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There is a Secret few will know
Until that day it rises up,
For buried deep beneath the Earth
Lie coiling serpents in a cup,

Long before came history
To marque out frontiers of the past,
There toiled and bled unspoken days
That men today should flee aghast,

Wonders weird and terrors dark
Did stalk about the world those nights,
When those we’d hardly recognize
Did marvels by their hoary might,

Too long in sand or sea or clay
Has lain the wreckage of their age,
But those with other eyes to see
May still by peerage time assuage,

Specters worn by passage deep
Spectacular in deathless climes
Have breached the wall of life again,
And up from Hell made dreadful climb;

I’ve watched from shores by looking glass
As all these things have sure approached,
As seas disgorge the ancient rimes
That feed those things that do encroach,

And man with gore and screams of pain
Will roil in grave and long revolt,
But to what end I cannot name
Of torture, doom, or final hope?

Chaos will man gather round
Calling for it from afar,
A Heart of Stone imperfect cut
Whose pulse does beat for blood bizarre,

Like nothing man thinks anymore
Except in Secrets buried deep,
When questioned if he is in truth
A Man like God, or that which creeps,

It is not for me to say
What Man will be or where he goes,
Knowing only that I watch
As man revisits with his Ghosts,

Yet this I’ll say and temper hard
With all I know of what’s no more,
The day comes swift when men will find
That death is what they least abhor…


because these things are engraven by Tome and Tomb


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)
The Legend of Lyonesse – Lyonesse Falmouth. Available from:
Lyonesse – Wikipedia. Available from:
The Land of Arthur: Lyonesse – King Arthur’s Knights. Available from:
Lyonesse – Princeton. Available from:
Lyonesse, the lost land off Cornwall – Legend of King Arthur. Available from:
Tristan and Iseult – Wikipedia. Available from:
By M R Reese


I would have expected nothing less…


Gold mine of cheeky medieval doodles show ancestors just as silly as us

By Jake Wallis Simons, for CNN
updated 10:00 AM EST, Mon November 3, 2014
They survived for so long partially because they were made of parchment, which lasts far longer than paper. They survived for so long partially because they were made of parchment, which lasts far longer than paper.
  • Doodles from 700 years ago feel like they were drawn yesterday
  • Rare “stowaway” manuscripts are found hidden in medieval book bindings
  • Modern scholars are able to learn new things about the medieval period

(CNN) — My personal favorite is this. At the top of a page of angular medieval text — full of theological extrapolations and religious devotion — is a cartoon of a deadpan dog.

“It’s amazing to think that people doodled in medieval times in a similar way to how they doodle today,” says Dr Erik Kwakkel, a book historian at Leiden University, Holland.

“When you see the monks expressing their personalities, their sense of humor, it makes you feel like you’re traveling back through time. It’s like you’re going through the keyhole and sitting right next to them.”

Indeed, that dog would not be out of place in The Simpsons.

READ: The spacesuit inspired by medieval armor

It makes you feel like you’re traveling back through time.
Dr Erik Kwakkel, book historian, Leiden University, Holland

‘Medieval eye candy’

Dr Kwakkel is making an unlikely name for himself on the internet by posting “medieval eye candy” that he comes across during the course of his research.

And the doodles are by far the most popular.

“Normally, scribes would doodle or write snatches of lettering after cutting their nibs, to make sure they were the correct width,” he says.

“These pen-tests ranged from the sort of scribbled lines that people still do today to words, names, full sentences, or simple drawings. Sometimes we even find pretty good drawings.”

These include funny faces with long beards, big hats or noses, as well as animals, unidentifiable creatures, and even caricatures of teachers and colleagues.

In the majority of cases, the doodles were never intended to be seen. They were drawn on the outside of the first and last pages of a book, which were later glued to wooden covers.

But although the glue has obliterated a great many doodles and pen-tests, a variety has survived the test of time.

“They offer a rare glimpse into the informal or private world of medieval monks,” says Dr Kwakkel.

“Personally, I love the thumbprint, which was left by a careless scribe who spilled ink on his work. It seems so fresh and human, yet it happened 700 years ago.”


