Goodman Games

Fan Forums
It is currently Fri Oct 24, 2014 2:31 pm

All times are UTC - 6 hours




Forum locked This topic is locked, you cannot edit posts or make further replies.  [ 6 posts ] 
Author Message
 Post subject: Game-relevant passages from Jack Vance on gods and magic
PostPosted: Wed Jun 15, 2011 7:35 pm 
Offline
Far-Sighted Wanderer

Joined: Thu Jun 09, 2011 5:03 am
Posts: 44
I think DCC judges might be interested in how Jack Vance actually had a coherent theory of how Dying Earth magic worked, but Gygax mostly ignored it.

Vance's Dying Earth clearly emphasizes the importance of knowledge, analysis, independent thinking, research, empiricism, as opposed to rote memorization.
From Grognardia,

http://grognardia.blogspot.com/2010/10/ ... llous.html

quoting the foreword to Rhialto the Marvellous:
Quote:
A spell in essence corresponds to a code, or set of instructions, inserted into the sensorium of an entity which is able and not unwilling to alter the environment in accordance with the message conveyed by the spell.

Vance likewise states that
Quote:
"Magic is a practical science, or, more properly, a craft, since emphasis is placed on utility, rather than basic understanding."


What are these "entities" that are psychically linked to all humans?
On demons:
Quote:
Since Blikdak is a demon .. ."
"Consider him!" spoke Kerlin. "His lineaments, his apparatus. He is nothing else but anthropoid, and such is his origin, together with all the demons, frits and winged glowing-eyed creatures that infest latter-day Earth. Blikdak, like the others, is from the mind of man. The sweaty condensation, the stench and vileness, the cloacal humors, the brutal delights, the rapes and sodomies, the scatophilac whims, the manifold tittering lubricities that have drained through humanity formed a vast tumor; so Blikdak assumed his being, so now this is he. You have seen
how he molds his being, so he performs his enjoyments.



So Vance was not a crusading materialist like L. Sprague de Camp. Vance was aware of humanity's endless preoccupation with occult topics, and regarded them as meaningful on some level, but inferior to rational thought.

Vance's magical spells, then,

Quote:
now, in the last fleeting moments, humanity festers rich as rotten fruit. Rather than master and overpower our world, our highest aim is to cheat it through sorcery…. I am dissatisfied with the mindless accomplishments of the magicians, who have all their lore by rote."


The heroes of The Dying Earth, particularly Turjan, were essentially technicians who had never received proper training in scientific thinking. Once those technicians received the rudiments of critical thinking and education, they tended to discard the ethos of magical memorization.

Rhialto was a considerably more decadent figure, who was much less heroic, because he was content to exercise power without understanding, without intellectual curiosity.

For most of his eponymous novel, Rhialto the Marvellous does not cast spells! For most of his adventures, Rhialto had a servant-spirit whom he ordered about like a slave. This "entity" was a condensation of real human psychic energy, just like Blikdak the demon. However, Rhialto's slave was easy to coerce and generally unmotivated. Blikdak was hard to coerce, and highly motivated to harm humans.

The third chapter of The Dying Earth, T'Sais, includes a witches' sabbath, wherein witches summon demons by acting in ways that would please demons. This reinforces the notion that demons have independent existence, but are fundamentally linked to human consciousness.

The same story includes the following notion of a god:
Quote:
...a race of just people lived in a land east of the Maurenron Mountains,
. . . These people had no god, and presently they felt the need of one whom they might worship. So they built a lustrous temple of gold, glass and granite, wide as the Scaum River where it flows through the Valley of Graven Tombs, as long again, and higher than the trees of the north. And this race of honest men assembled in the temple, and all flung a mighty prayer, a worshipful invocation, and, so legend has it, a god molded by the will of this people was brought into being, and he was of
their attributes, a divinity of utter justice.


So, in Vance's world, the kind of gods that are worshipped appear to be just as much creations of human consciousness as demons. Gods of virtue can be created by many virtuous people who dedicated themselves to virtuous thoughts.

