Sunday, 22 February 2015

Lore Garbage

Kiel Chenier has suggested over on G+ that for DM appreciation month (never knew there was one until now) DMs should waffle self-indulgently about useless things about their own game world. I need very little encouragement to waffle, so here are ten bits of trivia about the fantasy English Civil War:

1. As far as practitioners are concerned there are two sorts of magic; witchcraft as practised by uneducated peasants and sorcery, practised by educated gentlemen. In truth it is all the same; the same effects are achieved by both in similar ways. The chief difference is in language. Witches say their spells in English, with maybe a bit of old Anglo-Saxon, Cornish or Welsh, Sorcerers tend towards educated tongues like Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Arabic or even for followers of Dr Dee, Enochian, the language of the Angels. Though even that distinction is breaking down as since the Reformation more and more Sorcerers are finding that spells in vernacular languages work well enough.

2. If you are a magician researching spells you need a library, and many religious works are as good a source of magical knowledge as any. No magician in England is without a Bible (though the Old Testament is worth a mere 50sp for research purposes and the New Testament another 25sp) and the Talmud and Koran weigh in at 50sp each. Giordano Bruno got himself burned at the stake for openly saying that the Bible is a manual of magic, and if someone can divine all its secrets they will be a master of such. More abstruse religious works such as the Liber Divinorum Operum by Hildegard of Bingen or the Mirror of Simple Souls by Margaret Porete are worth a lot more as research material, but possession of such night be considered heresy by  various churches.

3. Clerics can research spells as well, and they can often do so by reading the same kinds of books as magicians. The Bible and religious works are worth a lot more to them, but works by religiously minded sorcerers like Pico della Mirandola are pretty good too. Again the spectre of Heresy rears its ugly head. An Anglican who openly quotes the Koran while giving blessings is looking for a painful defrocking.

4. The Ranter prophet Abiezer Coppe is only 23 in 1642 when the wars begin in England, not long out of Oxford University, but he is already making his mark with his impassioned preaching and advocacy of free love and anarchism. One of his key slanders against the Anglican Church is his insistence that various Bishops are up to their eyeballs in witchcraft.

5. Sightings of mythical beasts have always been common in rural England due to a combination of excessively cheap ale and benighted ignorance. Now learned men are taking an interest in such matters, and there is a definite feeling that something awful is happening to the fabric of mundane reality. The Reverend Dr Samuel Fell, former chaplain to King James and supporter of King Charles, is interested in any such outbreaks and is rumoured to be sending exorcist spies to investigate them. He blames the Puritans for questioning the doctrines of the Anglican Church, but was himself a Calvinist in his youth.

6. Prince Rupert's dog, Boye, is a hunting poodle of a rare breed and is reputed to have magical powers, including leaping up and snatching musket balls aimed at his master out of the air. The Ottoman Caliph, Murad IV, wants one just like him and if you can dognap Boye for him he might award you some of his fabulous wealth.

7. Mother Shipton's prophecies are all the rage since they were published in 1641, and many a wacko theory of impending doom has been hatched on the basis of reading portentious poems such as: When pictures seem alive with movements free, When boats like fishes swim beneath the sea. When men like birds shall scour the sky. Then half the world, deep drenched in blood shall die. Watch out for the Hag's Head moths that have Mother Shipton's profile marked on each wing.

8. The Royal Navy is now Parliament's Navy, the whole lot mutinied and are having a whale of a time drinking themselves stupid in every port town in England. Trouble is that the Barbary Corsairs never went away - sure there were treaties to stop their razzias and slave raids but don't forget Jan Janszoon, the Dutch Muslim renegade, once took over the Isle of Lundy in the Bristol Channel and used it as a slave market for five years from 1627. They had better sober up and get back out on patrol...

9. Bermuda is run by the Somer's Isle Company, a collection of nobles who support the King. The Parliamentarian population of Bermuda may yet rebel; the North American tribesmen sent to Bermuda as slaves after the Pequot War in Massachusetts may still have some fight in them, if they can be induced to fight. Others have left with the Eleutheran Adventurers to establish a religiously free (ie Puritan) colony in the Bahamas, though the last expedition sent that way was lost...

10. Men can turn into wolves. It is a well attested phenomenon that during the German wars men who had seen too much of the blood and terror of those interminable campaigns, still raging on, have become conscienceless beasts and eat human flesh. And it wasn't just foreigners who were so weak, oh no, English and Irish mercenaries were known to partake of the anthrophagous feasts as well, and many such men have returned to England to fight for and against the King. It will be a savage war...

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