Friday, August 14, 2015

Commentary On Gods, Patrons, And Ass@#^es In The Gong Farmers Almanac For Your DCC & Old School Campaigns Part II

Annie: The first passage will allow the demon to manifest itself in the flesh.
Ash: Why the hell would we want to do that?
Evil Dead II

Taking a walk around the dicey subject of  gods, demons, devils, and patrons in DCC, and after last night's game something occurs to me. Demons are complete jerks and are the scumbags of the lowest dimensions;here's the problem with gods and demons. Each and everyone of em is unique. Devils really brought part of the problem to the surface when it came the beings of the afterlife. Devils,demons, gods, and patrons should be unique. And doubly so in OD&D and AD&D before things got so damn quantified with those damned  Dragon  magazine articles in issue seventy five and seventy six respectively.  I'm speaking of sacrilege by saying that but after Ed Greenwood's article on the Hells caused me more problems then anything else because suddenly each and every damn reader of Dragon knew exactly what the Hells were, looked like, smelled like, heck even the streets of Dis might have been and they might as well have been mapped out. Sigh but what does this have to do with Dungeon Crawl Classics and the OSR in general? Nothing and everything.
Because the arch devils are up for grabs as patrons for clerics and agents in DCC. The Gong Farmer's Almanac put all kinds of  DYI wonderfulness in the hands of dungeon masters ( can I honestly say that I hate the term judge DCC because ever since I was a kid and received my first AD&D 1st edition Dungeon master's Guide that's what I've been).

I know I'm talking sacrilege here but bare with me, there are three reasons for this and I love this series of articles and yet there are certain reasons why they can be a problem because there are guidelines that need to taken with them at least for my own campaigns :
  • Each and every devil is unique and should be handed as such, these are monsters that have been around since the literal creation of the multiverse and they're capable of great horror, violence, power,etc. this includes the lowest devil to the highest arch-devil 
  • These articles while they present general and fantastic overviews of the Hells are done so in broad strokes leaving enough room for the DM to move in or out what furniture that they want. Because of the battles and intrigues in the Hells all is static and yet always in a state of flux. Think of the Hells as the largest police zone jungle war controlled by maniacs who work on the short end of evil. 
  • And these guys can be used as patrons, I'll say this again the arch devils can easily be used as clerics patrons. But then as a DM you should slice and dice the cleric's throat at the appropriate moment. These things are after all evil through and through while being rotten to the core of their entire being.
    This brings up the weird good and evil half life of certain gods and goddess from mythology and legends. This is just the type of weird middle ground that makes dealing with divinity and religion in sword and sorcery so dangerous. This middle ground is something that people of the old world knew and that pop culture coming from the early fiction and fantasy of yesteryear knew.
    Demons on the other hand are really the scum of the multidimensional sink,try and imagine that there isn't a single corner of the infinity dimensions and alternatives that doesn't have some form of demon life form lurking someplace in its foul corners. And if you don't think that this is old school you don't know the Abyss.

    In point of fact this goes all the way back to the Abyss's first appearance in Dragon magazine according to Wiki: The plane known as the 666 layers of the Abyss was mentioned for the first time by name in the article "Planes: The Concepts of Spatial, Temporal and Physical Relationships in D&D", in The Dragon #8, released July 1977. In the article Gary Gygax describes the plane as one of the "Typical lower planes".[1] The plane was mentioned again in an appendix of the known planes of existence in the original (1st edition) AD&D Players Handbook, published in June 1978, where it was described as "The 666 layers of the Abyss of absolute chaotic evil".
      Not the infinite layers but the six hundred and sixty six layers of which each and everyone is known mapped qualified and so forth. According to wiki it was further mapped out in 2006 : The Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss sourcebook suggests that the Abyss may be alive, and that it spawns demons out of its urge to spread chaos and destruction. In a critical review of Planes of Chaos for White Wolf Inphobia magazine, Keith H. Eisenbeis described the danger of adventuring in planes such as the Abyss, especially for low- and mid-level characters: "Sure, it's possible to design a situation in which first-level characters can accomplish something important and survive in the Abyss, but the immensity and power of the planes is undermined. In addition, on planes such as the Abyss, negotiating with evil creatures is frequently necessary, possibly making these planes useful to only neutral and evil characters." Sigh, this flies directly into the face of  OD&D, Lamentations of The Flame Princess and DCC. This flies directly into the face of PC's being heroes and proving themselves by the fires of heroism and blood. Of course if they do make it they'll be pretty damn mutated and screwed up.  Chaos is the ever mutating and adapting adversary; any as well as all encounters should be unpredictable dangerous and ultimately life changing.
    Remember No Salvation for Witches - The center of that Lamentations of the Flame Princess adventure has infinite combinations of monsters and demons. Why? Because ultimately it goes back to gods,patrons, devils, and demons having both good aspects and bad aspects. But really these things are so completely alien that we experiencing them is chaos incarnate in our reality. According to one of the adventure's appendixes - the Tract of Teratology, a key component to the adventure, is supposed to be able to generate roughly 3.6 TRILLION different monsters according to the campaign page. Let me let that sink in, a rather benign divinity has interaction with the local space time and the results are horrific to say the least. But is law any better? Not in the least.

