Friday, April 13, 2012

I Blame Michael Moorcock!

Neil Gaiman already snatched the perfect title for this Sub-Header

It's almost invariable. For almost 30 years, in almost every D&D campaign I've ever run.

The PC's end up travelling in time, or to another dimension, or plane, or another planet. Usually all of the above and on multiple occasions. Sometimes they come back. Sometimes, they never do.

I blame Michael Moorcock!

At 14 I was beginning my career as a DM, discovering Appendix N and shortly thereafter, scarfing up every Michael Moorcock novel I could find. For years, I named him my favorite author. He no longer holds quite so elevated a place in my literary pantheon, but I'll always love him for the Elric stories, the tales of Hawkmoon and most especially, The War Hound and the World's Pain. Still, while I appreciate authors whose work demands to be considered as a whole, instead of merely by its parts, I eventually tired of Mr. Moorcock. Feeling his work had become too derivative of itself, I still haven't read the last two Elric novels, The Skrayling Tree and The White Wolf's Son. I left off with The Dreamthief's Daughter.

As others have noticed,  I suspect that 14 is the perfect, or near perfect age to read Michael Moorcock. Perhaps, he's one of those authors, just subject to being outgrown.

That thought makes me a little sad.

Maybe I just have less patience for all the allegory, allusions and what-not. I've become... exhausted, when it comes to grappling with philosophical questions. Still, there's always been a belief in and hope for humanity, in Mr. Moorcock's work. I think I need to re-read him, through middle-aged eyes.

If you're going to steal ideas for your campaign, steal from the best!

All that trippy dimension-hopping and those Multiversal Conjuctions. The bizarre peoples, entities and worlds, were at the forefront of my Appendix N inner landscape. The Dark Ship and Prince Gaynor the Damned were only two of the ideas I swiped from Mr. Moorcock, for use in some campaign, or another. Foremost, I think, was the idea of frequent inter-dimensional and inter-planar travel.

It goes all the way back to my Kastmaria campaign. Around 4th level, the PC's traveled to an Ice Age world for a few hours, to rescue an absent-minded mage from his folly. They killed some cave-men and befriended a Silver Dragon, who was eager to escape its frozen hell and followed the PC's through the gate, back to their home world.

A few levels later, they accidentally ended up 150 years in the future and never went back. Then, there was the Bazaar, the city at the center of the Multi-verse (partially inspired by/swiped from Robert Asprin's Myth series as this was pre-Planescape.) They spent a lot of time off and on, there, having adventures, engaging in their war with the Magic-Users of Sorcerer's Isle. Saving the city from destruction, at one point, when a mad mage attempted to destroy the magical machinery that created the city's plane of existence.

Around 12th level, they went to an alternate Earth, where an evil Merlin released the Tarrasque on England, just to cover his tracks and rid himself of his failed attempt at creating a messiah, named King Arthur. At 14th, they took a 3 Turn trip to Avernus, to rescue that absent-minded mage again.

They went to a demi-plane to kill Merlin. King Balston was on some weird planar pocket, when he killed some weird, planar Dragon. I think Sir Alexian Balthafore was also in some weird, extra-dimensional space when he dueled with Pharj Mudast, all alone, at the end of the campaign.

Fortunately, he won! It would have sucked for Darren to end a campaign that spanned thousands of hours (Not 50, Mr. Mearls,) dying at the hand of his archenemy.

I'm sure I'm forgetting a few episodes.

"W" Interferes with my Plans

Decades later, in my long-running 3.x campaign, the PC's started on world A, quickly went to world B, ended up spending most of the campaign on world C, then, back to world B, but centuries before their first visit, for the last few sessions of the game.

Actually, its a bit more complex than that. That campaign was an amalgam of PC's from two different games, which became one campaign around 6th level, or so. All very convoluted and I'm too lazy to bother remembering exactly how that all came about, but  President George W. Bush's interference had a lot to do with it! He signed the order calling Josh back into service and shipped him off to Afghanistan for a year and a half, to fight terrorists.

I doubt that explaining to the President, that I needed Josh to fight orcs & dragons instead would have helped matters, so I didn't bother trying.

