The Final Sessions

I am approaching the final session of the longest D&D campaign I’ve ever run.

The players have made their way through all the challenges I constructed for them. The only thing left to do is confront the final villain and defeat him.

I’m reminded of something I wrote in high school, that people are attracted to stories that excite them regardless of how real those stories are. The world, characters, and stories I’ve built through Dungeons and Dragons aren’t real, but the outcome is as important to me as the outcome of other things in my life.

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Wonder Woman Movie Review

Wonder Woman

I saw Wonder Woman with some friends. It was a good superhero movie, but I feel as if I’ve grown away from the genre despite still enjoying it in theory.

The movie stars Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and Chris Pine as her sidekick WW1 soldier.

Wonder Woman is, as far as I could tell, never referred to as Wonder Woman in the movie. Everyone calls her by her name, Diana, hearkening back to the virgin, Roman goddess of the hunt that inspired her creation. Continue reading

Characters of Cimmeria: Zelus

Zelus

Zelus is the Classical deific embodiment of zeal itself. He encapsulates excitement, eagerness, rivalry, and unwavering devotion to a sworn cause. Zelus is one of the Daimons, the divine children of Pallas and the River Styx. He currently aids the Exiles in their quest to eradicate Dragovinians from the face of the earth.

Zelus has a complicated place in the Olympian pantheon. Continue reading

Characters of Cimmeria: Amalgami the Hero

This post needs a little bit of clarification. As much as possible I try to avoid two characters having the same name in my campaign world. It happens often enough in real life and in real history, but it easily confuses people (Just try and explain the Norman Conquest of England to someone). Unfortunately, I couldn’t avoid having two people with the same name in this case because one of my players wanted to name their character after an imagined hero of the past. I’m getting around to filling the gaps and now that hero of the past has his own story below. This post details Amalgami the Hero of Old, not Amalgami the Betrayer.

amalgami-the-heroAmalgami the Hero was known as the Lightning Knight. He joined the other heroes of the Dragon War in casting down their draconic oppressors.  He was a son of Zeus and his father gifted him with power over lightning and storms. Amalgami made friendships easily and if it weren’t for him the heroes of the Dragon War may never have worked together to accomplish their great deeds. At the conclusion of the war he slumbered along with the other heroes to return when the world needed him again.

Zeus found himself attracted to Brina, a priestess of his wife, Hera. Zeus will be Zeus, so he had his way with Brina and then left her to the anger of his wife. Infuriated that one of her own clergy would betray her (regardless of Brina’s own wishes in the encounter), Hera decreed a similar punishment that was given to Leto, the mother of Apollo and Artemis. Brina would never deliver her child on dry land.

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Characters of Cimmeria: King Jevaninada the First

Today we take a short departure for the heroes of the Dragon War and focus on Jevaninada the First, the villain of a previous campaign I ran in Cimmeria. King Jev was a bit of wish fulfillment on my part for where I wanted my first D&D character, Anxe, to end up if I played him all the way to level 20. I gave Jev a whole kingdom, sweet loot, and an angel for a wife. Might not have been the most mature thing, but I was in high school when I created this character…

Jevaninada I

King Jevaninada the First set Xoria on a path of rapid expansion that has continued to this day. His personal magnetism and cunning manipulation of the Xorian nobles allowed him to discredit his sister’s claim to the throne. With her out of way Jevaninada built an unshakable power base for his invasions into the surrounding lands of Xoria. A well-timed marriage to Anajakaze, Queen of the Amazons and daughter of Zeus, ended the war between Xoria and Amazonia. As if the combined might of the two militaristic cultures wasn’t enough, Jev also commanded a mysterious group of powerful warriors known as the Seven Rages. Jev planned to conquer Cimmeria in its entirety, but his plans were cut short by the mercenaries his sister hired to oppose him. Jevaninada the First was slain at the Battle of Danar’s River. Queen Anajakaze carried on his dream of conquering Cimmeria and after her, his son, Jevaninada the Second.

