Category Archives: Alternative Reality

D20 MODERN AND URBAN FANTASY – DESIGN OF THINGS TO COME

I’m a longtime D&D player, but I’m also a sucker for urban fantasy. With the Dungeon Master’s Guide and some tweaking, I’ve begun to use the fifth edition rules to explore the possibilities of gunplay in a modern fantasy setting.

When Wizards of the Coast released the d20 Modern roleplaying game in 2002, I was in heaven. Gnolls in crushed velvet! Ogres decked out in London Fog overcoats! Living dumpsters that ate people!

I was crazy about the Urban Arcana campaign setting in particular. The scenario was a familiar one, seemingly plucked from my own daydreams. D&D monsters and magic (called “Shadow” within the setting) are finding their way into our world. The vast majority of humankind remains largely ignorant of this development, thanks to our awesome capacity for denial. Only a small number of humans and friendly Shadowkind races can even perceive—much less combat—the threats that such an incursion brings.

I ran my Urban Arcana campaign for six years. By that point, other games had clamored for my attention, but I never forgot how interested I was in the marriage of D&D to urban fantasy. When the fifth edition Dungeon Master’s Guide was released last December, I knew without a doubt that my first homebrew setting using the new rules would be an updated take on Urban Arcana, adapting firearms and modern armor for use in an urban fantasy game.

Rules of Engagement

The Dungeon Master’s Guide provides optional rules for firearms in D&D—including modern and even futuristic weapons. However, this left me in a quandary regarding character defenses. In a typical fantasy setting, adventurers, guards, and other possible combatants are fully expected to wear armor. There are no social penalties when characters are observed in full armor while going about their business. Modern settings are a different animal in this regard.

Using the old d20 Modern Core Rulebook as a guide, and tweaking the math for fifth edition, I created armor options for my “5e Modern” campaign. Because it can be assumed that most characters operate undercover, incognito, or simply in an unobtrusive manner for at least part of the time, I made sure that those options included concealable armor. More obvious armor—whether riot armor, flak jackets, or Land Warrior milspec armor—will likely have an affect on characters’ social ability checks and their ability to move freely in your campaign. By that same token, armor might afford bonuses to Charisma (Intimidation) checks.

Modern Armor
Armor Armor Class (AC) Strength Stealth Properties Weight
Light Armor
Heavy coat 11 + Dex modifier Disadvantage 6 lb.
Leather jacket 11 + Dex modifier 4 lb.
Light undercover shirt 11 + Dex modifier DR/2 ballistic 2 lb.
Kevlar-lined coat 12 + Dex modifier DR/2 ballistic 8 lb.
Undercover vest 13 + Dex modifier DR/2 ballistic 3 lb.
Medium Armor
Concealable vest 13 + Dex modifier (max 2) DR/3 ballistic 4 lb.
Light-duty vest 14 + Dex modifier (max 3) DR/3 ballistic 8 lb.
Tactical vest 15 + Dex modifier (max 2) Str 10 Disadvantage Resistance: ballistic 10 lb.
Heavy Armor
Special response vest 15 Str 10 Disadvantage Resistance: ballistic 15 lb.
Land Warrior armor 17 Str 13 Disadvantage DR/5 ballistic/slashing 10 lb.
Forced entry unit 18 Str 13 Disadvantage Resistance: ballistic/slashing 20 lb.

As you can see from the table, many of the heavier armors grant damage reduction (DR) or resistance to several damage types, including a new damage type: ballistic damage. In game terms, ballistic damage is the type of damage that firearms inflict, and is a subset of piercing damage. This means that all ballistic damage counts as piercing damage, but not all piercing damage counts as ballistic damage. Magical effects or creature properties that grant resistance to piercing damage also apply to ballistic damage, but effects or properties reducing ballistic damage do not automatically apply to piercing damage.

(Armor in my game currently has no price because my modern ruleset uses a wealth system for characters, similar to that used in d20 Modern. Characters gain equipment based on their wealth, rather than tracking income and expenses. I won’t get into the full system here, but it might make a good topic for a later installment of Behind the Screens.)

Who Gets What?

Because of the high potential damage granted to firearms, it was also necessary to introduce a complication or condition in order to balance their use with more traditional modes of attack. In my campaign, a character proficient with a firearm does not automatically add any proficiency bonus to the attack roll. Rather, proficiency with a firearm allows a character to use a bonus action to take the aim action, which adds the character’s proficiency bonus to the attack roll. Without taking the aim action (or if a character is using a firearm without proficiency), the shooter receives only the benefit of a Dexterity bonus on the attack roll.

When it came to weapon proficiencies, I decided that several classes would enjoy proficiency with firearms, while others would have to earn their proficiency with multiclassing or by training through the use of downtime days (see the Player’s Handbook). I divided firearms into two basic classes: sidearms (for anything up to a submachine gun) and long arms (for anything up to a light machine gun.) Anything heavier—such as a heavy machine gun, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, or a flamethrower—is given special dispensation according to the in-game situation. In my own campaign, I created a feat called Heavy Weapon Specialist that allows proficiency in all modern weapons heavier than a medium machine gun wielded by an unassisted individual on foot. I also made this feat available as a fighting style for the fighter class.

Firearm Proficiencies by Class
Class Firearm Proficiency
Bard Sidearms
Barbarian Long arms
Cleric None (though possibly granted through domains such as City or War)
Druid None
Fighter Long arms and sidearms
Monk Sidearms
Paladin Long arms and sidearms
Ranger Long arms and sidearms
Rogue Long arms or sidearms (chosen at character creation)
Sorcerer None
Warlock None (though sidearms and long arms can be created through the Pact of the Blade class feature)
Wizard None (though sidearm proficiency might be granted through the School of Technomancy)

Hold up! City Domain? School of Technomancy? I’ll get into those next time!

About the Author

Daniel Helmick is a contractor attached to the Dungeons & Dragons R&D department, formerly of the D&D Insider studio at Wizards of the Coast. He has contributed numerous articles and adventures to Dungeon and Dragon magazines, as well as the Tyranny of Dragons and Elemental Evil Adventurers League programs. He’s thinking about getting a cat, but he’s torn between the names Trapspringer and Dragonbait.

THE COLLEGES TO COME?

Following up on the LARPful post. This could be an excellent stimulus for the imagination. Especially for writers. artists, actors, and perhaps even scientists who wanted a free-flowing environment to conduct chemical and physical experiments and make observations in a fun environment.

I can also see this being transformed easily into a Vadding Experience (the exploration of both modern and older ruins), that is LARPing could be used an an environment to train Vadders.

And finally this could also be easily used as a platform to develop ARGs (Alternate Reality Games and LARPs) and could even be used to train participants in Real World Skills (TSS: Transferable Skill Simulations) and in subjects such as ancient technologies and history.

So this could also easily become a GPAD, a Game of Personal Advancement and Development.

Anyway as far as the current Crowdfunding Project goes Claus, Good Luck and Godspeed. To you, your partners, and participants.

 

LARPFUL, LARK-LESS

I admit, I’ve always had a prejudice against LARPing. I’ve always considered it the sort of live-action joke of acting, and the running gag of gaming.

But I also gotta admit. It’s come a long, long way in recent years. Some of this looks really interesting, and would be especially so if you were a kid.

Live Action Role-Playing has a way of sinking its (metaphorical) claws into you. Consider American journalist Lizzie Stark, who in 2011 visited the Knudepunkt conference in Denmark, the most influential larp gathering of its kind. There, she climbed into the rabbit hole and never came out. I know, because I gave her a hug not two hours ago at this year’s conference. She’s still a journalist, and recently published a stunning book on breast cancer, but she’s also an avid larper and game designer in her own right.

“Discovering the Nordic scene felt like reading James Joyce or Gertrude Stein after spending a lifetime on fairy tales,” she wrote in her 2012 book about larping, Leaving Mundania. What would turn a critical American journalist into a die-hard larper? Good question, but let’s step back a bit here. Larp is organized pretend play. During a larp, participants dress up as characters and leave their normal lives behind for a while. A larp can be about cowboys in 1886, witches and wizards at a magical college, or an advertising agency from hell. Instead of watching or listening, you’re an active part of the experience. It’s like stepping into a TV show or novel. Or kids playing. Both descriptions are accurate.

The author as a general commanding 200 soldiers at Warlarp. Photo: Anders BernerNordic larp, the type that gets the most press, and the one in which I participate, evolved out of the scenes in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland (but not Iceland, the other Nordic country). Not only does some of the most outrageous and mind-blowing stuff happen there (want to play soulless ad execs or tortured prisoner for fun? Nordic larp is for you), the Nordic larp movement has also spawned the world’s most celebrated larp conference. It’s called Knudepunkt (“Nodal Point”) and has taken place annually since 1997. It’s a 100 percent volunteer-driven event, where larp enthusiasts of all stripes come together to discuss, play, and party.

The event has slowly grown from around a hundred participants from the four Nordic countries (sorry, Iceland) to almost 600 this year from almost 30 different countries. It’s a magical playground like no other, where devoted hobbyists and academics stay up late at night to rant about subjects like realistic characters, psychological safety, and techniques to simulate rape.

Simulated rape? Really? Yeah. I started out larping for shits and giggles, and while I still do that, I sometimes also larp for more serious purposes these days. I’ve played a prisoner in a not-that-long-after-tomorrow prison and have been tortured using genuine Gitmo techniques. I’ve been a jealous husband in an 1829 Jane Austen romantic comedy. And I’ve played a heartless peacekeeping soldier, who couldn’t care less about the locals. Not all of this has been “fun,” but all have been experiences I treasure and which have helped form me.

Maybe that’s why I love this hobby, and especially this conference, so much. At one moment, I’ll be at a lecture where a Finnish Ph.D. in Game Studies is earnestly telling us all why we need to rethink our definition of “games,” and at the next moment, I’ll be knee-deep in a Russian presentation about larps in the 90’s, and hear a story of how some deranged madman thought he was actually the “Son of Sauron”—yeah, that Sauron, the bad guy from Lord of the Rings. I know, Sauron wasn’t big on sons, but this guy wasn’t big on reason, either.

I was 13 when I started larping. My friend Jeppe and I used a bizarre-looking club as a shared weapon, and our costumes were bed sheets with a hole cut out at the head. The club included materials like “crappy stick,” “lumps of felt,” ”newspaper” and was a bright orange colour. Bright orange. And nobody cared—least of all people from the outside.

The author at a young age at the Knudepunkt 2000 conference. Photo courtesy Claus Raasted.Now I’m 35, and my latest larp project was a four-day event about witches and wizards held at an honest-to-Gandalf fairytale castle. It got featured in People and TIME and on MTV, Fox News, and Good Morning America. And they didn’t talk about us like we were freaks and weirdos. “You guys, they have a castle for this larp. A real, freaking castle,” one journalist wrote. Granted, the author does write for Nerdist, which, needless to say, is on the nerdy side of the media spectrum. But the strange thing was the writer for Teen Vogue magazine was just as enthusiastic.

“Hello, I live in San Diego, California,” an email from a would-be participant began, “and I saw your website published on Teen Vogue.”

WTF!?

I’ve been participating in larps for two decades, and even though I’ve been part of the avant-garde Nordic larp movement for more than a decade, I can say for sure that this one caught me flatfooted. When I was a teenager larping was a hobby for the weird, the bright, and the creative. We definitely didn’t read Teen Vogue, and I swear by Spock’s ears that Teen Vogue didn’t write about us.

But all that has changed. The Interwebz is good for many things, and only 90 percent of them are porn. One thing it’s great at is connecting communities. I remember watching a documentary about Star Wars stormtrooper fans some years back. There was this guy from Mexico (or somewhere equally populated, but remote) who was the only dude in his village who thought Star Wars was cool. But due to the power of the electronic superhighways, he found kindred spirits all over the world. He was no longer alone, and now his story has been told to millions of people around the world because of that documentary.

I wasn’t that stormtrooper, but I know a bit about how he felt. When I started larping in 1993, we were maybe a thousand larpers in Denmark. Now, more than 100,000 Danes larp, and I’ve had sit-downs with Danish ministers (plural) about why larping is something they should be aware of. We’ve come a long way, and one of the reasons we’ve gotten to where we are today is because some people got together at the first Knudepunkt conference in 1997 and talked about their hobby in a serious way.

The author being tortured at Kapo in 2011. Photo by Peter Munthe-Kaas.So why do we do it? We do we take games so seriously? Isn’t it just about having fun? Well, sure. But “fun” can mean many things. I’m also quite sure that no one will mock Johnny Depp for taking his acting seriously even in comedic roles. If creative expression was only about getting a few laughs and making people feel good, there’d be no Schindler’s List, no Oedipus, and definitely no Passion of the Christ.

And now I’ve got to go. Because I need to explain to some critical firebrands that we shouldn’t be afraid of the girl from Teen Vogue who wants to pretend she’s a witch in a magical castle. We should remember that all journeys of the imagination begin somewhere, and that the easiest way to get people to understand the rabbit hole is to make them want to jump into it.

After all, if we’re to come out of the shadows and into the light, we have to show the world that while we may sometimes pretend to be vampires who dislike the sunlight, we do it in cool and interesting ways.

Claus Raasted

Claus Raasted has made his living doing larps since 2002, and is the author of 17 books on the subject. His most famous project is the Harry Potter inspired larp “College of Wizardry”, which made its rounds on global media in December 2014. When he’s not busy with projects, he’s happily married and is the proud owner of 100 kgs of LEGO.

THE WORM OUROBOROS

I have been re-reading the Worm Ouroboros by ER Eddison lately and have found it to be immensely entertaining, stimulating to my imagination, and very useful for my own writings.

