Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Mystery At Port Greely, Dark Albion, And the Empire of the Frogmen For Your Old School Campaigns

Grab The Mystery At Port Greely Here

I've been in & out all day today because of work. I've had a lot on my mind as of late but one aspect of the OSR I've always loved is the fact that you can take X and Y OSR product and bring them together to get a greater whole. For example is the fact that Dark Albion and the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea game work very well together and we're about to see just how well these two resource go together like peanut butter and jelly. In this case Lovecraftian jelly to be exact.

Alright so a few months ago The Mystery At Port Greely came out for the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. The plot is Lovecraft circle sword & sorcery writing;"until about three years ago, the peculiar town of Port Greely was renowned as a prolific exporter of crustaceans. Then the Greely lobstermen severed all ties with outside partners. Subsequent attempts at renegotiation were shunned.More recently, a small group of Fishmongers’ Guild representatives from the City-State of Khromarium has gone missing in Port Greely, and answers have been less than forthcoming. At present, the Guild seeks answers. It wants to know what became of its representatives, and it wishes to re-establish its lucrative partnership with the Port Greely lobstermen. Your party have been contracted to help resolve The Mystery at Port Greely." Which brings up an idea that has been brewing in the back of my head for a week or so now, what if the events of Port Greely happened in Dark Albion or another setting. What if the events of the adventure are only the tip of the iceberg of Lovecraftian horror. Its too bad we don't have more of a Deep One style source book that can cast a shadow of knowledge on a Deep One style empire. But wait we do quite literally. In Dark Albion France is quite literally  portrays the area we'd know as France as "Frogland", ruled by vicious and evil chaos-worshiping Frogmen! The Frogmen are only the inhuman minority who rule over a Frankish human majority that are treated like slaves.  Their chief territory is Paris. They govern through the help of their advanced (chaos) magick and human collaborators." So we're talking advanced cults, chaos magick, black rites, and more. This sounds oddly familiar and what if the events of Port Greely are actually the stirrings of the boiling pot of Deep One/Frog men.

According to Pundit's notes;"(the "Paris Swamp", a term which apparently has confused some of the French fans, is a play on  "Lutetia", which in Latin means "city of swamps or mud")

But before the Frogmen emerged from the Paris Swamp and conquered most of those lands, there were human kingdoms there, of Frankmen, some of whom were ancestors to the Anglish Kings by marriage (hence their claim of rule over Frogland and their constant wars with them these past 150 years).  The lands of Burgundy, and Burgundy's vassal Lorraine, are still ruled by humans.  And later in the timeline of the campaign, the lands of Brittany rise up in human rebellion against the Frog overlords, and with the help of Albion and Burgundy gain their freedom (or rather, they did in my campaign; in yours things might go much worse).

As to the Frogmen's origin, I would hearken them back to ancient times, before humans dominated the world.  We know from Albion's prehistory that when humans were created as slaves for the ancient Elves, it was the Elves and the Dragons who ruled over most of the world, the two not always friendly with each other.  I would like to think that things like lizardmen and frogmen were created by Dragons in the Dragons' image, to act as slaves and ground troops to oppose the humans and goblinkind that the Elves had created.

You'll note that in The Wash, Albion's own swamps, there are also Frogmen, who are primitive and degenerate, rather than the sophisticated variety that rule Frogland.  They were probably left over there from the time of the Dragons."

A DM might be looking at an epic campaign as the empire of the frogmen suddenly beings to spread out from its humble Mediterran holdings & deep ocean cities to overrun ancient holdings or do they really need to? The taint of the frogmen might already be running through Spain and other coastal holdings for centuries now. From the Gulf of Lions through the ports of Spain the frogmen have a network of spies, cults, and worse spread across these areas. All of this leads into the usual questions of have the frogmen spread as far down as the The Gulf of Sidra to the Straits of Gibraltar? If so does the events of Port Greely heralding  an advance on the world of man by the frogmen menace that even now continues to evolve right beneath the waves. Suddenly the frogmen don't seem so silly. They seem almost more then Lovecraftian and take on aspect of the epic. Without the suppressible aspect of Rome and the schism of Albion Rose War the frogmen might well take full advantage to disrupt & invade the surface world. This is a world on the edge of invasion & darkness from within as well as without.

Suddenly the legends of mermaids and other sea borne monsters make a lot more sense and even echo the Greek mythological legends with a far more fierce some aspect. The Mystery At Port Greely depicts some very nasty aspects of Deep One or Frogmen religion but how are you going to manage those over such an extensive area? Well Cults of Chaos has you covered and in fact it can make things very easy to sprinkle and seed the idea of the corruption of Chaos throughout the world. Here since time immoral the forces of the frogmen's empire have continued to shrink as the human population continues its relentless expansion until the pivotal key moment of history.