Jevaninada was born the first prince of Xoria in 478 BCE to his father, King Demotinira, and his mother, Queen Biiratofara. The Queen died in child birth, leaving Demotinira with Jev and his older sister, Tarigananata, as the only surviving members of the royal family. Jev was raised by his Greek wetnurse, Andreiya, while his father attended matters of state such as warring with the Amazons and supplying the new Xorian colony of Petar. Andreiya was an Ionian Greek priestess of Artemis at Ephesus before she was enslaved and sold to the Xorian royal family. She tended the library at Ephesus and had read and copied many books prior to her captivity. She passed this knowledge onto the young prince as he was brought up. There was nary a topic that Jevaninada did not know something about.

When Jevaninada was not studying with Andreiya he learned martial arts with his instructor, General Antapike. The general used a spear when teaching, augmenting his already superior reach. Jev learned to close the gap with speed and trickery. Additionally he learned warcraft from Antapike and his father while observing their war councils before their numerous battles with the Amazons.

Jev’s final teacher was brought about by his father’s neglect. Demotinira believed a Spartan lifestyle bereft of comforts would develop sympathetic feeling in his children for their subjects. this worked for Tarigananata. She developed a natural love for the people of Xoria. Jevaninada reacted… differently. Lacking the luxuries he felt he deserved, Jev turned to theft. He stole jewelery, fine weapons, and elaborate toys from visitors to the castle. When Jev was taken on trips outside the castle he always managed to sneak something back in with him, be it a gold necklace or only a sweet bun. His father ordered Jev’s bodyguards to put a stop to it. The prince only learned which guards could be bribed and which he could hide from.

As Demotinira grew old he made it clear that Princess Tarigananata was his heir. She was the first born and she was a kinder, more generous person. Demotinira wanted a virtuous kingdom to follow his death. Jev’s father died when the prince was 20 years old. At that point Jev had already set his plans in motion to disinherit his sister.

Jevaninada had many friends at court. He convinced the nobles to forestall Princess Tari’s coronation until after consulting the Oracle at Delphi, the Oracle which he had already bribed to reveal a prophecy to his liking. The Oracle returned a prediction that Tarigananata would loose a terrible demon into Xoria twenty years after her father’s death. Jevaninada had her arrested and supposedly executed. In fact, she was saved by General Antapike who had realized Jevaninada’s trickery even if he could not prove it. The General and the Princess fled Xoria while Jevaninada was crowned King Jevaninada the First.

After stealing the throne, Jev was quick to restart war with the nearby Amazons of Dradelden. Half a decade of war proved indecisive until Jev disguised his army as slaves and snuck into Dradelden along with them. A chaotic melee broke out between the Xorian and Amazon troops while Jev sought out the Amazon Queen. After a day and a night of fighting King Jevaninada and Queen Anajakaze emerged together and declared an end to hostilities. From that moment on Xorian and Amazon would work together. Combat stopped and a magical spell initiated an orgy between the previously adversarial parties. King and Queen were soon married with seven strange warriors in attendance. These warriors would come to be known as the Seven Rages.

King Jevaninada used the combined strength of the Xorian army, the Amazon warriors, and the Seven Rages to conquer Makotako, Semanarie, and Colchis. King Aeetes of Colchis was cast into magical servitude, forced to serve Jevaninada as a lord against his will. Meanwhile, Princess Tarigananata had gathered allies of her own.

Nineteen years after King Demotinira’s death, his daughter struck against Jevaninada in a three pronged assault. She led an attack from the east along with Leopold Anigama, Atreides, Salzar, King Archidamus II of Sparta, King Willard of Aractrash, and Amalgami of Phoenix. In the south, Duke Prusu’s city of Jeutontic revolted and the Persian Satrap Orontes invaded. In the west, Tari had freed Aeetes from his the King’s binding magicks. Aeetes led a revolt as well.

King Jevaninada met the eastern attack himself at Danar’s River. Tari’s forces used magic to halt the river’s flow while they crossed and collided with the King’s waiting army. Jevaninada may have prevailed, but the war mage, Salzar, used forbidden destructive magic to kill the king and decimate his army. The Xorian loyalists lost the battle and Jevaninada’s body was taken by the rebels.

