Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The OSR Spirits Rise! Commentary & Review of RPGPundit Presents #9: The Book of the Art of Hours

So I went to Rpg Pundits publisher & asked to get myself a copy of  RPGPundit Presents #9: The Book of the Art of Hours.  for review. This isn't a regular book of hours, a regular book of hours is, "a Christian devotional book popular in the Middle Ages. ... Like every manuscript, each manuscript book of hours is unique in one way or another, but most contain a similar collection of texts, prayers and psalms, often with appropriate decorations, for Christian devotion." Umm no this isn't remote a book like that, instead this a book of magick & occult knowledge that I happen to know something about. This is a text of occult knowledge that I wished I had when running Lamentations of the Flame Princess & Dark Albion. Why because the  Book of the Art of Hours provides rites & rituals that do something different & unique within an occult context that a wizard needs within an old school campaign that makes him or her unique & dangerous. Like many occult & magick texts this one is ascribed to a powerful Christian Saint of some renowned. So what is the Book of the Art of Hours? "The strange and powerful Book of the Art of Hours was said to have been revealed to the great wizard St. Apollonius at Corinth, where he ascended to the Third Sphere of the Seven Heavens. It reveals the method of contacting and summoning discarnate spirits that rule over the twenty-four magical hours of the day, and describes what gifts those spirits can provide." 

Book of the Art of Hours provides a fast & flexible ritual system that quickly & easily adds more scope to a wizard by providing them with a series of incantations & spells that can aid in old school play. These are rituals that only take fifteen minutes within the game setting & provide some very interesting & dangerous spirits at the caster's beckon & call provided that they have a Table of Operations available to them.
"This text reveals the method of contacting discarnate spirits that rule over the twenty-four magical hours of the day. These hours are not quite the normal hours of a day, because they must be calculated in a certain way. There are twelve hours of day and twelve of night.
To know the time each hour takes, you must calculate the moment of sunrise and sunset. Taking the whole time from sunrise to sunset and dividing it by twelve gets you the length of each hour of day; doing the same from sunset to sunrise gives you each hour of night.
Thus, the hours of the day are longer than night at certain times of
year, or vice-versa at other times. Each of the twenty-four spirits can only be summoned on their particular hour of the day or night.
The ritual of summoning itself takes only about fifteen minutes to perform, but it requires that the magician ceremonially wash himself beforehand (this can be done before the hour of the summoning starts). To summon the spirit, the magician requires the use of a
Table of Operations, which is a special board that contains symbols of the sun and planets. These are arranged in a certain orientation, depending on the spirit being summoned. The construction of a Table of Operations costs about 30gp (2L in Dark Albion), and requires 1d4
weeks at the hands of a skilled craftsman."

Clocking in at only ten pages I surprised & delighted at the layout & easy of reading material. This isn't stodgy & over the top OSR rpg magick book. Instead its simple down to Earth with language that covers the reader in exactly what its trying to do.
RPGPundit Presents #9: The Book of the Art of Hours.  presents a ritual & rite system for the summoning of the spirits of the Hours in the first book & a very dangerous second section that discusses a death rite that has all kinds of applications for adventure construction.
What the hell I'm I talking about? Well let's take a look at the spirit of the eleventh hour number 11. Athos Spirit of the Eleventh Hour (DC: 16+1d4)
This spirit can cause a house of the magician’s choosing to collapse. It can be constructed of wood or bricks, but not solid stone. There is obviously a risk of anyone inside taking damage. The magician can instead request a person be compelled to walk out of a house (this
person can make a saving throw if they have strong enough motive to
remain inside the house)." Minor shrines, small Roman style miniature temples, etc can all be brought down on the heads of priests or officials. Doesn't seem like a big deal but when your talking about a retroclone game such as Lamentations or Dark Albion it could get a PC burnt at the stake.

For Lamentations of the Flame Princess this is a great addition because The Book of the Art of Hours.   is exactly the sort of weird occult tome that would be present in a an academic occultist's library or an educated witch's study. Just the sort of tome to get the PC's in way in over their collective heads when their own wizard tries these rites and rituals.

For Dark Albion the book's character doesn't have to change & its timing in history  is right for the War of the Roses. Copies of this book might be under lock & key especially when some of its content can alter the behavior of Albion royals, temple guards,even minor couriers might be affected by some of the spells. There's also that tricky little matter of possession by spirits. Take for example the spirit of the third hour;"3. Thena Spirit of the Third Hour (DC: 10+1d8)
This spirit causes discord, making two individuals of the magician’s choosing enter into conflict. The magician must know the true name of both individuals. If the two individuals have an intense love (platonic, familial, or romantic) for each other, they both get a saving
throw to resist."

Given the lower tier NPC levels of Dark Albion some of the spells in
The Book of the Art of Hours.   could change the tide of a campaign's direction. But given some of the forces of the occult from Dark Albion's Cults of Chaos, the PC's are going to need the edge that the spirits of the Book of the Art of Hours bring to the table.

Surely there's nothing then that 
The Book of the Art of Hours could offer a traditional original, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons , or B/X Dungeons & Dragons party?
Well given that some of these spirits have a practical & very down to Earth application there are definitely some solid spirits that a wizard could bring to bare. The spirit of the first hour is perfect for a wide variety of applications especially for party's thieves, bards, and other outlaws;1. Thamore Spirit of the First Hour (DC: 10+1d10)
The spirit can free a captive from their bonds or cells—jail doors open, and shackles or ropes slip off, for example. The magician must know the captive’s name and where he is imprisoned."

The second half of the book has a rite of death magick that allows one to know the circumstances surrounding the death of the spell's target. There's an air of destiny about this spell that touches on dealing with the spirit of Death herself. Now I mentioned earlier in this review about the great wizard St. Apollonius at Corinth, where he ascended to the Third Sphere of the Seven Heavens. Well dallying in the affairs of death & having truck with spirits of Death is essentially necromancy. The Seventh Heavens are present in many of the worlds religions & the third Heaven is mentioned in the epistle of the Apostle Paul as very important;
"An epistle of the Apostle Paul, included in the New Testament, contains an explicit reference to the Third Heaven. In a letter to the Corinthian church he writes, "I know a man in Christ" (usually interpreted as: himself) "who fourteen years ago was caught up to the Third Heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows—was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell." (2 Corinthians 12:2–4) The Greek says "caught away", not "caught up" possibly reflecting Jewish beliefs that Paradise was somewhere other than the uppermost heaven.[16]
In the Second Book of Enoch, Enoch travels through the seven heavens and gives geographical and visual documentation of them, describing houses, olive oil and flowers. He passes through the Garden of Eden in the Third Heaven on his way to meet the Lord in the 7th Heaven"
There are secrets that The Book of the Art of Hours 

might reveal that might mean the intersession of an angel of Death or worse if abused. PC's dallying with such occult books must watch their steps.
The Book of the Art of Hours 

like all good rpg products spins more adventure fodder the more one dives into it. Are there quibbles? My only minor quibble is that there should have been more to it with a bit of the book's back history & perhaps its place within real world history. The
The Book of the Art of Hours
appearance during the Hundred Years War at a pivot moment in history & time might have contributed to a some decisive directions that history took in both the real world & Albion. Do I think The Book of the Art of Hours  is worth getting? In a word yes because of the ideas,spirits, rituals, and substance that this product brings to the gaming table. Did I happen to mention that The Book of the Art of Hours does all of this for two dollars and in ten pages?! Hence in my book its a five out of five.

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