Thursday, September 17, 2015

Retrocommentary On The Free OSR Download- The Happy Prince and Other Tales By Oscar Wilde For The Lamentations of the Flame Princess Rpg and Other Retroclone Systems


  So Fall is fast approaching and I've been quietly going through a bit of a cathartis looking through some of my older books and stacks in the archives. I'm not so much rpg collector as a dungeon master and gamer, some of my favorite stories from the past have been the tales of Oscar Wilde.

One story in particular has appealed to my sense of the Gothic weird, the Happy Prince is as melancholy of a tale as one can find. The tale goes something like this according to wiki - "In a town where a lot of poor people suffer, a swallow who was left behind after his flock flew off to Egypt for the winter meets the statue of the late "Happy Prince", who in reality has never experienced true happiness. Viewing various scenes of people suffering in poverty from his tall monument, the Happy Prince asks the swallow to take the ruby from his hilt, the sapphires from his eyes, and the golden leaf covering his body to give to the poor. As the winter comes and the Happy Prince is stripped of all of his beauty, his lead heart breaks when the swallow dies as a result of his selfless deeds and severe cold. The statue is then torn down and melted leaving behind the broken heart and the dead swallow. These are taken up to heaven by an angel that has deemed them the two most precious things in the city by God, so they may live forever in his city of gold and garden of paradise."

Oscar Wilde not only lends his tales to life lessons but a certain set of gloomy & a sense of strangeness that can translate into a possible adventure hook. Rereading these tales it becomes plainly obvious that the strange and weird properties to the town which sits between the campaign reality and the Dreamlands of HP Lovecraft's fame. The ruby and sapphires as well as the gold leaf skin may have been imbued with mystic properties and may have passed from hand to hands over the years. Especially within the dreamlands.
A map of Lovecraft's "Dreamworld" by Jack Gaughan (1967).
The sapphire of the prince's eyes were at least 20,000 to 30,000 gold or appropriate silver piece worth. The legend and mysticism surrounding these gems might grow with the years. I think that they might give a +3 to all magic resisting saving throws also deep prophetic dreams for the owner every new moon. According to the Crystal Vaults website these gems have incredible amounts of mythological and historical significance surrounding them,
'The magnificent and holy Sapphire, in all its celestial hues, is a stone of wisdom and royalty, of prophecy and Divine favor. It is forever associated with sacred things and considered the gem of gems, a jewel steeped in the history and lore of nearly every religion. To the ancient and medieval world, Sapphire of heavenly blue signified the height of celestial hope and faith, and was believed to bring protection, good fortune and spiritual insight. It was a symbol of power and strength, but also of kindness and wise judgment.
In Hebrew lore, King Solomon and Abraham both wore talismans of Sapphire, and the Law given to Moses on the Mount was said to be engraved on tablets of Sapphire. The Greeks wore it for wisdom at Delphi when seeking answers from the Oracle at Apollo’s Shrine. Buddhists believed it brought devotion and spiritual enlightenment, and the Hindus considered Sapphire as one of the “great gems” used in offerings in the temples for worship and to align astrological influences. In Christianity it was used in ecclesiastical rings, and was cherished by kings and nobility for its powers of protection and insight. [Kunz, 104, 241][Mella, 103][Eason, 247][Fernie, 96, 102-103]
As a talisman, Sapphire was thought to preserve chastity, discover fraud and treachery, protect its wearer from poison, plague, fever and skin diseases, and had great power in resisting black magic and ill-wishing. It healed ailments of the eyes, increased concentration, and would lose luster if worn by an intemperate or impious person.' More over Here
The ruby has properties all of its own most of these revolve around the elemental and alchemial fires of the prince's ruby. This could possibility involve some the abilities of a rod of command and the ability to fight the effects of a nightmare or Lovecraftian dreamland horror. The legendary and mythological properties of  ruby are very interesting, once again according to the Crystal  Vault Website
The fiery and captivating Ruby is a stone of nobility, considered the most magnificent of all gems, the queen of stones and the stone of kings. Ancients believed it surpassed all other precious stones in virtue, and its value exceeded even that of the Diamond. The Chinese Emperor Kublai Khan was said to have offered an entire city in exchange for a sizable Ruby. [Melody, 573][Fernie, 138, 140][Megemont, 159][Kunz, 102][Simmons, 332]

Revered in many cultures throughout history, Ruby has always been a talisman of passion, protection and prosperity. It symbolizes the sun, and its glowing hue suggests an inextinguishable flame within the stone that legends claim would shine through even the thickest clothing and could not be hidden; if Ruby were cast into water it would cause it to boil, and if carved and pressed into wax, it would melt the wax. It was worn as an amulet or charm to ward off plague and pestilence, warned its wearer of impending danger, kept the body safe, and banished sadness and foolish thoughts. It was reputed to bring its owner peace, drive away frightful dreams, restrain lust, and to help resolve disputes. Burmese legend declares inserting a Ruby into the flesh would make one completely invulnerable. [Mella, 103][Kunz, 101-103][Fernie, 141-142][Simmons, 332]

Today, Ruby’s metaphysical properties are no less astounding. This exquisite crystal emanates the pure Red ray with a vibrancy unsurpassed in the mineral kingdom. It actively stimulates the Base Chakra, increasing vitality and chi, the life-force energy, throughout the physical body and into the spirit. It promotes a clear mind, increased concentration and motivation, and brings a sense of power to the wearer, a self-confidence and determination that overcomes timidity and propels one toward prosperity and achievement.
If we begin deconstructing the narrative of Wide's story we are left with a mix of symbolism and weird proto  paganistic mythological  elements that can be used to construct a very different and somewhat disturbing adventure.
Using the Happy Prince To Construct An Old School Adventure

I see Wilde's The Happy Prince as an avatar of Law and order bringing prosperity to those whose lives it crosses. But it also has a weird aspect as it's skin is a symbol of royalty and charity keeping the forces of Chaos and horror at bay. The prince has aspects of the sacred king deity of Law, he is seen as an object of the quest for certain knight and paladin factions in Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea.

Entire minor cults, factions, and brotherhoods  may have grown up around this figure with some very troubling symbolism. Does the statue and its swallow continually appear and die again and again as a recurring unconscious dream of humanity. Could its appearance then be an indicator that the forces of nightmare, horror, the underworld and the like only being days away from staging an invasion of the  location of the place where the statue appears? Or could it simply be an appearance of a place where the forces of charity need to be implemented? This sort of conflict could well drive an old school campaign forward.

The fact is that the Happy Prince actually bares some weird connections to both Arthurian legends and mythological elements that are connected with the Rose War making this a perfect adventure element to add right into the background of Dark Albion the Rose War.

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