Monday, June 14, 2021

Old School Reflections - Alignment, Arioch, & Elric In Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition

This blog post picks up right where this one left off because the PC's can't always  very careful about which gods they worked for & with because not all gods are working for the benefit of humanity nor its allies.
 When we're talking about alignment in Avanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition then we are talking evolution of the game in action. When we go back the halycon days of 'The Dragon' magazine we can see such evolution in The  Dragon #9 September 1977. Issue 9 of the Dragon magazine contains the article, 'DM's Brew (Mixing Alignments in D&D)' by Gary Gygax. This article sets up the bar for creating the alignments for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons that we all know & love. 

Michael Moorcock's Elric & The Young Kingdoms make it quite plain that they fall under the preview of the Chaos Gods. What makes the Young Kingdom so dangerous is two fold. One is the fact that the realm is that Young Kingdoms is a post empire setting. The Melinbonean empire is fading fast. Humanity is on the rise as Chaos's new champion species. Law in the Young Kingdoms is a half forgotten nicety. The gods of Law are on the way out & up becaiuse the winds of change are on the way. The  Melnibonéanss are a perfect example of a society in decline. Elric for all of his Chaotic Evil is well awate of this. And his pledge of fidelity to Arioch forever pushes him further into Chaos's clutches & as an agent of Chaos itself. This aspect of Chaos is the destructive & highly dangerous side. The side opposite side that seduced the Melnibonéans. Do the Melnibonéans even have it within them to come back into the world of the Young Kingdoms?! Personally I don't think so. Their secret side of magick & darkness is written in both destiny & within a hundred pacts with Chaos. The fact is that the lines of Melnibonéans secret hearts to Chaos. The race's alignment swifts towards evil & in point of fact Choatic Evil. And this allows the humans of Pan Tang to tollow in the foot falls of those who came before them. Black Magick is a part of their legacy as much as the ruby throne. One does not exist without the other. 
And this brings up the fact that this may be a part of these two world dominating powers. Remember that Arioch is the patron to Elric's royal line & as such his corruption flows through the doomed prince. 

This corruption has been sown through myriad centuries. And we have no idea how or what the royal lines have done to be treated  so well by a dangerous Chaos entity such as Arioch. Not to mention the numerous other Chaos gods that look with favor upon the Melnibonéans. And now the clock is ticking for the humans as well. Humans have taken the Melnibonéans as the favored status of Chaos. And this is measured by the fact that these  race's alignments have gone to total corruption. Simply look at Pan Tang's legacy. Almost as if the powers of Law & Chaos were grooming the races of Man & the Young Kingdom's. Grooming them for the next cycle of the world. But Elric isn't the only eternal champion to have dailies with Arioch. According to the villain wiki entry on Arioch; "Arioch has been encountered by another Eternal Champion, Corum Jhaelen Irsei. Arioch was known here as the Knight of the Swords, one of three gods who ruled over Corum's world. The Knight of the Swords was the creator of the humans, or Mabden, as they were known in this world. When Corum first saw Arioch, he was a massive, filthy creature, with Mabden servants all over his body. Later, he appeared to Corum in the more familiar form of an attractive man"
Is this because the races of Man gravitate toward's pure chaotic evil?! No, its because the Chaos gods & gods of Law sew the corruption early into Man during his creation in the world almost like Biblical Judio Christian Fallen Angels. Because the Chaos gods & the Gods of Law's myriad forms throughout the multiverse & planes includes their aspects as 
Biblical Judio Christian Fallen Angels. And alignment reveals what these 'god ' entities are after! They hunger for the souls of humans & even as they prepare the Young Kingdom for the next cycle. On a myriad of other worlds these entities spread their corruption. Think we're kidding?! The appendix of 'The Primal Order' rpg has a quick path to power in the form of the alternative path of Chaos. And it does give power but with the cost of mutation & madness at its black heart. 
Why is this so damn creepy because if you look at the nature of Elric & Arioch's relationship. Its one of pusher & junky or whore & pimp. Take your pick as to whose got whose role in these relationships. The fact is that the alignment of Elric & co. Reveal far more about the fate of the Young Kingdoms then they do about the nasty underbelly of the dark sorcerous heart of t
he  Melnibonéans society & culture. Magick & chaos corrupt because the demonic magicks of the Young Kingdom have become so routine to the jaded sociatal pallette's of the citizens of the Bright Empire. The Bright Empire one of the many titles of the former powerhouses of the Melnibonéans. The Elric saga reveals far more about the society of the kingdoms of the Young Kingdoms then it does about Michael Moorcock's writing. And AD&D first edition pulls no punches with revealing Elric's true nature. Chaotic Evil?!Oh he most certainly is! Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition doesn't once shy away from revealing the underbelly of some of the true puposes alignment. 

Evil with a capital 'e' is revealed for what it is. And I'd go so far as to say that it doesn't praise it in any fashion. And James Ward goes on to talk about this in an interview about the fact that in Gary's design of D&D how good with a capital 'g' would eventually triumph. Mr. Ward talked about this in a recent interview with the Inapropraiate Character's Crew. 

And while this fact may seem trite to many of today's jaded old school & OSR players remember that this is also a part of many of the Appendix N literature including in some fashions Michael Moorcock's literature. Why?! Because Moorcock's pedigree is centered in the Pulp traditions of Sword & Sorcery. A sub gerne of Science Fiction that he helped not only to create but define! Alignment isn't easy to deal with because its far more then simply a line on a character sheet. Its the measure of the player's desire for how their PC acts & twists in the wind during the play sessions. Does alignment have a place in a grand old game such as Choasium's Stormbringer rpg?! Well that's another blog entry coming up kids. So same Eternal Champions channel same time, will our heroes escape their moral life defining quandry?! Tune in next time! 

Elric from AD&D first edition Deities & Demigods artwork by Jeff Dee used without permission 

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