Tuesday, November 20, 2018

OSR Commentary - The Alko Option Arthur Machen Mythological Campaign Madness

“We lead two lives, and the half of our soul is madness, and half heaven is lit by a black sun. I say I am a man, is the other that hides in me?”
Arthur Machen,
The White People and Other Stories

Part of the problem with the OSR is staying fresh as every adventure idea, old school author, old module, etc. is snapped up & brought into another product, fan pdf, or other media for consumption. There are still there are Appendix N authors who are not well known or as well read at all today. Machen is key to helping me overcoming one of the great controversies of old school Dungeons & Dragons as well as its retroclone systems. No I'm not talking about pointless political bickering that seems all of the rage for marketing OSR products. First a bit of background on Arthur Machen.

"Arthur Machen (/ˈmækən/; 3 March 1863 – 15 December 1947) was a Welsh author and mystic of the 1890s and early 20th century. He is best known for his influential supernatural, fantasy, and horror fiction. His novella The Great God Pan (1890; 1894) has garnered a reputation as a classic of horror, with Stephen King describing it as "Maybe the best [horror story] in the English language."[1] He is also well known for his leading role in creating the legend of the Angels of Mons. " Arthur Machen is one of my all time favorites when it comes to dealing with the weird secret societies  & strange occult survivals specifically the realm of a particularly nasty family of fairies. Most have heard of  The Great God Pan which is his apocalyptic novel; "The novella begins with an experiment to allow a woman named Mary to see the supernatural world. This is followed by an account of a series of mysterious happenings and deaths over many years surrounding a woman named Helen Vaughan. At the end, the heroes confront Helen and force her to kill herself. She undergoes a series of supernatural transformations before dying and she is revealed to be the child of Mary and the god Pan. " This was novel is a classic of supernatural literature & horror without a doubt.
But the events that lead up to The Great God Pan can be traced to  The White People & The Three Imposters.  There had to be secret cult that was behind the events of The Great God Pan!? There was & we get a glimpse behind the curtain in the novel The Three Imposters

The Three Imposters reads like a Call of Cthulhu adventure & investigation game of grand proportions. Why? Because Arthur Machen is the father of the modern weird tale. HP Lovecraft borrowed many literary techniques & writing twists from Machen.

"His significance was recognized by H. P. Lovecraft, who in his essay "Supernatural Horror in Literature" named Machen as one of the four "modern masters" of supernatural horror (with Algernon Blackwood, Lord Dunsany, and M. R. James)"
The Three Imposters gives a birds eye view of how a cult & secret society can close a noose around a PC's neck easily in their quest for an artifact or item.
"The novel comprises several weird tales and culminates in a final denouement of deadly horror, connected with a secret society devoted to debauched pagan rites. The three impostors of the title are members of this society who weave a web of deception in the streets of London—relating the aforementioned weird tales in the process—as they search for a missing Roman coin commemorating an infamous orgy by the Emperor Tiberius and close in on their prey: "the young man with spectacles""

This narrative setting  style also extends into the novel the White People where we get a glimpse into the deadly & dangerous world of these evil fairies;
"A discussion between two men on the nature of evil leads one of them to reveal a mysterious Green Book he possesses. It is a young girl's diary, in which she describes in ingenuous, evocative prose her strange impressions of the countryside in which she lives as well as conversations with her nurse, who initiates her into a secret world of folklore and black magic. Throughout, the girl makes cryptic allusions to such topics as "nymphs", "Dôls", "voolas," "white, green, and scarlet ceremonies", "Aklo letters", the "Xu" and "Chian" languages, "Mao games", and a game called "Troy Town" (the last of which is a reference to actual practices involving labyrinths or labyrinthine dances[1]). The girl's tale gradually develops a mounting atmosphere of suspense, with suggestions of witchcraft, only to break off abruptly just at the point where a supreme revelation seems imminent. In a return to the frame story, the diary's custodian reveals that the girl's body was later found dead near a seemingly pagan statue in the woods."