Queen Anajakaze ruled on in King Jevaninada’s stead, only recently pregnant with their first child after over a decade of marriage. Jevaninada’s spirit slept fitfully, but when resurrection was attempted upon his ransomed body he chose to remain in the afterlife rather than return to lead his country through the war. Queen Anajakaze’s regency for her unborn son would continue until her death twenty years later.

-GoCorral

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 Review

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 Poster

My wife and I went to see My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 hoping for a fun comedy with elements of romance. Instead we got a romance with a few jokes.

I saw the original My Big Fat Greek Wedding with my mom when I was about ten years old. I don’t remember much about it, but I do recall not liking it.

Not surprising, why would ten year old me like a romance movie? There were a lot of things I didn’t like when I was ten that I enjoy now.

If you’ve seen the trailer then you already know the movie is about Toula rekindling her romance with Ian while her daughter is getting ready to leave for college. Additionally, Toula’s parents discover that their priest never signed their original wedding license so they are not officially married. Hijinks ensue as the wedding is planned and the family’s exaggerated Greek culture clashes with traditional American values.

Is it a comedy? Is it a romance? Is it a drama? The trailer certainly presents it as a comedy.

Unfortunately, the trailer was designed to trick you. The movie is definitely a romance. There aren’t many jokes in the actual movie that weren’t present in the movie.

Even worse, the trailer edited the punchlines with better comedic timing and music. Many of the jokes in the trailer fall flat in the movie because of poor timing that the editor should have corrected.

The drama element of the movie is… dull and predictable. Gus, the grandpa, doesn’t want to propose again to the grandma, Maria, because he thinks his first proposal was good enough. She stops being his housewife and doing all his chores until he finally gives her a lackluster proposal while being hauled away in a stretcher to an ambulance (his hip broke or something).

There’s also some stuff about Toula not wanting her daughter to leave Illinois for college. Surprise! The daughter decides to leave and Toula decides to support her decision.

You weren’t really surprised were you? Neither was I.

Fortunately, the romance of the movie was spot on. There’s a few tear-jerker elements and the weak jokes spice up the romance enough to make it interesting.

Greek Wedding 2 isn’t a homerun romance movie like The Notebook or anything else made by Nicholas Sparks, but it was decent. My wife and I felt closer after seeing parts of our happy relationship paralleled on the big screen.

Greek Wedding 2 had dozens of callbacks to the first movie that neither my wife nor I recognized. I’m sure that someone who enjoyed the original movie would like those parts of the sequel as well.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that I’m recommending this movie to people that liked the original. My faint memory of the first movie tells me that the second is a lot like it in many respects. You get to see how the characters have aged and grown and hear all your favorite jokes told in different ways.

The best part, you get to see Gus and some of his grandkids explain how every word in the world has a Greek origin. As a grecophile myself, I loved this running joke.

-GoCorral

Cimmerian Timeline Part 2

Previous: Cimmerian Timeline Part 1

Composing the Cimmerian Timeline has an issue that if I do it chronologically I risk missing events that I put into various cities’ backgrounds and later forgot. I’ll do my best to get everything as it comes up chronologically. Inevitably I will make mistakes and need to include events that are in a period of time that I already covered. I’ll just note that in each update that requires it and edit the complete timeline on the menu bar at the top of the site.

1150BCE: The Olympians held a convocation. The Trojan War devastated the greatest heroes of Greece and now the oldest survivors had died. The gods wished to continue their philandering and fun, but the Fates decreed that no such business would occur in Greece. A decision was made to head east, to the land of the Goblins.

The Goblins had a pantheon of their own which the Olympians had to combat with before their rule of Cimmeria could be secure. The Olympians created many new mortal servants to war against the Goblins while the Olympians engaged the Goblin gods themselves. These new mortals organized themselves into a governmental body known as the Conclave. Humans, Elves, Orcs, Dwarves, Halflings, and other races of Cimmeria all worked together in the Conclave.

