeing what sword Arthur has brought him, runs to his father tells him that he pulled the sword himself. Sir Ector suspects his son of lying and forces him to tell the truth.  Kay then admits that it was Arthur who brought him the sword. 

Merlin eventually arrives and declares Arthur to be King Uther’s son and Sir Ector his foster father. To prove this Merlin puts the sword back in the stone, and casts the same enchantment as before. Men from tournament come forth to try their hand at pulling the sword but none can.  Then once again Arthur comes forth and easily removes the sword in front of all, thus becoming King of Britain.

The stories of Clarent and Excalibur often overlap, even so far as to the exclusion of Clarent altogether. Excalibur however is the sword that Arthur receives from the Lady of the Lake.  The Story of Excalibur will be discussed further in Thursday’s post, E is for Excalibur!

Monday, April 2, 2012

B is for Boom Stick (Blunderbuss)

The Blunderbuss is an early muzzle loading firearm, considered by some to be an early form of the shotgun.  The word Blunderbuss comes from the dutch word donderbus which is derived from the words donder meaning "thunder" and bus meaning "Pipe".  Therefor the Blunderbuss is a boom stick.

The Blunderbuss, for which the barrels were made of steel or brass, were loaded with shot or small lead balls, which were smaller than the diameter of the bore, and these lead balls were deadly at close range, not only from the immediate damage but also from lead poisoning caused by the embedded lead balls.

While the blunderbuss was often used by troops going into battle while the shorter blunderbuss, called a Dragon, was used by cavalry. The Dragon was so called because early versions of the pistol Blunderbuss were carved with a dragon's head around the muzzle, giving the muzzle blast the impression of a dragon breathing fire.

While not typical of fantasy games, old school firearms (used as a one shot weapon) bring an interesting element to the game.  Not only do they add an element of evolution to the game it also encourages roleplaying by giving your characters something new to react to and to try to understand if they have never encountered a firearms in their lives. Are they technology?  Are they magic?  Are they both? The blunderbuss and Dragon also bring something else to the game: flair.  A dragon carved pistol in the hands of an adept Player can create a brand new PC and style of play for that character.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A is for Ancile

I could not decide what my subject matter should be for my Blogging from A to Z challenge.  So I decided to go through all my files on my computer and on my Obsidian Portal sites. I saw this item that I created for one of my campaigns that never got off the ground, The Ancile, and my subject for the challenge was chosen.  I will post on real items or legendary items of the real world that have inspired story lines or artifacts within my personal campaign world Verdenheim.    

The Ancile
In the real world (or at least what I perceive to be the real world) the Ancile was the legendary shield of the Roman god Mars, which fell from the heavens to Rome.  A voice was heard from the heavens declaring that Rome would be "the Mistress of the world" so long as the shield was preserved, there by acting as a safeguard or palladium of Rome. 

Numa Pompilius, successor of Romulus and second king of Rome, declared there were to be eleven other shields created, called the Ancilia.  These Ancilia were to be exactly like the first down to the most minute detail, so if ever someone tried to steal the Ancile (like the Palladium was stolen by Ulysses)  they would not be able to distinguish it from the fakes.

A Roman Apex
In order to further protect the Ancile from theft an order of priests was founded called the Salii.  The Salii were the patrician youths of Rome, the sons of the elite family lines, who were trained in combat and were equipped with embroidered tunics, armor (breastplate), sword, apex (a spiked helm), and a crimson paludamentum which was a ceremonial military cloak normally reserved for Generals and officers of the army.  

Each Salian priest was charged with the protection of one of the Ancilia within the temple of Mars in Rome.  Each Salian guard would stand guard within the temple holding the shield he was given to protect never knowing if the shield he held was one of the eleven Ancilia or the true Ancile. 

I am back!

Sorry for the lack of posts this week guys!  Moving is a bitch.  We had to shut down our internet early at the old apartment and they couldn't turn it back on at the house until yesterday.  But I am back now. So today I will get back into the swing of things and I might even try my hand at the April Blogging from A to Z challenge.