THE VOYAGE HOME

Godspeed Nimoy. And live long and prosper exploring whatever new worlds you eventually find.

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The Man Who Was Spock

Leonard Nimoy, best known for playing the character Spock in the Star Trek television shows and films, died at 83.

Video by Robin Lindsay on Publish Date February 27, 2015. Photo by NBC, via Photofest.

Leonard Nimoy, the sonorous, gaunt-faced actor who won a worshipful global following as Mr. Spock, the resolutely logical human-alien first officer of the Starship Enterprise in the television and movie juggernaut “Star Trek,” died on Friday morning at his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. He was 83.

His wife, Susan Bay Nimoy, confirmed his death, saying the cause was end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Mr. Nimoy announced that he had the disease last year, attributing it to years of smoking, a habit he had given up three decades earlier. He had been hospitalized earlier in the week.

His artistic pursuits — poetry, photography and music in addition to acting — ranged far beyond the United Federation of Planets, but it was as Mr. Spock that Mr. Nimoy became a folk hero, bringing to life one of the most indelible characters of the last half century: a cerebral, unflappable, pointy-eared Vulcan with a signature salute and blessing: “Live long and prosper” (from the Vulcan “Dif-tor heh smusma”).

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Nimoy Explains Origin of Vulcan Greeting

Nimoy Explains Origin of Vulcan Greeting

As part of the Yiddish Book Center Wexler Oral History Project, Leonard Nimoy explains the origin of the Vulcan hand signal used by Spock, his character in the “Star Trek” series.

Video by Yiddish Book Center on Publish Date February 27, 2015. Photo by Yiddish Book Center’s Wexler Oral History Project.

Mr. Nimoy, who was teaching Method acting at his own studio when he was cast in the original “Star Trek” television series in the mid-1960s, relished playing outsiders, and he developed what he later admitted was a mystical identification with Spock, the lone alien on the starship’s bridge.

Yet he also acknowledged ambivalence about being tethered to the character, expressing it most plainly in the titles of two autobiographies: “I Am Not Spock,” published in 1977, and “I Am Spock,” published in 1995.

In the first, he wrote, “In Spock, I finally found the best of both worlds: to be widely accepted in public approval and yet be able to continue to play the insulated alien through the Vulcan character.”

“Star Trek,” which had its premiere on NBC on Sept. 8, 1966, made Mr. Nimoy a star. Gene Roddenberry, the creator of the franchise, called him “the conscience of ‘Star Trek’ ” — an often earnest, sometimes campy show that employed the distant future (as well as some primitive special effects by today’s standards) to take on social issues of the 1960s.

His stardom would endure. Though the series was canceled after three seasons because of low ratings, a cultlike following — the conference-holding, costume-wearing Trekkies, or Trekkers (the designation Mr. Nimoy preferred) — coalesced soon after “Star Trek” went into syndication.

The fans’ devotion only deepened when “Star Trek” was spun off into an animated show, various new series and an uneven parade of movies starring much of the original television cast, including — besides Mr. Nimoy — William Shatner (as Capt. James T. Kirk), DeForest Kelley (Dr. McCoy), George Takei (the helmsman, Sulu), James Doohan (the chief engineer, Scott), Nichelle Nichols (the chief communications officer, Uhura) and Walter Koenig (the navigator, Chekov).

When the director J. J. Abrams revived the “Star Trek” film franchise in 2009, with an all-new cast — including Zachary Quinto as Spock — he included a cameo part for Mr. Nimoy, as an older version of the same character. Mr. Nimoy also appeared in the 2013 follow-up, “Star Trek Into Darkness.”

His zeal to entertain and enlighten reached beyond “Star Trek” and crossed genres. He had a starring role in the dramatic television series “Mission: Impossible” and frequently performed onstage, notably as Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof.” His poetry was voluminous, and he published books of his photography.

He also directed movies, including two from the “Star Trek” franchise, and television shows. And he made records, singing pop songs as well as original songs about “Star Trek,” and gave spoken-word performances — to the delight of his fans and the bewilderment of critics.

But all that was subsidiary to Mr. Spock, the most complex member of the Enterprise crew, who was both one of the gang and a creature apart engaged at times in a lonely struggle with his warring racial halves.

In one of his most memorable “Star Trek” performances, Mr. Nimoy tried to follow in the tradition of two actors he admired, Charles Laughton and Boris Karloff, who each played a monstrous character — Quasimodo and the Frankenstein monster — who is transformed by love.

In Episode 24, which was first shown on March 2, 1967, Mr. Spock is indeed transformed. Under the influence of aphrodisiacal spores he discovers on the planet Omicron Ceti III, he lets free his human side and announces his love for Leila Kalomi (Jill Ireland), a woman he had once known on Earth. In this episode, Mr. Nimoy brought to Spock’s metamorphosis not only warmth, compassion and playfulness, but also a rarefied concept of alienation.

“I am what I am, Leila,” Mr. Spock declares after the spores’ effect has worn off and his emotions are again in check. “And if there are self-made purgatories, then we all have to live in them. Mine can be no worse than someone else’s.”

Born in Boston on March 26, 1931, Leonard Simon Nimoy was the second son of Max and Dora Nimoy, Ukrainian immigrants and Orthodox Jews. His father worked as a barber.

From the age of 8, Leonard acted in local productions, winning parts at a community college, where he performed through his high school years. In 1949, after taking a summer course at Boston College, he traveled to Hollywood, though it wasn’t until 1951 that he landed small parts in two movies, “Queen for a Day” and “Rhubarb.”

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Leonard Nimoy Dies at 83

Leonard Nimoy Dies at 83

CreditJerry Mosey/Associated Press

He continued to be cast in little-known movies, although he did presciently play an alien invader in a cult serial called “Zombies of the Stratosphere,” and in 1961 he had a minor role on an episode of “The Twilight Zone.” His first starring movie role came in 1952 with “Kid Monk Baroni,” in which he played a disfigured Italian street-gang leader who becomes a boxer.

Mr. Nimoy served in the Army for two years, rising to sergeant and spending 18 months at Fort McPherson in Georgia, where he presided over shows for the Army’s Special Services branch. He also directed and starred as Stanley in the Atlanta Theater Guild’s production of “A Streetcar Named Desire” before receiving his final discharge in November 1955.

He then returned to California, where he worked as a soda jerk, movie usher and cabdriver while studying acting at the Pasadena Playhouse. He achieved wide visibility in the late 1950s and early 1960s on television shows like “Wagon Train,” “Rawhide” and “Perry Mason.” Then came “Star Trek.”

Mr. Nimoy returned to college in his 40s and earned a master’s degree in Spanish from Antioch University Austin, an affiliate of Antioch College in Ohio, in 1978. Antioch University later awarded Mr. Nimoy an honorary doctorate.

Mr. Nimoy directed two of the Star Trek movies, “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” (1984) and “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” (1986), which he helped write. In 1991, the same year that he resurrected Mr. Spock on two episodes of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Mr. Nimoy was also the executive producer and a writer of the movie “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.”

He then directed the hugely successful comedy “Three Men and a Baby” (1987), a far cry from his science-fiction work, and appeared in made-for-television movies. He received an Emmy nomination for the 1982 movie “A Woman Called Golda,” in which he portrayed the husband of Golda Meir, the prime minister of Israel, who was played by Ingrid Bergman. It was the fourth Emmy nomination of his career — the other three were for his “Star Trek” work — although he never won.

Mr. Nimoy’s marriage to the actress Sandi Zober ended in divorce. Besides his wife, he is survived by his children, Adam and Julie Nimoy; a stepson, Aaron Bay Schuck; and six grandchildren; one great-grandchild, and an older brother, Melvin.

Though his speaking voice was among his chief assets as an actor, the critical consensus was that his music was mortifying. Mr. Nimoy, however, was undaunted, and his fans seemed to enjoy the camp of his covers of songs like “If I Had a Hammer.” (His first album was called “Leonard Nimoy Presents Mr. Spock’s Music From Outer Space.”)

From 1977 to 1982, Mr. Nimoy hosted the syndicated series “In Search Of…,” which explored mysteries like the Loch Ness Monster and UFOs. He also narrated “Ancient Mysteries” on the History Channel from 1995 to 2003 and appeared in commercials, including two with Mr. Shatner for Priceline.com. He provided the voice for animated characters in “Transformers: The Movie,” in 1986, and “The Pagemaster,” in 1994.

In 2001 he voiced the king of Atlantis in the Disney animated movie “Atlantis: The Lost Empire,” and in 2005 he furnished voice-overs for the computer game Civilization IV. More recently, he had a recurring role on the science-fiction series “Fringe” and was heard, as the voice of Spock, in an episode of the hit sitcom “The Big Bang Theory.”

Mr. Nimoy was an active supporter of the arts as well. The Thalia, a venerable movie theater on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, now a multi-use hall that is part of Symphony Space, was renamed the Leonard Nimoy Thalia in 2002.

He also found his voice as a writer. Besides his autobiographies, he published “A Lifetime of Love: Poems on the Passages of Life” in 2002. Typical of Mr. Nimoy’s simple free verse are these lines: “In my heart/Is the seed of the tree/Which will be me.”

In later years, he rediscovered his Jewish heritage, and in 1991 he produced and starred in “Never Forget,” a television movie based on the story of a Holocaust survivor who sued a neo-Nazi organization of Holocaust deniers.

In 2002, having illustrated his books of poetry with his photographs, Mr. Nimoy published “Shekhina,” a book devoted to photography with a Jewish theme, that of the feminine aspect of God. His black-and-white photographs of nude and seminude women struck some Orthodox Jewish leaders as heretical, but Mr. Nimoy asserted that his work was consistent with the teaching of the kabbalah.

His religious upbringing also influenced the characterization of Spock. The character’s split-fingered salute, he often explained, had been his idea: He based it on the kohanic blessing, a manual approximation of the Hebrew letter shin, which is the first letter in Shaddai, one of the Hebrew names for God.

“To this day, I sense Vulcan speech patterns, Vulcan social attitudes and even Vulcan patterns of logic and emotional suppression in my behavior,” Mr. Nimoy wrote years after the original series ended.

But that wasn’t such a bad thing, he discovered. “Given the choice,” he wrote, “if I had to be someone else, I would be Spock.”

Correction: February 27, 2015
An earlier version of this obituary, using information from Antioch College, misstated the name of an institution that award Mr. Nimoy an honorary doctorate. It was Antioch University, not Antioch College.

MEDIEVAL MISDIRECTION

Common misconceptions, and their associated tropes, but if you ask me the way the Real World existed was much more interesting. The fantasy is rarely as complex, fascinating, or interesting as the Reality.

And you have to keep in mind both the differences in the eras (time periods – 5th century life was very different from late Medieval period life), and, of course, the differences in locale.

The Medieval Byzantine Empire was a wholly different place, for the most part, from the Medieval Holy Roman Empire, or from Medieval Scotland, or Medieval Scandinavia, or Medieval Syria or Egypt.

Differences in time and place always matter.

10 Worst Misconceptions About Medieval Life You’d Get From Fantasy Books

10 Worst Misconceptions About Medieval Life You'd Get From Fantasy Books123

Some tropes are so ingrained in Medieval-inspired fantasy stories that it’s tempting to think that they represent real aspects of Medieval life. But often these stories are just reinforcing myths and misconceptions about life in the Middle Ages.

Top image from the Dragonlance series, which I love, but is steeped in pseudo-Medievalism.

One thing that it’s important to remember when talking about the Medieval period is that it spans a long time — from the 5th century CE to the 15th century CE — and involves a great number of European countries. You’ll notice that a great deal of the debunkery here involves 14th century England, thanks to works like The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer and the works of Joseph Gies and Frances Gies (although another source, Misconceptions About the Middle Ages, covers a bit more ground). But the point here is that the Middle Ages were, in fact, far richer than the Medieval-like settings of many swords and sorcery stories would lead you to believe.

Do fantasy novels need to be historically accurate? Certainly not. Part of the fun of worldbuilding is inventing new ideas, or combining elements of different cultures and time periods, and even integrating historical myths and misconceptions. But If you read a lot of books or watch a lot of movies with pseudo-Medieval settings, you may come away with a mistaken impression that you know what life in the Middle Ages was like. Plus, real history offers new ideas that you might want to incorporate into your own stories in the future.

And this is not to say that all Medieval-esque settings slip into these myths; only that many, many do.

This post was inspired by this fascinating thread on reddit’s r/AskHistorians, which we highlighted a while back. Here are the misconceptions, with debunkery below:

1. Peasants were a single class of people who were more or less equal to one another.

10 Worst Misconceptions About Medieval Life You'd Get From Fantasy Books

It’s easy to think that people in the Middle Ages were easily divided into very broad classes: royals, nobles, knights, clergy, and toiling peasants at the very bottom. But just because you didn’t have “king,” “lord,” “sir,” “father,” or “brother” (or their female analogs) in front of your name doesn’t mean you weren’t concerned with your own social standing. There are vast classes of people whom, today, we might generally refer to as “peasants,” but there were actually various classes of people within that broad category.

Mortimer points out that, in 14th-century England, for example, you have your villeins, people bonded to a particular lord’s land. Villeins were not considered free folk, and they could be sold with the lord’s land. And free folk were of a variety of social and economic classes. A freeholder, for example, might become successful enough to rent a lord’s manor, essentially acting as a lord himself. And, in a village, a few families might hold the majority of the political power, supplying most of the local officers. We may tend to think of these people as “peasants,” but they had much more complicated ways of thinking of themselves, with all the class anxiety that goes with that.

