28 February 2011

On the Original Elric Stories

In order to get into the spirit of my current ‘Young Kingdoms’ campaign, I just reread the original five Elric short stories. They recently were published in their original form (the version that was published in Science Fantasy magazine, 1961-62) in the Del Rey collection Elric: The Stealer of Souls.

The stories are:

· The Dreaming City

· While the Gods Laugh

· The Stealer of Souls

· Kings in Darkness

· The Caravan of Forgotten Dreams (originally The Flame Bringers)

I must say that I really enjoyed reading these tales again. They are briskly paced but contain surprising depth. Only around 40 pages each, they each are easily readable in a single sitting (or a single ‘lying,’ if you generally read fiction in bed, as I do).

The last time I had read an Elric tale was over 15 years ago; it was The Revenge of the Rose, if I recall correctly. I’ve always wanted to give Elric another read, but never seemed to get around to it. Last year, though, I did reread some of Michael Moorcock’s other ‘Eternal Champion’ stories, viz., both Corum trilogies, and the short novel The Silver Warriors, all of which I enjoyed very much. (‘Corum’ was my favourite ‘Eternal Champion’ when I first read many of Moorcock’s fantasy tales over 25 years ago. I think that he still is, although I find Elric more intriguing now than I did as a teenager.)

Also included in this book is Stormbringer, specifically, the four original novelettes that were published in Science Fantasy 1963-64. I’ve finished the first novelette (Dead God’s Homecoming) and am well into the second (Black Sword’s Brothers). While I’m enjoying these tales well enough, I decidedly prefer the earlier five. Those earlier stories have a certain élan that the Stormbringer novelettes lack. The latter stories seem ponderously ‘epic’ in tone.

Right now, I wish that all of the Elric stories were like the original five. Dark fantasy tales, most definitely, but relatively light on the angst and melodrama. Perhaps that sentiment will change as I read more (I already have volume two of the Del Rey series, To Rescue Tanelorn).

(Anyone else notice that the artist of the above illustration, John Picacio, stuck the ‘Eye of Sauron’ onto the hilt of Stormbringer?)

26 February 2011

Non-Hippy Wood-Elves

I remember purchasing this excellent ICE campaign module ~30 years ago. (By Eru I'm old!)

It is one of my favourite RPG books of all time (although I have long since lost the original book, and now only own a much later, heavily revised version from ~1990). It provided a wonderful 'sandbox' campaign setting, with sketchy information on the Withered Heath, the Lonely Mountain, Dale, Laketown, the Wood-elf realm, and so forth. I loved its presentation of a region in which player characters could do whatever they liked (for good or ill!).

And one thing that I especially dig about this cover image (which is one of my favourites from ICE's early Middle-earth line) is that it shows wood-elves to be rather tough chaps. They're no hippy tree-huggers, but instead rugged fellows who know how to kill a giant spider or two, when necessary.

I always liked the portrayal of wood-elves in The Hobbit as somewhat dangerous, not exactly 'good', woodland hedonists. If I ever use elves again in a campaign setting, I think that this picture sums up how I would imagine them.

24 February 2011

Gorgeous Map for ‘Here Be Dragons’

I love maps. I enjoy drawing my own maps for my homebrew campaigns (like this one, this one, and this one, for my setting ‘Ilmahal’).

I’m always happy to use maps created by others, especially if they are attractive and inspiring. The ‘gold standard’ for fantasy map art, in my opinion, is Peter Fenlon’s amazing work for ICE’s old Middle-earth line. Another fine map is this classic one of the Young Kingdoms by William Church.

Simon Bray’s map for ‘The Lands of Pherae’ is another wonderful piece of work:

(Taken from here.)

This is the map for the ‘sandbox’ adventure setting called ‘Here Be Dragons’ by Bray and co-author Paul Mitchener, forthcoming from D101 Games for the OpenQuest RPG.

Just looking at this map makes me want to use it to run a few adventures!

23 February 2011

Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition and Related News

It looks like Chaosium will be coming out with a seventh edition of Call of Cthulhu this year!

· The basic news at Yog-Sothoth

· The relevant thread at Yog-Sothoth

I own the 6th edition (both paperback and PDF), but I’ll almost certainly pick up a copy of the 7th edition, especially if it is hardcover, but even if it simply has superior formatting and layout (which I think is quite likely).

Also of note, an expanded third edition of Cthulhu by Gaslight looks to be in the works. This is even more exciting news for me, as I don’t have any Victorian CoC material, and I think that it would be a wonderful era in which to run a campaign.

