Thursday, March 19, 2009

To Sûr With Love

Some authors love writing their own ancient lore. Top of the class is Tolkien (and really, who can top him?), but authors as varied as H.P. Lovecraft, Frank Herbert, and George Lucas have also used the device to good effect. It can be an entertaining way of introducing exposition. It can also be self-indulgent!

On that note, a little purple campaign prose to kick off our discussion of the Old World:
Long ago, in an age lost to history, a great and proud people known to legend as the Sûr ruled a large island kingdom located in the Sea of Rune. In ambition and drive they had no equal, and working in secret, opened a way between the world of Men and the world of the Celestials, and certain servants of the Celestial Esshua broke the Veil and took physical form, and the Sorcerers who knelt trembling before them named them jinn.

The jinn taught men how to fashion and build mighty works. They showed them how to bring Golan ore to Earth from Gola, the Iron Moon, and how to use it to construct wondrous enchanted devices and flying ships which could sail far and wide over the lands and seas.

Meanwhile, corrupted by their pride and power and the temptations of earthly flesh, the jinn yielded to terrible appetites growing within them, surpassing in cruelty even their master Esshua, who knew not all that they did in secret. Thousands disappeared into the temple mazes beneath their towering brass ziggurats, never to be seen again.

The Holy One, not willing to forsake the Sûrs nor abandon them utterly to the devices of Esshua, sent them a prophet named Aelias. Travelling to Sûr, Aelias preached a return to the hand of God, and foretold a great doom for Sûr should its people continue in their sinful ways. A few listened and followed him, but the jinn and their servants laughed at his words and plotted to kill him. He was slain in the city square by shadow mage assassins. With his dying breath, he cursed the Sûr and said that a time was coming when none would be safe from the devilry of their own works.

After that, the arrogance of Esshua’s people knew no bounds. Alghûl, the lord of the jinn, resolved to destroy all other peoples utterly. He encouraged the people of Sûr to look abroad and regard with envy the resources—metals, coal, oil and timber—of neighboring tribes which lay unexploited and free for the taking. The jinn whispered that the other tribes had become lax and irresponsible custodians of the lands and resources the Holy One and His Celestials had given them.

The Sûr in their pride believed, and taking to the skies in their airships, fell upon their neighbors, taking what they would, and destroying the rest. Kingdoms and city states alike fell before the might of their armies and wizardry, and the peoples of the Celestials were scattered.

The Celestials, led by Maeus, implored Esshua to reign in his people, but he was beyond reason. He cast the envoys of Maeus from his domain, and sealed himself within it. God saw that Esshua was lost to His Light, and declared that ever after would Esshua remain in the exile he had chosen for himself, together with his Avatar followers.

But Esshua’s jinn still roamed the earth corrupting men, and now the restraint Esshua had placed upon them was removed, so that the jinn and the Sorcerors of Sûr worked ever more abominable evils. God gave leave to his faithful Celestials to restrain the jinn as they would, but would permit neither them nor their Avatars to cross over the Veil to confront the jinn directly. The Celestials therefore chose from their respective peoples seven champions, one for each nation of men, and through dreams and visions moved them to action. The leader of the seven was Refindi, the chosen of Maeus, and his fellows were Gathiel, Ortello, Icena, Furioso, Gael, and Fingus.

Thus began a titanic struggle between tribes of men and the Celestials that changed the face of the world and rocked the very heavens. The jinn themselves went to war, slaying all before them with terrible curses and leading the Sûr legions by foot when their airships would not avail them, while the shadow mages stepped out of the dark to slay without warning, and disappear as quickly as they came. Oft was Refindi and his warhorse Balemane seen at the head of his army, smiting man and jinn alike with his terrible sword, and of the beautiful Icena, the champion of the Swan Maiden, men say she wielded a mighty silver bow that sang like a harp as she fired, and every shaft sped home to its target…
Dah de dah de dah... Nothing terribly original there, but it's a useful framing tool. Aside from being great fun, writing bits of ancient lore like this helps me sort out ideas and provide hooks for campaign concepts.

Based on the above, there are at least five major artifacts I could write up right now, and tell you who used them, where they were lost, and some of the things you could do with them if you found them. I could tell you that because jinn hated the light their worshippers and slaves built temples and even cities for them underground. I could tell you that the Golan moon was shattered in a mighty cataclysm that dramatically altered the world in ways that directly impact the campaign. Need you ask if shadow mages and their dread servants yet lurk in the shadows? And of course, a basic theology is working its way out.

For me at least, it's a lot more fun to discover these aspects of my world as I crank out the purple prose than generate them out of whole cloth. Of course, I didn't invent all of the above in one go—the theological approach hinted at took some time to develop. But having internalized some ideas, I sat down and starting slinging sentences together, and discovered things I hadn't known ahead of time. Did you know that magic armor, swords and the like can only be fashioned from Golan ore? Me neither! It came to me as I wrote this essay.

1 comment:

  1. That's a story as fresh as the girls in their minis. . .and as tough as the kids from London's East End!