Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Celebrate the Feast of St. Cuthbert

As all you hagiophiles already know March 20th marks the feast day of St. Cuthbert who died on this day in 687.  Greyhawkophiles will know St. Cuddy as one of the original deities of EGG's home campaign.  But here are a few things you might not have known about the patron saint of quality head-wear:

Banner of St. C: Where's the cudgel?
  • Good ol' Cuddy was probably ~53 years old when he died of an unspecified illness in his hermitage in Northumbria.
  • He began his monastic career only after serving in a war against the King of Mercia.  
  • After the war, Cuthbert arrived at the monastery of Melrose bearing a spear, not a cudgel.
  • In 664 he was named prior of the monastery at Lindisfarne which would later bear his name.  
  • Though he ultimately returned to Lindisfarne as Bishop, he spent much of the last decade or so of his life living as a hermit--not unlike a certain mad man in the environs of the Keep on the Borderlands.
  • His monastery would gain fame in 793 for being the first known location in the British Isles to be raided by Vikings.  Whether this event inspired the sacking of the monastery in the Sample Dungeon of the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide cannot be known for certain.
  • St. Cuthbert's Gospel, based on the Codex of Grandior, is the oldest extant example of a "western binding."  Awesome, right? 
  • There are two caves in northeast England that bear his name.  Possibly they are named such because his sanctified remains were hidden in one or both of them to keep them safe from the Danes who continued to ravage the area for centuries.
  • Cuthbert's aforementioned gospel was also stashed in his coffin for safekeeping.  On a somewhat creepier note, so was the head of poor St. Oswald.
  • Once, after praying in the ocean, otters breathed on St. Cuthbert's cold feet to warm them up.
  • Two more Cuthberts were later canonized but, as is often the case, the sequels were not as cool as the original.
  • The Cuddy Duck is a species of waterfowl found in the vicinity of Lindisfarne. 
  • The "Liberty of St. Cuthbert's Lands" was a political entity in Northumberland that operated as a sovereign entity--a Palatinate--run by the Bishops of the vicinity.  According to Wikipedia, the people here were known as the haliwerfolc, meaning, rather literally, "holy man people", and it was believed that St. Cuthbert was "fiercely protective of his domain."  Inspiration for the See of Veluna?
  • An eagle once brought him some fish n' chips, which he shared with the eagle.
  • The Venerable Bede, a saint himself, wrote two hagiographies of Cuthbert.
  • Bede failed to mention Cuddy's affinity for hats in either tome.
  • St. Cuthbert's horse once interrupted his prayers to point out a delicious packet of bread and cheese stashed in a nearby roof.  Animals, apparently, couldn't help but give ol' Cuddy a hand.
  • It might just be a coincidence that the hermit in B2 K. on the B'lands had a protective pet puma.
  • Welsh Anglicans prefer to celebrate his feast day on Sept 4 while Episcopalians in The States pay their respects to ol' Cuddy on August 31.   Y'dey, Canoness of Hommlet, took it a step further instituting a 5 day celebration that spanned both dates.  

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Random Gonzo Encounter Tables

Here's the table I'm going to use in my next Gonzo campaign.  As you will see, the genre tables are not done yet, I've only managed the one for 007.

Random Encounter Genre Table:
  1. Roll on mutant table
  2. Roll on cyborg table
  3. Roll on Cthulhoid table
  4. Roll on James Bond table (see below)
  5. Roll on Nazi table
  6. Roll on evil smurf table
  7. Roll on Shakespearean table
  8. Roll on KGB Table
  9. Roll on Ruby Spears  table
  10. Roll on hillbilly table
  11. Roll on Thomas Pynchon table
  12. Roll twice--ignoring further 12s--and hybridize an encounter from two different encounter results, e.g. a roll of 2 and 6 would result in a cyborg evil smurf encounter.
Random James Bond Encounter Table:
  1. 3-18 glass-jawed flunkies
  2. High ranking SPECTRE officer
  3. save vs. traps or fall into a glass-sided shark tank
  4. Saucy tart with useful information; roll d6 for exposed cleavage/skirt length
  5. High speed chase in progress: (d6) 1-car, 2-boat, 3-helicopter chasing motorcycle, 4-motorcycle chasing skier, 5-skier chasing parachutist, 6-parachutist chasing helicopter
  6. CIA ally
  7. Attractive enemy agent of the opposite/preferred sex; save vs. libido or join enemy cause
  8. Tricked-out vehicle (d6): 1-car, 2-boat, 3-hovercraft, 4-snow mobile, 5-gondola, 6-blimp
  9. Secret hideout in (d6): 1-underwater dome, 2-mountaintop resort, 3-1970s Harlem, 4-active volcano, 5-capsized cruise ship, 6-aligator farm
  10. Heavily-armed person(s) (d6): 1-para-skiers, 2-kung-fu babes, 3-Cellist, 4-Clowns, 5-siren on a vengeance bender, 6-rogue triple agent
  11. MI6 crony: (d6) 1-Moneypenny, 2-Bill Tanner, 3-Judy Dench, 4-Q, 5-009, 6-Lazenby
  12. Non-Bondean spy (d6): 1-George Smiley, 2-OSS 117, 3-Sterling Archer, 4-Sarah Walker, 5-Scarlet Pimpernel, 6-Chuck Barris

