Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Balrogs At The Door - OSR Commentary - Weird Tales Judges Guild Wilderlands of High Fantasy -

 There's an empty chair at the table tonight. Or at least that's how it feels to tonight to us.  Any how Erik Tankard has all of the unfolding details on the passing of Tiago Rolim. Tiago Rolim was a friend & our deepest condolences along the sincerest respects to his family. The man was a solid designer & its a loss to the OSR as a whole. Needless to say that ten dollars went into his books for his family by me this evening. RIP. Now let's get back into the deeper end of the hobby with one of the eight hundred pound gorilla's in the room for us. I'm talking about Judges Guild First Fantasy campaign book by Dave Arneson & Richard Snider. Now for the past several weeks we've been talking among ourselves about running the Wilderlands of High Fantasy using Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. Judges Guild First Fantasy campaign book by Dave Arneson & Richard Snider bound copy just keeps staring me in the face from the book shelf.

Why?! Reading through the First Fantasy campaign book is sort of like reading through Dave Arneson's campaign notes. This book isn't polished by modern standards in any way. And this makes it far more fascinating to me. The section on  carousing for XP system and the Chance Cards (random domain-level events) seem like expressions from another era. Which they are.
But paths lead to paths especially with regard to the First Fantasy campaign. And it led me straight back into reading the In The Cities Wordpress blog which seems to have ended in 2015.
One of the blog entries that gave me pause with regard to OD&D & even its use with AS&SH is this bit on the inclusion of Balrogs as wizard tower or dungeon guardian. It was one little section that really got my juicies going;"Balrogs also show up as wandering monsters in the wilderness too. They can be encountered as either “flyer types” or “dragon types.” So what?! What's this got to do with the The First Fantasy campaign or for that matter the Wilderlands of High Fantasy?! If Balrogs were used as walking seige weaponry in The First Fantasy Campaign (they are).
 Then it also means that they were used extensively in the Wilderlands of High Fantasy's military campaigns. 

Morgoth with hoards of balrogs

If Balrogs show up in the wilderness of the Wilderlands then have these creatures been there for thousands upon thousands of years?! It really gave me pause because if balrogs are on the Wilderlands. Then they damn well could be on AS&HS's Hyperborea or for that matter the demon haunted world of Clark Aston Smith's Zothique.
Zothique represents a macrocosmic lens of Hyperborea. Are you insane Zothique?! Yes because of the fact the fact that Zothique is the last bastion of the debiolic in the far future thousands of years in future. 
In the far future of Zothique by Clark Aston Smith demons are quite common and follow on the heels of THASAIDON. The Lord of all evil on Zothique; 
“Before him, on an altar of jet, was the dark, gigantic statue of Thasaidon which a devil-begotten sculptor had wrought in ancient days for an evil king of Tasuun, called Pharnoc. The archdemon was depicted in the guise of a full-armored warrior, lifting a spiky mace as if in heroic battle... And often, through the mouth of the statue, Thasaidon would utter oracles to Namirrha, or would answer interrogations. “Before the black-armored image there hung seven silver lamps... Wild and lurid was their light, and the face of the demon, peering from under his crested helmet, was filled with malign, equivocal shadows that shifted and changed eternally.” — The Dark Eidolon, CAS 1935

So after the events of Ragnorok & the opening of the nexus gates several thousand balrogs followed the damned. They were without a master. 
THASAIDON is the left over devil & demon essence given form. And even in the Wilderlands, Zothique, & even Hyperborea the balrogs might just answer to THASAIDON.

King of Rats on Deviant Art's version of 

Within the cold Hells of underborea there may be halls & halls full of the damn tended by balrogs or worse with millions of damned souls. The Balrogs waiting for an opportunity to vent on an adventurer or party. Could these encounters with balrogs in the wilderness actually be cult activites dedicated to THASAIDON? The cult holding services within old temple ruins or dungeons leading to these cold Hells?! 
And what does this mean for Lamentations of the Flame Princess?! It means that there's an opportunity to exploit these balrogs as possible indivual monsters with their own unique diabolical qualities & powers. These are not simply boss monsters but dangerous NPC's with real stakes within the campaign. 

For a classic B/X module like X2 Castle Amber by Tom Moldvay  there may be far more going on. We know that Castle Amber has been adapted to the Wilderlands of High Fantasy by other OSR illuminaries. But what nexus gates & resources were used by Stephen D'Amberville with his dark magicks?! 

Stephen D'Amberville is just the sort of an arch wizard to have the command of one or two balrogs. And with the resources of the wilderlands & very little oversight from wizard guilds or the like? This opportunity to invest time & energies into picking up the pieces of a demon haunted wilderlands might be too much of a tempting target. This could also help to explain the proliferation of the cold Hells of Underborea rumored to exist in the middle of nowhere in Hyperborea's outbacks. 

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