The Anglo-Saxon War-Culture and The Lord of the Rings: Legacy and Reappraisal

 The Anglo-Saxon War-Culture and The Lord of the Rings: Legacy and Reappraisal

By Pritha Kundu

WLA: War, literature, and the arts, Vol.26 (2014)

The saints and missionaries of the Anglo-Saxon era (1897)

Introduction: The literature of war in English claims its origin from the Homeric epics, and the medieval accounts of chivalry and the crusades. In modern war-literature, produced during and after the two World Wars, themes of existential trauma, alienation of man as victim, horrors of the nuclear warfare and the Holocaust, and the evils of a totalitarian government, critique of narrow nationalism have become dominant; yet some memories of the Classical and the Medieval war-culture can be found, either as subtle allusion, or as a means of irony or satire, as in Catch-22 or Mother Courage. However, another ancient culture of war—that of the Anglo-Saxons—has failed to hold its sway over the thoughts of the modern war-poets and novelists. In fact, the process of oblivion began as early as the 12th century, when the image of loud and boasting warriors, bursting the mead-halls with their genial laughter, and fighting to death for the love of their lords, was replaced by the courteous Christian knights on their quest for the Holy Grail, rescuing damsels in distress, representing abstract virtues and ideals of a feudal culture. In the long run, the medieval image of the knight-warrior, alongside the raw and ‘real’ quality of the Homeric battles, has found ways into the modern imagination, and produced modern reappropriations of these old materials, whereas re-works on Anglo-Saxon literature are of a poor amount. John Gardner’s Grendel offers an existentialist and psychoanalytic approach to Beowulf, rewriting it from the monster’s point of view, and G.K. Chesterton’s The Ballad of the White Horse recalls the tone of sadness and lament in the Old English elegies, but none of them shows interest in the war-culture of the Anglo-Saxons, which, notwithstanding the ‘fantastic’ elements of monsters and dragons, remained so realistic in the battles themselves, and a strong bond of love and duty between the warrior-king and his thanes.

Considering the scarcity of the Anglo-Saxon influence in modern war-literature in general, one may wonder and stop by a work like The Lord of the Rings or Silmarillion, which few would be willing to categorise as serious war-literature. The fictional writings of J.R.R. Tolkien are said to have revived the genre of fantasy and magic-realism, and they have been readily assimilated into the new genre of popular literature. What seems to have been forgotten in this process is Tolkien’s own passionate and critical engagement with the war-literature of the Anglo-Saxons, which has gone into the making of his otherwise ‘fantastic’ creation of the ‘Middle Earth’. Tolkien’s lecture, later published as an essay, “The Monsters and the Critics”, brought a formative and seminal change in the course of Beowulf -criticism. His fictional works are at the same time holding the Anglo-Saxon legacy with devoted fondness, yet his reappraisal is of a critical kind—it critiques, reconstructs and reappropriates several Anglo-Saxon themes and ideas while constantly referring back to an old war-culture passed into oblivion…


It’s an interesting theory of war and I think it is at least partially true. Especially from the pragmatic standpoint. I rarely argue against pragmatism or practicality.

But I strongly and truthfully suspect the whole issue is far more complicated than that. For instance, psychologically, and this is especially true once Christian ideals get fully embedded in a society (rather than a society just formally accepts Christianity as a state-religion), most soldiers (truer as time progresses, but especially true of the West) have no desire to kill or harm a civilian, innocent, or non-combatant.

Yes, pragmatically you’re wasting much needed resources and both tactical and strategic advantage by attacking non-combatants, but also, psychologically, you feel it immoral and evil to do so if it can be avoided at all. I know I do.

I would also feel it immoral to attack a combatant who has truly surrendered (rather than just making a pretense of it) or who has demonstrated they have no more desire to fight. Commiserate with that I would have no desire to kill a prisoner of war, or any helpless prisoner. To me all of those things are simultaneously entirely un-Christian and highly unmanly.

Why do we spare civilians in war?

October 13, 2014 – 06:23

Neither compassion nor charity were the reasons why Western soldiers spared enemy civilians in war, new Danish research shows.

Soldiers relaxing in a village. They are not popular among the residents, who may have been citizens of an enemy territory. (Painting by Adam Albrecht)

Soldiers get killed in war. That’s the way it is.

But it hurts us more when people not in uniform lose their lives, despite the fact that a soldier who gets killed just as well can be someone’s boyfriend, son, father, daughter or best friend — just as any civilian.

So why do we actually distinguish between soldiers and civilians? Gunner Lind, Professor of History at the Saxo Institute of the University of Copenhagen, has found answers to this question.