1149BCE: Threatened as they were, the Goblin pantheon called upon a most terrible weapon, the Phoenix. The Olympians battled with the Phoenix. They defeated the great bird but found that it arose anew from the ashes, stronger than it was before.

1147BCE: After many attempts to destroy the Phoenix, the Olympians turned to their mortal allies. They gave the mortals access to powerful magic and combat techniques in the hope that with their combined force they could vanquish the Phoenix for good.

1146BCE: The health of King Aeëtes of Colchis began to fail without his daughter Medea’s magic. He started feverishly studying to reclaim the arts she once used to extend their lifetimes.

1140BCE: Years of planning allowed the mortals, led by the sorcerer Sadroston, to defeat the Phoenix. A city named after the bird was built upon its ashes. This was the first Olympian city in Cimmeria.

1139BCE: The war with the Goblins and the Goblin pantheon continued. King Aeëtes mastered the unruly magic of the Olympians to immortalize himself. Hades was furious that a subject escaped entrance to his realm. The God of the Underworld began preparations to reclaim the old Aeëtes’s soul.

1118BCE: The war raged on. The Conclave pushed the Goblins out of Western Cimmeria and founded the city of Nox as a center for people living in the west.

1113BCE: Tensions rose between the Dwarves and the Humans over how to coordinate the actions of Phoenix, Nox, and smaller population centers against the Goblins.

1102BCE: Karnafaust, First High King of the Dwarves, stormed off with his army after a disagreement with the Human leader, Drolofo. Karnafaust struck into Goblin territory in Eastern Cimmeria, stopping only when he reached the Black River.

1101BCE: Karnafaust founded the city of Fangaroot upon the Black Mirror Lake. He declared an independent Dwarven state from the Conclave of Humans, Elves, Halflings, and Orcs.

-GoCorral

Next: Cimmerian Timeline Part 3

First Steps of the Cimmerian Timeline Part 1

Greek myths describe periods of hundreds or thousands of years when humans were around and the Titans ruled. And before Cronus was born there was a long time where just the primordial deities were around hanging out and doing whatever primordial deities do.

So how far back does my timeline of Cimmeria go? A hundred years from current events? The Trojan War? The war between the Titans and the Olympians? The birth of Gaia from the void?

I picked the birth of Deucalion as where my timeline would start.

For those of you who don’t know, Deucalion is the Greek mythological version of Noah. A lot of religions have versions of Noah. Archaeologists link these stories to flood events at the end of the last ice age.

Deucalion and Pyrrha threw stones over their shoulders and they turned into people to repopulate the Earth. And that's where babies come from.
Deucalion and Pyrrha threw stones over their shoulders and they turned into people to repopulate the Earth. And that’s where babies come from.

Deucalion is the “Father of Humanity” in Greek mythology, so he is a natural starting point for a timeline about Humans.

But where do I line up Deucalion with an actual historical timeline?

Fortunately, there is a event in Greek myths that has a counterpart in reality, the Trojan War!

The remains of Troy have been found with multiple layers of cities built on top of each after the previous layer was destroyed.

Two of the layers are reasonable candidates for what was destroyed at the end of the Trojan War. These two layers are called Troy VI and Troy VII.

Troy VI was destroyed first around 1250BCE and Troy VII was destroyed around 1183BCE.

So which was the Troy the Greeks destroyed?

Luckily the myths give us an easy answer. Troy was attacked and damaged a few decades before the Trojan War by Heracles. Thus if we were to line up mythical and historical events we would claim that Heracles destroyed Troy VI in 1250BCE and the Greeks destroyed Troy VII in 1183BCE.

From there it’s a matter of counting backwards generationally from the Trojan War to Deucalion.

It turns out that Patroclus is the best candidate for counting backwards to Deucalion. Figuring out Patroclus’s age is somewhat dependent on Achilles’s age.

