Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pairing It Down: Abandon All Hope

By Kiel Howell

     Hello and good day (or night) to you, dear reader! This week’s theme at the Flying Pincushion is Dante’s Inferno. Ah yes; an epic poem, movies, animes, and countless fictions inspired by this testament to man’s creativity. I am not generally a fan of verse, but Dante’s Inferno transcends time and medium. Shakespeare wishes he could write comedy like this (please feel free to berate me in the comments for that statement).

     Dante Alighieri had a real life worthy of the greatest stories told, but that is another topic for another day.
     So let’s get down to it, what shall we pair from this literary monument? When I think of Dante’s Inferno, I think of the inscription above the gates of Hell. Specifically, the last line. “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” While I’m far from a literary scholar or a linguistics expert I can recognize the inherent...classicality of this line. There is so much aura dripping off of this phrase that I have to make a Will save (and fail) each time I read to avoid shuddering in glee. This same type of phraseology can and should be applied once in a great while (overuse will absolutely dilute it) on a spellcaster’s spellbook’s cover, the entrance to a lich’s crypt, or on a long forgotten relic.

     In fact, I would like to do just that...a long forgotten relic. That tickles my fancy for this. No magical properties, no secret powers, just a plain item that has an evocative inscription. No back-story excepting a knowledge check result. Leaving an evocative inscription and a snippet of knowledge leaves the players wanting more, creates ambiance, and gives the GM limitless possibilities for story.

     Let’s get to it then, what kind of relic would accomplish this lofty goal the best? Something religious. In game or out of game, religion has an effect on the psyche that no other thing does. So then, a religious relic, long forgotten. What should it look like? There’s always the classic chalice. An ankh? How about a stone in an impossible shape of the infinity sign? I like that.

“This line of stone curves back upon itself, impossibly, meeting itself in the middle in a shape somewhat akin to the number eight.”

     We’ve got a good basic description that has imagery to it. So let’s construct our phrase of mystery, intrigue, and hopefully a slight bit of terror. Too bad I can’t just steal the phrase. This is a part that I can’t, unfortunately, walk you through or write a formula for. For me, I have a leap of intuition. It helps that I’m an avid consumer of literature, music, and movies. Good or bad, once you’ve consumed enough of anything you start to recognize good and bad and what makes it that way. So here’s my crack at a good inscription (I promise I did not edit this and it was off the top of my head):

“Perish your light, for all light darkens”

     Oooo, that sounds a bit end-of-times and religiously apocryphal. Now then, let’s finish it with a Knowledge (religion) check result table (fun fact, tenebrae is latin for darknesses):

The Infinite Tenebrae cult has been defunct for hundreds of years.
The herald of the cult was said to carry an impossibly shaped key.
The key was lost to time, never found on the herald’s body when he died.

     There we have it. A fledgling line of stories and side treks that any group could get positively lost on.
     I challenge you, the reader, to leave a comment giving me your best one-liner to intrigue and terrify a table. Until next time, in which the theme is the show Farscape!

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