A month old is the announcement of the Cthulhu Invictus Companion. I really dig Cthulhu Invictus, and would love to run a campaign someday. I think that I’ll have to get the CIC for the gorgeous cover alone!

And then, of course, there is the hardcover version of the BRP Goldbook

Time to start saving my pennies!

22 February 2011

Dungeons and Dragons for Philosophers

These two comic strips are quite excellent:

· Basic D&D for philosophers

· Advanced D&D for philosophers

I may have to get them mounted on my office wall!

The Journal of Edvund Yrvim - Entry 2 - 'Plans Change'

Blast! Lord Straasha seems to loathe me. Ever since Captain Ramier’s ship left the port city of Ilmar I have been afflicted with a terrible illness. The constant swaying of the boards beneath my feet induces nausea in me so terrible that I cannot even find words in Common or Low Melnibonéan adequate to convey it.

Nonetheless, I shall try to keep my bile down long enough to update this journal.

Our voyage proceeded without event (aside from the persistent voiding of my stomach’s meagre contents) for seven days. Captain Ramier proved to be a rather perceptive fellow, discerning my half-brother’s Melnibonéan blood. Fortunately, the pragmatic Jhakorian sailor seems to hold no great prejudice against my father’s kin.

In order to minimize the likelihood that we might be assaulted by raiders from vile Pan Tang, Captain Ramier planned to cut through the Pale Sea to the southwest for seven days, before turning northwest to complete the journey to Dharkor. I am grateful for the captain’s caution: I can think of no fate worse than to be victimized by the depraved minions of Hwamgaarl’s deranged Theocrat.

On the seventh day of our voyage, we encountered a very odd sight: a Melnibonéan ship adrift. The ship – a jet-black ‘hornet’ barge of exquisite beauty – floated listlessly a few hundred metres away from our own vessel. Eager for what profit might be made from the sale of such a magnificent craft, as well as whatever loot might still be aboard, Captain Ramier (after a brief conference with myself and Bōdric) decided to seize the vessel.

Alas, it turned out that the hornet barge was not abandoned entirely, and, as we approached, a massive human began firing the barge’s trebuchet at our ship. He launched various insults at us as well, interestingly in the Low Melnibonéan tongue. I attempted to communicate with the brute, explaining to him that we meant him no physical harm, but to no avail.

Thankfully, the missiles launched from the trebuchet did our ship no harm, and eventually we closed with the hornet barge. The great brute, his magnificent thews bulging, drew some of Captain Ramier’s cautious sailors into a brutal mêlée, severing the arm of one with remarkable grace. Bōdric succeeded in implanting an arrow into the brute’s leg, weakening him somewhat, but not diminishing the human’s furious, glorious defiance.

Eventually Bōdric and I boarded the battle barge, joining Captain Ramier’s sailors, and the defiant warrior recognized us as part Melnibonéan. At this point he surrendered immediately, prostrating himself before us, and apologizing profusely for his defiance in the Low Melnibonéan tongue.

It seems that the mighty brute, who goes by the name ‘Myluk,’ is a warrior-slave of the Melnibonéan noble house of Salamir.

[Myluk]

House Salamir! The very house with which Bōdric and I had hoped to gain succour in Dhakos.

After some tedious grovelling, Myluck revealed to us the following pieces of knowledge:

· Six weeks ago the Jharkorians elected a new King, Dharmos, and he pledged to make Jharkor a free realm. Salamir sent emissaries to meet with the king and pledged peaceful co-operation in return for certain secrets, as long as Salamir could be left to run his estates as he always had. Dharmos refused, believing this to be a trick of Chaos. He gave Salamir three weeks to prepare to either leave Jharkor or defend his estates against attack. Salamir chose to leave.

· Word was sent ahead to Imrry that Salamir was returning. The Salamir reputation has never been strong in Imrryr. Salamir must have given certain assurances or made certain bargains, because Empress Sathril sent word that he would be welcome.

· In the meantime, the Dharijorians attempted to invade Jharkor’s northern territories, wanting to exploit the new king’s weakness. The fighting spilled into the estates of Lord Salamir, hastening their departure. Most of the slaves were freed and only the nine closest were kept to help sail the Barge back to Imrryr.

· Myluk does not know what happened to Salamir’s estates, but the Dharijorians would have murdered all had they stayed.

