Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Monsters, Manuals, Motives, And Movies For Your Old School Campaigns

So the other night I was watching Clash of the Titans for the twentieth time and thumbing through my copy of Lamentations of the Flame Princess which I do for inspiration as much as game play. The film was playing in the background. We come to the part in Clash where Zeus transforms Calibos into a monstrous satyr and he is exiled by his people.And that's when it started to occur to men about the various characters in Clash of the Titans and for that matter the other  Harryhausen effort Jason and the Argonauts from 1967. And yes I realize that Greek and Roman mythology is full of what I'm about to speak about but let's concentrate on pop culture influences here.

Many of the characters in both films are humans who have displeased the gods and been transformed into ugly and twisted mockeries of their former selves. These are monsters but more importantly these are NPC's with their own agendas and motives for driving the plot of the adventure. These NPC's are as much victims of the gods as they are playing pieces moving the adventure along. The gods are playing with mortals lives as much as the mortals are playing with the gods; this is an active and very forbidding formula. We see this much more in Jason and the Argonauts from 1963. All of this draws from the deep well of the occult/mythological traditions of classic Greek and Roman mythology. Its also a part of the belief occult ecology that sustains the gods in point of fact. Man is both playing piece and player in the theater of the gods and on the chess board of Olympus. Jason is coming to tear down the old order of belief and instill a new tradition for mankind or is he?

This also exploits another factor from these films we are the monsters as much as the monsters as the other players in these dramas. This points up another factor from Lamentations; monsters are unique creations as much as the horrors that are unleashed by the gods. That means that monsters are as much NPC's as they are obstacles to be over come.

Then there are the ruins of temples, underworld locations and more scattered throughout these films. I recently stumbled upon Penolope Goodman's work on both of these films. She puts the dungeon locations in these films into such a great light for OSR gaming;". Ruins in Jason do much the same job as in Clash of giving the world we are experiencing its own temporal depth, suggesting that centuries and centuries worth of struggles between mortals, gods and fantastical creatures have occurred before we even came in. In fact, the very same half-ruined temples at Paestum which helped to lend Medusa an air of the ancient and dreadful in Clash also crop up in Jason, where they set the stage for the attacks of the harpies on the blind king-in-exile Phineas." You can read more of her work on the subject right over here and I strongly encourage you to do so.

Now let's get back to the manual part of this blog entry; we've already seen the depth of which monsters are created and set up by the gods and their own actions. But the monsters and animals of these films are actually playing pieces on the board as much as the mortals. They're creations or mutations of the gods and placed within the confines of their chosen roles which actually echos the wargaming origins of Dungeons and Dragons as well. The monster manual functions to place the motivating obstacle and piece of  mystical folk lore within an adventure. But DM's can add or subtract unique characteristics as needed for these creatures.
This is something reflected even all the way back to the 1977 edition. According to wiki;" The Monster Manual (MM) is the primary bestiary sourcebook for monsters in the Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) fantasy role-playing game. It includes monsters derived from mythology, and folklore, as well as creatures created for D&D specifically. It describes each with game-specific statistics (such as the monster's level or number of hit dice), and a brief description of its habits and habitats."
So what pray tell has to do with Lamentations of the Flame Princess? Everything in an occult sense, each and every instance when we see adventurers interacting with the forces of the supernatural people, animals, things are changed. Why? Because the old order of the lens of belief is broken and the supernatural ecology with the 'gods' has changed. A fantastic example of this is Better Then Any Man where the real world history is spiced up with fantasy that  morphs into the dark fantasy and then into straight up horror.  An even better example of this is No Salvation For Witches. Here the forces of the gods are summoned and the classic elements of the gods begin breaking down the situation around them for their own alien agenda. For this we draw on both the classic myths and the pop culture of realities of such things as the Harry  Harryhausen films. There is a ton of horror lurking in the background of his films. The build up, the tension, and indeed the weird simmering below the surface in this climatic battle between Perseus and Medusa.

Where did the temple go once medusa was defeated in the film possibly back into the alien darkness of the underworld. Waiting for some other fools to come to challenge its depths and plunder the relics left behind in the wake of our hero. This brings up an interesting question did the Greek and Roman gods die as their legends ceased to have  relevance in the lives of man. The occult connection that divines history can tie all of this together. Don't forget the gorgons of mythology are much darker then mere movies and Medusa had two other sisters who are still out there waiting. And there is our motive for more adventure and meaning behind their agendas.

Why is this? Because the classic order between mankind's lens of belief and the gods has broken down if it was ever there to begin with. The ties between mythology, pop culture, and more allow one to select the motives and motivations for their monsters as a dungeon master wants. This leads to the players having to guess the motives and motivations. Monsters should be dark, dangerous, unique, and keep players talking for years to come.

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