Wednesday, February 12, 2020

A Play Shade of Tom Moldvay's X2 Castle Amber - Clark Ashton Smith & Jack Vance Cha'alt/Godbound Campaign Commentary

Harry Quin's The Wild Hunt from Tom Moldvay's X2 Castle Amber m

This Bob Bledsaw II business has left a bad taste in my mouth & for a while I'm gonna have to switch out my Judge's Guild material for my campaigns at least for a couple of months. But since this led to a bit of a sleepless night for me. Why?! Because of the fact that a player of mine reminded me that  I was going to be using Judge's Guild's Tegel Manor again in an upcoming campaign cycle. My version of the mansion was a plane hopping manor that moved from one reality to the next and this has been an adventure plot device in my campaigns. Yeah that's not gonna happen because I want no association with racist & antisemitic manure at the table top level or beyond.
Fortunately Tom Moldvay is there with a back up location & in this case its Tom Moldvay's X2 Castle Amber. Edgar Allen Poe influence check, Clark Ashton Smith material check, & its all ready to go. 

Because this is a part of the the heart & soul of my  Cha'alt/Godbound campaign here. The fact that a dimensional hopping adventure destination brings home the fact that gods & monsters are at play in the planes. I've used Chateau d' Amberville before & its perfectly tuned into the Weird Tales Pulp vibe of my games.  The wizard-noble Stephen Amber (Etienne d'Amberville) is the perfect NPC foil to go against the likes of Stephen The Rock & the Egg of Coot.  Etienne d'Amberville has been a major NPC in my games going all the way back to '08. He's aware that he's gonna die but has had decades to play in the grand game of wizards & gods. He's straight out of  the Jack Vance Dying Earth mold of wizards especially Rhialto the Marvellous;
The most powerful wizards of the 21st Aeon of the Dying Earth are banded together in an association, and mostly reside in the territories of Ascolais and Almery. Unlike other wizards of the Dying Earth, such as Turjan and Mazirian, these wizards possess nearly godlike power. With little effort, they can travel to the distant past or the furthest reaches of the universe, freeze time (a popular dirty trick), prolong their lives for eons, change their shape and appearance, summon useful objects, and call forth numerous spells of protection, destruction, investigation, or simple amusement and experimentation. Much of their power comes from their ability to bind and control potent genie-like beings called sandestins, while they also derive power from their large stores of magical relics. The most highly prized are IOUN stones, mystical stones which they take as the spoils of their battles with the archveults. Their conduct toward one another is governed by a set of rules called the Blue Principles, because they are inscribed upon a blue stone which displays them through a sort of projector. This artifact is dislocated back to a remote aeon and the search for it is fraught with one setback after another.

In Vance's Dying Earth cycle, most magic has been lost, there remaining but few more than a hundred spells to man's access. Each spell has to be memorized by stringent study, and, once used, is forgotten and has to be re-memorized. Even the strongest wizards can memorize but 4 of the greater and 6 of the lesser spells. Artifacts of great power from "antique days" occasionally turn up. These restrictions appear to be missing from the Cugel and Rhialto cycles.
Because the wizards are so powerful, they have little to fear except from one another and from powerful external threats such as the archveults. Thus, while the Blue Principles acts as a nonaggression pact and a defensive alliance, most of the time it serves as a social circle and gentleman's club. The members spend most of their time enjoying fine food and drink, courting ladies of the nearby kingdoms, conversing, and squabbling with one another over magical relics and pranks played on one another.
Rhialto the Marvellous, the titular wizard of the last book in the Dying Earth trilogy, and the primary focus of the stories involving the wizards of the 21st Aeon. Rhialto, like most of the others, is a wealthy and powerful wizard who rules an opulent estate, Falu. Also like most of his fellows, he enjoys epicurean pleasures and the company of beautiful women, but maintains no serious relationships. Normally appearing as a slim man with short black hair and austere features, he earned the title "the Marvellous" because of his reputation as a dandy who wears ostentatious, ornate clothing and is popular with women. Rhialto is ordinarily agreeable and carefree, but his fellow wizards regard him as somewhat supercilious." 

Dust jacket of the 1999 omnibus edition
This is the sort of weird beyond the ken of mankind council of wizards  that we see in the works of Vance but many of the titular writers of the Pulps. Vance's creations stand out. But there is an arch wizard in the same mold in Clark Ashton Smith's mad immortal wizard  Xiccarph plays the grand game with other arch wizards using real heroes & demi gods to stem his boredom. Clark Ashton Smith's Xiccarph appears in :
But now the question becomes what shape will  Tom Moldvay's X2 Castle Amber take on in my game campaigns? And will the players survive?
Personally we will have to see through play & the actions of the players. As for race, religion, creed, sexual orientation, etc. I don't care who you are. Sit down & let's play some D&D.

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