· Salamir and his retinue sailed for five days – a straight course for Melniboné. One the fifth day a dark-sailed ship appeared on the horizon, coming from the southeast. This was a pirate vessel. Salamir ordered a change of course but the small ship could not outrun the pirate galley and they were forced to defend themselves. Salamir tried to hide his family and use runes to protect them, but his magic seemed to have deserted him. The pirates boarded, fought, and captured all. Recognising the strength of their prize, they decided not to rape the women or further abuse the menfolk, as they would fetch far more in the slave market of Ryfel. Myluk heard all this discussed.

· Myluk heard several names mentioned: Malagan, Boorg, and Nhagren.

No respite for Bōdric and I from the blistering winds of misfortune, it would seem.

In light of this miserable news, and the fact that the Melnibonéan battle barge likely could be sold only in the Dreaming City, Bōdric and I decided that our best option would be to proceed directly to Imrryr. Assuming that we could gain entrance to the city – and I was confident that our news of the fate of two noble Melnibonéan families, Salamir and Yrvim, would suffice for that – Captain Ramier could sell his captured vessel, and we could make plans to journey to Ryfel to try to save Lord Salamir and his kin.

With the surprising assistance of the strange human Adralat Na-Keth (who seems perversely intrigued by anything associated with Melniboné), we managed to convince Captain Ramier of the wisdom of our proposal. Our plan changed, and we set off due south for the Dragon Island.

The prospect of returning to the heart of the crumbling Bright Empire filled me with dread. I have no great love for my father’s people, and their condescension towards ‘half-bloods’ like myself only magnifies their innate grating arrogance. I would prefer to seek new lands amongst the healthy, if vulgar and ignorant, humans, than dwell in the charnel houses of a fading civilisation. My half-brother Bōdric, on the other hand, longs for full acceptance by our father’s people. It obviously is a doomed desire, but I have not the heart to make this explicit to him.

My misgivings aside, our route seemed clear. Four days later we arrived at the exterior sea wall that protects the city of Imrryr. Since we did not have a trading permit or certificate (or whatever the Chaos-damned thing is called), we were forced to wait for two days. I have no doubt that only my mention that we had important news concerning Salamir and Yrvim to the pampered official with whom we interacted prevented our immediate expulsion.

On the thirteenth day since our departure from Ilmar, we were granted entry into Imrryr.

The journey through the sea wall maze was a trial. The blindfold made my seasickness even more troublesome than usual, despite the relative calmness of the waters within the maze’s tunnels. I refused to show any sign of illness, however, lest I be irredeemably humiliated.

At long last Ramier’s ship emerged from the maze and our blindfolds were removed. Before us shone Imrryr in all its glory! I may dislike my father’s people, but their skill at building is unrivalled. The glorious towers of the Dreaming City are without aesthetic peer in this world. Imrryr is not merely a city – it is a work of art.

Ramier and the rest of the humans on board, including our odd but adequately charming companion Adralat, were confined to the foreigners’ quarter of Imrryr. No visitors are allowed into the city proper. Of course, most visitors do not complain: the foreigners’ quarter of Imrryr is more magnificent than any human city anywhere within the Young Kingdoms.

My half-brother and I were led into the city itself by the same effete official with whom I had parlayed two days ago. Initially I was under the impression that the official and his guards were escorting us to my father’s apartments in the city. After a few minutes, though, I was informed that Bōdric and I were to be taken to Empress Sathril in the imperial palace for an audience, for she wished to hear news of the noble families Salamir and Yrvim directly from us.

An audience with the Empress herself!

I was seized with anxiety. Suddenly, my nausea threatened to return…


Notes

1. ‘Lord Straasha’ is the Elemental Lord of water.

2. Lawrence Whitaker wrote the information conveyed by Myluk (the ‘bullet notes’). Everything else was scribbled by yours truly.

3. Since these notes are written from the perspective of Edvund, some details may be incorrect and/or glossed over.

21 February 2011

The Journal of Edvund Yrvim - Entry 1

The Palace of Yr has fallen. It has stood defiant on the shores of the Pale Sea since the reign of the demonic Empress Terhali, but now it is no more. The ruins belong to the humans of Ilmar. And so, another minor chapter in the unfolding saga of the collapse of the Pale Empire has been written.

I cannot shed a tear for the fall of the last vestige of the Yr dominion on the Northern Continent, even though the Yrvim blood flows through my veins. I am, at last, free from the iron fist of my father, whom I loathe with the heat of five suns. Since the death of my gentle mother a dozen years ago, I have remained at the Palace of Yr only because of the precious Tome of Jade and Blood. But now that the power of House Yrvim has been broken, I may take the tome and flee without fear of being hunted by my father’s lackeys. The tome is mine, and mine alone!