2. Inns were public houses with big common halls below and rooms above.

There are few images as firmly rooted in pseudo-Medieval fantasy as the tavern inn. You and your party enjoy a few flagons of ale in the main room, hear all the local gossip, then go up to your private rented chamber where you’d sleep (alone or with a lover) on a lumpy mattress.

That image isn’t wholly fiction, but the truth is a bit more complicated — not to mention interesting. In Medieval England, if you combined a city inn with an alehouse, you’d probably get something resembling that fantasy inn. There were inns where you could rent a bed (or, more likely, a space in a bed), and these inns did have halls for eating and drinking. But these were not public houses; innkeepers were generally permitted to serve food and drink only to their guests. And, Mortimer points out, you would likely find a single room with several beds, beds that could fit up to three people. It was only in the most upscale inns that you’d find chambers with just one or two beds.

There were establishments for drinking in these cities as well: taverns for wine and alehouses for ale. Of the two, alehouses were the rowdier establishments, more likely to function as your Medieval Mos Eisley. But ale and cider were often made at home as well; a husband might expect his wife to be skilled in brewing. The Gieses note in Life in a Medieval Village that a tavern in an English village was often someone’s home. Once your neighbor opened up a fresh batch of ale, you might go to their house, pay a few pennies, and sit and drink with your fellow villagers.

There are other options for accommodations as well. Travelers could expect the hospitality of people of equal or lesser social class, enjoying their food and beds in exchange for tales from the road and a tip. (Mortimer says that, if you were lucky enough to stay with a 14-century merchant, the digs were much nicer than any inn.) Or you might go to a hospital, which was not just for healing, but also for hospitality.

10 Worst Misconceptions About Medieval Life You'd Get From Fantasy Books

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3. You would never see a woman engaged in a trade such as armorer or merchant.

Certainly, some fantasy stories will cast women in equal (or relatively equal) positions to men, carrying out the same sorts of trades that men might carry out. But in many fictional stories, a woman who makes armor or sells good would seem out of place — although this does not universally reflect Medieval reality. In England, a widow could take up the trade of her dead husband — and Mortimer specifically cites tailor, armorer, and merchant as trades open to widows. Some female merchants were actually quite successful, managing international trading ventures with impressive capital.

Women engaged in criminal activity as well, including banditry. Many criminal gangs in Medieval England consisted of families, including wives with their husbands and sisters with their brothers.

Image from the Holkham Bible Picture Book, via the British Library Board.

4. People had horrible table manners, throwing bones and scraps on the floor.

Sorry, even in the Middle Ages, members of polite society, from kings to villeins, followed certain etiquette, and that etiquette involved good table manners. In fact, depending on when and where and with whom you were eating, you might have to follow very strict procedures for eating and drinking. Here’s a tip: If a lord passes you his cup at the dinner table, it’s a sign of his favor. Accept it, backwash and all, and pass it back to him after you’ve had a sip.

5. People distrusted all forms of magic and witches were frequently burned.

In some fantasy stories, magic is readily accepted by everyone as a fact of life. In others, magic is treated with suspicion at best or as blasphemy at worst. You might even hear the Biblical edict, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”

But not all claims of magic in the Middle Ages were treated as heresy. In her essay “Witches and the Myth of the Medieval ‘Burning Time,'” from Misconceptions About the Middle Ages, Anita Obermeier tells us that during the 10th century, the Catholic Church wasn’t interested in trying witches for heresy; it was more interested in eradicating heretical superstitions about “night-flying creatures.”

And in 14th-century England, you might consult a magician or a witch for some minor “magical” task, such as finding a lost object. In Medieval England, at least, magic without any heretical components was tolerated. Eventually, the late 15th century would give rise to the Spanish Inquisition, and we do see witches hunted down.

Witch burnings weren’t unheard of in the Middle Ages, but they weren’t common, either. Obermeier explains that, in the 11th century, sorcery was treated as a secular crime, but the church would issue several reprimands before it would resort to burning. She puts the first burning for heresy at 1022 in Orleans and the second at 1028 in Monforte. It’s rare in the 11th and 12th centuries, but becomes a more common punishment in the 13th century for relapsed heretics. However, it depends where you are. In the 14th century, you probably won’t be burned as a witch in England, but you may very well get the stake in Ireland.

6. Men’s clothing was always practical and functional.

10 Worst Misconceptions About Medieval Life You'd Get From Fantasy Books

Yes, Medieval people of various classes were interested in fashion, and sometimes fashion — particularly men’s fashion — got pretty absurd. Early clothing is more functional, but during the 14th century, men’s fashions in England were both body-bearing and rather experimental. Corsets and garters were common for men, and increasingly, popular fashions encouraged men to show off the shape of their hips and legs. Some aristocratic men wore gowns with sleeves so long they were in danger of tripping on the cuffs. It became fashionable to wear shoes with extraordinarily long toes — one such shoe, imported from Bohemia, had twenty-inch toes that needed to be tied to a man’s garters. There was even a fad of wearing one’s mantle so that the head went through the arm hole rather than the head hole, with the sleeves functioning as a voluminous collar.

Image: Selection of Medieval leather shoes from the Museum of London.

It’s also important to note that fashions would trickle down from royalty, through the aristocracy, and down to the common folk. In the seasons after a fashion appeared among the nobility, a less expensive version would appear among those of lesser stations. In fact, sumptuary laws were passed in London to prevent people from dressing above their stations. For example, a common woman in 1330s London was not permitted to line her hood with anything but lambskin or rabbit fur, or risk losing her hood.

7. Servants were all low-class people.

Actually, if you were a high-ranking individual, chances are that you had high-ranking servants. A lord might send his son to serve in another lord’s manor — perhaps that of his wife’s brother. The son would receive no income, but would still be treated as the son of a lord. A lord’s steward might actually be a lord himself. Your status in society isn’t just based on whether or not you were a servant, but also your familial status, whom you served, and what your particular job was.

Something you might not expect about servants in English households in the late Middle Ages: they were overwhelmingly male. Mortimer points to the earl of Devon’s household, which had 135 members, but only three women. With the exception of a washerwoman (who didn’t live in the household), the staffers were all men, even in households headed by women.

8. Medicine was based on pure superstition.

Admittedly, if you’re looking outside of Game of Thrones, a lot of healing in fantasy novels is just plain magical. You’ve got your cleric class who gets their healing from the gods, and otherwise you might have someone on hand who can dress a wound or make a poultice.

And yes, a lot of Medieval medicine was based on what we would consider today mystical bunk. A great deal of diagnosis involved astrology and humoral theory. Blood letting was a respected method of treatment, and many of the curatives were not only useless — they were downright dangerous. And while there were medical colleges, extraordinarily few physicians were able to attend.

Still, some aspects of Medieval medicine were logical even by modern standards. Wrapping smallpox in scarlet cloth, treating gout with colchicum, using camomile oil for an earache — these were all effective treatments. And while the notion of a barber-surgeon is a horrifying one to many of us, some of those surgeons were actually quite talented. John of Arderne employed anesthetics in his practice, and many surgeons were skilled in couching cataracts, sewing abscesses, and setting bones.

10 Worst Misconceptions About Medieval Life You'd Get From Fantasy Books

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From John Arderne’s De arte phisicali et de cirurgia, via Wikimedia Commons.

9. The most powerful military force consisted of armored knights riding into battle.

James G. Patterson, in his essay “The Myth of the Mounted Knight” from Misconceptions About the Middle Ages, explains that while the image of the mounted knight might have been a popular one during Medieval times, it didn’t match the reality of warfare. Armored cavalry, he explains, can be incredibly useful — even devastating — against untrained revolutionaries, but they were far less useful against a trained foreign infantry. Rather, ground forces, including knights on foot who frequently served as officers, were invaluable in battle. Even during the Crusades, when the image of the mounted knight seemed synonymous with glory in battle, most the actual battles involved sieges.

In the 14th century, English warfare focused increasingly on archery. In fact, Edward III prohibited football in 1331 and then again in 1363 in part because people were spending too much time playing football and not enough time practicing their archery. The English archers were able to repel many a French cavalry force.

10. Only men’s sexual pleasure was important.

A common belief during the Middle Ages was that women were more lustful than men. A lot more lustful, in fact. Rape was a crime in 14th century Medieval England, but not between spouses. A wife could not legally refuse her husband’s advances, but a husband could not refuse his wife’s advances either. The popular belief was that women were always longing for sex, and that it was bad for their health not to have intercourse regularly. A woman’s orgasm was also important; another common belief was that a woman could not conceive without an orgasm. (Unfortunately, this also made rape impossible to prosecute if the victim became pregnant; Medieval English scholars believed women’s bodies had a way of, in the modern parlance, shutting things down.)

So what was an unmarried woman to do? Well, if she couldn’t find a husband, the English physician John of Gaddesden recommended that she find a midwife who could get the job done manually.

NEW ALIEN LANDSCAPE

It’s a go…

New ‘Alien’ Movie Confirmed with Director Neill Blomkamp

Alien: New Movie Confirmed with Director
February 18, 2015 | 04:32PM PT
Justin Kroll
Film Reporter @krolljvar

20th Century Fox has closed a deal with director Neill Blomkamp to develop a new “Alien” movie, sources confirm.

The untitled sci-fi project is separate from “Prometheus 2,” which Fox is still making with Ridley Scott.

Blomkamp, who directed “District 9″ and the upcoming Sony feature “Chappie,” had been teasing the project in recent months but said the extra-terrestrial reboot was likely abandoned. It was supposed to star “Alien” veteran Sigourney Weaver.

But on Wednesday Blomkamp confirmed the tentpole was back on track at Fox.

“So I think this is officially my next film,” he confirmed on Instagram.

It’s unclear whether Weaver is still attached to the movie.

According to insiders, the new “Alien” takes place years after the “Prometheus” sequel. Scott is producing both films through his production company Scott Free.

“Prometheus,” also distributed by Fox, was “loosely based” on the “Alien” franchise and earned over $400 million worldwide. But the 3D movie opened to mixed reviews, and Fox hopes Blomkamp, who last directed “Elysium,” can take the franchise to the next level.

Born in South Africa, the 35 year-old Blomkamp is repped by WME.
Filed Under:

Alien

 

THE END OF MARVEL

The Marvel Universe Is Coming to an End in May 2015

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OMG!

The Marvel Universe as you know it will be coming to an end.

Today at a live press event at Midtown Comics in New York City moderated by Marvel PR man Chris D’Lando, Marvel Comics’ Executive Editor Tom Brevoort and Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso announced that the Marvel Universe will smash together with the Ultimate Universe and will be replaced by Battleworld — a mashup of many different Marvel realities.

Take a moment to compose yourself.

This huge development has been in the works for some time in Jonathan Hickman’s years-long Avengers saga. The heroes have been trying to stop a series of universe-ending “incursions” where two universes collide with one another. The inciting incident to May’s eight-part Secret Wars event will be when the heroes fail to stop the regular and Ultimate universes from crashing together. The resulting Battleworld will the Marvel Universe going forward.

“This is putting an endcap to decades of stories and starting a new era. When you see the scope of the event, [you will] see what we’re willing to do. This is a place where we’re going to be bringing new pieces onto the board and taking old pieces off. You guys will be yelling and screaming, loving and hating in equal measure,” Alonso said.

It was clarified that Battleworld will be the Marvel Universe during, through, and after Secret Wars. None of this is an Elseworlds, What If, or any other kind of alternate reality — it’ll be the setting for in-continuity stories that will all count going forward.

Late last year, there were a batch of teaser images harkening back to big Marvel events and such, and during the press conference it was revealed that each of those teasers will be a new comic book series. However, those are just the tip of the iceberg. Many new comics will be announced within the next two weeks, both ongoing series and limited.

In addition, D’Lando said that Marvel will be partnering with the likes of Hasbro, Funko, UpperDeck, and more to make new products to get fans excited for Secret Wars. He also mentioned that the Marvel games team will be coming up with some new “interactive content” for fans. Could a Secret Wars video game be on the horizon?

For those wanting to read Secret Wars, Marvel will be releasing a free Secret Wars #0 comic on May 3rd’s Free Comic Book Day that will act as a primer to get you ready for the event. Both Secret Wars #1 and #2 will be released in May, written by Hickman with art by Esad Ribic. IGN Logo

Joshua is IGN’s Comics Editor. If Game of Thrones, Spider-Man, or Super Smash Bros. are frequently used words in your vocabulary, you’ll want to follow him on Twitter and IGN.

ORICHALCUM? – THE RICHES YET DISCOVERED

This opens up a whole new and fascinating venue of ancient, historical, fictional, and even gaming metallurgy. And shipwreck, ruins, mining, production, and smithing sites that would produce such alloys and materials.

Divers Retrieve ‘Atlantis’ Metal Orichalcum from Ancient Shipwreck

By Rhodi Lee, Tech Times | January 10, 2:01 AM

Atlantis Map
Divers exploring an ancient shipwreck discovered 39 ingots believed to be made of the legendary metal orichalcum that Plato said was forged and used in the city of Atlantis.
(Photo : Athanasius Kircher)

atlantis-map

A group of divers who were exploring a 2,600 year-old shipwreck off the coast of Sicily discovered ingots believed to be made of orichalcum, a metal that the ancient Greek philosopher Plato wrote to have been forged in the legendary city of Atlantis.

The orichalcum, whose composition and origin remain widely debated, is said to have been invented by a mythological Greek-Phoenician alchemist named Cadmus and was considered very valuable in the ancient times it ranked next to gold.

In the fourth century B.C., Plato, one of the greatest geniuses of all time, mentioned the orichalcum in the Critias dialogue with his description of Atlantis being a realm that flashes with the red light of the mysterious metal.
He said that the orichalcum was mined there and that was used to cover the floors and structures of floors of Poseidon’s temple. Many experts today believe that the metal is a brass-like alloy produced in the ancient times using a process known as cementation.