      So essentially at least in my mind to go back outside of the D&D paradigm for a moment and back to the root source for Chaos and Law in Poul Anderson's Three Hearts & Three Lions. 
  • According to wiki -
    Law provides order, structure, and justice to the world. Without it, nothing material could exist. Law appears friendly to life, but a realm controlled by Law alone becomes just as stagnant as one overrun by Chaos.In "To Rescue Tanelorn", the Realm of Law is a barren wasteland; without wrongs to right and injustice to correct, Law becomes  meaningless.  Which is exactly what the concept of law, order, and 'good' taken to their extremes are.  In Three Hears and Three Lions we get a glimpse of just this concept within the plot of the book.

    Holger Carlsen is an American-trained Danish engineer who joins the Danish Resistance to the Nazis. At the shore near Elsinore he is among the group of resistance fighters trying to cover the escape to Sweden of an important scientist (evidently, the nuclear physicist Niels Bohr). With a German force closing in, Carlsen is shot - and suddenly finds himself carried to a parallel universe, a world where Northern European legend concerning Charlemagne ("The Matter of France") is real. This world is divided between the forces of Chaos inhabiting "Middle World" (which includes Faerie) and forces of Law based in the human world, which is in turn divided between the Holy Roman Empire and the Saracens. He finds the equipment and horse of a medieval knight waiting for him. The shield is emblazoned with three hearts and three lions. He finds the clothes and armor fit him perfectly, and he knows how to use the weapons and ride the horse as well as speak fluently the local language, a very archaic form of French.
    Seeking to return to his own world, Holger is joined by Alianora, a swan maiden, and Hugi, a dwarf. They are induced to follow the seemingly attractive elvish Duke Alfric of Faerie, who in fact plots to imprison Holger in Elf Hill where time runs differenty. Holger learns that Morgan Le Fay, his lover in a forgotten past life, is his ultimate adversary. They escape and, after encountering a dragon, a giant, and a werewolf, reach the town of Tarnberg, where they are joined by a mysterious Saracen called Carahue, who has been searching for Holger. Based on the advice of the wizard, Martinus Trismegistus, they set out to recover the sword, Cortana. The sword is in a ruined church, guarded by a nixie, cannibal hillmen, and - the most dangerous of all - a troll. Once the sword is recovered, Holger discovers he is the legendary Ogier the Dane, a champion of Law. He vanquishes the forces of Chaos and is transported back to his own world, right back to the battle in Elsinore. And his reward for service as another aspect of the eternal champion? In 2014 Harry Turtledove wrote, as his contribution to Multiverse: Exploring Poul Anderson's Worlds, edited by Greg Bear and Gardner Dozois,[1] a short story entitled "The Man who Came Late". The story takes place thirty years after the events of Three Hearts and Three Lions. Holger Carlsen finally succeeds in returning to the world of the Carolingian cycle and meeting up with his love Alianora. However, she did not know if he would ever return and so married and had children, thus Holger became the "The Man who Came Late". "

    "Holger later appears as a minor character in Anderson's A Midsummer Tempest, where he is seen in a mysterious "Inn Between the Worlds" - having managed at last to leave the modern 20th Century and wander the various alternate timelines, but still far from locating the one he wants.
    In addition, he appears (with many other classic SF characters) in the tournament at the end of Heinlein's The Number of the Beast.
    In 2014 Harry Turtledove wrote, as his contribution to Multiverse: Exploring Poul Anderson's Worlds, edited by Greg Bear and Gardner Dozois,[1] a short story entitled "The Man who Came Late". The story takes place thirty years after the events of Three Hearts and Three Lions. Holger Carlsen finally succeeds in returning to the world of the Carolingian cycle and meeting up with his love Alianora. However, she did not know if he would ever return and so married and had children, thus Holger became the "The Man who Came Late". "
    There are three powers always vying at each others throats in the multiverse. Law, Chaos, and Neutrality are an eternal cycle that will never end with or without mankind. All across the multiverse this cycle continues and the debris of these conflicts? Well folks those are the demons that get are the mutated souls that get caught in the cross fire of these brush fire wars across the multiverse. This is a concept that goes all the way back to the golden days of pre golden age science fiction and fantasy.  One thing mortals who meet with the Lords of Law or Chaos  are wise to remember that what benefits the gods does not always suit the aims of mortals.

