Dojo Darelir, the School of Xenograg the Sorcerer

Welcome to Dojo Darelir, the School of Xenograg the Sorcerer
(Art by Isaura Simon)

Ultimate Sources of Power

August 11, 2022

“To a wizard,” Tenoctris said, “the sun is an ultimate source of power and Malkar is an ultimate source of power. But no one can reach an ultimate source directly. The forces that a wizard works with aren’t pure, any more than the water you drink is pure.”

“You’re saying that Malkar isn’t evil?” Garric said with a frown…. “That you serve Malkar?”

“No,” Tenoctris said, tapping her finger on the wall beside her with sharp emphasis…. “No one serves Malkar. And as for using the forces that stem largely from Malkar, I don’t drink seawater either. There are differences of degree.”

Ilna turned her head to watch the waves dancing in the sunlight. Near shore the water was dark, almost purple, but beyond that and as far as her eye could reach the Inner Sea had a pale green translucence like that of the finest jade. It was much more beautiful than the colorless fluid brought up from a well; but of course no human could drink seawater….

Lord of the Isles, Book I, Chapter 18

Powers Beyond Human Comprehension

August 10, 2022

Tenoctris wasn’t a great wizard in the practical sense. She had a scholar’s mind and a jeweler’s soul; large-scale works were for other folk. She saw and understood the forces which had to be shifted; she simply didn’t have the psychic strength to manipulate them.

And perhaps she saw and understood too well. Tenoctris couldn’t possibly have struck the blow that the Hooded One had delivered; but she realized that actions of that magnitude must have consequences beyond those the wizard intended. Consequences that even Tenoctris couldn’t predict….

The Hooded One refused to give his name, but he’d claimed that the chair he brought to Yole with him was the Throne of Malkar. One who sat on the Throne of Malkar became Malkar, became the essence of the black power that was the equal and opposite of the sun.

Tenoctris knew the Hooded One’s throne was a replica, built according to descriptions given by the great magicians of ancient times who claimed to have seen or even sat in it. The original was rumored to be older than mankind; older even than life….

…Tenoctris knew that the Hooded One’s success was a much greater danger [to Yole] than ever [the enemy’s] flame and swords could be. A wizard who used powers beyond human comprehension could not have the judgment to use those powers safely.

Lord of the Isles, Prologue

Author’s emphasis.

A Period In Which Politics Did Not Exist

August 4, 2022

When we retreat from the early modern age into the Middle Ages the distinction between government, army, and people becomes more tenuous still. The term “feudal” implies this was a period in which politics did not exist (the very concept had yet to be invented, and dates back only as far as the sixteenth century [C.E.]) So closely intertwined were a man’s political power and his personal status that his ability to conclude alliances could well depend on the number of marriageable daughters he had sired. Politics were entangled with military, social, religious, and, above everything else, legal considerations; feudalism before it was anything else comprised a network of mutual rights and obligations. The resulting witches’-brew was utterly different from the one we are familiar with today, so that to use the word politics probably does more harm than good. The medieval context hardly even makes it possible to speak of governments, let alone of states….

The Transformation of War, p. 52

Emphasis mine.

Compelling Deities To Yield Their Boons

August 4, 2022

The means by which the priestly caste in India gained the mastery over the nobles—gradually, perhaps, but surely and securely—was the awe that they managed to inspire in all around them by the chanting, and apparent power, of their Vedic charms. In the earliest period the gods were implored. But when it was reasoned that since the gods could be conjured to man’s will the power of the conjuring rites must be greater than that of the gods, the deities were no longer implored but compelled to yield their boons to the warrior clans; and the magic of the Brahmins, the knowers of the potent spells, became recognized as the mightiest, and most dangerous, in the world.

The Masks of God: Oriental Mythology, p. 189

Fictional Timeline Added

July 21, 2022

I finally put the time and effort into finding and collating the events of the “Xenoverse” into a definitive timeline. It spans almost 90 in-character years and almost 40 real ones.

The link is also in the sidebar under “Latest Pages” and thus available from every page for the foreseeable future.

Enjoy!

I Don’t Believe in Luck

July 8, 2022
Vinny Terranova:
I don’t believe in luck. I make it and I take it, but I don’t stand around waiting for it to happen.

