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Saturday, April 9, 2011

H is for- Part 2

H2- The Mines of Bloodstone. For a late 1st edition module, I thought it was pretty darned good. I have run it twice. The first time I ran it was with Darryl C. right after the module was published. We wanted to play and there weren't a lot of other D&D players around at the time, so he soloed it with his character Borg and a party of his Henchmen that included Elisha the Magic-User, Khan the Fighter, Napoleon the Thief and Glendan the Cleric. Also present was my character Lodor, an Elven Fighter/Magic-User running as an NPC because he owed Borg and Elisha a favor for restoring him to life. The adventure went along with few hitches* until Borg touched the wall of annihilation and ceased to exist. Darryl kind of lost heart then and retreated from the last part of the adventure while he schemed ways to restore Borg.

The second time was with younger players and I converted the module to 3e. They fled the area after the encounter with the Iron Golems on the 1st level of the mines absolutely creamed their party Rogue in one round. Wrong place, wrong time kind of a deal; but they were done with that adventure after that. I guess they were unaccustomed to bad things happening to their party.

H is for Harmony; my giant, slobbery and quite elderly English Mastiff. I figured since Grendl got an entry on G I should give Harmony some tribute time too. We bought her from a breeder a few years back. She had been returned there when the guy who had her before got married and his new wife's toddler was kind of abusive. The kid used to jump onto her back all the time and it messed up her back legs over time, so the guy brought her back to where he got her. She was too old then for most people to want so nobody would buy her, except my wife. Harmony is a good girl. She spends most of her time sleeping now, but sh is quite affectionate, loyal and well behaved otherwise.

H is for Head-hunting, the one Celtic pass-time that is most misunderstood by non-Celts. Celts considered taking the head of an enemy to be an honor. The killer and the killed were honored this way. Heads aren't taken from unworthy foes. A fallen foe is honored by being considered worthy enough to have his head taken, and the reputation of the victor is enhanced by the status of his fallen foes. There is also a religious significance to the act. The cult of the head is not well understood by scholars, but they have some ideas. The head, for instance, they know was considered the seat of the soul. The entire concept, however, horrified the Romans.

Among the Samurai the practice started for more practical reasons. Samurai started taking heads just so they could prove that they were going to battle, basically the job for which they were paid. This led to some strange rituals among the Samurai, like burning incense under your helmet so your head would smell nice for the guy that took it; or head viewings, which began as a way of proving how recently deceased the head was to prevent cheating by some Samurai. Some Samurai would steal the heads from other people's kills too, often showing up to a battle just long enough to grab an enemy head, then leaving.

H is for Honor. Warrior societies the world over have various concepts of honor, the principles are nearly universal. Whether the warriors are Celts or Samurai the universal concept of honor is something that they would kill or die for. We modern folk often have as much difficulty with the concept of honor being important as we do with religion being important. While we mostly would like to have an honorable reputation, it really isn't something most of us would really much go out of our way for; much less kill or die for. That's probably why we need to have the "rules" of honorable behavior codified for us in RPGs and need to be given some sort of mechanical advantages for honorable behavior or disadvantages for dishonor. 1st edition Oriental Adventures addressed the issue, as did 2nd edition's Celts campaign book and both editions of Hackmaster. Those are the only examples I can think of, but there may be more.

H is for Hospitality, everyone pretty much knows what hospitality means; what they don't know is the great significance placed on it by early northern and western Europeans (Celts and Germans). They considered hospitality to be a sacred obligation. They competed to be considered the most hospitable.

There is a story from about the year 1600 about a MacGregor clan chief that granted hospitality to the son of the chief of the neighboring Lamont clan. That lad and the MacGregor's son went out hunting together and an argument broke out and in a fit of anger, the Lamont stabbed the MacGregor to death. The Lamont fled back to the MacGregor chief's house and was given hospitality. The others from the hunting party arrived shortly afterwards and wanted to kill the Lamont. The MacGregor chief said no, and gave the Lamont lad an armed escort back home the next day.

Yeah, it was that serious.

H is for Harald Hardrada, King of Norway and attempted conqueror of England. Everyone know that the Normans conquered England in 1066 and made their Duke, William the Bastard, into King William I of England. What most people don't know is that he wasn't the only foreigner to invade England that year. Harald Hardrada, King of Norway, also had a claim to the English throne and attempted to take it by force. He was one of the greatest generals of his time. He had a large and experienced viking army. He even had a turn-coat Englishman that was the brother of the new English king Harold Godwinson. If contrary winds had not kept the Norman fleet stuck in France, the Normans would have landed first and, since Hastings was a near thing for them in our time line, they might have lost to fresh English troops. But, as luck would have it, the Norwegians were better sailors and had better weather for the crossing; so they got there first. Harald stomped the English army at Fulford and received the submission of York. Sadly for Harald, he thought he was safe for the time being and divided his army, a fairly standard practice at the time; and a fresh English army from the south appeared in record time to catch them off guard. The Norwegians were defeated in a hotly contested battle at Stamford Bridge and Harald was given his promised "Six feet of ground or as much more as he needs, as he is taller than most men"; thus ended the story of Harald Hardrada, last of the bad-ass viking kings.

The epilogue of course is that Harold Godwinson was killed a few weeks later at Hastings and England passed to the foreigner with the least legitimate claim to the throne.

H is for Heraldry and Heralds. Heraldry was developed in Europe as a means of battlefield identification. Heraldry began to appear in rudimentary form around the turn of the first millennium and over the next couple of centuries became very widespread and codified. Heralds, an the other hand, have a number of functions not necessarily associated with heraldry, like announcing at tourneys and acting as ambassadors between belligerent parties in war. In the SCA I have my own heraldry and I am a warranted herald. I have served in various courts for both my barony and my kingdom. What I am really good at though is name stuff, if you need a legitimately medieval name I can help.

My arms in the SCA.

H is for Holy Grail. The quest for the Holy Grail actually. The Grail quest is an iconic story that we can use to create our own heroic quests in RPGs. Read about it, or watch the Monty Python movie even, just avoid "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" and "The DaVinci Code". Stick to the original sources.

H is for Hatamoto. In Japanese Hatamoto literally means "under the banners", it refers, starting during the Sengoku period, to direct retainers of a lord. During the Tokugawa period it came to refer to the highest ranking retainers of the Shogun.

H is for Holmgang. A holmgang, which literally means "island going" in Old Norse, is a specific type of duel fought between two participants in a small area. Originally the participants would row out to a tiny island, but eventually they just started doing it in a small area. There is a certain ritual to it and I was pleased to see they fought according to custom in the movie the 13th Warrior. For my part, I authorized as an SCA heavy weapons fighter and fought in a holmgang tourney that day, so they'll always be special to me.

*Lodor, lower level than everyone else, was separated from the rest of the party for a while. He spent a lot of time hiding and waiting for his buddies to find him, which they eventually did.