My half-brother Bōdric and I have fled to the nearby port city of Ilmar. We must flee these uncivilised lands as soon as possible. Although we are both part human, bastard sons of the vile Serec, our Melnibonéan features may eventually be noticed. Many here have no love – and quite justly so, in my view – for my father’s people.

In order to avoid detection amongst these humans, and retain possession of my cherished grimoire, I have adopted the rather prosaic name ‘Ilkyn Blackviper.’ Sometimes I impress myself with my own cunning!

While at the harbour of Ilmar, my brother and I encountered a rather strange human also looking for passage away from these bloody lands. He claimed that his name was ‘Adralat Na-Keth,’ and he seemed to be from lands far away. At the same time, though, he struck us as a skilled traveller and negotiator, someone who may be of some help to us. Consequently, we agreed to travel together, at least for the time being.

While negotiating for passage on a ship to take us to the port of Dhakos, where some of our Melnibonéan kin retain a vestige of their former power, a few vulgar sailors tried to take advantage of our wealth and apparent naïveté. My half-brother Bōdric convinced them of the imprudence of their tactics by flourishing his twin blades, in the manner of the Melnibonéan ‘Noble House’ fighting style. The salty curs apprehended the folly of their ploy, and promptly directed us to the ship’s captain to negotiate our passage.

[Captain Ramier]

Within a nearby ramshackle tavern we discovered Captain Ramier, who proved to be an agreeable, if slightly crass, Jharkorian. Fortuitously, Ramier informed us that he was planning on journeying to Dharkor the next day, and would be happy to take on some passengers, for an appropriate price. We dispersed some of the shiny silver coins that these humans cherish so much, and sealed the deal with a vigorous shaking of hands. Such charming, earthy customs these humans have!

Reflecting on the harrowing events of the past few days, I decided that the value of being able to move with great rapidity could not be underestimated. Consequently, I attempted to inscribe a rune of speed onto my ornate leather boots. Alas I failed.

And now, it is time for some rest. I have no doubt that I shall find tomorrow’s sea voyage quite invigorating and exhilarating!


Sword and Magic: Adventures on Fomalhaut

Gabor Lux (a.k.a. 'Melan') has made available, in English, the core elements of his RPG Sword and Magic. Also available are three scenarios set in his wonderfully weird world of 'Fomalhaut' in a document called Towards Fomalhaut (all three scenarios were published previously in either Fight On! or Knockspell).

Both documents are available (for free) here. (And there are many other cool things to be found at Lux's Fomalhaut website.)

The Sword and Magic RPG is essentially a 'light d20 game' with a strong 'weird fantasy' or 'swords and sorcery' feel to it. The works of Clark Ashton Smith and Jack Vance seem to be the primary literary influences. (A list of 'recommended media', which includes some CRPGs and the film Zardoz, is included on page 20.)

The S&M races are all human variants (e.g., Terrans, Amazons, Cavemen, and Northmen). The classic four D&D classes (fighters, clerics, thieves, magic-users) are included, as well as some subclasses (e.g., archers, amazons, illusionists, etc.).

An interesting 'primer' on Lux's approach to running FRPGs is included on page 22. It's worth downloading S&M for the primer alone.

Gabor Lux's adventures, for both Fomalhaut and the classic Wilderlands setting (from Judges Guild), are consistently weird, evocative, and challenging. The the S&M setting fits them well.

Given the price, fans of 'old school' fantasy role-playing have nothing to lose by checking them out!

20 February 2011

Mike Mearls’ Plea for Unity

Mike Mearls, ‘Group Manager for the D&D Research and Development team,’ has started up a column over at the Wizards of the Coast website entitled ‘Legends & Lore’ (the title is an homage, I assume, to the post-1985 version of the AD&D Deities & Demigods book).

The aim of the column purports to be discussion of “various topics on D&D’s history, how the game has changed over the years, and where it’s going in the future.” You can read the initial post here.

Interestingly, Mearls seems to make some sort of plea for an inter-edition peace, or at least truce, here:

Whether you play the original game published in 1974, AD&D in any of its forms, 3rd Edition and its descendents, or 4th Edition, at the end of the day you’re playing D&D. D&D is what we make of it, and by "we" I mean the DMs, the players, the readers, the bloggers—everyone who has picked up a d20 and ventured into a dungeon

When we look to the past, we learn that there are far more things that tie us together than tear us apart. The fact that we play this bizarre, arcane game puts us on the fringe of normal.

