Monday, November 10, 2008

Forbidden Lore

From Wed Oct 25 08:16:17 1995
Organization: Magic Online Services Inc.
Subject: Forbidden Lore
To: greytalk@MIT.EDU
Priority: normal
X-Mailer: ExpressNet/SMTP v1.1.5
Mime-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=US-ASCII
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
Content-Length: 5654
X-Lines: 109
Status: RO

BTW, is it just me, or is everyone receiving two copies of everything?

> My Ivid manuscript mentions _the Casket of Abyssal Bone_ in one single
> sentence, stating that it is an artifact given to the Naelax overkings
> by Baalzephon. Do you have any more information about this artifact?
> The fact that it is _abyssal_ bone had me confused, since the artifact
> was granted by baatezu.

Several hypotheses are advanced in the paragraph you quoted immediately before your question. The "abyssal" can either mean the artifact is from the Abyss (and so captured in the Blood Wars), or that it uses the bones of Abyssal creatures as part of its magic (in which case it's a construct of someone's).

> Also, I can't seem to find info on _the Unholy Bloodshield_, except that
> it can activate the Screaming Column in Rauxes. Do you know of any
> additional powers?

None are mentioned anywhere in my sources.

With respect to these questions, the Dark 8, etc., there comes a point where you must simply use your creativity. These are really things players are NOT supposed to know, and TSR has deliberately left them vague for that reason. The Dark 8's powers are undefined. Why? Because PCs should NEVER wind up facing one of them directly, any more than they should have been able to face an Archduke in 1st Edition.

Ed Greenwood goes into this regarding the rulers of Hell in his Dragon #74 & 75 articles, and it's still true. The Dark Eight will just keep sending servants - human, fiendish, or otherwise - to deal with the PCs who pose a threat, and will work through intermediaries to ensure that the true employer is not known. They have a LOT of servants, and when mercenaries are added the figure becomes very high indeed.

Unless the players are being looked after in a semi-direct fashion by an interested patron power, this is pretty much game over. Sooner or later, one wave or another is bound to get lucky, or the PCs eventually ascend to quasi-deityhood or become divine servants, and are thus able to deal on equal terms. (This is the slim danger for the Dark Eight: in the fires of such awful adversity, that which does not break may be forged into greatness.) Either way, however, your campaign ends.

The only way to encounter one of these beings is to summon him, a perilous course indeed as the history of the Naelax line shows. The mage must bargain, and the price will be steep. Attack is irrelevant at that point, earning an immortal and hideously powerful enemy even if the summoner wins and banishes the fiend. Magical imprisonment, meanhwile, is likely to be looked upon with some annoyance by the other 7, who will take steps. Unless you're in Zagyg's power-class, I wouldn't try it. There's a very good reason stuff like this is considered "forbidden lore."

Now, this does not mean that PCs can't have a lot of fun bashing the servants of such creatures, or foiling their Prime Material plots. This isn't necessarily easy, of course - take a look at the arch-mage Karoolck. Killing him in a permanent fashion would take a whole high-level campaign, and he's just a major human lackey. This won't exactly make one friends in the Hells, but the Dark Eight have much larger concerns and aren't all that likely to intervene if things go awry. If they did, they would risk the wrath of the pawnmasters on other planes, and that would be serious.

So the defeat is taken in poor grace, and the Great Game of the planes goes on. The PCs may get a potshot at them now and again if the opportunity presents itself, but nothing really serious. Their deeds will have earned them planar allies of their own and limited protection in the form of warnings and other forms of assistance.

Back to the question of the Dark Eight and their personal powers... The great danger of going after The Dark Eight themselves is that it voids such protection, being outside the bounds of the Game. An analogy: when the USSR's Arab allies got thrashed in the Mid-East, the Soviets did not try to invade Israel. Sure, they bankrolled some terrorist movements, and propped up their regional allies, but anything more would have invited a suicidal confrontation with the US. Not worth it.

A similar dynamic applied to the US and Cuba. Basing soviet missiles was a causus belli, but otherwise you'll notice that after the Missile Crisis, Cuba was threatened in far less direct fashion. Now, this would have changed totally if Cuba had decalred war on the USA, and started sinking ships off of Florida and firing (conventional) missiles into Miami. What are the chances that Soviet protection would have saved their butts from a full-scale US assault then? Right -- about zero.

Consider the parallels to this analogy in terms of a D&D campaign, and what that might mean.

Planar politics is very, very similar to the superpower manoeverings of the Cold War, because it has such similar underlying drivers. Once you understand the history and the parallels, it's much easier to work similar dynamics into your game and officiate the results. Just one more case of "the more you know, the more you can imagine."

--Thalion Envinyatar

One Corp. to rule the 'Net, One Corp. to find them.
One Corp. to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.
In the land of T$R, where the lawyers lie.


Magic Online Services Toronto Inc. (416) 591-6490

No comments: