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The Spark

Posted December 14th, 2010 at 10:25 AM by chas
Updated January 22nd, 2015 at 08:37 PM by chas
by Chas

"Is is real, or is it a legend?"
"Oh, its a real legend!"
--Wandering Minstrel,
Avatar, The Last Air Bender

Many year ago, I was washing my hands in a men's room when a formally dressed fellow appeared at the next sink over, finishing up his own business, and asked me what I was doing in an almost empty building on an off hour. I was actually performing one of a series of 30 minute original radio plays about the life of the major Greek cultural hero Theseus on the Greek radio station COSMOS FM down the hall.

I'd met a fellow student in a story telling class at the New York Open Center who hosted his own show, and, since he'd asked me to return after the first one, was in the process of reformatting from a simple one person narration to shows with question and answer discussions following each episode, which would eventually have a regular cast, accompanying music, and other features, the stories based on the famous Greek Myths by Robert Graves. It was a craft of reconstruction, as the first myths in the hero's life are very fleshed out, but the final ones come down to us only as brief summaries. So while learning from an Old Master (Graves), I was slowly adding my own interpretations to stories that needed more and more detail as I went along, such that the last ones were almost all mine. This fellow appeared to be a Greek businessman, and his question about my effort was simple and direct: "Do you think those old stories are real?" This asked with a modern practical tinge of disbelief in his thirtysomething voice.

As far as we can tell, the Old Norse believed in a complex myth system related to the quite sophisticated Aryan beliefs. (This term is used today by scholars for the Indo-European linguistic group, including the great ancient Indian myth cycles--not the discredited Nazi 'Master Race' type). For example, the Scandinavians envisioned the Cosmos as constructed in three spheres, one inside the other. The famous Midgard or 'Middle Enclosure,' is seen in most modern versions as not just the planet Earth, but the entire dimension that humans can perceive; the Mudguard manifest universe we can see and hear (sometimes). Here live mortals.

Inside this dimension of Midgard (not above it) is Inner Sphere or Asgard, the Home of the Gods. To see it, I highly recommend a cruise on a Norwegian coastal steamer to the top of the world, where you will be baptised in a shipboard ceremony by a man dressed as Njord (Norse God of the Seas) when you cross above the Arctic Circle, and then, alone on deck at night, watch the Aurora Borealis dancing not just above, but intimately all around you. Outside of Midgard (not below it) is Utgard, the Home of Monsters. To see it, I suggest a nice warm heated train ride past the tall, frozen Jotunheim (Giantland) mountains in Norway's interior. There will be a moment of involuntary shivering, when you realize that without the train's heating system you'd be dead in minutes. Just as if you fell into the cold North Sea from the sometimes pitching deck of your ship The North Star, in the midst of a storm so bad even the crew was running to a toilet to throw up. Except for the German exU-Boat commander who stood alone above decks at the rail and laughed into the fury of the waves (Wotan ist ein Furor).

According to the American community of Asatru (those who worship the Old Gods) there are many in Scandinavia who still follow the Old Religion, especially in Iceland. Well, any of faith who are spiritual have more in common with the followers of other major religions than with nihilists or lost souls, of which there are all too many on our modern times. At any rate, the Old Norse believed in a quite subtle picture of the Afterworld, similar in a way to the classic Indian or Chinese myths. Although battle heroes might be summoned to Valhalla for Odin, there were many other possible destinations after death. It would seem that each major god claimed his or her own. For example, we have a reference to Freya's own portion of the dead, who go to her own manor. And of course the evil ones spend their time in the castle of the half dead daughter of Loki, Hel, who rules them in her frozen castle Sleetcold. Different beings marshaling their followers for the Final Battle sounds a bit like a certain board game I play, and many other fantasy stories as well.

Many fantasy authors take up the theme of The Magic Going Away. The Spark of Creation which is the image of the divine within us withdraws when Ego and Materialism triumph. Does it return, in cycles of the rise and fall of civilizations?

"What are you?"
"I am a priest."
--Kwai Chang Caine
Kung Fu, the TV Series

The basis of Western Rationalism and Science is embodied in the logical Socratic method brought out in his pupil Plato's writings, which survive down to our day. Now these so called 'Ancient' Greeks, those of the great city states that we learn about in History class, came after a much older and longer age now called 'Archaic.' It is recalled in the great Greek myths and the legends of Troy. This was a time before a Great Darkness which destroyed civilization in the Mediterranean world. To view this time, visit the ruins of the Palace of Agamemnon at Mycenae. Stand before the Lion Gate, which can serve as a Door of Transformation as surely as the monoliths of Celtic Ireland. And, climbing higher, see the land spread out below you in all directions. Or visit the ruins of the palace at Knossos on Crete, and see the Way We Were as theatre is born from religious ritual. From nature, wisdom. From art, thought.

"If the magic isn't real, then I'm just an old Indian with a pick up truck."
--Native American Shaman
Shamanic Journeys

But ironically, the mystic cosmology of a system of great flowing "rivers" given to Socrates by his mysterious female master 'Diotima' is also contained in that work. This is yet another reflection of the Old Religion. Let's try standing our usual way of thinking on its head. What if you can't own an Idea? What if instead It possesses you? What if it comes floating out from Inner World to represent a Truth that never dies? What if like a reincarnated individual soul, Platonic Ideas never perish? What if The Source is broadcasting to you continually, whenever you happen to tune in to the proper channel to receive it?

