Friday, November 17, 2017

Appendix 'N' Commentary - The Eternal Battles of The Worm Ouroboros By E. R. Eddison For Your Old School Campaigns

Life works in strange & mysterious ways, last night I had wicked migraines, these are something that I've had since I was a kid. I know what causes them & their nothing to be concerned about but my work schedule has been a bit scattered & hectic to say the least. But in my travels up at the wilds of the wild & wholly Litchfield hills of my home I came across not one but two treasures beyond compare. Two flag ship books in the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series  The Worm Ouroboros, E. R. Eddison (April 1967) & The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, H. P. Lovecraft (May 1970) (#01923-7) both in prime to good condition.
So why was/is this book imprint important? Because once upon a time there wasn't an internet & these books were the only way of getting anything right & proper in the Appendix N of the Dungeon Master's Guide from Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Here's the back history on the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series imprint from Wiki;"The Ballantine Adult Fantasy series was an imprint of American publisher Ballantine Books. Launched in 1969 (presumably in response to the growing popularity of Tolkien's works[1]), the series reissued a number of works of fantasy literature which were out of print or dispersed in back issues of pulp magazines (or otherwise not easily available in the United States), in cheap paperback form—including works by authors such as James Branch Cabell, Lord Dunsany, Ernest Bramah, Hope Mirrlees, and William Morris.[2] The series lasted until 1974.
Envisioned by the husband-and-wife team of Ian and Betty Ballantine, and edited by Lin Carter, it featured cover art by illustrators such as Gervasio Gallardo, Robert LoGrippo, David McCall Johnston, and Bob Pepper. The agreement signed between the Ballantines and Carter on November 22, 1968 launched the project. In addition to the reprints comprising the bulk of the series, some new fantasy works were published as well as a number of original collections and anthologies put together by Carter, and Imaginary Worlds, his general history of the modern fantasy genre."

Professor J.R.R. Tolkein today gets all of the press but for me Eric Rücker Eddison, CB, CMG (24 November 1882 – 18 August 1945) was & is the superior writer. His creation the The Worm Ouroboros  stands head & shoulders above his contemporaries but still has resonance with a modern audience. This novel has all of the intricacies,mythology, warfare  of Game of Thrones with out the bull shit narcissism & weirdness to get in the way. Wiki sums the central plot nicely for me;"The book describes the protracted war between the domineering King Gorice of Witchland and the Lords of Demonland in an imaginary world that appears mainly medieval and partly reminiscent of Norse sagas. The work is slightly related to Eddison's later Zimiamvian Trilogy, and collectively they are sometimes referred to as the Zimiamvian series."
The characters of the are operatic in stature and life, beings molded in the turn of the century style. Heroes & villains of depth & status totally indifferent to the struggles of the common men & women around them. People die by the score but so do the heroes.
This doesn't make them any less likable but of a mythic status for the action of the novel doesn't take place on our world but a secondary world referred to as Mercury. These are characters  in the older almost medieval  & mythic mode but they're essentially humans of a completely different cut. Even though we have both the lords & ladies of both Witchland & Demonland they're human beings but drawn from the expansive imagination of
E. R. Eddison. They still die in battle & war.
In fact the world of the The Worm Ouroboros can be considered the inversion of everything that Tolkien does in his fiction. The book was written thirty two years before 'Lord of the Rings' The heroes are made great by the deeds of their continuing war with Witchland. Demonland's warriors adhere to the old Norse war code of glory & loyalty in battle. This doesn't make the sentiments as such. But it does offer the DM plenty of opportunities for exploiting the circumstances for their own campaigns.
So what does The Worm Ouroboros have to do with an old school campaign? Especially my Old Earth style game which draws heavily from the Clark Ashton Smith style school of dark fantasy. At first the high fantasy of the novel clashes with the dark fantasy of Clark Ashton Smith & Lovecraft circle of writers. This brings me to my second find today, 'The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath' by HP Lovecraft. Now I mentioned the larger then life characters, mythology, etc. of  The Worm Ouroboros. What if the events of the Zimiamvian series are taking place in another dreamlands? What if these races of Demonland & Witchland are actually a variant of the Hyperboreans that have somehow slipped past the Boreas winds into the dream lands of Mercury? We know that Zothique has its roots in the far future of Earth in the times to come. But what if the events of
The Worm Ouroboros happened in the distant past & only the PC's can save the world. But is this a world that wants to be saved?Are the answers someplace deep within the Dreamlands of HP Lovecraft or
The Gods of Pegāna's dream worlds?
The Hyperboreans have the same distain for humanity that the characters  of the world of Mercury show for the humans around them. I think that there's more then a passing connection.

I've used the places, ruins, battles of 
The Worm Ouroboros to create a number of dungeons & other adventure locations in the past for B/X Dungeons & Dragons & perhaps its high time I begin to do this again. The larger then life high fantasy fits the operatic Jack Kirby style of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second especially after the glory & heroics has faded to wrack & ruin.
Past the winds the distant sounds of battle can be heard as the clash of swords & warfare winds its way across strange vistas as the forces of Demonland & Witchland forever clash together as it will be forever more.

If  Your Interested In Downloading & Reading "
The Worm Ouroboros"
Its Available For Free Here

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