Dojo Darelir, the School of Xenograg the Sorcerer

Posts Tagged ‘geography’


A Rough, Stark World

…The country [of tenth century Castile] is high and bare, though it may have been more thickly wooded in the early Middle Ages than it is today….

…Large tracts of land were still untamed, roamed by wild pigs and cattle, wolves and probably bears…. They were roamed also by voluntary or involuntary drop-outs from human society such as hermits or outlaws….

It was a rough, stark world where status mattered, justice was uncomplicated, and war never far away.

Richard Fletcher, The Quest for El Cid, chapter 5

This sounds like a great setting for a fantasy roleplaying game.

Not Quite a Chessboard: the Plain as Battlefield

In warfare the plain—a relatively large, open, and uninterrupted battleground—is like a giant chessboard. With room to maneuver, opposing commanders may have many options. They must weigh up strengths and weaknesses—their own as well as the enemy’s. Flanking, probing, enveloping, it is a game in which numbers and maneuverability are often critical. As in chess, the battle often involves the constriction and isolation of key elements of the opposing force. But like all geographic features, the picture is not quite as two dimensional as the word “plain” might suggest. We are not talking about beautifully smooth playing fields, but individual sites with their own unique characteristics. For example…Issus was fought on a coastal plain in what is now Turkey where movement was constricted on both flanks: one by the sea, the other by inland foothills. As it happened, these geographic “bookends” worked in Alexander’s favor, as they boxed in the larger number of his Persian foe and to some extent neutralized the numerical discrepancy. Some 2,000 years later General George Custer was to learn a different lesson about numbers and maneuverability on the plains of Montana. In open spaces, movement and superior numbers are king. Brought to bay on his lonely, isolated knoll, outgunned and overrun, there could be only one, grisly, outcome. He was also to learn that plains have their own wrinkles and folds. At Little Big Horn the numerous ravines (coulees) were capable of hiding significant numbers of his enemy….

Stephenson, Michael (editor), Battlegrounds, p. 13

Emphasis mine.

Sacred Power Spots

Magicians never invent or create power spots. They only discover them. Once a spot has been recognized by a magician, he will often build an altar, pillar, or pole atop it, or leave a statue of the god who appeared to him there, or mark out a boundary. This boundary can be as simple as…[a] circle in the sand, or as spectacular as Imhotep’s massive, ornate Saqqara wall.

An altar placed on a power spot serves to mark an axis mundi. Along this central point the chaotic energies of the profane world can rush into extraordinary space. And the boundary helps to keep the energies of the sacred and profane worlds discrete—to protect the profane world from being overloaded with sacred energy, and to shield people from unintentional travels into what can be a crazy reality. If sacred space were poured freely into the profane world, it would be contaminated by it, and lose its energy.

As magicians have always known, keeping a place sacred is difficult. For all its power, sacred space is elusive and tentative. It cannot be willed to remain intact, any more than it can be commanded to appear—it is always a hierophany, a sudden, unforeseen appearance of a god. Although the great shamans could move in and out of sacred space at will, even they could not fully control extraordinary reality time. A shaman’s task was not to control but to maintain those places where sacred and profane worlds met. He was to keep the boundaries in good repair, and keep the center fresh and strong. The rest was up to the divine powers.

Robert L. Moore and Douglas Gillette, The Magician Within, pp. 138-39

Magic at the Inbetween Places

In a world so shifting and uncertain, it is not surprising that great store was set on all things that were not clearly one thing or another. At the inbetween places—rivers and borders—and at all edges, verges, brinks, rims, fringes, and dividers, anything might happen, and chaos could be loosed upon the world. It made no difference whether these were borders of space or of time. Caves, the thresholds between open air and the solidity of earth, were often entrances to the world of spirits. Wells linked the visible world with subterranean realms and had an innate enchantment that might give awareness of the future or restore the dead to life. In the space dividing foam and water or bark and tree, devils could be confined by those who knew how. Dawn and dusk were magical times, for they divided the fundamental elements of existence: night from day, darkness from light, the period when evil was abroad from the time when it was banished to its secret sanctuaries.

— Time-Life Books, Wizards and Witches, p. 12