Sunday, January 1, 2023

Original Castles & Crusades Revolution- The Silvery Footprints of Zothique - Clark Aston Smith's Isle of the Torturers

Growing up Dungeons & Dragons was regarded at best a curse & at worst an activity that outsiders did. The renagade status suited myself & my friends. And lately with recent activities on Twitter events  have gone in that direction once again. And so let's pick it up right from here on the blog.  Looking over & speaking with my players as well friends Zothique was once again brought up. Rodney Mathews artwork was brought up again. And this British artist's artwork screams Zothique to people. 

Rodney Mathews artwork used without permission. No copyright or trademark infringement is intended. 

So looking over the various Castles & Crusades books in my collection the Castles & Crusades Classic Monsters book immediately jumps out at me. There are several reasons for this including the fact that Classic Monsters has a legacy of OGL Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Fiend Folio monsters within her covers. 
The Fiend Folio monsters are a perfect fit for the millions & millions of years of future Earth of  Zothique. The demon haunted jungles & forrests of Zothique have seen numerous species of alien animals & whatnot imported from across the planes & the stars. This fits with the hundreds or thousands of fallen kingdoms which have risen & fallen within the sands & wastes of this far future setting of Clark Ashton Smith. 
Monsters such as the Babbler, the blood worm, and a myriad of others fit the Sword & Sorcery asthetic of our version of Zothique. Perhaps no story really hits the ironic & deadly horrid nature of Zothique's shores such as 'The Isle of the Torturers'. Here an alien cosmic cycle comes to an end & a brand new one begins.
And this speaks volumes of the nature of the CAS setting itself. The ground littered with the remains of a once great empire in wreckage to forces of the universe indifferent to the pleas of mankind. 
Yet this same univerese will be picked up by the survivors to begin again. And here is where the nations of the Zothique have room for the inovations of adventurers. 
This is something we see time & again within Clark Ashton Smith's body of work. One cycle ending while another begins as the works of man build upon itself.. True of both the gods & mankind as one age ends & another begins. Things & relics left behind become the myths & legends of next inheritors of the titles of adventurer. The artwork of  Fredrik Rahmqvist may have inspired Isle of the Torturer. 

There's an almost but not quite Clive Barker almost Hellraiser  like connection to the Uccastrog & we can see this in the description of the people of the isle; 

"At this, the heart of Fulbra sank within him; for he had heard numerous tales of Uccastrog in bygone years; and the tales were not such as would reassure a stranded traveler. Uccastrog, which lay far to the east of Cyntrom, was commonly known as the Isle of the Torturers; and men said that all who landed upon it unaware, or were cast thither by the seas, were imprisoned by the inhabitants and were subjected later to unending curious tortures whose infliction formed the chief delight of these cruel beings. No man, it was rumored, had ever escaped from Uccastrog; but many had lingered for years in its dungeons and hellish torture chambers, kept alive for the pleasure of King Ildrac and his followers. Also, it was believed that the Torturers were great magicians who could raise mighty storms with their enchantments, and could cause vessels to be carried far from the maritime routes, and then fling them ashore upon Uccastrog."

 The Uccastrog are strange & twisted as thier final fate hint at the peace of the Siver Death. But then what?! The whole of the lands of the Uccastrog become one huge crypt. And this too is now the perfect opportunity for a group of enterprising rogues & fools to brave the wraith of the Silver Death. But is it worth the risk?! Hard to say really. If the rain of the Silver Death is done then possibly. But what if the Silver Death is actually an elemental disease. A thing that can be spread person to person with little cure. Then said adventurers might be spreading the very thing that dooms their country or other adventurers could and it's up to them to find a cure if possible in this far future world. 

The Castle Keepers Guide would be key here to run an expediation to ' 'The Isle of the Torturers'. Because of the nature of the Silver Death is a possible plague that can take out anyone who comes in contact with it. The Silver Death transforms the victim into a silvery elemental statue without a Save vs magic. A powerful remove curse or wish might save the victim. Treasure or relics taken from the victims must be cleansed. 

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