The good news is that Achilles’s age is given in the Epic Cycle. He is eight years old when Odysseus takes him off to the Trojan War. It takes two years to get to Troy and the Greeks are there for ten years. That means Achilles would’ve been 19 or 20 near the end of the war.

Patroclus is meant to be Achilles’s older cousin and pederast. I guessed that he was seven years older.

So we count backwards 27 from 1183BCE and we get 1210BCE as the birth year of Patroclus. Patroclus was the second son of Menoetius. We count backwards for Menoetius, assuming that he had his first child at 25 (typical for Greeks), with a 2 year gap per child. Continue this process until you reach Deucalion and then add a bunch of years to Deucalion because he lived longer than normal Humans do just like Noah.

Obviously, I could use a similar system to date many of the events in Greek mythology, but that’s a huge pain in the ass. It’s enough that you know that all the heroic myths take place over a roughly 200 year period, with most of them concentrated around the 50 years leading up to the Fall of Troy.

And without further ado, here is the first installment in the Cimmerian Timeline.

1421BCE: Deucalion is born.
1339BCE: The Great Flood happens, signaling the end of the Bronze Age and the beginning of the Heroic Age.
1196BCE: Paris steals Helen and the call goes out among the Achaeans.
1195BCE: Odysseus finds Achilles at Scyros and the ships sail to Troy, ravaging almost every settlement enroute to the great city.
1193BCE: The Achaeans arrive at Troy.
1183BCE: Troy falls, signaling that the Heroic Age will end soon.
1173BCE: Odysseus returns home.
1159BCE: Odysseus is killed by Telegonus, his son with Circe. Telegonus takes Penelope and Telemachus back to Circe’s Island. Telegonus marries Penelope and Circe marries Telemachus. This death and marriage signal the end of the Heroic Age and the beginning of the Iron Age for Greece.

-GoCorral

Next: Cimmerian Timeline Part 2

Cimmeria and Syncretism

Syncretism noun syn•cre•tism: the amalgamation or attempted amalgamation of different religions, cultures, or schools of thought.

My campaign world, Cimmeria, uses the Hellenic pantheon but Cimmeria is not Greece, it’s Cimmeria. The Greek gods get pretty active in Cimmeria, but why Cimmeria instead of Greece where they’re supposed to be getting up to all their shenanigans?

The meta/out-of-game answer is that I wanted creative freedom for geography and historical events. Tying myself to a real world location would’ve restricted those choices. I still needed Greece around to draw on the myths of the Greek gods, but I didn’t need my campaign to physically be in Greece or the Aegean.

The in-game answer is that the Greek gods wanted a fresh start after the Trojan War. They moved away from Greece, only occasionally interacting with their followers in that region. Cimmeria became the new playbox for the Olympians.

But what does this move from Greece to Cimmeria have to do with syncretism?

Well, do you suppose there might have been gods living and being worshiped in Cimmeria before the Hellenic pantheon showed up?

If you said yes you win the prize!

There are multiple pantheons within my campaign world outside of the region of Cimmeria.

Other pantheons include the Egyptian, Norse, Sumerian, Abrhamic (more of a monotheon, but whatever), and a few other minor deities that could be represented by the Greyhawk/Faerun pantheon.

Prior to the arrival of the Olympians in Cimmeria a pantheon of Goblin deities ruled the region.

The Olympians engaged these gods in some sort of battle for the region and emerged victorious. The old Goblin religion has all but disappeared.

Each of these different religions contain their own rules about the underworld and the realm of the gods. How can all these pantheons have different underworlds? How does that make sense?

The ancients had an idea called syncretism. That’s when one god is equal to another god in a different religion. Zeus = Thor is a fairly obvious one.

Another one people did was Dionysus = Osiris, because both of them came back from the dead by being sewed together. The problem with that one is it means Dionysus must also be Hades because Osiris is the ruler of the underworld. But Osiris is also the father of Horus who would be Zeus or Helios in the Greek pantheon. Does that mean Dionysus/Hades is also Cronos, the father of Zeus? Or even Hyperion, father of Helios?