— “Independent Operator” – Wiseguy, Season 1 (1987)

There Are Still Wonders in the Universe

July 8, 2022
G’Kar:
There are things in the universe billions of years older than either of our races. They are vast, timeless…and if they are aware of us at all, it is as little more than ants. And we have as much chance of communicating with them as an ant has with us. We know; we’ve tried. And we’ve learned that we can either stay out from underfoot, or be stepped on.
Catherine Sakai:
That’s it? That’s all you know?
G’Kar:
Yes. They are a mystery. And I am both terrified and reassured to know that there are still wonders in the universe—that we have not yet explained everything. Whatever they are, Miss Sakai, they walk near Sigma Nine-Five-Seven, and they must walk there…alone.

— “Mind War” – Babylon 5, Season 1 (1994)

Creed of the Anla’Shok

July 5, 2022
Marcus Cole:
I am a Ranger! We walk in the dark places no others will enter! We stand on the bridge, and no one may pass! We live for the One! We die for the One!

— “Grey 17 Is Missing” – Babylon 5, Season 3 (1996)

Why Muskets Supplanted Bows

July 4, 2022

…[The Native American] self bow and the seventeenth-century musket had comparable effective ranges (50 yards optimum, 100 to 150 yards at the outside)….

…For Amerindians, because the bow or the musket had to serve in both war and the hunt, something in the technology had to satisfy the needs of both pursuits…. A musket ball was less likely than an arrow to be deflected by vegetation, and it also had a greater kinetic impact on the target. A deer hit with an arrow receives a very deep wound…, which, though eventually lethal, might require the hunter to pursue the bleeding deer for some distance. In contrast, a musket penetrates flesh, shatters bone, and creates a larger wound cavity. It “smacks,” whereas an arrow “slices….” A military musketball at 50 yards hits a target with 706 foot pounds of kinetic energy. An arrow from a typical modern bow hits at 50 yards with 50 to 80 foot pounds of energy. This is more than enough to penetrate flesh and tissue and produce a killing wound, but it is much less likely to drop an animal in its tracks.

The musket has similar advantages against humans. Much of a human target is limbs, especially when walls or trees are used to cover the trunk of the body. An arrow wound to the leg or arm is rarely lethal, although it can be debilitating. But a musketball strike to the arm or leg may shatter the bone and is more likely to carry debris into the wound, lead to infection, sepsis, and death.… In the immediate term, a man with a shattered leg or arm, flung to the ground by the weight of a musket shot, also makes a better target for being taken prisoner…. Unable to flee, he becomes vulnerable and may hold up his fellows trying to carry him away from the field…. More obviously, bullets cannot be dodged, whereas arrows in flight over any distance (especially on an arcing trajectory) can be seen and dodged. Modern film footage of the Dani people’s arrow and javelin battles in New Guinea shows this process clearly, and numerous European witnesses commented on the Amerindians’ ability to dodge arrows.

Empires and Indigenes, pp. 56-58

Emphases mine.

Players of fantasy RPGs should note the quoted effective range for bows. Many games have much longer distances, but those are derived from battlefields where archers are loosing volleys at large enemy formations. Gamers should further note the easy of dodging an arrow at anything beyond short range.

Limitations Become Irrelevant

July 2, 2022
The Ancient One:
Matter is energy which is all around us. Sorcery is simply the art of wielding that energy….
Control the forces around your hands, and limitations become irrelevant.

— “Doctor Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme” (2007)

Not eliminated. Just irrelevant.

The Terrain Is Not an Obstacle

July 2, 2022
Sergeant Hazard:
From here on in, you guys are Charlie. Glide through this shit; you don’t clomp through it. Feel the terrain. Feel it, don’t fight it. This jungle is not an obstacle. It’s your friend. Use it. Let it help you. Love it. Love it, and it’ll love you back.

— “Gardens of Stone” (1987)

If It Weren’t For Mob Contracts, Americans Wouldn’t Eat Pizza

June 28, 2022
Harry “the Hunch”:
Who’s the muscle on the Cerrera hit?
Vinny:
Nobody I know.
Harry “the Hunch”:
Well, if it weren’t for outside contracts, Americans wouldn’t eat pizza.
Vinny:
How do you figure?
Harry “the Hunch”:
Aww, this business is doomed ’cause you kids ain’t got no sense of history! Now Lucky figured the best way to get rid of a business problem was to bring in outside muscle. Make the hit, send ’em home. Works to this day. But Genovese, he opened a pizza parlor in Red Hook. Brought in Sicilian muscle to work it. They’d stay a week, a month; get a go on a hit; and boom. Back to Sicily with an American fortune. Next thing you know, there’s pizza stands from Brooklyn to Baltimore.

— “New Blood” – Wiseguy, Season 1 (1987)

There Is No Safety to Be Found In a Sword

June 25, 2022
It is dangerous to go alone. Take this.... No, there is no safety to be found in a sword. A sword brings death. It does not give life. It is a responsibility. A burden. This is no gift. This is a curse.

Used without permission.

What You Give Up to Your Adversary in the Feet Is Everything

June 25, 2022
Connor MacLeod:
Duncan, what you give up to your adversary in the feet is everything.

— “Highlander: Endgame” (2000)

Strong and Subtle, Restless and Powerful

June 22, 2022

“You need one more thing,” Elric said.

“I can’t fit another thing,” Galen said, turning to face Elric.

Across his open palms, Elric held a staff. Given during the welcoming ceremonies that ended the convocation, a staff or other gift of magic was a teacher’s acknowledgment that his apprentice had become a mage. Elric nodded.

Over four feet long, the staff was a lustrous black, with golden etchings of circuits in finest filigree. It fit perfectly into Galen’s hand, warm and smooth and balanced, as if a new limb had sprouted there.

“Associate,” Elric said.

Galen looked to the chrysalis on his table, found that it was missing a small piece from the end of its “tail.” Elric had incorporated it into the staff, making the staff a part of Galen, an extension of him. The staff was a combination of the advanced tech of the Taratimude, which powered the staff and connected it to him, and the technology currently within the power of the mages, with which various tools had been built into the staff.

Galen closed his eyes and focused on it, visualized the equation for association.

It awoke, echoing his equation. A subtle vibration of energy slipped into him. The vibration was echoed back by the implants, echoed again by the staff. The echoes came faster, growing stronger and sharper, reflecting back and forth like the ringing of a bell in a bell tower, swelling in rapid reverberation. His mind raced. He didn’t know if he could control it. Wild energies could escape. Elric could be injured. Elric could be disappointed. Galen must figure out how to prevent that. Galen must not allow that….

And what was happening to him?

The energy from the chrysalis had combined with the undercurrent from the implants to produce a surge of nervous anticipation, as if he’d been injected with adrenaline. He’d read of this effect—parallelism, they called it—and knew that mages became accustomed to it, over time.

He recited the prime numbers, silently, deliberately. The orderly progression echoed back to him, calming him. The vibration remained, yet its intensity lessened.

The staff was now a part of him, a new limb. A menu of options appeared in his mind’s eye, reflecting the more traditional part of the staff’s technology. He studied the possibilities. It could control, hold, and channel energies. It could observe; it could record. It could destroy itself, if he deemed necessary.

He closed his eyes, carefully visualizing the equation to dissociate. The connection broke, the vibration died. His limb went to sleep.

Yet the undercurrent of energy from the implants felt stronger than ever. Galen realized he had begun to grow accustomed to it. Now that he was attuned to it, he began to realize how truly strong it was, a resonance more intimate and subtle than that with the chrysalis, one that was quickly becoming a part of him. It was restless and powerful, quick to respond. No wonder mages got in so many fights. He must control it, always.

“In time, you will feel more comfortable with the staff,” Elric said.

Galen nodded, holding the smooth, sleeping surface away from his body. “Thank you.”

“You will find it unnecessary under most circumstances. Yet it can be helpful when a sophisticated channeling of energy is needed.”

Casting Shadows, chapter 7

Emphasis mine.

Luminous Beings Are We

June 22, 2022
Yoda:
Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it; makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you: here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere….

— “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980)

Emphasis mine. This is the original, understated spirituality of the Star Wars saga.

Commercializing Armed Violence

June 2, 2022

Initially, the decay of primary group solidarity within the leading cities of Italy and of the town militias which were its military expression invited chaos. Armed adventurers, often originating from north of the Alps, coalesced under informally elected leaders and proceeded to live by blackmailing local authorities, or, when suitably large payments were not forthcoming, by plundering the countryside. Such “free companies” of soldiers became more formidable as the fourteenth century [C.E.] advanced. In 1354, the largest of these bands, numbering as many as 10,000 armed men, accompanied by about twice as many camp followers, wended its way across the most fertile parts of central Italy, making a living by sale and resale of whatever plunder the soldiers did not consume directly on the spot. Such a traveling company was, in effect, a migratory city, for cities, too, lived by extracting resources from the countryside through a combination of force or threat of force (rents and taxes) on the one hand and more or less free contractual exchanges (artisan goods for food and raw materials) on the other.