Oh, Shit! I Just Remembered!

The first branch of that campaign actually started in the Forgotten Realms! I have ran a published Campaign Setting! For about Two Sessions!!! I then, sent them elsewhere. I prefer discovering a milieu alongside my players. My psyche's intent, blazing a trail, far more fiery and personal than a published setting ever could be.

So, There's this Undead Apocalypse in The Black Mete

Well, what's gonna happen now? The PC's might have enough x.p. to make 3rd level. Might. Kinda doubt it. The civilized lands could muster about... 7,000 forces. Several Clerics. A few MU's. One Dragon would pitch in, to protect his investment. If, he absolutely has to!

Vs. 12k or so Zombies and Ghouls. That's tough. I'm thinking of breaking out Delta's Book of War. I owe him a review and wanted to make it a proper play-test.

I think a certain Lich is going to become involved. Still working out all the implications. The players want to do something. What can they do?

They need a few levels, I think. At least. Hmm...

You know...

I bet they would accept a quest, to find a way to stop all the undead madness. One giving them the opportunity to gain several levels.

Getting them out of the way for a little while, would work out pretty well. But, they need more time than that to gain some levels and prepare for what I've got brewing in the back of my mind.

Maybe the quest could take them to another world, for a while. Or, another plane. Or, backwards in time. Forwards?

My mind just wants to go there with it.

I blame Michael Moorcock!


  1. Mayflower Science Fantasy, those are intimately combined in my mind. Love those trippy covers!

    I have, just like you, lost interest in Mr. Moorcock's later output but he has been immensely influential on how I run fantasy. Stormbringer used to be my number one game and I love it still.

    The feeling of having the entire multiverse to play in never stopped calling to me. Those were one of the reasons I used to be so interested in GURPS, actually.

    I blame Micahel Moorcock!

    1. I really want to run Stormbringer! I've got the 5th ed. I think I'm waiting until I get my hands on a 1st or 2nd. :)

  2. 4th ed is "da bomb" according to me. It contains all from the older ones in a nice package. There is one table that is missing from it, but it can be found.

    1. 4th, eh? I'll have to get that one as well! :)

  3. My favorite thing about planar travel is that I never needed to worry about trying to cram everything into my base setting. Want a world of perpetual darkness? Step through this portal . . .

  4. War Hound & the World's Pain - best, single Moorcock work. Still makes me want to run a 17th c. game.

    I just read a new(ish) Elric story in the Swords & Dark Magic collection - confirmed to me that I will not be reading any new Elric stuff. Man.

    1. Sounds like I need to read that book then. I have a big Moorcock collection from when I adored all his stuff, and some are still unread. The Brothel in Rosenstrasse and WH&tWP are those I still ponder reading.

      The story in S&DM wasn't that great, no.

    2. I concur: Warhound is easily my favorite Moorcock novel, followed by Mother London. Great stuff! :D

      @ James: what's the Gaiman title you wanted to steal? Also: I've found the newer Elric novels to be better than ones from the '90s; they're worth reading at least once.


    3. One Life, Furnished in Early Moorcock,_Furnished_in_Early_Moorcock

  5. Replies
    1. One of my favorites: "Faceless Men & Clockwork Monsters" by Gary Gygax in The Dragon #17 (D&D PCs transported from Castle Greyhawk to Metamorphosis Alpha).


  6. Last spring (2011) I read through the entire six volumes of the Elric anthologies published recently by Del Rey. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed them (before doing this, I hadn't read an Elric story in almost two decades). Of course, since I was playing in a Young Kingdoms campaign at the time (using MRQII's superb 'Elric of Melnibone' sourcebook), I had a special interest in the world...

    I agree with grodog that the Elric stories from the 90s are the weakest ('Fortress of the Pearl' and 'Revenge of the Rose'), although I did find them enjoyable enough to finish.

    Sorry to hear from Matthew Slepin that the most recent Elric tale ("Red Pearls"?) is not any good. I didn't mind "Black Petals," which also is relatively recent, but it wasn't anything special (I think that what I liked the most about it was that it reminded me of the very early Elric stories).

    I do prefer the Corum trilogies overall, but I really need to read "War Hound" this summer!