“Soldiers easily got into difficulties using their energy to fight civilians. So the practice was introduced, according to which soldiers would do their best not to harm civilians who refrained from taking part in acts of war,” says Professor Lind.

The military historian has presented his research in a new book, ‘Civilians at War’, in which a number of Danish and international researchers have examined the development of the concept ‘civilian’ from the 16th century up until our modern era. His research begins at a time when the brutality and customs of war of medieval times still applied.

“We all have the impression that the Middle Ages were extremely violent and that’s not far from the truth. The level of violence was really high,” says Lind.

Rules of law laid down by church father

In the Middle Ages everybody carried a weapon. Peasants might not have had swords but they had daggers or axes which they used for their work on the farm.

Conflicts in the form of rebellion, feuds or actual war could arise out of the blue because violence was a tool everyone used. When the state or a squire entered into a feud they would gather local peasants, who would bring along their own weapons. In addition to this, a warlord could hire professional warriors and draw on the services of the nobility, who had spent their youth training in the art of war.

Learned Christians and those in power in medieval society saw it as quite legitimate to go to war, despite the moral imperative of the Biblical Ten Commandments: “Thou shalt not kill”.

Augustine of Hippo, also known as Saint Augustine or Saint Austin, who lived in the fourth and fifth century A.D., asserted that there was such a thing as just war, in which Christians could legitimately be involved.

Christians: you may kill, but spare the innocent

Killing in a just war could be justified if one’s adversaries had committed a grave injustice, such as declaring war on, or threatening the lives of, Christians. This was the reason for the preliminary declaration of war in 1095 which led to 200 years of crusades against Muslims.

Among adversaries, however, there would theoretically always be innocents who had nothing to do with the grave injustice committed, and it was deemed that they should be spared by the warring parties.

Was anyone automatically innocent? For instance women or children?

“Children, yes. But women — we can’t be sure of that,” says the historian.

He explains that women had little influence in the society of the day, and children absolutely none whatsoever. The Christian thinkers of the day, however, disagreed as to how innocent women actually were in war, and some held the belief that women could be held to account for an adversary’s unjust actions and thus be held responsible.

Professor Lind does not think the concept had much significance in practice. It was not possible, for instance, to keep a town under siege without its children suffering as a result. Hunger and disease invariably followed in the wake of a siege…


I very much enjoy this blog. I recommend it: WISLIC

Marginalia—Book Doodles as Works of Art

Ever look at the format of older books? After you pick up a handful, you’ll likely realize that compared to modern novels, there was a lot of white space in the margins.

This was commonplace in the days of letterpress printing, and likely a necessity of the process. But even before movable type, when books were completely transcribed, there was quite a wide margin between the end of the text and the end of the page. Interestingly enough, monks would often fill this space up too; not just with text, captions or footnotes, but also with works of art.

In an ancient manuscript of Homer’s Iliad, the famous “A scholia” contained commentaries that are, in part, some of the most fundamental sources of information on poems pertaining to the Matter of Rome.Marginalia’s a bit of a lost art form these days, reserved for Mad Magazine and high school textbooks, but its history is both fascinating and impressive.

Some of the first known markings to be found inside transcribed book margins were old scholion, kind of your ancient-world footnote. They contained translation notes, contextual references and sometimes a scribe’s personal reflections on the text he was working on.

And remember, printing was a much bigger deal before the printing press, so you’ll often find corrections inside the margins of books that date farther back.

Some of these have become extremely important throughout the ages. In an ancient manuscript of Homer’s Iliad, the famous “A scholia” contained commentaries that are, in part, some of the most fundamental sources of information on poems pertaining to the Matter of Rome.

For more modern examples, you should probably turn to Edgar Allen Poe, who’s sometimes attributed to coining “marginalia” as a term. He was also a big proponent of marking up books as a reader…


For your gaming and inventive pleasure…

Goblet tricks suggests ancient Romans were first to use nanotechnology

Aug 27, 2013 by Bob Yirka weblog
Goblet tricks suggests ancient Romans were first to use nanotechnology
Credit: The Trustees of the British Museum
( —Recent evidence suggests that the Roman craftsmen who created the Lycurgus Cup, a glass drinking goblet, used nanotechnology to cause the goblet to change color under different lighting. The cup’s unique properties were first noted when it was brought to a museum in the 1950s—it wasn’t until 1990, however, that researchers figured out how the color changers were brought about…

Read more at:


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.