Sebastiano Tusa, Sicily’s superintendent of the Sea Office, said that 39 ingots had been found by a team of divers who were exploring a shipwreck that dates back to the first half of the sixth century.

The sunken ship, which was found about 1,000 feet from the coast and at a depth of 10 feet, is believed to have likely been transporting cargo from either Greece or Asia Minor when it sank on its way to the port city of Gela in southern Sicily, probably during a storm.

Tusa hailed the finding as a unique discovery given that no similar object has yet been discovered before.

“Nothing similar has ever been found,” Tusa said. “We knew orichalcum from ancient texts and a few ornamental objects.”

An expert who conducted an analysis of the 39 ingots using X-ray fluorescence found that these were an alloy with up to 80 percent copper, up to 20 percent zinc and a small percentage of lead, iron and nickel.

Some experts however said that the newly found artifacts were not made from the orichalcum. Enrico Mattievich, who used to teach at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), is one of the scholars who do not think the metal has a brass-like nature.

Contrary to views of other experts, Mattievich claims that a metallic alloy characterized by fire-like reflections similar to the Plato’s description was found in metallic jaguars associated with the Chavín civilization that thrived in the Peruvian Andes from 1200 B.C. to 200 B.C and these were made of 9 percent copper, 15 percent silver and 76 percent gold.

 

THE UNKNOWN QUEEN

You know, stuff like this not only makes for great history, it makes for superb gaming material and excellent fictional materials. A party goes out to explore a set of ruins and stumbles across another set of ruins, or a tomb, totally unexpectedly, and discovers within it things far more valuable, and far more dangerous, than they had originally anticipated.

Tomb of Fifth Dynasty queen found in Egypt

Updated yesterday at 5:01pmSun 4 Jan 2015, 5:01pm

Czech archaeologists have unearthed the tomb of a previously unknown queen believed to have been the wife of Pharaoh Neferefre who ruled 4,500 years ago, officials in Egypt say.

The tomb was discovered in Abu Sir, an Old Kingdom necropolis south-west of Cairo where there were several pyramids dedicated to pharaohs of the Fifth Dynasty, including Neferefre.

The name of his wife was not known before the find, antiquities minister Mamdouh al-Damaty said in a statement.

He identified her as Khentakawess and said for the “first time we have discovered the name of this queen who had been unknown before the discovery of her tomb”.

That would make her Khentakawess III, as two previous queens with the same name have already been identified.

Her name and rank had been inscribed on the inner walls of the tomb, probably by the builders, Mr Damaty said.

“This discovery will help us shed light on certain unknown aspects of the Fifth Dynasty, which along with the Fourth Dynasty, witnessed the construction of the first pyramids,” he said.

Miroslav Barta, who heads the Czech Institute of Egyptology mission that made the discovery, said the tomb was found in Neferefre’s funeral complex.

“This makes us believe that the queen was his wife,” Mr Barta said.

An official at the antiquities ministry said the tomb dated from the middle of the Fifth Dynasty (2994-2345BC).

Archaeologists also found about 30 utensils – 24 made of limestone and four of copper – the statement said.

AFP

DAREDEVIL, SNAKE, WOLVERINE, AND THE BATMAN, or How I Beat Metal Gear like a Wet Stepchild

Up until this past holiday weekend I had not played any video game in months. Probably closer to a year.

But after Christmas I played some video games in my spare time, and today my oldest daughter wanted me to play Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes.

So while everyone else went off to watch football games at friend’s houses I stayed at home and played Metal Gear. (Once I start something I don’t like to break off iffin I can help it.)

In the space of a mere three hours I beat the main or primary mission. An amazingly good time for me because I tend to favor stealth and sneaking, Intel gathering, and exploration and reconnoitering of my environment over direct combat (just my nature, in both gaming and in real life). Also I stopped play two times to eat and once to walk my dog.

How good was I, you ask?

Well, let me put it to you this way. If you took Daredevil (not that stupid yellow or red suited Daredevil, but the Black Suit Daredevil) and cooked him, then fed him to Solid Snake, then wrapped that Snake around Wolverine, then made an incision and stuck that Daredevil-fed, Snake-Wrapped Wolverine inside the belly of the Batman to run that mission – well, I was still better than that…

BOO-YAH!

By the way, I really enjoyed Ground Zeroes. It was a typical operatic Metal Gear game but far more gritty and tactical and down to Earth minus most of the really weird villains and the bizarre combat sequences (and cut scenes). I think of it as Metal Gear Lite without all the crazy Japanese metaphysics about warfare and life and the universe. (It did have a couple of open gut scenes though.) Now actually I often really like the crazy Japanese metaphysics but it can get kinda convoluted and plot sticky from time to time. This was like supercooled frictionless Japanese metaphysics.

It was more of a very simple, straight forward, almost realistic (considering it is a Metal Gear game) infiltration and hostage recovery game/mission. The parameters were simple. Which was an extremely nice and simple change of pace for a Metal Gear Game.

It was short though, even with me burning through it with very few mistakes and only being killed once.

It alert mode though, those Marines sure were tough and sure did like to bunch up in hard to scatter fire-teams with good overlapping fields of fire. Another reason I avoided combat, plus I really didn’t feel like killing Marines even if they were rogue, and it was just a game. (Gotta lotta buddies who are Marines.) Though with such an undeveloped, or I should say unspecified plot it was really hard to tell good guys from bad guys or even just exactly what was going on.

I still don’t really know, but ya know, that’s a Metal Gear plot for ya, ain’t it?

THE SUNKEN CAER SIDI OF LYONESSE

The Lost Land of Lyonesse – Legendary City on the Bottom of the Sea

The Lost Land of Lyonesse – Legendary City on the Bottom of the Sea

In Arthurian legend, Lyonesse is the home country of Tristan, from the legendary story of Tristan and Iseult.  The mythical land of Lyonesse is now referred to as the “Lost Land of Lyonesse,” as it is ultimately said to have sunk into the sea. However, the legendary tale of Tristan and Iseult shows that Lyonesse is known for more than sinking into the ocean, and that it had a legendary presence while it remained above ground. While Lyonesse is mostly referred to in stories of legend and myth, there is some belief that it represents a very real city that sunk into the sea many years ago. With such a legendary location, it can be difficult to ascertain where the legend ends and reality begins.
The story of Lyonesse most logically begins with Tristan and Iseult. The story of Tristan and Iseult is a tragic story of love and loss. It is an Arthurian tale, inspired by Celtic legend. It is said that the story was possibly the inspiration for the romance of Lancelot and Guinevere, as both stories push the boundaries of love, family, loyalty, adultery, and betrayal. While the story of Tristan and Iseult can vary based upon who is telling it, the plot follows a common theme. Tristan, a young boy from Lyonesse who has been orphaned, it taken in by his uncle, King Mark of Cornwall, which borders Lyonesse.
Tristan and Iseult. The End of the Song by Edmund Leighton
Tristan and Iseult. ‘The End of the Song’ by Edmund Leighton, 1902 (Wikimedia Commons)
As the years pass by, Tristan is very loyal to his uncle, as he raised him as his own son. When Tristan is grown, Mark sends him to Ireland to retrieve the fair maiden Iseult and bring her to Cornwall, as she and King Mark are set to marry. Tristan loyally follows his uncle’s orders, and journeys to Ireland.  On the return trip from Ireland, however, the pair are exposed to a love potion and fall madly in love with one another. Iseult eventually arrives in Cornwall and marries King Mark, but the love potion is very powerful, and Tristan and Iseult cannot deny their love for one another. Tristan and Iseult both love King Mark, but their love for one another is stronger. Eventually the pair is discovered and King Mark is devastated. While Tristan should be sent immediately to the gallows for adultery, King Mark harbors an affection for him, as his nephew. King Mark agrees to forgive Tristan, on the condition that Tristan return Iseult to him. Tristan does so, and he and King Mark make amends.
Iseult with King Mark, Edward Burne-Jones
Iseult with King Mark, Edward Burne-Jones, 19th Century (Wikimedia Commons)
In most variations, the sinking of Lyonesse occurs well after the stories of Tristan, Iseult, and King Mark take place. The sinking itself is not mentioned in Arthurian legend, although some say that Lyonesse sunk when Tristan left for King Mark’s court.  In Lord Tennyson’s epic Idylls of the King, Lyonesse is the location where Arthur and Mordred fought their final battle. One passage foreshadows Lyonesse’s sinking:

Then rose the King and moved his host by night
And ever pushed Sir Mordred, league by league,
Back to the sunset bound of Lyonesse –
A land of old upheaven from the abyss
By fire, to sink into the abyss again;
Where fragments of forgotten peoples dwelt,
And the long mountains ended in a coast
Of ever-shifting sand, and far away
The phantom circle of a moaning sea.

There are some variations in the legends that surround the sinking of the land. Prior to its sinking, Lyonesse would have been quite large, containing one hundred and forty villages and churches. Lyonesse is said to have disappeared on November 11, 1099 (although some tales use the year 1089, and some date back to the 6th century). Very suddenly the land was flooded by the sea. Entire village were swallowed, and the people and animals of the area drowned. Once it was covered in water, the land never reemerged. While the Arthurian tales are legendary, there is some belief that Lyonesse was once a very real place attached to the Scilly Isles in Cornwall, England. Evidence shows that sea levels were considerably lower in the past, so it is very possible that an area that once contained a human settlement above-ground is now beneath the sea level.
Scilly Isles
Some believe that Lyonesse was a real place attached to the Scilly Isles (pictured). Source: BigStockPhoto
It is said that all that remains of Lyonesse is today’s still-standing island of Scilly. Fisherman near the Scilly Isles tell tales of retrieving pieces of buildings and other structures from their fishing nets. These stories have never been substantiated, and are viewed by some as tall tales. They also say they can see remnants of a forest when the sea is at low tide. On a more ghostly and spiritual level, some claim to hear the church bells of Lyonesse ringing during stormy times. As the legends of Lyonesse continue in today’s story-telling, it also remains a part of modern English literature. In 1922, Walter de la Mare wrote:

In sea-cold Lyonesse,
When the Sabbath eve shafts down
On the roofs, walls, belfries
Of the foundered town,
The Nereids pluck their lyres
Where the green translucency beats,
And with motionless eyes at gaze
Make ministrely in the streets./
And the ocean water stirs
In salt-worn casement and porch
Plies the blunt-nosed fish
With fire in his skull for torch.
And the ringing wires resound;
And the unearthly lovely weep,
In lament of the music they make
In the sullen courts of sleep:
Whose marble flowers bloom for aye:
And – lapped by the moon-guiled tide
Mock their carver with heart of stone,
Caged in his stone-ribbed side.

It is no surprise that the story of the sinking city of Lyonesse has come forth with many variations throughout the years. The image of a large, functioning city inhabited by thousands of people suddenly sinking into the sea, never to emerge again invokes an image that is both awesome and horrifying. From the legendary tales of Tristan and Iseult, to Arthur’s final battle with Mordred, to the stories of a city being swallowed by the sea, the tales of Lyonesse invoke a vast array of thoughts and emotions by those who wish to know more about this legendary city, and who like to believe that it’s legendary tales are founded upon a very real lost city.
Featured image: Artist’s depiction of Lyonesse being swept away (AnnoyzView)
Sources:
The Legend of Lyonesse – Lyonesse Falmouth. Available from: http://www.lyonessefalmouth.co.uk/legends/legends.html
Lyonesse – Wikipedia. Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyonesse
The Land of Arthur: Lyonesse – King Arthur’s Knights. Available from: http://www.kingarthursknights.com/theland/lyonesse.asp
Lyonesse – Princeton. Available from: https://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Lyonesse.html
Lyonesse, the lost land off Cornwall – Legend of King Arthur. Available from: http://www.legendofkingarthur.co.uk/cornwall/lyonesse.htm
Tristan and Iseult – Wikipedia. Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tristan_and_Iseult
By M R Reese

SAMARKAND: THE CITY OF SAMARL

Continuing on with the myth of Terra-Ghanae (or Earth-Iÿarlðma).

Below is described the Capital (political, military, and spiritual) City of the Realm of Kitharia, and one of the main cities of the Sidh. In addition it is the home of the Samarls, the de-facto rulers of the Sidh and a major influence upon the other Eldeven races.

Samarkand (The City of Samarl): The city of Samarkand sits in exactly the same geographic point as the city of Samarkand on our world, but resides in Ghanae (properly called Iÿarlðma by the Eldevens). Both cities also share the same name. However all similarities end there. Samarkand was designed by the Sidelh but was built by the Adharma. Both races share a similar view of architecture in that they encapsulate information in material objects. Books or written materials are rare among the Sidelh and completely absent among the Adharma. The giants instead are excellent masters of mnemonics, and therefore pass history thousands of years old down orally with very little variation or embellishment between transmissions. They also weave information into every building, statue, column, piece of furniture and art, and physical device they create. The entire city then is one huge library of historical, arcane, and mythological information if one knows how to read the text.

Samarkand is the capital city of Kitharia, the most populous and powerful nation known among the Eldeven peoples. Since the Sidelh are slow to reproduce they have invited many other races of Eldevens to dwell in their city and the Sidelh are actually often outnumbered by the non-Sidelh living there. Nevertheless the non-Sidelh are often granted citizenship after a time, as are their families, and so often easily integrate into Kitharian society, to become stout defenders and loyal citizens of their adopted homeland.