    This view point is exploited out in the aims, ideals and situations of the powers of Hell in Dark Albion the Rose War rather harshly. Demons and devils are nasty dangerous and wear their Chaotic alliances  rather on their collective sleeves. Pacts with these dark powers end in damnation, mutation, and Hell. Your PC's are supposed be heroes in this OSR setting but the powers of law here represented by the gods and divinities are repressive and dangerous because of the pseudo historic setting. This makes the mystery cults, witch cults, and pagan religions attractive and this where the powers of neutrality might be angling for souls. Once again the divinities are scum in this three sided war angling, vying, and treating humanity as so much fodder for betting,investment, and worse. This goes with the dark and gritty setting of the game. This is no better or worse then other OSR products even though in some respects Dark Albion drinks from the same troth of all of the mentioned sources.

    And this brings me to the Gong Farmer's Almanac 2015 
  • Volume 1: Men and Magic provides additional classes, races, and spells.Given the number of addition PC classes that use patrons and gods as the primary motivator with a decidedly 80's flare one would think that these guys and gals are the power movers, heroes,etc. Umm no these folks are the schmucks who have survived the meat grinder of power and horror that is the DCC rpg. There's a certain amount of 80's VHS rental schlock inspiration. These are the agents, priests,  freebooters, and idiots who serve those patrons everything Highlander Immor ermm Sword bears, to Assassins (Ninja) are here.
  • Volume 2: Monsters, Treasure and Patrons this is the mythological & legendary slant of the DCC rpg framework its not surprising that this book doesn't hold more there is more then enough material here for at least three or four campaigns with branches large enough to fill the gap.
  • Volume 3: Adventures contains five new adventures from level 0 to 4 Much of the 0,1,2,3rd level material is robust enough to have PC's as movers and shakers within an 80's or 90's style sword and sorcery campaign.
  • Volume 4: Rules and Campaign Miscellany Part 1 provides new options for play, some of these options could dovetail into a number of areas such as post apocalyptic, fantasy or dark fantasy areas all of which are the better to mix with DCC.
  • Volume 5: Rules and Campaign Miscellany Part 2 gives some tables and an index of all the content across each volume. 
  • The three alignments of DCC resemble the allegiance system from Fantastic Heroes and Witchery resembles the alignments of Dungeon Crawl Classics and plugs directly into the pact of the back parts of chaos, law, and neutrality. Websters defines this as such : loyalty or commitment of a subordinate to a superior or of an individual to a group or cause.
    A DM reading this might think that all is horror and damnation in some of these retroclones, that sentiment is not without some merit but there is also the fact that we once again come to the difference between gods and patrons. Your god is your lord and master, who gives you power to serve him. The patron is an ally who can ask for a favor, but it will have it's cost. This is a relationship that goes right back once again to the Moorcock connection or are we?

    Actually this is the same sort of a relationship with far more reaching connotations within the Ship of Ishtar by A. Merritt. Another Appendix N offering this novella harkens back all the way to 1924.
    Here the two divinities hold not only the fate of their agents and priests but of the hero as well. And their a mean as a set as you'll ever get.

    According to wiki :
    The archaeologist hero, Kenton, receives a mysterious ancient Babylonian artifact, which he discovers contains an incredibly detailed model of a ship. A dizzy spell casts Kenton onto the deck of the ship, which becomes a full-sized vessel sailing an eternal sea. At one end is Sharane the assistant priestess of Ishtar and her female minions, and at the other is Klaneth the assistant priest of Nergal and his male minions, representatives of two opposed deities. None of them can cross an invisible barrier at the midline of the ship, but Kenton can. His arrival destabilizes a situation that had been frozen for 6,000 years, and fantastic adventures ensue.

    All of this stems back to the very heart of what Deities, Gods, and Heroes addresses at its very core, not to kill the gods and take there place but place your PC striding on the shoulders of heroes and warriors where damnation is only a hair's breath away. Once again we find very different takes drawing from the same source with vastly different results.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.