Essay Nine: Where Has All the History Gone?
On Heirlooms, Legacies, and Inheritances, Part One

Synopsis: Heirlooms, legacies, and inheritances form a vital part of human history and culture. Yet they are often overlooked or ignored either intentionally or unintentionally in game, milieu, and character development to the detriment of the overall game design. Heirlooms, legacies, and inheritances should take their natural place in-game as important and fundamental aspects of game and character development in role-play games.

This essay is part of the series’ Essays on Game Design. It is, however, like the short essay, Where Has All the Magic Gone, too broad in scope to be presented within the boundaries of that other thread. So I have instead posted it here as a separate thread.

Interactive Essay – This thread is also an Interactive Essay. See link for an explanation of what this means.

Part One: There are three aspects of human life that are common to many cultures (but most especially to most of the Western cultures and countries that were the basis of the basic idea behind the D&D fantasy game settings and milieus) throughout the world that I think are conspicuously missing in many fantasy role play games. These three aspects of human life (and it seems to me that at least one of these absent aspects would likely also be common to Western based non-human fantasy races, such as Elves and Dwarves) missing from the game are those very things so often mentioned in both real world history, and in folk and fairy tales, legend, and myth. Those three things are what we today call heirlooms, legacies, and inheritances.

Now not all three seem to be missing from every fantasy based role playing game (though most all are missing to some degree from most such games), and indeed heirlooms, legacies, and inheritances could be equally applied as important factors in Pulp games, Western games, Sci-Fi games, Mystery and Horror games, and even to some extent Detective and Military and/or Espionage based games. But in the field of fantasy, at the very least, things like heirlooms, legacies, and inheritances should be stressed as a far more important general aspect of role play gaming, not to mention general character development than is currently the case. Because in real life people often passed between different generations, not to mention among various same generation family members and friends and associates, heirloom objects, matters of personal and family legacy, and inheritances (due to premature death by war, exploration, accident, misadventure, or disease) as a common matter of course and cultural practice. (At this point I won’t even mention things like family and personal blessings and birthrights, but they too weigh as a form of inheritance or legacy. And such things as these were often of extreme importance to our ancestors. More so often than physical inheritances.)

However, in fantasy gaming these important aspects of human life and relationship are often entirely missing from personal matters of (character) interaction, or perhaps more importantly from the developmental background of how characters become created, established and are evolved. Think to your own family for just a moment, especially if you live in most Western cultures (thought that is definitely not a necessary precondition), and ask yourself, have you or another family member not directly received, benefited from, or befitted yourself from the legacy, inheritances, or heirloom objects of your family and ancestors?

It is as if, in most fantasy games, a character is considered pre-developed with no history but his individual self, as if he or she sprang like Athena from the forehead of Zeus without any prior progeneration or ancestral ties, responsibilities, or inheritance of any kind. Without a real background, or relationship to their own historical legacy. Yet even Athena inherited the Aegis. Even she drew wisdom, insight, and wealth from her father’s legacy. But for most fantasy based gaming characters it is as if the common and assumed practice of character creation is of a person completely devoid of family history, inheritance, legacy, and background. In all practical effect orphaned by and within the world they inhabit. And with nothing of real value to effectively describe and define their past.

Yes, I am aware that character creation often considers or expresses a sort of loosely sketched and generalized “background story.” At least in theory or in part. Meaning that I, the character, came from this or that town, had this or that general background, my parents may have been named so and so, and I may have an older brother or sister. But that is usually the extent of character background development (at least initially so, and in many games), aside from the usual gaming demands of establishing the attributes of Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, or whatever (other) abilities are practiced and measured in-game. But little, if any, attention is ever given to matters such as “what was passed on to me by my family or friends,” “what did I inherit of importance,” or “what was the legacy left me by my family, for good or ill, or for both?” Indeed I could find no mention at all of the terms heirloom, legacy, or inheritance in any of the First Edition, Third Edition, or Fourth Edition D&D books (I cannot speak about Second Edition having never played it, but the other editions are, I think it would be agreed the basic framework of what are usually considered the most important or at least most popular fantasy RPGs), a seemingly strange omission if one stops to think but a moment on the matter. And in only a couple of cases were concerns involving heirlooms, legacies, or inheritances even vaguely, briefly, or indirectly mentioned or implied in relationship to character, setting, or game creation and development.