The ruler of the Samarkand, and by extension Kitharia, is the individual known as the Samareül. He is elected by a secret group of individuals and once elected he takes no public name other than his title of Samareül, which means Priest-King. The Samareül is elected for life, and is rarely deposed. The Samareül is the supreme judge, most influential political leader and chief priest of Kitharia, being considered the living representative of Samarl, or God. Strangely enough however the Kitharians and most Eldevens for that matter have no formal religion or religious beliefs, and most seek no relationship with God at all. Instead the relationship between Samarl and the Eldevens is considered the de-facto representative relationship and chief obligation of the Samareül.

(The current Samareül is looking to change this state of affairs wishing to make a religious and spiritual relationship among the Kitharians and eventually all Eldevens to be a matter of personal relation between the individual and Samarl. This has led to strained cultural, societal, political, and in some cases racial [such as between the Sidelh and the Lorahn] relationships among some parties, and to the establishment of a strange interlinked alliance between the courts of Samarkand and Constantinople on religious and spiritual matters. I’ll discuss this in more detail in a later posting.)

The city is dominated by an acropolis into which is carved (in the fashion of the Adharma who carve their homes into mountainsides) the Palace and administrative houses of the Samareül. The acropolis is also said to contain numerous secret passages into which the Samareül and his officials keep stored many ancient and secret artifacts and devices, including weird machines which are said to be able to peer into other worlds and through time. This acropolis is called the Jlæthÿlîrel. There is also a rumor that the passages themselves have created a sort of scrying channel and that the channels may be decorated with glyphs of unknown design. This acropolis is sometimes called the onŵl-Samarkando, or, Helm of Samarkand.

The city also has numerous districts in which various Eldeven races mix rather freely, but it also has segregated districts. These are most evident between the Sidelh, and the small enclave of Adharma (who rarely take citizenship) who prefer to live there for periods of time as trusted resident aliens. Politically the situation is stable at most times, except during periods of war. There is a large public gathering area called the Msýthariørl where public elections, entertainments, athletic events, public rites, demonstrations of arcane force and skill, and debated counsels are held. It can hold nearly one-half of the entire population of the city at any given time.

There are also a number of industrial and manufacturing districts to produce and market goods, the Eldarik Houses, the Armories and Internal Towers, the Plarshoel (or, Walking Houses – the giants built the city so that certain buildings can move around the city on tracks, allowing the city to be reconfigured for both ease of trade and transport, and for periods of war and self-defense – unknown to most the city walls can likewise move allowing them to be “interlocked” in various defensive configurations as needed), the sa-Elturaere (the Temple for the study and practice of Elturgy and Elturael – Arcane magic), various markets and domestic areas, the Jmyatŗ Skella (the Crafting District), the Tĕna (Quarters of the Peace Officers), the Nhil (the Warband Quarterings), and the newly created Praşklyřt (the Hall of Investigation – to study and counteract the creation of monsters, discussed later).

As mentioned above the entire city is also a sort of architectural library. However many believe that actual Elturgy was used by the Sidelh to recast the work of the giants so that a secret code now also lies hidden within the structure of the city foundations. To what purpose no-one is really sure.

The River Qira runs through the city (including partially underground) and the river Qala now runs completely around the city in a near perfect circular moat, and then runs away through artificial channels so that the river approaches the city from the East and leaves by routes facing due West, South, and North.

The city is composed of seven plateaus, or levels, the highest being the Jlæthÿlîrel, and the lowest section being an underground area of hot springs and baths called the Myņil.

 

THE DOCTOR IS IN

Looks like Cumberbatch will play Doc Strange. Very interesting, because I’m hoping Marvel will do for the Strange film what they did for Thor and Iron Man.

I actually want it to be creepy, horrific, and supernaturally threatening. Not a bunch of pyrotechnics and a mere stage show.

Strange could be an awesome character facing lethal and terrifying opponents if they don’t muck it up.

Benedict Cumberbatch Is ‘Doctor Strange’

Marvel just made it official, folks — Benedict Cumberbatch will play the title role in Marvel Studio’s upcoming superhero fantasy film Doctor Strange. The sorcerer supreme hits theaters November 4, 2016, as part of Marvel’s Phase 3 in their shared movie universe. The film will be directed by Scott Derrickson (and let me use this opportunity to plug the fantastic occult horror film Sinister — if you’ve not seen it yet and want an idea of how perfect Derrickson is for the Doctor Strange film, check out Sinister, just make sure you aren’t alone in the house when you do).

Marvel’s announcement quotes producer and president of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige as saying, “Stephen Strange’s story requires an actor capable of great depth and sincerity. In 2016, Benedict will show audiences what makes Doctor Strange such a unique and compelling character.”

The official confirmation also included word that the film will indeed focus on how neurosurgeon Stephen Strange survives a car crash and discovers the occult world of magic that leads him to become master of the mystic arts Doctor Strange. This origin was originally revealed way back in the comic book series Strange Tales in issue #115, in 1963.

Cumberbatch is getting much Oscar buzz for his performance in The Intimidation Game, and is considered a top contender for the award. Should he walk away with the little golden fellow next February, it will certainly be an added bonus for Marvel in securing the actor as part of their superhero cinema. But even without a win, Cumberbatch is pretty much a sure thing for a nod at the Academy Awards, and that alone is great for him and for Marvel’s boasting rights. And going a step further, even without an Oscar nomination, Cumberbatch is one of the most popular and acclaimed actors in film today, with a large fanbase on TV and film. So he brings instant credibility and power to Doctor Strange regardless of award season speculation.

After the huge success of Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s impossible to say that anything is too far-out or weird or different in the Marvel movies to be a big hit. So, Doctor Strange clearly takes the fantasy elements in a new direction and is going to be the first truly pure-magic story in Marvel’s stable of franchises (Thor‘s films treats Asgard’s magic as a form of advanced science and harnessing of cosmic forces), and will surely be unlike anything we’ve seen from Marvel Studios so far; however, the Marvel brand plus the general global popularity of fantasy films and occult-horror, Cumberbatch’s built-in personal brand and popularity, plus Derrickson’s deft hand at handling films of the occult and horror variety, adds up to lots of reason to expect this to be another feather in the studio’s cap.

THE FAERY TAILS…

Excellent Work!

Russian Photographer Captures Fairy-Tale Scenes With REAL Animals

When Moscow-based photographer Darya Kondratyeva isn’t snapping family, maternity or baby photos, she creates enchanting photos that seem like re-interpretations of old fairytales or legends. The models in her photos seem like they could be witches, princesses or forest spirits.

Aside from her models, trained animals feature heavily in Kondratyeva’s fantasy photography as well. Each one seems like it might open its mouth and whisper a wise secret into the model’s ear.

Kondratyeva’s work is similar to that of Katerina Plotnikova and Margarita Kareva, two other Russian photographers we’ve written about who also have sharp eyes for capturing folkloric images and settings.

More info: dasha-kond.com | Vkontakte

CHARACTER PARTIES AND BACKGROUND MODELS

These are some of the characters that appear both in my gaming worlds (which are in some ways practice worlds and scenarios/situations for my fictional and fantasy/mythological writings)  and my fictional writings. Now, that being true even my gaming worlds are pseudo or proto-historical, or might be thought of as an alternative historical environment or milieu. They are not merely entirely fanciful or fantastic. Nevertheless they are also not entirely fictional, but partially fictional and partially historical. That being said here are the characters and the various parties or teams those characters belong to.

The Basilegate and the Consociatio are mortal enemies.

 

CHARACTER PARTIES AND BACKGROUND MODELS

THE BASILEGATE (The Emperor’s Legate)

Vlachus – a former Armenian missionary, who was called by the Patriarch of Constantinople to assist with the attempt to Christianize the Balkans. He attached himself to the Monastery of Myrelaion where he has served as both priest and missionary. Recommended by the Prelate of the Monastery for the Basilegate assignment. Known for his toughness and dogged determination, for his forgiving nature and his amazing success as a missionary to the East. Single, with two younger brothers, Largus, a leatherworker, and Klemis, a smith and soldier of the Armenian theme. Both parents are dead. His insignia is the Holy Star and he is of the Gold Deme.

Luthemia Casel Venetia – a Latin nun of Venice, sent to Constantinople as an official delegate and representative of the Pope. Widely rumored to be a Wizard, in addition to being an unofficial Cleric, and appointed to the Basilegate because of her extraordinary reputation as both a Saintly and miraculous nun and a Scientae. Single, an only child, and considered a prodigy as a youth. Her father is dead but her mother Sandra still lives. She was once married but now never speaks of her former husband and it is unknown whether he lives or is dead. Her insignia is the Cross and she is of the White (Foreign) Deme

Drakgarm – a former Viking of Gotar who traveled south into the Russian lands and eventually passed through the Iron Gate into the Balkans. While nearly dead from wounds received on a raid he was rescued by Orthodox monks who healed him and converted him. Upon recovering he traveled to Constantinople where he entered the monastery of Studios and became a fighting monk for the Empire. Recommended by the Abbot of Studios for his devotion and enormous physical strength and power. He had one brother, Braedon, and one sister, Yvette, but their whereabouts are unknown. His parents are both dead. Single and childless. His insignia is the Rose and he is of the Red Deme.

Larmaegeon – a Welsh Bard of Caerlean in the British Isles he was trained by the High Bards of Britain, the poetic descendants of the Druids. He was converted when a young boy by Roman Christians, but continued his studies among the Bards in Wales and Ireland. He claims that his mother was Aelfish and that therefore he is Haelfla. He has one half brother, Cimmeus, who considers himself Roman and British, rather than Celtic and Welsh. Cimmeus’ father was killed in battle with the Picts and Larmaegeon was said to have been sired by an unknown person after his mother Eponia became pregnant by a stranger she refused to speak of. Very worldly and unattached he will woo women freely. His personal insignia is the Holly Leaf and he has adopted the Green Deme. Chosen for the Basilegate due to his extensive language capabilities, his diplomatic skill and his knowledge and travels in the West.

Suegenius “The Dwarf” – a Galatian Slav, nicknamed the Dwarf due to his small statue and tough disposition. A very hardy man, very skillful in technical matters and an excellent spy and infiltrator. Raised a Christian in Galatia by his mother Yarlas who was also small, he is unaware of who his father was as his mother would never speak of it. He is unaware of any siblings or other relations, and also unaware of any children though it is possible he may have produced children with any number of women. Immigrated to Constantinople, briefly arrested and flogged for theft, escaped, recaptured and offered freedom and pardon for service in the Basilegate. Attached to no Deme, no personal insignia.

Klura – sometimes called “prav Sagae” due to her reputed powers of the soul, which she possessed form a very early age. She was a former Rus Barbarian who lived in the village of Kiev until traveling south with a caravan to Constantinople. While in the City she began to attend Mass and became a devout convert and briefly entered an unknown hermitage, where the hermitess there supposedly helped her refine her many gifts. Considered a witch and an outcast by her pagan sister Drexa and by her mother Rulliss, she is nevertheless loved by her father Sergei. Unmarried and childless, though she has a suitor named Theocytio, a Rhodesian sailor. Of the White Deme, her insignia is a White Rose. Chosen by her reputation for psychic gifts and her reputed ability to foresee the future.

Marsippius Nicea – originally from Nicea, and from a long line of distinguished and professional soldiers, he served a short time along the Western Frontiers and was then transferred to Constantinople by the Prefect of Nicea in order to honor the service of his father Marsimmius Stratus, a city Consul of Nicea and former Imperator of the Thracian Theme, and to give advancement to the son. Middle Son of a large family including; Marsimmius Duotus, a Centurion of the Thracian Legion and eldest son, Galinda, the eldest daughter, Talera, the youngest daughter, Marsippius, and Darinius an estate farmer and Senator of Adrianople. Both his father Marsimmius Stratus, and his mother, Lucia still live. His family also consists of many famous cousins, and nephews. Married to the noblewoman Celena they currently have no children. While in the capital he impressed one of the Sub Prefects of the Strategion with his intelligence and capabilities, and was recommended for the Basilegate. Family native of the Blue Deme, his personal insignia
is the Cross.

Edomios – a young Paladin who had served the Mayoral line of the Pepins in the West in Barcelona, Spain. Sent East to train and to learn the ways of the Oriental Palademes of the Byzantine Empire and to act as a liaison between the Court of Charlemagne and the Court of the Emperor Nicephorus. The village in which his parents lived was overrun by the Moors and both his father Emus and his mother Chiara are now missing and presumed dead. He has three young teenage daughters; Alisa, Elena, and Maria by his wife Doria, a Greek woman. His family is housed in the Venetian Quarter. Raised as a Latin Christian he has sworn his sword and service to the Church and to both Empires, East and West. Adopted the Green Deme, and his insignia is the Anchor.

 

Rhorric of Capadocia – a Vigilante’s Vigilante. For many years Rhorric served the Capadocian and Armenian themes as a Frontiersman, an enforcer of the law, an imperial Scout and a spy. Eschewing life in the cities, towns and villages, Rhorric grew up along the frontiers, intermingling freely with various barbarian tribes, Arab raiders, pirates and mercenaries, many of whom he secretly worked against after seeming to befriend them. His grandfather, Rhomarr was a Palademe who was eventually hunted down and ambushed by a group of Dragoons and slain after enduring horrible torture. His father, Calandus escaped with the help of his unmarried uncle, Lexemes, a Vigilante, but his father never became a Paladin or Ranger and forbade Rhorric to pursue Paladinhood or Vigilantism. After the death of his father, and his mother Rheda, Rhorric located his elderly uncle who trained him to become a Ranger and made him swear vengeance against the killers of his grandfather and against all Dragoons, but especially against the Antipaladins. Since then he has led a secret and disguised life assisting the empire, hunting criminals and searching for the murderers of his grandfather. Not an official or sanctioned member of the Basilegate he is nevertheless a trusted and secretive ally. He has one younger brother named Critius, a merchant, and a married sister, neither of whom he has seen in years and both of whom assume he is dead. Of no Deme, but with the personal insignia of a Fish intertwined by a Serpent.