So, in Vance's world, magic could be unlimited, if only the people of the Dying Earth could summon up the ambition to learn some math and gather in cooperative colleges.

Quote:
In this fashion did Turjan enter his apprenticeship to Pandelume. Day and far into the opalescent Embelyon night he worked under Pandelume's unseen tutelage. He learned the secret of renewed youth, many spells of the ancients, and a strange abstract lore that Pandelume termed "Mathematics."
"Within this instrument," said Pandelume, "resides the Universe. Passive in itself and not of sorcery, it elucidates every problem, each phase of existence, all the secrets of time and space. Your spells and runes are built upon its power and codified according to a great underlying mosaic of magic. The design of this mosaic we cannot surmise; our knowledge is didactic, empirical, arbitrary. Phandaal glimpsed the pattern and so was able to formulate many of the spells which bear his name. I have endeavored through the ages to break the clouded glass, but so far my research has failed. He who discovers the pattern will know all of sorcery and be a man powerful beyond comprehension."
So Turjan applied himself to the study and learned many of the simpler routines.
"I find herein a wonderful beauty," he told Pandelume. "This is no science, this is art, where equations fall away to elements like resolving chords, and where always prevails a symmetry either explicit or multiplex, but always of a crystalline serenity."



If Turjan and Pandelume had concentrated their efforts on recruiting loyal apprentices, they might have built a new civilization with unlimited magic. The greatest conflict would be human irrationality.

Quote:
Kandive brought forth a crackling scroll, and, whipping it open, read:
" 'Ampridatvir now is lost. My people have forsaken the doctrine of strength and discipline and concern themselves only with superstition and theology. Unending is the bicker: Is Pansiu the excellent principle and Cazdal depraved, or is Cazdal the virtuous god, and Pansiu the essential evil?
" "These questions are debated with fire and steel, and the memory sickens me; now I leave Ampridatvir to the decline which must surely come, and remove to the kind valley of Mel-Palusas, where I will end this firefly life of mine.
" 'I have known the Ampridatvir of old; I have seen the towers glowing with marvellous light, thrusting beams through the night to challenge the sun itself. Then Ampridatvir was beautiful—ah my heart pains when I think of the olden city. Semir vines cascaded from a thousand hanging gardens, water ran blue as vaul-stone in the three canals. Metal cars rolled the streets, metal hulls swarmed the air as thick as bees around a hive—for marvel of marvels, we had devised wefts of spitting fire to spurn the weighty power of Earth . . . But even in my life I saw the leaching of spirit. A surfeit of honey cloys the tongue; a surfeit of wine addles the brain; so a surfeit of ease guts a man of strength. Light, warmth, food, water, were free to all men, and gained by a minimum of effort. So the people of Ampridatvir, released from toil, gave increasing attention to faddishness, perversity, and the occult.
" 'To the furthest reach of my memory, Rogol Domedonfors ruled the city. He knew lore of all ages, secrets of fire and light, gravity and counter-gravity, the knowledge of superphysic numeration, metathasm, corolopsis. In spite of his profundity, he was impractical in his rule, and blind to the softening of Ampridatvirian spirit. Such weakness and lethargy as he saw he ascribed to a lack of education, and in his last years he evolved a tremendous machine to release men from all labor, and thus permit full leisure for meditation and ascetic discipline.
" 'While Rogol Domedonfors completed his great work, the city dissolved into turbulence—the result of a freak religious hysteria.