(I fully understand that many individual games and settings, such as private homebrew efforts, do consider play aspects such as heirlooms, legacies, and inheritances. And that is well and good. However such factors are rarely considered systematically even in individual settings or milieus, and in this case I am not really talking about individual settings or private homebrew efforts. I am encouraging game developers and writers to include these important aspects of human, and likely demi-human, cultures and societies within the formal structure of their work. That is, as a matter of real and inherent game structure. For indeed as both Medieval and Modern societies often show considerable considerations regarding heirlooms, legacies, and inheritances of great family, clan, personal, legal, societal, and cultural importance it seems a strange oversight (or is that not truly more of an undersight) to omit them from the body and structure of role play games. So game writers and developers should pay far more attention to matters involving heirlooms, legacies, and inheritances than is often the case. This is true when developing games whose genres include horror, pulp, modern, historical, and especially fantasy elements or settings. However even gaming genres involving historical war gaming and science fiction could probably benefit either directly or indirectly by the inclusion of elements regarding heirlooms, legacies, and inheritances.)

How many oral accounts and written records in human culture, how many folk tales, fictional stories, legends, and myths are built specifically around matters dealing with these important expressions of human life? Frodo inherits the heirloom of the One Ring, Arthur inherits the heirloom of Excalibur (not to mention his family legacy, which is then passed on to others), Harry Potter inherits his family’s dark past and future hope, the Sagas and Eddas are likewise filled with tales of inherited and rich objects, and so forth and so on. I could go on practically ad infinitum and ad nauseum. Need I even mention the numerous accounts of Greek and Roman (the Iliad and Odyssey, Jason and the Argonauts, the Aeneid), Scandinavian, Germanic, Celtic, Japanese, African, Indian (indeed, sources from around the world) myths and legends in which heirlooms, legacies, and inheritances play an important if not the most vital role in the development of an heroic character, clan, or culture? I could also mention numerous real world historical examples such as Attila and the Sword of War (Mars) and the White Stag, the legacy Augustus took up from Caesar, the generals who inherited the legacy of Alexander’s conquests, The Byzantine continuation of the legacies of Rome and the Orthodox church, the Muslim expansion of the legacy of ancient Greek and Roman science and engineering, the Judeo-Christian legacy and inheritance in Europe and the West, how modern societies have benefited from the inherited scientific and technological legacies and heirlooms of the past, and on and on and on I could go citing example after example. As other illustrations of my meaning in a more direct and material sense just look to the Relics and Icons of religion, the heirloom Crown Jewels of government, the civil, court, and legitimacy claims of princes and kings, and to various other physical and cultural signs of authority and asserted rights and responsibilities. Heirlooms, legacies, and inheritances abound throughout history as obvious indication of both grand and powerful physical objects, and of unresolved issues and concerns that continue to haunt men and the tribes, clans, families, societies, and cultures from which they have been generated and evolved. So, within the storied tales of myth, legend, fairy and folk tales, fiction both ancient and modern, and even within the hallowed halls of history records are replete with events in which heirlooms, legacies, and inheritances of one kind or another shape and mold the course and sweep of both the character of individual men and women, and the movement and scope of history itself.

Yet within the game it seems as if most characters spring from the air, free of, and for the most part, completely divorced from and ignorant of the responsibilities, obligations, histories, legacies, inheritances, and heirlooms that make up the treasure horde of their family, community, and/or cultural background. Character background development is usually little more than a Spartan and anemic exercise in “naming and attribute rolling.” Some in-game characters, of course, will be orphans and urchins, doomed by fate or circumstance to have become separated from their natural background and antecedents, but most will be, as in real life, the product of where, and whence, and through whom they arose. Therefore, most will carry upon their person, seen or unseen, the marks, marques, and effects of their history. They will to a large extent be who they are because of whom and what has come before them.

(I have a personal theory as to why most games approach character background development as they do, as if it is an activity quite divorced from what would actually be entirely natural among most peoples, not to mention what is divorced from historical precedent, and natural to myth, legend, and fiction. And others can discuss this somewhat separate issue among themselves in this thread if they choose to do so. However, at this point let me merely say that whatever the reason or reasons, and I suspect more than one, the important point in this thread is that with game and character creation it is not so vital a matter as to why so many RPGs tend to so often lack real substance regarding background, as it simply is that they do.)

Therefore to correct this dearth of developmental potential, this lack of character legacy and substantiality, I suggest including three (you may suggest more, I am suggesting three) new facets of character and game background and development. These three facets of background being the Heirloom, the Legacy, and the Inheritance.