If we use some of the past commentary from Pundit upon how the frogmen operate we get a clear and very disturbing picture of some of the history of these horrors in operation;"The Frogmen are much more than this, there's about 420000 Frogmen ruling over a population of 13 million humans. They have magic items they can use themselves or pass on to trusted humans. They can call on their dark gods to grant powers and mutations. They send out agents to corrupt or divide those kingdoms that oppose them (depending on what you want for your campaign, Queen Margaret may be one of them!).  There are plenty of reasons why the Frogmen, having now succeeded, may be very difficult to stamp out." This is a process that the frogmen have been at for centuries perhaps even thousands of years;"Second, the tactics the Frogmen used: they sent out human agents first, to gradually corrupt the nobility into decadence and sin, while corrupting part of the Church into the Cathari heresy. The latter in particular distracted the Clerics (and other Frankland nobles who were devout to Law), who saw a visible enemy (the heretics) and went off to fight them, losing sight of the more subtle corruption of the aristocracy. In the end the Frankish armies won the battle against the Cathari, but lost the war against the Frogs. Their tired armies were betrayed by some of their own commanders when the Frogmen finally started streaming out of the Paris Swamp. Sects of human chaos-worshipers emerged at the same time all over Frankland. "
Other bits of interesting information I came across have to do with the symbolism of the frog in medieval Europe; "In medieval Europe the frog was a symbol of the devil, as the Catholic church associated it with witchcraft as a familiar spirit." If we go back to the Dark Albion point of agents spread throughout Europe and the coasts of France suddenly the idea of cults of frog worshiping chaos cultists don't seem so far fetched.

In fact in Cults of Chaos we get a good overview & insight into such a coven yes I said coven because you might in fact have witchcraft cults intertwined with frog worship. Those agents might be covens or cells of chaos worshipers working to spread the agendas of their amphibian  masters far wider then many might suspect. This also brings in that weird and twisted interbreeding aspect we find in the portraits  of the Deep Ones. The influence of the frogmen may have always been with us in the setting of Dark Albion and it intersects the subversive nature of the chaos worshiping frog warriors and gives a weirder ring to the classic Greek and Roman legends.

One of the final puzzle pieces in how this all fits together comes in the form of a fable of Aesop;"
The Frogs Who Desired a King is a fable, attributed to Aesop. The Frogs prayed to Zeus asking for a King. Zeus set up a log to be their monarch. The Frogs protested they wanted a fierce and terrible king, not a mere figurehead. So Zeus sent them a Stork to be their king. The new king hunted and devoured his subjects (as many human kings also do)."  Could this old parable actually be a phorcecy from the times of old that gives a warning about the eventual fate of those who would side with the dark gods and forces of the frog men? Perhaps the fact that when the frogmen rule the chosen will be devoured by a Lovecraftian god who waits beyond the pale for the time to be right. All of this ties into the occult springtime kings or gods who feed on the harvest of their own populations. A notion that goes all the way back to the Greeks and perhaps even further. All of this might recall Dagon which according to wiki;"In Ugaritic, the root dgn also means grain: in Hebrew דגן dāgān, Samaritan dīgan, is an archaic word for grain.
The Phoenician author Sanchuniathon also says Dagon means siton, that being the Greek word for grain. Sanchuniathon further explains: "And Dagon, after he discovered grain and the plough, was called Zeus Arotrios." The word arotrios means "ploughman", "pertaining to agriculture" (confer ἄροτρον "plow").
It is perhaps related to the Middle Hebrew and Jewish Aramaic word dgnʾ 'be cut open' or to Arabic dagn (دجن) 'rain-(cloud)'.

The theory relating the name to Hebrew dāg/dâg, 'fish', based solely upon a reading of 1 Samuel 5:2–7 is discussed in Fish-god tradition below. According to this etymology: Middle English Dagon < Late Latin (Ec.) Dagon < Late Greek (Ec.) Δάγων < Heb דגן dāgān, "grain (hence the god of agriculture), corn."" All of this might tie into the idea that the frogmen might not only be giving their charges incredible catches of fish but also chaos tainted grain. Grain that could grow faster, help to stave off starvation, and ensures a population making it through the harsh Dark Albion winters. Dagon might have far more insidious influence in areas of Spain or France then at first thought all of which goes back to the witch cult aspect and its interaction with other cults of Chaos. 

Photo by Zaqarbal
 "Aesop wrote a fable about a frog trying to inflate itself to the size of an ox" which might be a warning of the all too rapid expansion of the empire of the frogmen. This ties into the play;" The Frogs is a comic play by Aristophanes. The choir of frogs sings the famous onomatopoeic line: "Brekekekex koax koax." a bit I've used when PC's have encountered cults of the frog men. While the fit is not exact I think it works very well to give the frogmen of Dark Albion another frightening aspect. I'm well aware of the 2001 film Dagon but I wanted to avoid the cult status  of the film and instead focus on the possible weird pulp fiction like angle of the material. Don't forget to keep those dice rolling until next time.
Dark Albion and Cults of Chaos has both a pdf and print run on Lulu. Its a great addition to the arsenals of a DM! 

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