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Greyhawk: Origins of the Oeridian People

Can you guess where this is heading?
We know from the history of Eastern Oerik that the Oeridian peoples came to the Flannaes from the west, sweeping across the eastern portion of the continent, pushing aside Suloise and Flannish peoples alike to dominate the region politically (The Great Kingdom), linguistically (Common Tongue), and even calendrically (C.Y.).   It's possible that their dominance even gave name to the continent (Oerik) and the planet (Oerth) of which the Flannaes are a part.  But we don't really know for certain where these fierce peoples came from.

We do know that, harried by the humanoid mercenaries employed by the Bakluni in the Baksulian Wars, the Oeridians began migrating eastward from their homelands somewhere west of the vast mountain chains that separate the Flannaes from western Oerik.  Thanks to the chronology in the Gazetteer, we also know that this migration peaked in 187 O.R. (Oeridian Reckoning, subtract 644 to determine C.Y dates). But official sources are somewhat vague about the actual source of the migrations.

If we take the map of migrations in the Gazetteer as accurate, see figure 1, it would appear that the Oerid people originated in the environs of the Dry Steppes.  However, the text describes the Dry Steppes as the once-fertile homeland of the Bakluni peoples, rendered inhospitable by the Invoked Devastation.  No mention is made that Oeridians ever occupied this area. 
Figure 1. Map of migrations to Flannaes, Gazetteer (1980)

Perhaps addressing this very concern, the map of migrations in 1983's  A Guide to the World of Greyhawk moves the label of the Oeridian migratory arrow to indicate that maybe the Oeridians came not from the Dry Steppes, but from Ull [see figure 2].  The Guide describes the area as being the homeland of "a strong tribal clan of Paynim nomads."  Again, no mention is made of the Oeridians ever having lived there.

Figure 2. Guide map (1983)
It is conceivable that the Oeridians were completely uprooted from their "native" lands.  But the question it raises is why wouldn't the cataloguer who compiled the Guide and Gazetteer--who betrays an Oeridi-centric worldview elsewhere in the tomes--have mentioned the significance of these lands to the Oeridian people when the map indicates that the two are inextricably linked? 

To further obfuscate the matter, the Old Oeridian language is described as:
"A younger language, totally free of outside influences until a few centuries ago.  As a result, its linguistic components are unique and translation into any language except Common is all but impossible." (p. 8, Gygax 1980) 
This works well with the chronology which sets the Oeridian Reckoning of years as the most youthful calendar in Oerik--other than the Aerdian Empire's conflated "Common Year" of course--by 1500 years.  But how could a people whose homeland was in such close proximity to another, older culture--the Bakluni--develop a language so alien from their neighbors?  And what happened 1220 years ago that made these people start a new calendar? 

On our planet this would be a mystery indeed.  But Oerth is, happily, a fantasy setting where all sorts of cool stuff goes down.  It's entirely possible that the Oeridians were gated in from another plane; possibly by some deity or even the powerful wizards of the Bakluni; these were, after all,  the same dudes who brought down the Rain of Colorless Fire.

But there's another, more bizarre, explanation for how these foreigners arrived in the Flannaes; an explanation that has its roots in the body of Greyhawk literature: they came from space, Battlestar Galactica style.  There is, after all, a history of alien landings in the area: remember the spaceship that crashed into the Barrier Peaks near the land of Ull?

That's right, the Oeridians came from outer-freakin-space.  At least one of their ships crash landed in the mountains, many, many others apparently landed safely on the fringes of the Bakluni lands. And perhaps they melted down their space ships to make swords and plowshares.  Or they are still hidden somewhere; perhaps in an incomprehensibly vast underground hangar--I smell a megadungeon!

Anyway, the new arrivals established commerce with the nearby Bakluni peoples and, in order to facilitate such, a mutually agreeable language developed.  This language would provide the basis for the Common Tongue that would be spoken throughout the Flannaes in centuries to come.  That they call themselves Oeridians and  inhabit the continent of Oerik on the planet Oerth is either an attempt on their part to fit in by adopting the name of their new home, or it's the great irony of the Greyhawk saga: the planet is named after its alien infiltrators.
Take that you Suloise mo-fos!

Gygax, Gary. The World of Greyhawk Gazetteer. Lake Geneva: TSR Inc. 1980
Gygax, Gary. Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. Lake Geneva: TSR Inc. 1980
Gygax, Gary. A Guide to the World of Greyhawk, Volume III: A  catalogue of the land Flannaes, being the eastern portion of the continent Oerik, of Oerth. Lake Geneva: TSR Inc. 1983