CONSOCIATIO

Leticus Cambrius (Antipaladus) – an Ebone Dragoon whose family was wiped out during a Germanic raid into Northern Italy, he was the only member of his family to escape the massacre. He was taken in by an Italian nobleman at Ravenna who was secretly of the Dragon order. Raising the boy as his own and renaming him he enrolled him under the tutelage of a famous black Dragoon who gave him the nickname Antipaladus after he killed his first Paladin at the age of sixteen by ambush. Since that time Leticus has become a devoted, almost fanatical slayer of Paladins, mainly by treachery.

Seth ben Hamar – an Hellenic Jew and Rogue from Alexandria, his background is secretive. He seems to hire out his services in a mercenary manner to the highest bidder. He has been in the employ of Leticus for nearly six years.

Semius – a Latin Argent Dragoon, Semius is older and more experienced than anyone else in his party, having lived through 2 wars, several battles and numerous raids. Since the Dragoons are no longer an official or sanctioned group under the pope he has served his masters by infiltration of various military units where he has acted as both a spy and an agent of sedition.

Cedred – a Spanish Negro and former friend of Edomios, who helped free him from slavery, Cedred is also a secret member of the Hispanic clan of the Crimson Dragoons, whom he has been employed by since his first year of freedom. Cedred sees the Dragoons as a method of assuring his freedom for the rest of his life, and fears to detach himself from their service.

Austranul – a young Emerald Dragoon whose distant ancestor, Stranius, helped to establish the original contingent of Dragoons in Rome and who helped to persecute the original Cavaliers, Austranul is determined to make a reputation among his masters as a vicious and ruthless hunter of all of the offspring of the Cavaliers. He most desires to hunt down any direct descendants of the Cavaliers, as he still believes that the Cavaliers exist as a secretive group in exile somewhere in Byzantium or in the Balkans.
Galtostelain – with Christianity under Charlemagne threatening to convert or tame most all of the Germanic tribes and the descendants of the Celts, Galtostelain, a Germano-Frank who considers himself one of the last of the Druids, hopes to both take vengeance on the Christians and most especially the Paladins, and to follow the ancient migration of the Celts to Galatia. Once in Galatia he hopes to lead a new pagan rebirth of Druidism and desires to raise an army to return to the West and crush Charlemagne and the Latin Church.

Mucheria – an Italian Stregas (Witch) Sorceress known for her great beauty and cunning, as well as her Elturgic skill, she has sworn vengeance against all holy men of the Church. While still a small girl she was abducted and violently raped by a traveling heretical monk who eventually tired of her and abandoned her, believing he had strangled her to death. She survived and vowed vengeance. Eventually she located an old pagan witch to teach her Elcraft and has used her charms to lure many monks and priests into her bed where she has then used magic to kill them and disgrace their parish. She eventually left Italy and briefly became the lover of Seth ben Hamar in north Africa before going to work for Leticus.

Cargis and Tellos – two Macedonian brothers and highwaymen, taught to murder and steal by their father and uncles. They have lived most of their short lives as Barbarian mercenaries and robbers and have gained a vicious reputation for torture and murder.

Iodamas – not attached to any particular party this strange creature nevertheless despises Christian clerics and their soldier champions, the Paladins. Said to be the offspring of a woman who was raped and carried away by a hideous and vile, but extremely cunning monster or spirit, she often wanders deserted cliff areas or wilderness caves where she lures men to death with her song and illusions. She is said to be able to use her formidable powers of soul to appear as a ravenously beautiful woman or handsome man until a person is close enough to look into her eyes, and then the person realizes he is looking into the misshapen face of a horrid, daemonic countenance with hair and mouth covered by the tentacles of a sea creature. Some swear that she is none other than the sister of the ancient Greek goddess Athena, and that she was turned to stone when she accidentally saw the head of the Gorgon, Medusa. But that Athena begged Zeus to bring her back to life, but that when he refused Athena went to Plutus who did resurrect her, but only as a hideous monster who could mimic the illusion of her former beauty, not as her real self. Because of this, or perhaps because of the fact that she is said to engorge herself on the flesh and blood of her victims while they still live, eating the hapless soul alive, she is called “the Gorge” by those who know of her.

 

THE EASTERN HOSHI (Foot-Bridge)

Namamitu – Traveling to China from Japan with a delegation lead by the Bhiksu Kukai, the Japanese Shoensa Namamitu is chosen by Kukai to accompany the newly formed party of the Hoshi into the West, to discover the source of the strange visions and dreams simultaneously seen by Kukai, Saicho and the Shugenja High Priest Shun Lo Tzu. Namamitu escaped from the court of the Lord Kaida as a young boy after having been falsely accused of spying for another Lord, and lived for several years off the land as a wandering robber and laborer before being accepted as a groundskeeper for the Shrine of Tamo. Kukai, having seen the young man and glimpsing his potential had him transferred to the court at Nara where he was instructed in the new legal reforms as a Shoensa. Namamitu was then returned to Kukai to serve as his personal bodyguard and attendant. Assigned by Kukai to travel west with the Hoshi to provide an armed escort for the monk Sentoku Asamura.

Sentoku Asamura – A Shugenja Monk assigned by Saicho to accompany him to China to study Chinese Buddhist scriptures. His two brothers, Nikaida and Matu died in the two ships that foundered on the trip from Japan to the mainland. Seen by many as Saicho’s most loyal attendant and most faithful friend, when the visions and rumors begin about monsters invading the World from the West Sentoku Asamura is asked to lead the secret Hoshi expedition into the West to find out what might be the cause for the invasions. Reluctant to leave his master Saicho and anxious to stay in the Orient he nonetheless consents to be the overall spiritual leader of the party and to go West as far as is necessary to determine the cause of the invasions. Known as particularly powerful spiritually and magically he is reputed to be able to speak with animals and to understand what they think and know.

Han Shu – As a young boy Han Shu lived near the Eastern Trade routes for the Silk Road. He spent many hours among Greek traders from the West and became fascinated by their culture and their peculiar religion. Eventually he learned the Greek language and spent many hours reading any material he could locate in Greek, including Christian scriptures. As he aged he applied for and was accepted into a Shaolin monastery as a Monk where he quickly gained a reputation as a brilliant linguist and scholar, as well being very good at hand to hand combat. He learned to speak several Chinese dialects, and learned to read Hindu scriptures in Sanskrit, as well as to read and speak both Japanese and Greek, among other languages. When his master Po learns from his friend Shun Lo Tzu of the party to be sent West he recommends Han Shu as a translator. Han is anxious and eager to accompany the Hoshi into the West, wanting both the see India as the birthplace of Buddhism, and because he knows that the original Buddhist missionary efforts went West instead of East, which only increases his curiosity to see the West. He hopes eventually to travel as far West as Greece and to meet
Christians he has read about in Greek stories.

Dama – An older man when he decided to give up court life in Vietnam and move into China, he became attached to an old hermit and shortly thereafter himself became a Taoist Priest. For many years afterwards he remained the devoted disciple of his hermit-master and after his master’s death he rejected his given name of To-bah and took the new name Dama. Dama wandered from place to place living off alms and begging as if a monk, but occasionally he would offer priestly assistance to any whom might obviously need it. He never provided assistance if asked to however; he would only spontaneously volunteer assistance. Gaining a reputation as a sort of people’s champion, and as an old sage, he was also said to have strange visions and would often sit in meditation for days unmoving. At the age of nearly fifty he wandered into the presence of Shun Lo Tzu, announced he knew all about the mission of the Hoshi party and demanded to be allowed to accompany the party. Lo Tzu consented without debate and Dama joined the group becoming an instant friend and mentor to Han Shu.

Wu Lee – The middle son of a famous Chinese military hero Wu Lee distinguished himself only by his reputation as a womanizer and as a drunkard. Often in trouble with both his family and his superiors he was considered reckless, a ne’er do well, and a braggart. Sent to the capital to study under a famous sword master and weapon smith he was nearly killed when he fell from his horse in a riding accident, which left him mildly paralyzed in his left leg. At first he seemed completely paralyzed but after months of convalescence, he recovered. Suddenly serious he became the most devoted and favored pupil of his master and after returning to arms he gained a new reputation as both a fanatical fighter and an honorable and heroic champion at war, being honored with the new title, Tang Xia. Considered handsome by women, he is nevertheless very self-conscious about his lameness of movement. Impressing his father, however, with his new studiousness he was sent to study for one summer at the Sho Lee temple where he was so impressive at self-discipline that he was sent onwards to the Shugenja. Recommended for the Hoshi party by Lo Tzu’s master of discipline, Hong.

Sumisara – Sumisara’s father was a wandering Bon shaman, reputedly from Tibet, and her mother was a minor Korean courtesan. Sumisara began to display unusual powers when very young which were nurtured by her father who taught her both Shamanic arts and to be a Mantrikai, a Witch Hunter. While still young her fathered wandered away into the forest and never returned, Sumisara and her mother uncertain if he was killed, lost or had simply abandoned them. Because Sumisara knew that her father was a shaman and witch hunter she refused to believe he had simply abandoned the family. As Sumisara grew she impressed local officials with her skill at poetry, some of which was often bizarre, and for her ability to tell other people very accurate details about their long dead ancestors. She gained the title Winter Blossom Maiden for her strange abilities and poetic skill. Possessing very unusual and striking features she also gained a reputation for physical beauty. After becoming an adult she went into China to look for any trace of her father. While in the capital she learned of an expedition headed West, which needed servants, cooks and porters for the supply train. She applied for, and was accepted, as a cook and porter for Dama, but secretly she is in search of her father, who once predicted that strange beasts and creatures would come from the West and that he would have to go and meet those creatures because some of them would be dangerous Witches and Demons. So Sumisara acts as a cook and servant while leading a secret life in search of her father, and while acting covertly as party Shaman and Mantrikai for the people she accompanies.

 

THE MIDDLE HOSHI

Paravasi – Considered a great sage and spiritual leader in addition to being a Yogi, Paravasi was raised to be a Brahmin but decided to forgo family precedent in order to become an aescetic and practice Raja Yoga. At the age of fourteen he retreated into the local forest and found a Yogin under whom he could study and learn. Years into his practice Paravasi began to exhibit strange powers that his guru told him to suppress as being a distraction in the pursuit of Samsara. Paravasi could not suppress these abilities however and one night while in meditation he had a vision of a Deva who visited him and told him that he was to use his Yogic powers in the future for a great mission to the West. Paravasi continued to try to suppress manifestations of his abilities and to hide them from his guru but as time passed he continued to fail to do so, and the vision of the Deva continued to recur. His guru finally told him he had to leave and seek out the reason for his strange powers and the source of his visions. Moving north he studied ever more deeply, at this time from written works and scriptures rather than under the guidance of a guru. Hearing of a strange desert monastery along the Silk Road he decided to head into the desert. While bathing along the headwaters of the Indus River in Hindu Kush Paravasi happened upon the Eastern Hoshi and was able to converse with Han Shu in the Sanskrit language. Discovering the destination of the party and that they have come West in search of supernatural events Paravasi abandons his idea of visiting the Silk Road monastery and instead joins the party in hopes of discovering the purpose of his own visions.

Sraddnayar – Raised in the Warrior Caste the Kshatriya Sraddnayar served with distinction in parts of Northern and Western India. Often employed on diplomatic missions due to his loyalty and intelligence he began to desire more and more solitude as he aged. By his twenties Sraddnayar had gained a reputation of service which included the ability to operate alone, and in difficult conditions far from support and far from shelter. Eventually he gained a reputation as an outpost runner, serving as a lone messenger between posts scattered from each other by great distance. The more dangerous the assignment or position the more enjoyable Sraddnayar found the work and in time he began to operate as a scout into distant and foreign lands; Nepal, Sri Lanka, north as far as Tashkent, and west as far as the Persian-Afghan border. Into almost every land he traveled he learned the local languages, at least well enough to communicate with the natives, and could soon speak Pali, various Indian dialects, Afghani, Persian and various tribal tongues. He worships Vishnu and considers himself a lone defender of the helpless, especially against criminals and highwaymen. By his thirtieth year Sraddnayar gave up his official caste position, becoming a wandering warrior, and turned East deciding to explore in that direction as far as he could possibly reach. Turning north around Tibet he made it as far as Lop Nur where he was attacked at night by a strange and vicious creature, which almost killed him, leaving him all but mortally wounded. Greek merchants following the Silk Road west discovered his body and rescued him from death. Three weeks later the Greek merchants sold the still recovering Sraddnayar to the party of the Hoshi who desire an Indian guide to help them with their progress through unknown lands.

Namahra – As a young boy Namahra was raised among a nomadic tribe in Persia. Every night his tribe would build a huge bonfire for purposes of warmth, with which to cook and for religious fire ceremonies. Often the tribe would linger in mountainous areas, where Namahra would explore what by even that time were ancient ruins left by the original Zoroastrians. One night while exploring by himself in these ruins the boy fell into a pit, which led him into an underground area, which had obviously been sealed for some time. Severely injured with a badly broken shoulder and elbow the boy could not escape and fell into a stupor. Namahra’s family searched for him for two days but finding no trace of him they eventually abandoned the search assuming he had been killed by mountain lions. On the third day he was discovered by an heretical Christian hermit from Syria named Prolistus who lived in the ruins and had moved east into Persia where he had discovered an unknown sect of fire worshippers. The hermit rescued Namahra and raised the boy as his own son, teaching him both the Nestorian Christian heresy and how to perform the rituals of the Zoroastrian religion, making him a Zot Priest. After the death of Prolistus Namahra cremated his stepfather’s body and began to travel from ruin site to ruin site in Persia seeking answers about his past, his lost family and about the secrets of both Christianity and Zoroastrianism. Eventually while exploring ruins near Mount Ararat Namahra met the Sufi Mystic Dab-al ar Zaid who was himself traveling north from Baghdad and was also in search of ancient secrets. Forming a strong bond of friendship the two eventually traveled to Persepolis in search of ancient manuscripts and ruins to help them with their various endeavors. It was at Persepolis that the two friends encountered and joined the party of the Hoshi.

