Friday, February 28, 2020

Divine Inspiration - Ray Harryhausen's Jason & The Argonauts 1963 & Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Campaign Commentary

"The legendary Greek hero leads a team of intrepid adventurers in a perilous quest for the legendary Golden Fleece. "

Sometimes you've got to go back to the well for inspiration & in this case its the Ray Harryhausen 1963 classic Jason & the Argonauts. Here's the low down on this film from its wiki entry; "Jason and the Argonauts (working title: Jason and the Golden Fleece) is a 1963 Anglo-American independently made mythological fantasy film produced by Charles H. Schneer and directed by Don Chaffey. the film stars Todd Armstrong as the eponymous hero, along with Nancy Kovack, Honor Blackman, and Gary Raymond. it was distributed by Columbia Pictures.
Shot in Eastman Color, the film was made in collaboration with stop-motion animation master Ray Harryhausen and is known for its various legendary creatures, notably the iconic fight scene featuring seven skeleton warriors.
The film score was composed by Bernard Herrmann, who also worked with Harryhausen on the fantasy films The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), The 3 Worlds of Gulliver (1960), and Mysterious Island (1961)."

There is a ton of Appendix N references in this film & it doesn't get any better for Dungeons & Dragons mythological style action. From the set up of Jason as the man with one sandal & the shame of King 
The thing about 
"Jason and the Argonauts (working title: Jason and the Golden Fleece) is the fact that the gods take such a personal interest in the destinies of Jason & his crew. The gods are playing chess with the lives of the heroes around them.

From the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons perspective this is straight out of the Deities & Demigods play book. The gods set up the whole affair from "Pelias usurps the throne of Thessaly, killing King Aristo, but knows that a prophecy states that one of Aristo's children will avenge him." This is exactly how the Greco Roman gods manipulate the lives of the mortals to suit their games. A tactic that the dungeon master can use keep the action moving within a campaign.

Jason & the Argonauts also shows the proper place of artifacts & monsters  within a campaign. These monsters &  toys the gods use to motivate & destroy the lives those who have their place on the board of life. This is something that we see time in & out in the original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master Guide with the iconic artifacts of Dungeons & Dragons. 

The thing about Jason is the fact that the 
Golden Fleece as an artifact floats in the background in the whole mini campaign of the film. This is the way that an artifact should be used & see how Zeus dangles the fleece in front of him several times. 

"Learning that Jason intends to seek the legendary Golden Fleece to rally support against him, he encourages Jason in the attempt, hoping that Jason will be killed.
Hermes takes Jason to Mount Olympus to speak with Zeus and Hera. Hera tells him Zeus has decreed that she can help him only five times. The same number of times that Jason's murdered sister, the lovely Briseis, called on Hera for protection. She directs him to search for the Fleece in the land of Colchis. Zeus offers aid, but Jason declines."

The dungeons & ruins of Jason & the Argonauts also have their roots within the divinity & creation myths of the gods. This is an absolutely perfect for the DM looking to quickly drop in a dungeon into a campaign. I've done this several times within the City of Greyhawk setting.

The ruins of the gods littered through out the film in the background especially in the preproduction Harryhausen artwork I've seen on line. Talos is a fantastic example of a divine guardian in 1963 film. The Argonauts are an example of a party of adventurers going to town on an adventure location with the consequences at the hands of Talos. 

Adventurers within this film have quest after quest & the action keeps moving along. There are so many iconic moments that can be used for motivation. And even after hundreds of repeated viewings this remains one of my all time favorite films. Even though I've heard countless times that this is a 'kiddie film' it remains an old favorite of mine. A perfect storm of a Harryhausen film that will both inspire & keep the dungeon master coming back for that oh so good stop motion action folks.

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