The spectacle of a wealthy countryside ravaged by wandering bands of plundering armed men was as old as organized warfare itself. What was new in this situation was the fact that enough money circulated in the richer Italian towns to make it possible for citizens to tax themselves and use the proceeds to buy the services of armed strangers. Then, simply by spending their pay, the hired soldiers put tax monies back in circulation. Thereby, they intensified the market exchanges that allowed such towns to commercialize armed violence in the first place. The emergent system thus tended to become self-sustaining. The only problem was to invent mutually acceptable contractual forms and practical means for enforcing contract terms.

From a taxpayer’s point of view, the desirability of substituting the certainty of taxes for the uncertainty of plunder depended on what one had to lose and how frequently plundering bands were likely to appear. In the course of the fourteenth century, enough citizens concluded that taxes were preferable to being plundered to make the commercialization of organized violence feasible in the richer and better-governed cities of northern Italy. Professionalized fighting men had precisely parallel motives for preferring a fixed rate of pay to the risks of living wholly on plunder. Moreover, as military contracts (Italian condotta, hence condottiere, contractor) developed, rules were introduced specifying the circumstances under which plundering was permissible. Thus, in becoming salaried, soldiering did not entirely lose its speculative economic dimension.

The Pursuit of Power, pp. 73-74

Emphasis mine.

I See a Red Sash, I Kill the Man Wearing It

May 25, 2022
Wyatt Earp:
The Cowboys are finished, you understand me?! I see a red sash, I kill the man wearin’ it!
So run, you cur! Run! Tell all the other curs the law’s comin’! You tell ’em I’m coming! And Hell’s coming with me, you hear?! Hell’s coming with me!

— “Tombstone” (1993)

All Non-Hominids Are Psykers

May 25, 2022
anthropomorphous adjective. Shaped like a human being.

I have been giving thought to defining the Rhydin solar system. As Rhydin is a cross-genre campaign world, its solar system is likewise. So science fantasy. I am starting my definition from the science end of the spectrum (e.g., space is a vacuum) and “softening” the science with fantasy only as needed.

The first detail I am working out is how non-anthropomorphous aliens participate in a world adapted by hominids (e.g., humans, elves, dwarves, etc.) for themselves?

While fictional worlds may include non-anthropomorphous species, they are structured like the real world: reshaped by intelligent anthropomorphous beings for their own benefit. Hands with opposable thumbs begot tool use and the literal reshaping of the world. Speech communication via a voice box begot mutual understanding and information sharing from one person to many.

Fantasy worlds can utilize the mythological trope of magical animals that can talk and/or use human objects. Snakes do not have voice boxes, so sentient snakes cannot speak as hominids do. Spiders do not have hands, so sentient spiders cannot use hominid tools. How can either sentient species construct spaceships to travel into outer space?

They do have minds. They have psychic abilities inherent to the entire species. (Space magic.)

Telepathy need only be broadcasting to clone speech communication.

Telekinesis would need to clone both the physical strength of the hominid arm and the finely-controlled manual dexterity that fingers are capable of. Also needs the ability to manipulate two objects at once.

This line of thought means that psychic ability is nearly universal. Only in the anthropomorphous would it be optional—they are the exception to the rule.

The Greeks Were the Vikings of the Bronze Age

May 17, 2022

The Greeks were the Vikings of the Bronze Age. They built some of history’s first warships. Whether on large expeditions or smaller sorties, whether in the king’s call-up or on freebooting forays, whether as formal soldiers and sailors or as traders who turned into raiders at a moment’s notice, whether as mercenaries, ambassadors, or hereditary guest-friends, the Greeks fanned out across the Aegean and into the eastern and central Mediterranean, with one hand on the rudder and the other on the hilt of a sword. What the sight of a dragon’s head on the stem post of a Viking ship was to an Anglo-Saxon, the sight of a bird’s beak on the stem post of a Greek galley was to a Mediterranean islander or Anatolian mainlander. In the 1400s [B.C.E.], the Greeks conquered Crete, the southwestern Aegean islands, and the city of Miletus on the Aegean coast of Anatolia, before driving eastward into Lycia and across the sea to Cyprus. In the 1300s they stirred up rebels against the Hittite overlords of western Anatolia. In the 1200s they began muscling their way into the islands of the northeastern Aegean, which presented a big threat to Troy….

The Trojan War, pp. 2-3

Emphasis mine.