Saturday, September 19, 2020

The Blood, Passion, & Horrors of The Legend of El Cid For Your Old School Campaign


A fallen hero, strange alliances, magic swords,mercenary warlords, violent triple crosses, & the fate of nations in the balance! The latest Hollywood thriller with a budget of millions?!  No one of the legends of the real world legends steeped in the blood shed of history.

Jura de Santa Gadea

Peeling back the pages of bloodshed & ancient history last night I came across my campaign notes on El Cid. The history, mythology, & legends of the Cid were something that grew up with. For me he's the arch type of the AD&D paladin without the baggage. Over the years I've heard El Cid's history compared to King Arthur's legends & mythology. A kingdom gained & lost along the trails of time. This is one national hero I've used time & again in my adventures & games. But who really was El Cid?

This simple blog entry can't go into the multi demensional history of the warfare & times that spawned the El Cid. He came from a time when the sword arm & warhorse were the tanks of their time. The heads of enemies decorated pikes outside of nation city state's walls. Wiki has a compact  breakdown but there are literally entire histories of the Cid as thick as a New York phone book;

"Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (c. 1043 – 1099) was a Castilian nobleman and military leader in medieval Spain. The Moors called him El Cid, which meant the Lord (probably from the original Arabic al-Sayyid, السیِّد), and the ChristiansEl Campeador, which stood for Outstanding Warrior or The one who stands out in the battlefield. He was born in Vivar, a town near the city of Burgos. After his death, he became Castile's celebrated national hero and the protagonist of the most significant medieval Spanish epic poem, El Cantar de Mio Cid.[1]
Born a member of the minor nobility, El Cid was brought up at the court of King Ferdinand the Great and served Ferdinand's son, Sancho II of León and Castile. He rose to become the commander and royal standard-bearer (armiger regis) of Castile upon Sancho's ascension in 1065. Rodrigo went on to lead the Castilian military campaigns against Sancho's brothers, Alfonso VI of León and García II of Galicia, as well as in the Muslim kingdoms in Al-Andalus. He became renowned for his military prowess in these campaigns, which helped expand Castilian territory at the expense of the Muslims and Sancho's brothers' kingdoms. When conspirators murdered Sancho in 1072, Rodrigo found himself in a difficult situation. Since Sancho was childless, the throne passed to his brother Alfonso, the same whom El Cid had helped remove from power. Although Rodrigo continued to serve the Castilian sovereign, he lost his ranking in the new court which treated him at arm's length and suspiciously. Finally, in 1081, he was ordered into exile.[2]
El Cid found work fighting for the Muslim rulers of Zaragoza, whom he defended from their traditional enemies, Aragon and Barcelona. While in exile, he regained his reputation as a strategist and formidable military leader. He repeatedly turned out victorious in battle against the Muslim rulers of Lérida and their Christian allies, as well as against a large Christian army under King Sancho Ramírez of Aragon. In 1086, an expeditionary army of North African Almoravids inflicted a severe defeat to Castile, compelling Alfonso to overcome the resentments he harbored against El Cid. The terms for the return to the Christian service must have been attractive enough since Rodrigo soon found himself fighting for his former Lord. Over the next several years, however, El Cid set his sights on the kingdom-city of Valencia, operating more or less independently of Alfonso while politically supporting the Banu Hud and other Muslim dynasties opposed to the Almoravids. He gradually increased his control over Valencia; the Islamic ruler, al-Qadir, became his tributary in 1092. When the Almoravids instigated an uprising that resulted in the death of al-Qadir, El Cid responded by laying siege to the city. Valencia finally fell in 1094, and El Cid established an independent principality on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. He ruled over a pluralistic society with the popular support of Christians and Muslims alike.[3]
El Cid's final years were spent fighting the Almoravid Berbers. He inflicted upon them their first major defeat in 1094, on the plains of Caurte, outside Valencia, and continued resisting them until his death. Although Rodrigo remained undefeated in Valencia, his only son, and heir, Diego Rodríguez died fighting against the Almoravids in the service of Alfonso in 1097. After El Cid's death in 1099, his wife, Jimena Díaz, succeeded him as ruler of Valencia, but she was eventually forced to surrender the principality to the Almoravids in 1102."
In old school adventure terms there's a ton of potential adventure hooks from taken treasures to the ruins of dungeon locations. El Cid's wrath knew bounds for he made warfare across the pages of history. There have been rumors of the treasure of King Sancho Ramírez of Aragon centuries. The cup of the Islamic ruler, al-Qadir was lost in the uprising of the Almoravids &  is still out in the Spanish countryside. There are literally tons of mini dungeons & other adventure ruins scattered in the wake of the Cid & the armies of his adversaries.

In  Lion & Dragon terms El Cid might be from a very long tradition of knights & warlords who were the resistance to the Elves of old. The demons from the Underworld & Hell have a long tradition in the Spanish countryside. There have been numerous legends & a rich tradition of Christian & Pre Christian heresies in the area enabling a DM to create mixed parties of adventurers to deal with monsters of Chaos & other horrors.
Over the years I've used a number of time lost warriors & knights from the court of El Cid in Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition.

The +3 two handed sword Tizona, of El Cid has been passed into a national museum where its intelligent essence still sleeps.
"A weapon traditionally identified as El Cid's swordTizona, used to be displayed in the Army Museum (Museo del Ejército) in Toledo. In 1999, a small sample of the blade underwent metallurgical analysis which confirmed that the blade was made in Moorish Córdoba in the eleventh century and contained amounts of Damascus steel.[13]
In 2007, the Autonomous Community of Castile and León bought the sword for 1.6 million Euros, and it is currently on display at the Museum of Burgos."
El Cid's other sword Colada is still lost or according to legend has been passed down the bloodline of Martín Antolínez one of the Cid's knights. This +2 sword of sharpness has a thirst for the blood of demons & dark wizards. There have been instances of these swords being used against monsters that could be straight out of a tale by H.P. Lovecraft.

 There several instances when various knights of El Cid according to legend fought a cult that seems to have been very similar to the cultists of A. Merritt's Dwellers in the Mirage.

The knights under the command of the Cid were violent, vicious warriors from a time when thrones made from the skulls of one's enemies were still the norm. The fact is that this was a time with plenty of room for both mythology & legend to mix into the paradoxes of history. The perfect frame work to add in your own party of adventurers or to take from the legends a bevy of opportunities for campaign elements or NPC's.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.