All of Machen's works shift around these strange occult & alien Fairy survivors from ancient Pre second Ice Age days. The deadliness of their relics & artifacts is detailed in

"The Red Hand" (1895). ""The Red Hand" (1895) — a short detective/horror story featuring the main characters from The Three Impostors. It focuses on a murder performed with an ancient stone ax. "We see even more of this in the "The Shining Pyramid" (1895);
""The Shining Pyramid" (1895) — short horror story. Strange arrangements of stones appear at the edge of a young man's property. He and a friend attempt to decipher their meaning before it is too late."
Finally Machen's  The Hill of Dreams (written 1895–1897; published 1907) details mostly everything we need to know about the family of fairies;
"The novel recounts the life of a young man, Lucian Taylor, focusing on his dreamy childhood in rural Wales, in a town based on Caerleon. The Hill of Dreams of the title is an old Roman fort where Lucian has strange sensual visions, including ones of the town in the time of Roman Britain. Later, the novel describes Lucian's attempts to make a living as an author in London, enduring poverty and suffering in the pursuit of art and history.
Lord Dunsany admired The Hill of Dreams and wrote an introduction to a 1954 reprint of the novel.[1] In Henry and June, Henry Miller tells Anaïs Nin about The Hill of Dreams.[2]
According to the Friends of Arthur Machen website, the novel is
almost undoubtedly Machen's most important and moving work. Lucian Taylor, the hero, is damned either through contact with an erotically pagan "other" world or through something degenerate in his own nature, which he thinks of as a "faun". He becomes a writer, and when he moves to London he becomes trapped by the increasing reality of the dark imaginings of this creature within him, which become increasingly real. Machen drew copiously on his own early years in Wales and London, and the book as a whole is an exploration through imagination of a potential fate which he personally avoided. One of the first explorations in fiction of the figure of the doomed artist, who is biographically so much a part of the decadent 1890s."
Any contact with these fairies or their alien works is chaotic & utterly alien. A PC must make a save vs wands or be subject a random temporary insanity. Those who actually crossover into their astral fairy lands maybe subject to actual chaotic mutations or worse! I mentioned a controversy at the beginning of this blog entry & I can say that it has to do with how to deal with dealing with traditional Dungeons & Dragons Elves, Fairies, etc. with Sword & Sorcery elements. Rereading Arthur Machen over the last couple of days I came to the conclusion that these survivals are the key. There are things that the Fairy will not talk about at all & there was a war for the soul of all mankind. The Fairy don't talk about it but humanity was at its center & their allies during it.  "The Voor" were banished to the very edges of the planes but from time to time their world crosses over onto their ancient haunts. To say that there is enmity between the Fairy & the Voor is an understatement. These forces will kill each other on sight & there are frequent wars in the Deep Astrals.    

Castles & Crusades Codex Celtarum by Brian Young goes into the Celtic mythological conflicts that are the central piece of such a campaign. The Fairy don't talk about the Voor with their human allies. Druids may speak of such dark things if PC's are really lucky.

An Arthur Machen mythological campaign would be perfect for an epic   Mike Stewart Victorious rpg campaign. The age of the Arthur Machen  literature is perfect for a Victorious game campaign where the PC's are the play things of a secret society,a cult of the Voor or their human allies.

Amazing Adventures! Rpg maybe the best option for an Arthur Machen mythological adventures as the Voor infiltrate different levels of society on the fringes of reality. The Amazing Adventures Manual of Monsters actually has a number of creatures that could fit the bill for bringing the PC's into the realm of these malevolent fairies. the Amazing Adventures Manual of Monsters is also a solid option for use as a players guide to fighting these dangerous subtle menaces. Also the psion PC class from Amazing Adventures could be used as a powerhouse to help overcome the insane effects of these Fey monsters.

B3 Palace of the Silver Princess (Basic) By Tom Moldvay, & Jean Wells
might be one of the best modules to get the
Arthur Machen treatment. The Palace of adventure might make an excellent Britain Roman Era castle & grounds. The chaos of the ruins could be directly related to a curse of the 'good neighbors'. B3 could be a solid choice because its a basic module & could get PC's into the deep end of things.

B3 Palace of the Silver Princess (Basic) By Tom Moldvay, & Jean Wells could be a proper adventure location within the Deep Astral. Sky Ships could stumble upon the place traveling between worlds & find themselves at the attention of these horrors from beyond. Some of the fairy gods & entities from the CC1 Calidar, Beyond the Skies by Bruce Heard may have the lowdown on certain aspects of these mysterious entities.

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