I have decided that after I write The Vengeance of Tôl Karuţha I will write a number of Tributary Tales.

And what are Tributary Tales? Well, in this case (aside from the fact that they are both tributes and confluence streams) my Tributary Tales will be single stories I write about those fictional characters that most influenced me over time. I will strive to write one Tributary Tale per month until my list is complete. Below is the list of characters I wish to write Tributary Tales about. This list may later expand though this seems about right to me.


Tales of the Fictional (or partially fictional) and Mythical Characters that had the most influence on me growing up or that in later life most appealed to me

Batman                                                                                                                                                                                                            Beowulf
Cole and Hitch
Doc Savage
Horatio Hornblower
Jack Aubrey
John Carter
John Galt
Kirk and Spock (Star Trek original series)
Lone Ranger
Nathaniel Bumppo (Hawkeye) and Chingachgook
Philip Marlowe
Robin the Hood
Sherlock Holmes
Solomon Kane
Taliesin (Taliesin Ben Beirdd)
Túrin Tarambar



After many years of both observation and experimentation it has been my conclusion that the real reason games are superior to most neuroplasticity (or even educational) programs (no matter how good in design) is because games are by both design and play active and fluid, whereas most neuroplasticity and cognitive learning programs are essentially passive and static.

I don’t think it is a secret to anyone that the more you involve the body and the senses and the mind and even the soul (psuche) in conjunction with whatever subject matter is to be learned the more easily will that subject matter be later recalled and the more deeply it embeds itself into the memory.

Whether most people realize it or not most games are active tactile as well as mental in nature, and even in things like Role Play there is a huge amount of engagement with the imagination in a wide range of input fields (imagined sights and sounds and smells), not to mention the large amount of involved social interaction.

So whether it is the visual and tactile stimulation of a video or computer game, or the tactile and social and imaginative interplay involved in a role play or even a board game what is learned is much more visceral and applicable later on to the Real World. (And if you cannot carry what you learn to the Real World then what you have learned is pragmatically useless.)

Consciously or subconsciously the impressive sight and sound and the imagined impulse and acted-out (role-played) solution is a far superior problem solving exercise than is the static learning and answer format.

Games are alive in ways that most cognitive learning programs are not, and cannot be, unless radically redesigned to be directly applicable both to the Real World and to the entire human being.

So the solution to this problem is an obvious one, learning techniques that are active and tactile and sensory and that engage at problems as if they were Real (for the mind has a hard time distinguishing between reality and fantasy at the very moment of actual employment) are far superior to didactic and dialectical and other such static learning techniques.

Especially when it comes to skills mastery and skills employment gaming is far more vital and functional and efficient than mere instruction and static learning practice techniques.

That’s just the way it is.


…Then (Baba) Yaga broke her (the peasant girl) in pieces and put her bones in a basket.

Now the stepmother sent her husband for his daughter. The father went and brought back only her bones. As he approached the village, his dog barked on the porch: “Bow! wow! Bones are rattling in the basket!” The stepmother came out with a rolling pin: “You’re lying!” she said. “You should bark, ‘A young lady is coming!'” The husband arrived; and then the wife moaned and groaned.

There’s a tale for you and a crock of butter for me.


Hmm… That was even more vicious than I was expecting. But that entire tale was fascinating as it involved a little peasant girl being sold into bondservice to the witch Baba Yaga.

Meaning it was really about being sold into the service of a well-known murderer.

There’s a lot to be pulled from this story. And  a whole nother story embedded in it about how to regain your freedom.

I keep thinking how much good such an obverse Baba Yaga tale might have done those little girls abducted in Nigeria had they been properly trained in escape and evasion.

Or even just simple observation and patience.


Actually I know something both of this poem and of the source materials from which it arose. Earendil actually refers to the angel Earendel from the Advent Lyrics of Crist (Christ) in the Exeter Book. That was Tolkien’s real source material for the Flying Mariner who sailed the Silmaril upon his shining brow.


Eala Earendel engla beorhtast

ofer middengeard (as the Anglo-Saxons called Middle Earth, our Earth, and similar to what the Vikings called Constantinople, Miklagarð) monnum sended…


Still, the article is interesting in some background sense.

