Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Dragon Lords of Melnibone

One of the BEST D20 RPG Books (IMHO) of recent years was the Chaosium "Dragon Lords of Melnibone" - I much preferred this incarnation of the Elric saga, not just because I am a fan of the D20 system overall - but because the whole presentation of the Book was more "Elricy" to me.

I spent my teenage years (when I wasn't rehearsing with the various Bands I was with or DM'ing) - lying on my bed listening to Kiss (for the most part) and reading Moorcock and Lovecraft. I even wrote a song called Tanelorn once . . . .

See, I never got into Tolkien till much later on, so the Lord of the Rings (though I enjoyed it) never had the impact on me it had on a lot of people - whereas Elric, Hawkmoon, Erekose, and Corum did.

Don't get me wrong, Dragon Lords of Melnibone has its problems - mostly due to the "cut and paste" nature of the writing/editing of the book - but they are EASILY solved by converting it over to AD&D or Castles & Crusades proper.

Rather than do a wholesale cumbersome (and lets face it boring to read) conversion, I'm just going to present some rough notes from time to time.

Law And Chaos

The battle between Law and Chaos is an ongoing theme in all Moorcock's fantasy works, involving as it does
both gods and mortals. Above and beyond these warring forces is the Cosmic Balance, which swings in favor sometimes of Law, sometimes of Chaos.

In a perfect world the two are stabilized, in delicate equilibrium. The harmony of the Balance is all too lacking throughout the multiverse. Although the Balance rules unalloyed in places, most universes are in a state of Chaotic turmoil or Lawful stagnation. Without its opposite, a plane of pure Law is as deathly and sterile as one ruled by Chaos.

This flux of opposites snares the Eternal Champion, but he does not give up the fight against it. In the final battles, Law and Balance join forces against Chaos, for Chaos has grown too strong. Elric's death brings the plane toward the Balance. When the world reforms, there will be magic, but much less of it. Our own world will then be born.

In the saga, Chaos attracts because it has great beauty and power even while it wreaks havoc. Elric realizes that Law similarly confounds the notion of good and evil, though we do not see it conquer the world.

We imagine that Law should provide security, but it brings with it rigidity and sterility. What is right is not always easy to know. Sometimes the wrong person dies, or a quest goes unfulfilled. Sometimes the adventurers are cursed for doing good, or blessed for their evil doing.

The reversal of expectations is an important notion in understanding the saga.

This whole "topsy turvy" concept is one of the most enthrawling (for me) themes running throughout the books, that Chaos can bring about good and Law and Order can bring about evil is (nowadays) showing itself in the real world even as I type (if anyone has their doubts of the voracity of what I write, you need look no further than your TV or Newspapers - its all there if you care to see it).


All spells function as written, but spell availability is determined by the religion to which a character belongs - for the Gods of the young Kingdoms have a powerful influences over Magic and Magical Powers.

Powerful individual Sorcerers do exist - but the most powerful Sorcerers are so because of rituals and summonings not because of Spell Knowledge and Power.

A few spells are restricted in their availability - among them wishes, commune, and consecrate. The functions of the first are available through divine intervention-the asking of and receiving the attention of the gods themselves. The use of the latter spells is available only to an actual priest of a religion.

The Young Kingdoms is a vast and fascinating place, well worth exploring!

Next - The People of Pan Tang!

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