Dionysus Osiris Syncretism
All answers to this test must be written in cursive.

It’s my belief that the ancients didn’t really have rules for this. I think that when they contemplated this issue with syncretism they just said something like, “Who can understand the immortal gods?” or more rarely, they expressed a monotheistic belief where every god was simply a reflection of a singular deity. Thus, I believe that even the people who actually practiced these religions in their original forms would’ve found syncretism confusing.

Are there rules for how syncretism works in Cimmeria? Nope, sorry. I went with what I thought worked best in each situation.

There are occasional instances of syncretism, but for the most part each pantheon exists separately from other pantheons. Each rules over its particular worshipers and regions without interfering in the other regions unless some large event precipitates such interference.

What does this decision mean for the cosmology? First, it means that most of the Goblin deities were absorbed by the Olympians through syncretism.

It also means that a character’s access to other planes besides the Material and closely connected planes (Astral, Ethereal, Shadow) is heavily limited.

A Hellenist cannot travel to the Pharaonic afterlife. It simply isn’t possible unless the Hellenist travels with a Pharaonist or is somehow cursed to go to the wrong afterlife.

Another effect is the weakening of divine magic when within another pantheon’s realm. Clerics find their spellcasting powers diminished to those of a cleric half their level when not in their pantheon’s region. This means that Greek priests are weaker than their Cimmerian counterparts, as the Greek pantheon abandoned Greece for a new region, Cimmeria.

That hopefully answers a few questions about how different pantheons work in the world around Cimmeria and provides some background for the move of the Greek pantheon from Greece to Cimmeria (and later on Rome).

-GoCorral

Hercules Movie Review

Hercules Movie Poster

Hulu has started streaming movies as well as TV shows. I’d wanted to see the new Hercules movie since it came out. Perfect Combination!

The movie stars Dwayne Johnson (are we still calling him the Rock?) in the title role, which is probably one of the best casts I can think of for Hercules.

The trailer advertises the classic story of the Twleve Labors of Hercules with our hero slaying many beasts  to thunderous applause.

That is not what the movie is about. At all.

So with that disappointment out of the way, let’s talk about what the movie is about.

Hercules and his band of friends are mercenaries with Hercules as the front man.

Hercules and his band of misfits are hired by King Cotys to defeat the barbarian warlord, Rhesus, who is attacking local towns. They train Cotys’ army and then lots of fight scenes ensue. Standard action movie stuff.

The group plays up Hercules’ reputation by constantly reinforcing that he is the son of Zeus and that he’s slain tons of fantastical monsters. All of that is false in this story. No monsters. No divine parentage. Just stories to make Hercules more intimidating to their foes.

There is a bit about Hercules having to fight centaurs later on in the movie, but a nod is given to what some people believe inspired the myth of centaurs, people riding horses. A person unfamiliar with that practice might assume that they were seeing a human-horse hybrid and not just a person on top of a horse.

As for Hercules’ well-known strength that many are familiar with from the Disney movie, that is actually in the movie. It’s not to the supernatural degree, but he is still really freaking strong.

There is some augmnetation for that intimidation factor I mentioned. At one point Hercules kills a man with one punch. The audience sees that he accomplished this by concealing an arrowhead in his fist and stabbing it into the man’s skull.

Hercules is very similar to 300 and Beowulf. He even shares the iconic scene in Beowulf where the title character shouts his name to emphasize his manliness. If you liked those movies you will like Hercules.

If you’re looking for a story that is actually about the myths of Hercules, that isn’t here. There are tons of references to the myths, but no actual reenactments. Similar to Troy the movie tries to show us how historical events could’ve inspired those myths instead of showing the myths themselves.

If none of that interests you the movie is still a decent action movie. Lots of well choreographed violence and snarky one-liners. It’s not the best in that genre, but I certainly enjoyed myself.

If any of the stuff I said interested you, go check out Hercules in the DVD section of your local store or on Hulu if you have a subscription (I don’t think you can watch it there if you don’t have one).

-GoCorral