So magic in Vance's Dying Earth is even better than super-science. With super-science one might need some copper or electricity to get started. With magic, one does not even need a toy chemistry set to bootstrap civilization - IF one has incorruptible dedication. The problem of magic is that because it is nearly infinite in power, it is nearly infinite in its ability to corrupt.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Game-relevant passages from Jack Vance on gods and magic
PostPosted: Thu Jun 16, 2011 2:43 pm 
Offline
Cold-Hearted Immortal
User avatar

Joined: Fri Jun 26, 2009 5:42 am
Posts: 2263
Location: Chicago suburbs
Nice research there! 8)

That's the kind of thing we need around here -- some Appendix N quotes to help guide game development. :D

_________________
Marv / Finarvyn
DCC Minister of Propaganda; Deputized 6/8/11
Image
DCC RPG playtester 2011, C&C playtester 2003,T&T since 2003,
ADRP Since 1993, OD&D player since 1975

"The worthy GM never purposely kills players' PCs, He presents opportunities for the rash and unthinking players to do that all on their own."
-- Gary Gygax
"Don't ask me what you need to hit. Just roll the die and I will let you know!"
-- Dave Arneson


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Game-relevant passages from Jack Vance on gods and magic
PostPosted: Fri Jun 17, 2011 10:54 pm 
Offline
Hard-Bitten Adventurer

Joined: Sat Jul 15, 2006 12:09 pm
Posts: 178
What an enlightening post. Thank you! I love Jack Vance's Dying Earth book (though I find its sequels forgettable).

_________________
Click here for a review of Isle of the Unknown, a Wilderlands-style hex-crawl (only more so).


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Game-relevant passages from Jack Vance on gods and magic
PostPosted: Sat Jun 18, 2011 6:50 pm 
Offline
Far-Sighted Wanderer

Joined: Thu Jun 09, 2011 5:03 am
Posts: 44
Geoffrey wrote:
What an enlightening post. Thank you! I love Jack Vance's Dying Earth book (though I find its sequels forgettable).


You're very welcome.

I'm not an expert on pulp literature, but I wager that there are many readers of this board who can fill in the gaps of my knowledge.

For example, Leiber's Lankhmar sorcery was very different from Leiber's depiction of occult forces in his modern-day urban fantasy stories like "Gather, Darkness" and "Conjure, Wife."

At some times, I think Leiber was very sympathetic to modern-day occultists; at other times, I suspect he was very hostile to them, much like de Camp.

Leiber's Lankhmar stories are more relevant to DCC than Vance's Dying Earth stories, so if there are any Leiber experts reading this, I think we would all like to hear from you.

(Lovecraft experts and Howard experts would also be welcome.)


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Game-relevant passages from Jack Vance on gods and magic
PostPosted: Sun Jun 19, 2011 3:32 pm 
Offline
Cold-Hearted Immortal
User avatar

Joined: Fri Jun 26, 2009 5:42 am
Posts: 2263
Location: Chicago suburbs
yfr wrote:
Leiber's Lankhmar stories are more relevant to DCC than Vance's Dying Earth stories, so if there are any Leiber experts reading this, I think we would all like to hear from you.
I always hesitate to call myself an "expert" but I've read the Lankhmar stories several times. The tricky thing in those stories is that most of the spellcasting seems to happen "behind the curtain" instead of right there where you can see it. Same thing about Conan stories. The wizard is casting something, you know he's casting something, but most of the time the details are left quite vague. We see the effect but not the cause.

I'll dust off my Lankhmar books and skim through again to see if I can come up with anything more specific.

_________________
Marv / Finarvyn
DCC Minister of Propaganda; Deputized 6/8/11
Image
DCC RPG playtester 2011, C&C playtester 2003,T&T since 2003,
ADRP Since 1993, OD&D player since 1975

"The worthy GM never purposely kills players' PCs, He presents opportunities for the rash and unthinking players to do that all on their own."
-- Gary Gygax
"Don't ask me what you need to hit. Just roll the die and I will let you know!"
-- Dave Arneson


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Game-relevant passages from Jack Vance on gods and magic
PostPosted: Mon Jun 20, 2011 11:46 am 
Offline
Chaos-Summoning Sorcerer

Joined: Mon Mar 14, 2011 5:28 am
Posts: 779
Well, corruption effects of spells will always work better in a narrative because the author chooses when corruption happens and what the effect is, presumably, to further the plot.


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Forum locked This topic is locked, you cannot edit posts or make further replies.  [ 6 posts ] 

All times are UTC - 6 hours


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group