Thursday, September 30, 2010

Where The Ancient Dragons Roam

I am trying to Mythopoeia my way to a world in which giant intelligent dragons roam. I have some ideas based on Fafner, Grendel, and Tolkien's Dragon, Glaurung, of which we find the following description in Wikipedia:
"Glaurung was a very powerful and cunning dragon, and he at times used his abilities to achieve his desired ends without resorting to direct physical violence (at which he was equally proficient). Glaurung appears to have been more cunning than Gothmog, a contemporary in the hierarchy of Morgoth. Like Sauron, another of his contemporaries, it was his nature to trick and deceive, and to spread lies and deceptions so cleverly that they could not be discovered until it was too late. In this manner, he accomplished much more damage than he could have with brute force, and caused the destruction of the Elven stronghold of Nargothrond and the suicide of mankind's greatest hero to date, Túrin Turambar. He caused amnesia in Túrin's sister Nienor, and since neither recognized the other when they met (Nienor was born after Túrin had left home), she eventually married her brother. Glaurung himself was slain by Túrin's blade Gurthang before he committed suicide.

Glaurung was called Father of Dragons. It is not known with certainty, but it is largely suspected that he sired the rest of his race (or at least of his own sub-species, the Úruloki: wingless firebreathing dragons). He was bred by Morgoth from some unknown stock and was the first dragon to appear outside of Angband. This first appearance occurred during the Siege of Angband in 265 (First Age), when he came forth to attack, but too early because he was still young and immature. He was defeated and driven back to Angband by mounted Elven archers.

After the sack of Nargothrond, he made a nest of treasure in the abandoned tunnels of the city. It is likely that he is the dragon that appears in Tolkien's poem "The Hoard" in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, which seems to be based on the events at Nargothrond. The memory of Glaurung lives on in the many creatures that he apparently sired."
Now this here is what I call a Dragon's Dragon(!), fit for the kind of world that I'm interested in weaving Adventures for. I've grown rather fond of the concept that the Greater Monsters (the ancient Dragons, Trolls, and Balrogs, etc) of Elthos are *very* serious beings indeed, meant not at all as fodder or foils for Player Characters, but instead they are the creations of the All-Mighty Elkron (the deities of Elthos, whom, as suggested, *rarely* make any kind of visible appearance in the World directly), and are as such powerful, mystical, and often exceedingly cunning.

That said, I should note that I do not typically run a campaign where player characters go running off to slay dragons! No, no! Far from it. Just the opposite, in fact. The PCs in the adventures to date have been actually running in the other direction - down-sized to fight Tiny-Monsters! So far the PC's have been shrunk down to fingernail size (and sometimes smaller), wherein they've fought spiders and nearly perished in the attempt to rescue their friends from the webs; they met battalions of Ants whom they befriended (fortunately for them). In one adventure they had a sky battle in a makeshift leaf-boat named 'Sky Raft' that blew along on the breeze and eventually was tethered to ladybugs, against a Squadron of the Crimson Heart Mosquitoes (who have hypnotic pulsating eyes). They once got involved in a war between the Mice and the King of the Weasels which the mice lost, by the way, but during the battle of which our heroes rescued a fey princess from the Weasel King's Fortress of Stone, so all was not lost.

You'll notice these adventures had a rather fairytale-ish aspect. Other adventures have included a trip to the land of the giants from which several children on a giant's hearth-shelf were found frozen with terror and rescued. Then there was the visit to the under sea kingdom of the Nyriad Queen, with whom one Player Character fell in love, but then lost her, and now wanders in search of her. Then there was the trip to the enchanted forest where they fought fey riding wolves, and finally made their way to the Tower of the White Wizard... and so on.

You can see from these examples that the stories are fanciful, even playful, and have as yet not touched upon the ancient darker things, the ancient races of the world, their wars, or their dread doings. Those are but whispered rumors, and that's pretty much as I think it should be for the time being. Some day, perhaps, when the PC's achieve high enough levels they may be tempted to plumb the Stygian depths far beneath the surface realms of the Celestial Island, and they may be in for truly shuddering experiences.

I admit, I’m probably a little overly fond of the idea, and that I open myself to the possibility of pretension, but I do very much like the idea that the Elthos World is a creation that stands on it's own as a literary work in it's own right, whether players engage in it or not. I feel that players in Elthos ought to have the impression that they are far from the primary forces in the world, that the world does not revolve around them and what they may do, but rather that the World has powers and beings which are as great as they are immutable, as are the Elkron, the Celestials and Archetypes of Elthos. Time has shown me that the PCs, as much as I love them, are much more transitory than the Golden Kingdom of Oswald, or the Dungeons of the Black Emperor, or the Mad-Halls of the Necromancer on the edge of the Serpentine Forest where the poison barbed arrows of the Scything Centaurs slay men with but the thinnest grazing. Or the Long Corridors of the Ant Men, or the dark Jungle Caves of the Tarantula Priests. I am inclined to believe that this aspect of Elthos, this underlying "reality", and my refusal to give way to the leaping fancies and impetuous whims of my players, or my own, lends Elthos the desired solidity and depth, providing those who adventure therein what I hope is the best chance at actually ‘going somewhere far away' and ‘uncovering hidden mysteries’ when they play. I am working in that direction and feel somehow that in so doing I am creating the kind of world that I and my players may enjoy at greater depth and with greater relish than what I think is the common fare for adventure gaming. It is not enough for me to run a world in which the primary activity is to "Kill the Orcs and Take Their Stuff". My aspirations are higher than that. I'm trying to achieve a more literary quality experience for myself and my players. My hope in the long run is to achieve a World from which works of literary merit may be written. It is a fanciful dream, I know, but then again, I believe that our Mythopoeia can provide true inspiration, and so I am intent on trying my best and seeing where it shall lead.

The effort in this direction is the subject and goal of the Literary Role Playing Game Society of Westchester (LRPGSW) for those who may be interested in this aspect of Gamesmastering.
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