Birth of a new world: the Tolkien poem that marks the genesis of Middle-earth

On this day in September 1914, as war broke out, Tolkien created the mythical land that led him to The Lord of the Rings. Here’s the story of the poem that changed his life

Mordor, he wrote: how the Black Country inspired Tolkien’s badlands

Martin Freeman in the film version of The Hobbit
Origin story … Martin Freeman in the film version of The Hobbit. Photograph: Warner Bros/AFP/Getty Images

A century ago today, Russian forces were beginning the 133-day siege of Przemyśl and the German army took Péronne. Meanwhile, in a Nottinghamshire farmhouse, a young man wrote a poem about a mariner who sails off the earth into the sky. The Voyage of Éarendel the Evening Star deserves its day in the spotlight alongside war commemorations. It was the founding moment of Middle-earth.

Neither elves nor hobbits were yet in JRR Tolkien’s mind. But the star mariner is remembered in The Lord of the Rings, as Eärendil, forefather of kings, whose light in a phial wards off Mordor’s darkness. In the vast backstory of The Silmarillion, he carries the last Silmaril, a jewel preserving unsullied Edenic light, seeking aid against the primal Dark Lord.

None of this is in Tolkien’s poem from 24 September 1914. As an invented origin myth for the evening star, it is all energy and enigma:

Éarendel sprang up from the Ocean’s cup
In the gloom of the mid-world’s rim;
From the door of Night as a ray of light
Leapt over the twilight brim,
And launching his bark like a silver spark
From the golden-fading sand;
Down the sunlit breath of Day’s fiery Death
He sped from Westerland.





A very nice little article on early Medieval Axes and the symbols that adorned them.


The Sign of the Cross on the Early Medieval Axes: A Symbol of Power, Magic or Religion?

By Piotr Kotowicz

Weapons Brings Peace? Warfare in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, ed. L. Marek (Wrocław, 2013)

medieval battle axes - Photo by Boksi

Introduction: The tradition of adorning of weapons goes back into the distant past. In the early Middle Ages people also tried to make their weapons look impressive. Among numerous motifs used to decorate swords, spears, spurs and others military accessories, a special position is held by the sign of the cross. The main aim of this paper is the analysis of a group of early medieval axes marked with this sign and discovered in the territory of Europe. Then, it would be explained why this holy symbol was put on such a murderous weapon as the axe.

Among several dozens of ornamented early medieval axes, the group decorated with the signs of the cross is not very impressive. The general number of all the artefacts which are known to the author does not surpass 30 specimens. The geographical distribution of this kind of axes is very wide, but, what is interesting, the majority of finds are located all around the Baltic Sea and in the neighbouring territories. Additionally, most of them were discovered in Scandinavia (Denmark – 3, Sweden – 7 and Norway – 2), a few axes were found in Poland (4), Finland (2) and Latvia (2), and only single specimens come from Estonia and Germany. Finds from the territory of Russia (3), however, group along the basin of the  River Volga, on the route from Scandinavia to Volga Bulgaria. An isolated find comes from Bulgaria, but in scholarship it is connected with Northern Europe and the Viking culture as well.


My three new blogs are now fully up and running:


WYRDWEND – My Literary, Art, and Writing blog, covering my fiction and non-fiction writings, my poetry, my songwriting, and my art:


LAUNCH PORT – My Business, Capital, and Invention blog and the blog of OPEN DOOR COMMUNICATIONS:




TOME AND TOMB – My Gaming and Game Design blog:


You are most welcome to visit all three. They will also soon all be cross-linked. I hope you enjoy the content and there is much more to come. This is just the beginning.






Solo Retendere (Claim of Full Possession of My Own Intellectual Properties)

– unless otherwise acknowledged, expressed, or specified all materials on this site (or any of the other sites I inhabit on the world wide web or similar communication structures) that were composed, created, designed, devised, formulated, or produced by me, be they in the form of Artwork, Business Ventures, Capital Projects, Career Activities, Designs, Game Materials, Inventions, Mathematical Equations, Musical Compositions, New Theories, Poetry, Scientific Works, Songs, Unique Innovations, Writings of various kinds, or any other intellectual property I own or retain control of, herein and henceforth shall be considered possessions under my sole authority and are fully protected by copyrights, trademarks, registrations and any and all applicable laws, local, national, and international, and any violation of my rights regarding any of my property, intellectual or otherwise, will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. All rights reserved.

I am very happy to openly share ideas and to work collaboratively, I encourage that, but I do not like the theft of my ideas and property, and that I will pursue and prosecute.

Jack W. Gunter

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