"Ah, even if my fragile life is extinguished
I follow the flow of the repeating cycles of incarnation
Gazing upon the destiny of an endless world
You, whose song is sung and sung again."
--Closing Theme
(Japanese Anime)

I was standing before a large crowd, lakeside at a famous rural 'New Age' spiritual center. Darkness was falling, and there was no actual microphone to amplify my voice. There had a been a paid professional storyteller, and then a few amateurs speaking at an 'open microphone,' storytelling evening--which turned out to be a performance opportunity rather than a chance to use electronic equipment. So here I was, with my own version of a Norse Myth I had prepared. But would I bomb? Would I go on so long that someone would call time on me before I could finish? Was the effort I'd made more important then the effect on others? I spoke for an hour or so, and no one left during that time, or interrupted me. The next morning, a woman came up and thanked me for my telling. We all have good moments, now and then...

Any opportunity to play a game that includes drama and excitement, in which you sink some of your own creativity one way or another, is not "just a game," is it? What if it is the reflection of Something Else? And if the original designers and possesses are sharing their creative moments with you and allowing you to participate further in the process, then they are performing a function as old as the human race.

Feel the Magic. Be the Magic.
Total Comments 8


Pickledpie's Avatar
Woah. That, my friend, was amazing.
Posted December 14th, 2010 at 01:42 PM by Pickledpie Pickledpie is offline
kolakoski's Avatar
chas has obviously been around, and has much wisdom to convey (as well as being an all around nice guy). But whatever he was smoking during his travels was more potent than anything available in Jamaica (where I spent the last 17 days)!
Posted December 14th, 2010 at 02:21 PM by kolakoski kolakoski is offline
NilfheimPwns's Avatar
Feel the Magic. Be the Magic.
I thought we were boycotting all no-'scape WotC products! That includes Magic the Gathering!
Posted December 14th, 2010 at 05:01 PM by NilfheimPwns NilfheimPwns is offline
Sherman Davies's Avatar
Impressive first blog, my friend. Welcome to being a Site Supporter!
Posted December 14th, 2010 at 10:08 PM by Sherman Davies Sherman Davies is offline
kolakoski's Avatar
I look forward to chas' next dissertation: "Heroscape - an Aryan Passion Play".

I too am glad that chas has a blog within which I can post comments!

(And comments which I can edit! Thanks to my local NYC pals Sherman Davies for proxying my site supporter transaction, and Kolakoski for technical posting assistance here, and previously for 'sharing' his blog until I got my own.)
Posted December 14th, 2010 at 11:28 PM by kolakoski kolakoski is offline
Updated December 15th, 2010 at 03:03 PM by chas
Taeblewalker's Avatar
Awesome read, my friend. We have to go deeper into that Shamanic territory. I could tell stories.
Posted December 16th, 2010 at 12:06 AM by Taeblewalker Taeblewalker is online now
Sylvano the Wasabus's Avatar
If the magic isn't real, I'm just a middle aged guy with a big box of terrain tiles and a whole lot of custom figures.
Posted December 16th, 2010 at 01:04 PM by Sylvano the Wasabus Sylvano the Wasabus is offline
kolakoski's Avatar

Why Heroscape?

Well met!

Just stumbled over this old blog entry from old buddy, chas, and my old comments concerning same. For me, Heroscape has held my imagination captive, in a huge, gilded cage, for some time now. I can create maps to portray the great passion play of life - Good versus Evil - in a way that recognizes that conflict is never that simple. We love the anti-hero and the tormented villain, and love/hate the nastiest villains, while also playing/puking over the Goody Twoshoes Good Guys. Valhalla creates a context for putting them all entertainingly into the same context. While well aware of what makes units desirable from a pure power standpoint, it's the inclusion of thematic styling and cool mechanics on maps that are beautiful and imply a story that inspires me to continue to myself preoccupied with the next game or my next map, all out of proportion to their importance in the real world (add quotation marks where amusing). There is real art in building a map that is thematic, attractive, and playable. There is an art to building an army that is strong and thematically interesting.

The Gang of Four is doing C3G on 2/4, chas' scenario of Alien Invasion, which can be found in C3G Scenarios, and I am looking forward to playing out the stories implied by my armies. There are 3, from which 1 will be chosen at random for each game we play over the course of the day. First is my Mutant army:

280 Wolverine
260 Archangel
230 Phoenix
220 Prof X
220 X23
190 Sage.

Just resaw an X-Man movie where Wolverine kills Phoenix. X23 potential love triangle and similarity in combat and healing to Wolverine, Archangel's conflict (in story and gameplay, Sage boosting and Prof X's 2 activations a turn make this a deep, fun, competitive army. Also, it's a 4 player free for all, so regeneration is especially desirable, and appears in all 3 armies.

I'm not a big DC fan in general, and Superman's invulnerability being absolute narrowed the potential plots for any story too much, but the format and requirement of 3 armies led me to create:

330 Superboy
280 Eradicator
280 Flash
230 Blade
200 Angel
80 Krypto.

Superboy and Krypto, Krpyptonian healer, Eradicator; and Blade, self healing, on the same team as Buffy boy, Angel, counter-attacker - how funny and sweet at the same time. And, of course, this Flash is unreal.

Finally, the collection of cool:

350 Valkyrie
255 Deathlok
245 Scarlet Spider
200 Cyborg
180 Daredevil
170 Forge.

This army began with the Scarlet Spider, which I've wanted to use for awhile now for his 20-sider attack, being good for this format. He and Daredevil go together, and the cyborgs do. Valkyrie and Forge imply a tough to kill army.

Flawed teams? Of course. Thematically interesting? Indubitably. Fun? Undoubtedly. Art?

Posted January 22nd, 2015 at 05:05 PM by kolakoski kolakoski is offline
Updated January 23rd, 2015 at 10:16 AM by kolakoski
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