Influence: Michael Moorcock
After the last post, I started going through some of the various bits and pieces of old artwork and writings I’d made over the years that I’m planning to incorporate into the StarSea. Eventually, I stumbled on a couple of pieces that made me think of some of my old influences. It’s made me strangely reminiscent. (Remember, I don’t get the whole attraction to Old School rules, which I tend to associate with a fondness for the play style of 30 years ago.)
One of those influences, since high school, was Michael Moorcock and his Eternal Champion series. While my fellow D&Ders were reading Tolkien, I was reading Moorcock, thanks to Jeff Dee’s artwork in the original Deities and Demigods. I started with Elric, Moorcock’s most well-known creation, but I eventually moved on to the other Eternal Champions, at least in part thanks to my high school art teacher, Nadan Ben-Calif Chiladoux. (As an aside, I always liked that name. I love the way it flows off the tongue. He said it was French-Arabic. He retired after my senior year and I expect he’s now passed in to the Undiscovered Country.) Mr. Chiladoux gave me a number of Moorcock’s books he had, as a gift. I devoured them at the pace of a book a day. That really wasn’t that difficult, as they were only about 175 pages each, and I’ve always had a pretty good vocabulary.
For the uninitiated, Moorcock had a number of fantasy and sci-fi characters, each with their own setting, but connected in a metaphysical sense. Each character was a different incarnation of the same being, the Eternal Champion. The Champion served the Balance between Law and Chaos (the original names for Good and Evil in the oldest versions of D&D), and the Champion was always joined by an “eternal companion.” There were additional unifying elements, including the gods of Law and Chaos, as well as dimensional travel, and high tech that was mostly so fantastic that it was largely “weird science.” I have a feeling the upcoming “Monte Cook’s Numenera” will work great as a system to play the worlds Moorcock, even Corum’s worlds, which are more fantasy oriented.
Corum Jhaelen Irsei was the focus of my thinking the other day. His nom du guerre is “The Prince in the Scarlet Cloak,” called such for his, well, scarlet cloak. That and the other entities known only by an appellation in Moorcock’s stories inspired me with an idea in the mid-80s for a game element. In that game, the guy playing a paladin started acting more Lawful than Good. To atone (as he’d started loosing his powers), he of course had to go on a quest, and that quest was given to him in a poem-riddle that named “The Giant in Red.” I had planned on him becoming a part of the party, indirectly (more on that in a minute). However, for whatever reason, it didn’t take. It’s been 25 years, so you’ll forgive me. However, the Giant popped up again as part of the legends of another setting I developed in the late 90s/early 2000s, in a game I ran about the time The Camarilla fell apart, after my Mage game had become impossible because of The Camarilla (to many of us were involved in LARPing to meet for Mage tabletop). The Giant was again going to become part of the party, as this figure of legend turned out to be a spirit attached to a red cloak who added to the power of the hero bearing the cloak. That game fell apart before I could get the cloak to the player I wanted to have it, a half-orc fighter. So again, the Giant in Red was put on the back burner.
What I found recently was a bad attempt to clone the Warhammer 40K Space Marines, who I dubbed the Red Giants. Will the Red Giants, or the Giant in Red, make it into the StarSea? Only time will tell, but it’s unlikely without some transformation. They might make a good name for a faction of martial characters in one of the knighthoods, but I’m just not sure at this point.
Moorcock’s writing is full of imaginative, Burroughs-like elements. In fact, Moorcock’s Kane of Old Mars books were a direct homage to Burroughs. I expect some of Moorcock’s Sword and Sorcery and Burroughs’ Sword and Planets fantastic worlds will show through in StarSea. I certainly hope so.