It’s not clear to me why the above claim doesn’t apply to role-playing games generally, and not simply D&D, especially given that the differences between, say, 0e (1974) D&D and 4e D&D are greater than the differences between many role-playing games that go by entirely different names. (Palladium Fantasy and Tunnels and Trolls, I would venture, have more in common with older versions of D&D than 4e D&D does.)

In any case, I share the sentiment expressed by ‘Joe the Lawyer’ here, that if WotC is sincere in wanting to ‘heal the rift’ between WotC and players of older editions, WotC could simply re-release the PDFs of all the out-of-print TSR and WotC material (i.e., the same stuff that was up for sale at RPG.now just a couple of years ago).

Of course, I’m not holding my breath. My suspicion is that the real ‘rift’ that WotC is concerned about is the one with Pathfinder (i.e., the 3.x D&D community), not curmudgeonly old grognrads like myself. (The same suspicion is expressed over at Grognardia.)

18 February 2011

Investigators Pierre and Nigel (Cthulhu Canada)

Pierre Rioux

Male, Age 31

Doctor at St. Michael’s Hospital (BSc, MD)

Str 10 Con 8 Siz 12 Dex 12 App 11 Int 14 Pow 14 Edu 18

San 70 Idea 70 Luck 70 Know 90

Sanity Points 70 (64) Magic Points 14 Hit Points 20

Noteworthy Skills

Biology (42), Chemistry (6), Credit Rating (65), Cthulhu Mythos (7), Dodge (34), Drive Auto (30), Fast Talk (15), First Aid (70), Library Use (50), Listen (41), Medicine (65), Natural History (20), Occult (15), Own Language – French (90), Other Language – English (60), Other Language – Latin (21), Persuade (19), Pharmacy (54), Physics (21), Psychoanalysis (35), Psychology (75), Spot Hidden (35), Swim (35), Throw (45), Rifle (35)

Mythos Tomes Read

· True Magick by Theophilus Wenn

Spells Known

· Contact Deity/Nyogtha

· Summon/Bind Byakhee

· Summon/Bind Servitor of the Outer gods

· Summon/Bind Star Vampire

Brief Biography

· Born and raised in the sleepy village of Trois Pistoles, on the south shore of the Saint Lawrence River, in eastern Quebec.

· Has 14 siblings!

· Craving escape from the backwater of Quebec, Pierre worked hard as a young lad to acquire competency in English.

· Attended King’s College in Toronto for both his undergraduate studies (1910-1914) and his medical studies (1918-1922)

· While an undergraduate at King’s College, Pierre formed a fast friendship with Nigel Blackthorne. He also became friends with the pioneering psychiatrist Dr. Aldous Brewer and (despite Pierre’s secular inclinations) Father Philip McBride.

· Pierre served in the Great War (1914-1918) with Nigel Blackthorne. Somehow he survived the terrible Battle of Vimy Ridge.

· Now a moderately successful doctor, Pierre devotes much of his time to attending to the medical problems of the poor of Toronto.

· Pierre owns a small house on Palmerston Avenue (once a rather posh Anglican part of Toronto, it is becoming increasingly Jewish in character).

[Palmerston Avenue]

Nigel Blackthorne

Male, age 31

Lecturer of Egyptology at King’s College (BA, MA)

Str 14 Con 14 Siz 11 Dex 11 App 12 Int 15 Pow 18 Edu 17

San 90 Idea 75 Luck 90 Know 85

Sanity Points 90 (88) Magic Points 18 Hit Points 25

Noteworthy Skills

Anthropology (75), Archaeology (75), Bargain (40), Biology (11), Credit Rating (30), Cthulhu Mythos (6), Dodge (42), Fast Talk (25), Library Use (48), Listen (31), Locksmith (22), Occult (31), Own Language – English (85), Other Language – Ancient Egyptian (50), Other Language – Ancient Greek (30), Other Language – Latin (30), Persuade (40), Psychology (40), Sneak (20), Spot Hidden (35), Track (20), Handgun (53), Rifle (35)

Mythos Tomes Read

· True Magick by Theophilus Wenn

Spells Known

· Contact Deity/Nyogtha

· Summon/Bind Byakhee

· Summon/Bind Servitor of the Outer gods

· Summon/Bind Star Vampire

Brief Biography

· Born and raised in Kingston Ontario (a small limestone city located roughly midway between Toronto and Ottawa).