Dab-al ar Zaid – Dab-al ar Zaid was born Said Massa, a peasant boy from a small family of carpenter craftsmen. Firstborn, and well loved among his family, he gained a personal reputation as a precocious lad, extremely intelligent and inquisitive. Possessing enormous mechanical skill he also soon gained a popular reputation as an inventor, able to create small devices and mechanical contrivances that earned him a certain degree of wealth. As a young man, and pooling the money he had made from inventing he was able to become a moneylender and became even wealthier. Known as a scrupulous and fair man, by his mid-thirties he was able to purchase a merchant caravan and was able to profit immensely from trade along the Silk Road, trade with India and trade with the Byzantine Empire. Eventually moving to Baghdad he helped use his money to establish a large library and center of learning. Hearing of Wise Men named Sufi he went to meet one, a certain Bali-al Gwazi and started studying under him. Soon Said became a very serious mystic himself and received the new name Dab-al ar Zaid, or Dabal as he is called for short. Hearing many fantastic stories of the past from his master Bali, Dabal soon began to finance missions of exploration, hiring special agents to accompany his caravans wherever they went. After having had delivered to him several artifacts from various parts of the world Dabal decided to undertake his own personal missions of exploration. Learning over time that it is often easier to penetrate foreign lands alone, and dressed as a beggar in disguise, Dabal came to travel alone, gaining the nickname, Beggar of God. On one personal mission near Mount Ararat Dabal met the priest Namahra and the two became fast friends due to common interests. By the age of forty Dabal found himself in the city of Persepolis where he encountered and joined the party from the Far East, the Hoshi.

 

THE ORO
(Moonshadow)

Addo – born and raised among the tribes of Ghana it was noticed early among family members that the name Addo fit well with the boy’s personality and his desire to travel. Often family or friends would discover Addo as a small boy out late at night, wandering by himself, sneaking off from the village or silently stalking animals that he loved to track and follow, but would not kill. Even from a young age the boy refused to eat any kind of meat, saying it was still inhabited by the spirit of the dead animal and he absolutely refused to touch or drink blood. At the age of seven Addo began to have strange visions, often seeing spirits or ghosts floating in the air at night, and he would speak of these experiences to his friends who would often flee in fear. At the age of ten Addo fell gravely ill, from no known cause and lay comatose for nearly six days, unable to eat, drink or move. He could not be forced to eat but his mother poured water down his throat every few hours. On the evening of the sixth day of the coma a strange old man appeared and roused Addo, then asked his parent’s permission to train the boy as a Shaman, saying the boy had called to him while sick. After three days of recovery, and debate with his parents, Addo was allowed to go live in the mountains to the north in order to train with the old man. The old man, Chewe, trained Addo in how to hunt, live off the land, see and speak with spirits, how to steal, how to track, how to speak to men and how to be a powerful Shaman. On the day after Addo’s sixteenth birthday Chewe died, and after burying his teacher under a tree Addo lived alone for four days. On the fifth day he had a dream that instead of returning home that he should head east towards unknown lands. Eventually Addo reached Karnak and there he joined the Moonshadow.

Erasto Qwara – born in Axum, the third of six children, Erasto grew up following his family tradition of soldiering. At fifteen he became a Christian Soldier and rose quickly through the ranks, so that local officials were soon sending him as an escort and emissary to foreign lands, such as to the courts at Egypt. Smart, driven, and self-educated Erasto learned six African tongues and was soon able to read and write Koptic, Greek and Latin as well. Because of his linguistic skills and general education by the age of 19 Erasto was made commander of a unit formed to escort diplomatic missions throughout the Nubian kingdoms, along the coast of east Africa, into the tribute states of the Arabian Peninsula, into the Near East, and also into Egypt. The farther afield Erasto roamed the more types of people he encountered and he soon discovered that he loved to mix freely with people of different nations and races. Developing a personal interest in trade Erasto also was soon gaining experience as a trade representative in addition to his diplomatic and military skills. Born into a devout Christian family Erasto nevertheless had no interest at all in religious matters until traveling in Egypt he discovered an early copy of some of the works of the Philokalia written in Koptic. Reading it eagerly Erasto became a devout Christian and returning to Axum began to study under Aksumite Christian Masters. Erasto remained a solider but also developed a strong interest in interpreting scriptures from a Monophysitic point of view, and became such a skillful writer, fluent interpreter, and powerful debater on Christian doctrine that he soon earned the nickname, Qwara, the Cushite Christian. At the age of 25 Erasto was assigned to escort a trade and diplomatic mission to the Byzantine Empire by way of Egypt and the Mediterranean. At sea his ship, along with several others, was attacked by Sicilian pirates and many on his ship were killed. Erasto was severely injured in combat and had to return to Egypt, where as a result of his injuries he was retired, but allowed to retain the rank of Commander as a Christian Soldier. While recovering in Egypt he studied with Kopts in Alexandria to become a Christian Cleric and within two years was ordained. After ordination he was returning to Axum but stopped at Karnak where he met Addo and the other members of the Moonshadow.

Guedado – born of an unwed mother, there were strange rumors surrounding the birth of Guedado. It is said that she was raped by a strange man, slim and tall, very muscular who had jet-black skin, white eyes, and strange, straight long hair. Some believe that the father of Guedado was a malevolent ghost. In addition the boy was born with a withered and malformed right hand, which meant that as he grew he had to use his left hand for nearly every action. Because of these bizarre circumstances few people would associate with the child, or even his mother Sali, and so she named the boy Guedado, “Wanted by Nobody.” Like his purported father Guedado’s hair grew straight but it also grew white, only adding to the strangeness of his appearance. His eyes were gray, his skin dark and almost glistening, and he appeared slimmer, taller, and more lean than most of his family and village members. He was also possessed of almost animalistic capabilities of sight and hearing which further alienated most people. Born a Mali in a small village he was never accepted by the other villagers and after the death of his mother he moved to Jenne. Even there however he was considered an outcast and so after spending nearly twelve years in Jenne he wandered away again and settled on the banks of Lake Chad. There an old woman told him that he must travel north and become strong for what he must later do in other parts of the world. The old woman also spent three years instructing Guedado as a Griot and her son taught Guedado to fight with wild, barbaric abandon. After this Guedado went north and eventually reached Libya where by determined and relentless physical training and by constant boxing and wrestling became immensely strong and an excellent combatant, despite his withered hand. After several attempts by Arab slave traders to enslave him Guedado eventually wandered east far enough to reach Karnak, having heard of an African Christian kingdom near Egypt where he would be safe from slavery. While in Karnak and Luxor he visited the legendary Temple of Amon and was immensely impressed by the huge hall, colonnade and hypostyle columns. While standing near the huge Obelisk which still stood guard over the temple, out of impulse Guedado struck the obelisk with his withered hand. He heard a strange, melodic hum and ringing, like a bell striking underwater, which continued to vibrate for several minutes. Few other people seemed to notice the sound but three other people approached the spot and spoke with him, eventually forming the Moonshadow.

Aza Zahra – born deaf and mute Zahra was the child of a Chinese father and an Azani Swahili mother. Unable to speak until she was ten years old because of her inability to hear, Zahra nevertheless was taught to control her voice and to speak by the patient efforts of her mother. In time Zahra learned to speak Chinese, Swahili and Arabic. At fifteen her father sailed back to China with a merchant fleet, promising to return within a year. He never returned. By the age of seventeen Zahra’s mother had died of plague and the same plague nearly killed Zahra as well, who fell ill for over two weeks but managed to live. After fully recovering Zahra was given the nickname Aza, or Powerful, for her ability to survive. Known for her great physical beauty, almond shaped eyes and long straight, jet black hair she was also easy to distinguish as being of mixed heritage so that many people considered her of possible noble birth. In time she went to work for an Arab shipping, mining and merchant concern, inventorying and tracking cargo. Because her father had been Buddhist she was allowed to live as a Buddhist minority and was not forced to work as an Arabic slave. At night and on her free time she began to Vad throughout the port of Mombasa and in other trading or port cities such as Zanizibar, Kilwa, Kismayu and Barawa. Because of the contacts she made in these cities and because of her ability to speak Swahili, Arabic and Chinese she was often employed as a sort of free agent for interpreting and trading affairs in various cities. At the age of twenty Zahra became the lover of a Greek Vigilante named Costos who came to love her very much. At her insistence Costos trained her as a Vigilante (Ranger). Like Zahra’s father, Costos sailed out with a merchant fleet and failed to return. While she waited Zahra learned the art of Nyama from a young female Nyamakalaw immigrant from the West. By twenty three Zahra was fully trained as a Nyama and had given up waiting, and next moved north, hoping to find word of her former lover in one of the other coastal port cities. Unable to gain any information she continued north into Axun territory and encountered Christians. Knowing that Costos had also been a Christian she searched throughout the Axun territories and then discovered information on the Byzantine Empire. Desiring to go there to search for Costos she made her way through Egypt, stopping at Karnak where she heard the ringing of the Obelisk struck by Guedado. Being the first real sound she had ever heard in her life she was confused by what the sound was or where it came from but eventually discovered the obelisk along with two men and a boy who stood nearby. Following their conversation by reading their lips she eventually asked if she could join them when she discovered they intended to head north. They all agreed to travel together as far as they could and noticing that they had talked throughout most of the night so that the obelisk now blocked the light of the late risen full moon, she called the group Oro, or Moonshadow.

THE LANDSCAPES WITHIN

Wow! Just freaking wow!

And can you just imagine what you could encode in these puppies?

Also by way of fiction and/or gaming, just imagine a book you could open that would create either magically interactive landscapes such as these or holoconic/holographic ones that you could explore or further encode or explore…

By the way I now highly recommend the blog Colossal.

 

New Carved Book Landscapes by Guy Laramée

New Carved Book Landscapes by Guy Laramée sculpture paper books

New Carved Book Landscapes by Guy Laramée sculpture paper books

New Carved Book Landscapes by Guy Laramée sculpture paper books

New Carved Book Landscapes by Guy Laramée sculpture paper books

New Carved Book Landscapes by Guy Laramée sculpture paper books

New Carved Book Landscapes by Guy Laramée sculpture paper books

New Carved Book Landscapes by Guy Laramée sculpture paper books

New Carved Book Landscapes by Guy Laramée sculpture paper books

New Carved Book Landscapes by Guy Laramée sculpture paper books

New Carved Book Landscapes by Guy Laramée sculpture paper books

New Carved Book Landscapes by Guy Laramée sculpture paper books

Artist Guy Laramee (previously) has recently completed a number of new sculptural works where he transforms thick tomes into incredible topographical features including mountains, caves, volcanoes, and even water. Many of the works are part of a new project titled Guan Yin, a series of work dedicated to the forces that enable individuals to endure grief and pain, or in his words “the mysterious forces thanks to which we can traverse ordeals.” If you happen to be near Quebec, a number of Laramee’s works are currently on view at Expression gallery in Saint-Hyacinthe through August 12.

Update: You can also see a number of works by Laramée at Foster/White Gallery in Seattle.

SILENT HILLS

Silent Hill(s)

By far the scariest and spookiest game I ever played was Silent Hill. So I’m really looking forward to this:

Also most of the music from Silent Hill was terrifying, especially if listened to while playing alone in the dark. Some of it was sad, disturbing, and beautiful all at once. such as this:

THE OTHER WORLD/WORLD’S APART – PART 2

Continuing with the description of The Other World…

 

II. Briefing on the General Setting of Terra Ghanae (Earth/ Iÿarlðma) – Terra Ghanae is actually two worlds. The first is our world (Terra), where most of the gaming activity takes place. The game and campaigns themselves are set primarily in Terra (the Latin term for Earth), the time frame being around 800 AD and the geographical and national setting is the Byzantine Empire. The common base of operations is Constantinople.

Our world, Terra, is as it was in the era of 800 AD, historically, socially, militarily, and so forth. However recently several strange things have occurred which have severely concerned the Emperor and the leadership of the Eastern Orthodox Church. These strange events have prompted the Emperor and the Orthodox Church to band together to form a secret team that is charged with discovering the cause(s) of these weird and uncanny events, and to put a stop to these strange events, if possible. Most of the players play characters in this team, or in one of the related teams. This main team is called the Basilegate, or translated, the Emperor’s Legate.

At about the same time a group of Buddhist Monks (and others) in the Orient has been having visions about these same disturbances and has formed a team of their own to travel to the West and investigate the same phenomenon. That team is called the Hoshi, or The Footbridge.

What is actually occurring on our world at this moment is that our world is being invaded by beings and creatures from the other world, that world being named Ghanae (though various languages render the term differently), and the people who inhabit it. No one in our world knows how these creatures are coming here or exactly from where they originate, and this information is also hidden from the players, who must discover these events for themselves. At about the same time (slightly later in time frame actually) another group of beings from this other world are also trying to find a way into our world and eventually succeed at their efforts, and are then able to come to earth. These beings are what would normally be referred to in the game as elves, dwarves, giants and others of their kind. None of these people or creatures is indigenous to our world and no humans are indigenous to their world.