· Nigel escaped Kingston, which he found both ‘incomprehensibly smug’ and ‘soul-crushingly stifling,’ as soon as he was eighteen years old.

· Nigel’s sister, Meredith Blackthorne, is a relatively well-known politically progressive (suffragette) journalist in Toronto.

· Attended King’s College for his undergraduate studies in archaeology and ancient history (1910-1914).

· Became a good friend of Pierre Rioux while studying for his BA.

· Also became a student and friend of Professor Rupert Merriweather and Professor Cutis Mathieson. (Mathieson now teaches archaeology and ancient history at McGill University in Montreal.)

· Served in the Great War (1914-1918) with Pierre Rioux. Somehow Nigel survived the terrible Battle of Vimy Ridge.

· Nigel subsequently did graduate work with Professor Merriweather (1918-1921), eventually becoming a lecturer of Egyptology at King’s College (from 1921 onwards).

Notes:

1. Again, this is a post that likely will not be of interest to most visitors. However, the above write-ups may be useful for anyone who needs some instant CoC investigators (perhaps for a one-shot session, as NPCs, or whatever).

2. The write-ups above reflect that status of Nigel and Pierre after two adventures (“The Edge of Darkness” and “Mr. Corbitt”). I will update them sporadically as the campaign progresses (and I will change this note to reflect this).

3. The portraits of Pierre and Nigel shamelessly taken from here.

17 February 2011

Thor Trailer

The new Thor trailer can be found here.

Looks like it might be fun!

(I'll be seeing the 2-D version, though, as I find 3-D quite unpleasant.)

C&C Castle Keepers Guide No Longer Vapourware

First promised in 2005 (or was it 2006?), the Castle Keepers Guide [sic] for Troll Lord Games' Castles & Crusades RPG is now finally available. 'Only' 31.99 USD in PDF. (31.99 for a PDF? Seriously?!?)

Davis Chenault, Stephen Chenault, and Casey Christofferson all seem like very decent fellows, based on my past internet interactions with them. And I had some very good times with C&C several years ago. I wish them well with C&C and the CKG.

But for me, at least, this book is 5 years too late.

13 February 2011

The Yrvim Saga

The Yrvim Saga

[Written by Lawrence Whitaker]

During the reign of Empress Terhali, her favoured servant, Lord Anryk Yrvim was sent to subdue the fractious tribes of Ilm on the northern continent. Taking with him a retinue of good Melnibonean warriors Lord Anryk set about bringing Imrryr’s rule to those uncultured savages who still dressed in the furs of bears and wolves. Within five short years Yrvim ruled all the lands from the Ilm coast to the Forest of Arreos. These lands, although dedicated to Terhali, were gifted to Lord Yrvim for his loyal service and he became High Lord of the region.

Thus it remained for a thousand years.

When the Dharzi came from the far east, tearing across the world like a scouring wind, High Lord Yrvim’s descendants were prepared. They hade weathered the storm of civil war that brought Terhali’s reign to an end. They had endured internal treachery and the occasional Ilm uprisings to remain in control of their ancient, hard-won territories. But, prepared as they were, they had not counted on the strange beast-magicks of the Dharzi and their spells and incantations turned the native flora and fauna against the natural order. High Lord Mazzarin Yrvim assembled his warriors against the coming horrors and had his sorcerers prepare spells and summonings of their own. These were drawn from The Tome of Jade and Blood, the ancestral grimoire developed by the Yrvim family in centuries long past.

High Lord Yrvim prevailed against the Dharzi but at great personal cost. A thousand died over two days of terrible fighting and Yrvim was forced to cede large swathes of land to the advancing Dharzi host and their terrible vampire wolves. When the fighting was over, the High Lord found he had concentrate too much on repairing and rebuilding the core estates, particularly the family seat, the (once) beautiful Palace of Yr. The lands he had lost stayed lost and the Ilm tribes retook lands lost to them when Lord Anryk began his conquest.

Eight centuries passed. The Ilm grow stronger and more civilized. They built a city of their own, on the coast, and named it Ilmar. High Lord Yrvim and his successors challenged the city and enslaved it for a time, but allowed the Ilmari, as they now called themselves, to retain what they had built. Ships from other, newly civilized lands were coming to Ilmar on a daily basis bringing riches from many parts of the Young Kingdoms. By allowing the Ilmari to retain their city the Yrvim family found it could tax the city revenues in return for peaceful coexistence. So it remained for a further seven hundred years.

But the Ilmari were not content with this relationship. A new force, centred on Bakshaan, a city to the south of Ilmar, was taking hold across the northern continent. Secretive and cunning, these Mereghn were spies, assassins and brokers of secrets and power. They infiltrated the noble houses of the Ilmari and spread dissent. Over several decades, informed by Mereghn knowledge, the nobles of Ilmar sought to challenge what remained of Yrvim dynasty. They had seen how the southern lands, under Earl Aubec’s command, had overthrown their Melnibonean masters and now sought to do the same.

[High Lord Serec Yrvim]

This happened in the rule of High Lord Serec Yrvim, father of Bōdric and Edvund...

Lord Serec had been born in Ilmiora but brought up and schooled in the Imperial Court at Imrryr. He inherited all the cruelty and disdain of true Melniboneans. When he returned to the Palace of Yr it was with a determination to take Ilmar from its human rulers and make it an extension of Melnibone, dedicating it to Empress Sathril. He brought warriors from the dragon isle and also employed mercenary bands, which were now rife across the Young Kingdoms, to fight on his side. He laid siege to Ilmar and demanded the exodus of the noble families who ruled the city. His true-Melnibonean son, Carac, commanded one wing of the Imrryrian forces whilst his bastard half breed son, Bōdric, fought with the mercenaries. A second son, the wily Edvund, studied the Tome of Jade and Blood in the Palace of Yr.

But High Lord Serec had not counted on the guile of the Mereghn, who were the real rulers of the city. Mereghn spies had found their way into the Yrvim family and lay in wait for the precise moment when their grand plan could be unleashed. Whilst Serec and his sons besieged Ilmar, these Mereghn assassins rose up – some thirty of them – and slaughtered the loyal Yrvim household, including the treasured Oi-Yoo Concubines. On hearing this treachery Serec had no option but to return to the Palace of Yr. On his arrival he found the palace in flames and mercenaries in the employ of the Mereghn waiting for him. Surrounded but defiant, Serec, Carac and Bōdric fought for the remains of their home. Edvund, meanwhile, ever suspicious of treachery, had prepared escape routes and now made use of them, evading the Mereghn murderers who were looking for him and, in particular, the Tome of Jade and Blood.

Serec Vyrim spent a day in battle against the Mereghn mercenaries calling upon Mabelrode of Chaos to aid him, but to no avail. His mercenaries either routed or joined the enemy. Carac, his most loved son, fell to an Ilmioran axe. Bōdric, deserted by his comrades, was forced to flee himself. The last that was seen of High Lord Serec Vyrim, cruel and proud lord of Yr and servant of Empress Sathril, was of the man standing over the broken body of Carac, twin longswords in hand, elbow-deep in gore, defending the burning remains of his palace. Bōdric is sure he saw his father weeping; the first time in forty years a tear had ever left those cruel and scheming eyes.

Edvund reached the stables where most of the horses, panicked, had been released to trample through the ranks of combatants – Melnibonean and human – in a bid to escape the flames. Only two horses remained; old, mangy affairs ear-marked for slaughter. There, in the stables, was where his brother, Bōdric, found him.

‘I fear we have lost our home,’ Edvund said drily. ‘Is father still alive?’

‘When last I saw him, he had cleaved a man in twain and beheaded another,’ Bōdric replied. ‘But Carac is dead,’ he spat into the straw and continued to saddle the half-broken mare. ‘I think I laughed when I saw the bastard cut from shoulder to thigh.’

‘Oh, I rather liked Carac,’ Edvund said. ‘Dim, but he had his uses.’

‘Such as?’ Bōdric asked, suddenly wondering if, perhaps, Edvund had been a part of the treachery.

‘Why, dearest brother, he ensured father placed this in my keeping.’ And from a leather satchel slung across his shoulder, Edvund tugged the corner of the family grimoire, the Tome of Jade and Blood. Bōdric recognized it immediately. How could he not? He spat once more.

‘So you got the grimoire. At least our father honoured you with something. He promised me a pony once, and I’m still waiting.’

‘A pony? Oh, I had one of…’ Edvund cut short his words as Bōdric flashed a look of murder in his direction. ‘No matter.’

‘We should ride,’ Bōdric said. ‘The savages will be here soon. They won’t hesitate to kill everyone they can. Even Serec cannot stop them.’

‘But where do we go?’ Edvund asked. His plans had not got this far.