These peoples are collectively called the Eldeven peoples and consist of the Jukarn (Dwarves), Sidelh, also called the Caer (Elves), Lorahn (Eladarin), Gheriks (Halflings), Avafal (the “New Ones” or “Fallen Ones,” literally the offspring between Men and Eldevens), and so forth. These creatures are more akin to various human races in that they can all intermarry and interbreed (though the rate of intermarriage is no higher than on our world at that time period), than they are to separate species. There are also other beings who are allied with the Eldeven, such as the Adharma, who are a race of Demi-giants, and their half-brothers, the Gabar (Renown Ones, offspring of the Sidelh and the Nephili). Though the Adharma and the Gabar are not considered Eldevens.

There are two reasons that the Eldeven peoples desire to come to our world, the first is that they are seeking to hunt down and recapture or destroy most of the monsters that have escaped to our world from their world. The second I will explain later.

The Eldevens come to our world in disguise hoping to accomplish their various missions without being discovered. They encounter humans (us) however, as they must in our world, and eventually some men begin to understand that the Eldeven party is not human. There are various reactions to this discovery, some believe the Eldevens to be demons or devils come to invade our world and that they are somehow allied with the monsters who are also invading our world. Some believe them to be angelic messengers sent from God to assist mankind against the invasions of monsters, and to help stop the plagues and the disasters wracking the world at that time. Some believe them harbingers of the Apocalypse. There is a schism between both those who are in government (the Court of the Emperor), and those in the Church, with either group being divided into two camps, those who oppose the Eldevens and consider them enemies, perhaps even demons, and those who want closer relations with the Eldevens and consider them helpful, perhaps even Agents of God.

The Eldevens themselves send a scouting, expeditionary, research, and monster hunting party called the Caerkara, or the Expeditionary Force into our world. Once it is discovered that this party is composed of non-human creatures the decision is made in Constantinople to send out the Basilegate to hunt for and try to make contact with the Caerkara, and to discover the true nature and motives of this Eldeven party.

While these monster invasions are in the process of occurring and shortly before the arrival of the Eldeven team, various plagues, earthquakes, famines and other natural disasters begin to afflict our world. Some people connect these calamities directly to the monster invasions, and some directly to the arrival of the Eldeven party. Still others see the Eldeven group as possible allies with whom they can work to help combat both the monster invasions and the various natural disasters. Eventually the Court at Constantinople comes to believe that the Eldevens may be the people of the legendary Prester John. The Patriarch of Constantinople and the Church remain more skeptical.

 

Samarkand (The City of Samarl): The city of Samarkand sits in exactly the same geographic point as the city of Samarkand on our world, but resides in Ghanae (properly called Iÿarlðma by the Eldevens). Both cities also share the same name. However all similarities end there. Samarkand was designed by the Sidelh but was built by the Adharma. Both races share a similar view of architecture in that they encapsulate information in material objects. Books or written materials are rare among the Sidelh and completely absent among the Adharma. The giants instead are excellent masters of mnemonics, and therefore pass history thousands of years old down orally with very little variation or embellishment between transmissions. They also weave information into every building, statue, column, piece of furniture and art, and physical device they create. The entire city then is one huge library of historical, arcane, and mythological information if one knows how to read the text.

Samarkand is the capital city of Kitharia, the most populous and powerful nation known among the Eldeven peoples. Since the Sidelh are slow to reproduce they have invited many other races of Eldevens to dwell in their city and the Sidelh are actually often outnumbered by the non-Sidelh living there. Nevertheless the non-Sidelh are often granted citizenship after a time, as are their families, and so often easily integrate into Kitharian society, to become stout defenders and loyal citizens of their adopted homeland.

The ruler of the Samarkand, and by extension Kitharia, is the individual known as the Samareül. He is elected by a secret group of individuals and once elected he takes no public name other than his title of Samareül, which means Priest-King. The Samareül is elected for life, and is rarely deposed. The Samareül is the supreme judge, most influential political leader and chief priest of Kitharia, being considered the living representative of Samarl, or God. Strangely enough however the Kitharians and most Eldevens for that matter have no formal religion or religious beliefs, and most seek no relationship with God at all. Instead the relationship between Samarl and the Eldevens is considered the de-facto representative relationship and chief obligation of the Samareül. (The current Samareül is looking to change this state of affairs wishing to make a religious and spiritual relationship among the Kitharians and eventually all Eldevens to be a matter of personal relation between the individual and Samarl. This has led to strained cultural, societal, political, and in some cases racial [such as between the Sidelh and the Lorahn] relationships among some parties, and to the establishment of a strange interlinked alliance between the courts of Samarkand and Constantinople on religious and spiritual matters. I’ll discuss this in more detail in a later posting.)

The city is dominated by an acropolis into which is carved (in the fashion of the Adharma who carve their homes into mountainsides) the Palace and administrative houses of the Samareül. The acropolis is also said to contain numerous secret passages into which the Samareül and his officials keep stored many ancient and secret artifacts and devices, including weird machines which are said to be able to peer into other worlds and through time. This acropolis is called the Jlæthÿlîrel. There is also a rumor that the passages themselves have created a sort of scrying channel and that the channels may be decorated with glyphs of unknown design. This acropolis is sometimes called the onŵl-Samarkando, or, Helm of Samarkand

The city also has numerous districts in which various Eldeven races mix rather freely, but it also has segregated districts. These are most evident between the Sidelh (the elves) and the small enclave of Adharma (who rarely take citizenship) who prefer to live there for periods of time as trusted resident aliens. Politically the situation is stable at most times, except during periods of war. There is a large public gathering area called the Msýthariørl where public elections, entertainments, athletic events, public rites, demonstrations of arcane force and skill, and debated counsels are held. It can hold nearly one-half of the entire population of the city at any given time.

There are also a number of industrial and manufacturing districts to produce and market goods, the Eldarik Houses, the Armories and Internal Towers, the Plarshoel (or, Walking Houses – the giants built the city so that certain buildings can move around the city on tracks, allowing the city to be reconfigured for both ease of trade and transport, and for periods of war and self-defense – unknown to most the city walls can likewise move allowing them to be “interlocked” in various defensive configurations as needed), the sa-Elturaere (the Temple for the study and practice of Elturgy and Elturael – Arcane magic), various markets and domestic areas, the Jmyatŗ Skella (the Crafting District), the Tĕna (Quarters of the Peace Officers), the Nhil (the Warband Quarterings), and the newly created Praşklyřt (the Hall of Investigation – to study and counteract the creation of monsters, discussed later).

As mentioned above the entire city is also a sort of architectural library. However many believe that actual Elturgy was used by the Sidelh to recast the work of the giants so that a secret code now also lies hidden within the structure of the city foundations. To what purpose no-one is really sure.

The River Qira runs through the city (including partially underground) and the river Qala now runs completely around the city in a near perfect circular moat, and then runs away through artificial channels so that the river approaches the city from the East and leaves by routes facing due West, South, and North.

The city is composed of seven plateaus, or levels, the highest being the Jlæthÿlîrel, and the lowest section being an underground area of hot springs and baths called the Myņil.

THE OTHER WORLD/WORLDS APART, PART 1

Today I would like to begin a series of posts on my World Milieu for our ongoing Dungeons and Dragons game. These posts will give a brief description of the world I created which my family and other players has been playing for about 10 to 12 years or so now. It is the third world setting I ever created and it is approximately 20 years old. This is my High Fantasy Game Setting (World). I have another setting which is more comparable to a Swords and Sorcery world, with some super-science, and it is my Low Fantasy Game Setting. I may describe it later on.
 
I have been playing D&D since I was about 14 to 15 years old. Beginning back in the 1970s.
This setting can be found under the category, The Other World.

 

I. This is a brief description of my D&D game milieu, and how it works.

Two Worlds: There are actually two worlds (in The Other World/Worlds Apart setting), our world, circa 800 AD, and the setting upon our world is semi-historical. That is most of the things that happen in our world, as the setting for the game, involve real world historical figures, cities, cultures, religions, technologies, societies, military forces, economic systems, and so forth of that era. The exceptions to the historical rule are the introduction of the player characters themselves (who often encounter real people of the time, like Charlemagne, as well as legendary figures like Roland).

In addition there is another world, geographically identical to our own (called Ghanäe by men, and Iÿarlðma by the natives) but inhabited by completely different creatures and operating by different rules. This other world will be described later in this thread but creatures such as Elves and Giants inhabit it (though they do not call themselves that) and only a few human refuges from our world can live there. Most humans who travel to that world do so by accident and become far longer lived than normal humans but most also become sterile over time. A very, very few have over time interbred with the local populations on that other world but it is an extremely rare occurrence when that happens and the offspring sometimes fall prey to strange diseases and fail to mature. Some of the off-spring who do live past adolescence are also naturally sterile or barren. As a result the human population, which never accounted for more than a few hundred individuals is now nearly extinct.

As well as Elves and other such creatures, monsters also inhabit that other world. They sometimes escape their own world and come to ours.
The Setting Upon Earth (Terra): The City of Constantinople is the center of most activity in the setting on our world. It lies along one end of the Silk Road and Byzantine contacts run throughout Western Europe, Central Europe, and Eastern Europe, as well as into Russia, the Near East, Syria, Persia, and into parts of the Orient, and finally down into Egypt, and into Northern and Eastern Africa. As far as sea travel much of the Mediterranean is open to them as well as the Black Sea. Giving the players and their characters a wide area of territory in which to explore and operate.

The Byzantines are at almost constant war with the Persians, and the Bulgars. At other times they fight with the Muslims (becoming more and more frequent), various barbaric tribes, such as the Goths, are at odds with migrating tribes from the East, face occasional rebellions in Egypt, Syria, and in the Holy Land, and still hope to regain some control of territories in the West, such as some of the early Italian city-states (other than Ravenna).

They are also involved in religious disputes such as the early stages of iconoclasm, as well as suppression of heretics such as in Egypt and in Syria (which makes them very unpopular in certain parts of the Empire, and among certain groups of peoples like the Copts). The Patriarchs of Orthodox Catholicism (although there has been no real schism as of yet) are often at odds with the Pope, who the Byzantines sometimes see as an ally, and sometimes see as a problem.

The main group of players operates out of the city of Constantinople, or New Rome, as their home base.

Constantinople (New Rome): It sits upon the Golden Horn (Kera), is the capital of the Byzantine (Roman) Empire, controls the naval trade throughout the empire and into the Black Sea, is the home of the most advanced technology in the world at that time, is immensely wealthy, incredibly well-built and well defended, and is one end of the Silk Road. It is also the center of the Orthodox Church, as well as being one of the most populous cities in the world.

It has contacts throughout Northern and Eastern Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and into India. It is the home base of operations for many of the player parties.

I modified the city somewhat from its true historical analogue. It now includes the Strategion (the Imperial War Offices and College), the Thematic War College (for educating and training Theme Generals and officers), the Stoa Inventi (the official Inventions Laboratory, where Greek Fire was developed, the Inventi being based upon Alexandria’s old Museums of Invention), the Thaumaturgion (the place of Miracles, where prophets, Church Fathers, and Saints congregate and study, and where relics are accumulated and studied), the Palacial Library of Blachermae (containing the official Imperial records, census, texts, and histories), the Academy of Sagae and Holy Art (where Icons and holy art are created), and the Library of Deoklarion (where a number of unique and unusual texts from the ancient world, and holy writings, are stored and copied).

I also slightly modified the Imperial Palaces, some of the churches, like the Holy Apostles, and some of the monasteries, like Studios and Myrelaion.

The city also contains several harbors, the Industrion, the Galatan Naval Reserves and the Galatan Industrion (across the straights), the Garrison of the Imperial Legions, several Forums and markets, Constabularies, Aqueducts, numerous churches and monasteries, several underground cisterns, palaces, the Walls of Theodosius, the Walls of Constantine, the Walls of Septus Severus, the Chalke Gate, numerous other famous Gates and Towers, the Million, several important streets and highways (like the Mese), the shipyards of Caesarius, various public baths, sections of underground and buried ancient city, artwork and statues, obelisks and columns and stelae from all over the world, the Chain of the Golden Horn, the Lykos River, Hagia Sophia (the largest and most famous church in the world), the Great Treasury, the Acropolis, and of course the Hippodrome which also served as a city-wide public amphitheatre. And the city is divided into Demes so on occasion there are Deme riots as well as riots in the Alien (Foreign) Quarter. Of course I don’t really need to mention the political machinations since “Byzantine” is an historical watchword for all things politically devious. Though to tell you the truth it wasn’t really any worse than anywhere else, and often far better and far more civilized than most places at the time, just usually far more complicated because of the immense number of political players and institutional and organizational interests all simultaneously vying for influence. It was a lot like modern American politics to tell you the truth. Far less bloodshed but far more underground corruption and devious maneuver. And strange ambition.

Constantinople regularly sees foreign visitors, tradesmen, merchants, dignitaries and even would-be invaders, everyone from Arab Bedouins to Viking Raiders to Russian Steppemen to embassies from Charlemagne and from other parts of Europe to traders from the Italian City States to diplomats from Ethiopia and Persia and even India.

The official and state language in the Empire is Latin, but the “Lingua Franca” is Greek and most Byzantines (Romans) and almost all residents of Constantinople, including resident aliens, speak Greek.

In addition there is the other world, like ours, but with native populations of elves, giants, dwarves, etc. Whenever these creatures come to our world they often infiltrate Constantinople in disguise. And sometimes monsters that have escaped this other world come to the Empire and ravage the countryside surrounding Constantinople. So it is a very interesting place for the players to live in and adventure from.

For information on some of the adventures that take place in this setting then see this post: Adventure Ideas.

I have recently begun to modify this setting to be used for 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons play.

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