‘As far from here as we can. To the east lies only the remains of the forest, and things the Dharzi created still roam there. West lies the coast. We can, perhaps, seek passage on a ship and head for Jharkor. I hear the Salamir family still rules there and they should give us shelter.’

‘The Salamirs?’ Edvund asked, with not a little suspicion. ‘Are they not considered traitors by Empress Sathril?’

‘So they say,’ Bōdric replied, ‘but I met them once when I campaigned in Jharkor and they were always hospitable.’

‘Jharkor it is, then,’ Edvund said. ‘But, brother…’ Bōdric, swinging himself into the saddle scowled at Edvund.

‘What?’

‘Let’s keep this,’ and he patted the satchel, ‘a secret between us, eh?’ Bōdric shrugged.

‘Its yours. I have no interest in it. All I ever wanted was a fucking pony.’

To Be Continued...

12 February 2011

RQII Young Kingdoms Character Creation – Some Thoughts

I’ve posted the player characters for the Young Kingdoms campaign that started up last week. The characters are: Edvund Yrvim (my PC), Bōdric Yrvim (Marcus’s PC), and Adralat Na-Keth (Peeter’s PC). Obviously, the PCs’ skills, hero points, and perhaps even ability scores will change (hopefully for the better!) as the campaign progresses. (I may edit their pages occasionally to reflect these changes.)

I doubt that the details of these characters will be of much interest to others, although looking them over might convey something about the RuneQuest II system and its Elric of Melniboné setting book.

Two especially nice features of the character creation system, in my opinion, include:

a. The ‘Passion’ system from the Elric of Melniboné book. This system enables the character’s intense love of, hatred of, hope for, fear of, fascination with, (etc.), x (where x can = a person, group, nation, culture, artifact, force [e.g., ‘Chaos’], or whatever) to interact mechanically with his abilities under certain circumstances. A character’s ‘passion’ score can rise or fall as the campaign progresses, depending on what happens that character. (And new passions can be acquired.)

b. The Background elements, which provide information on the character’s family (its reputation, which family members are still alive, etc.), relations (including the existence of allies, enemies, rivals, contacts, and so forth), and past history (unusual events in the character’s past). This aspect of the RuneQuest II system can give rise to all kinds of cool adventure possibilities.

I hope to post additional impressions of the RQII system as the campaign progresses.

11 February 2011

Edvund Yrvim (MRQII Young Kingdoms PC)

Edvund Yrvim

(Alias: ‘Ilkyn Blackviper’)

Half-Melnibonéan (Race); Sorcerer (Profession); Melnibonéan (Culture); Ilmar region (Homeland); 30 (Age)

Str 10 • Con 8 • Siz 11 • Int 16 • Pow 16 • Dex 10 • Cha 13

Combat Actions 3; Strike Rank 13; Move 8; Improvement Modifier +1

Magic Points 16; Hero Points 2

Common Skills

Athletics (30); Brawn (21); Culture (Melnibonéan) (62); Dance (23); Drive (26); Evade (40); Evaluate (29); First Aid (43); Influence (26); Insight (47) Lore (Regional) (32); Perception (42); Persistence (47); Resilience (36); Ride (26); Sing (29); Sleight (23); Stealth (36); Swim (18); Unarmed (20)

Advanced Skills

Courtesy (30); Language (Low Speech) (80); Language (High Speech) (60); Lore (Melnibonéan) (61); Lore (History) (32); Lore (Million Spheres) (32); Witch Sight (30)

Passion: Hates Father (Serec Yrvim) (62)

Runes (all in the Tome of Jade and Blood, an heirloom of the Yrvim family)

Bewilderment (35); Contact (35); Passing (35); Reflection (50); Sleep (35); Speed (50); Touch (35); Truth (40)

Combat Styles

Melnibonéan Warrior (Sword & Shield) (30); Prudent Distance (Sling & Shield) (50)

Family & History

· Father is a Melnibonéan lord (Serec Yrvim), mother was an Ilmiorian (human) concubine (deceased)

· Family has a good reputation (in Melnibonéan realms)

· Half-brother is Bodric (shares the same father, Serec Yrvim)

· 1 contact/ally in the Melnibonéan Royal Court

· Has adopted a new identity (‘Ilkyn Blackviper’) in light of recent events (is trying to avoid notice from both humans and Melnibonéans; also wants to keep his valuable grimoire safe)

Noteworthy Items

The Tome of Jade and Blood (grimoire of runes)

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I'm a Canadian political philosopher who divides his time between Milwaukee and Toronto.