Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Cross by the Stresla – How Christianity came to Ruritania By Father Alexander Woltze (Venice, 1840)

The Sack of the Murtzbad, 1290.
An anachronistic depiction of the sack of the port of Murtzbad during the crushing of the Old Believers by Simon the Tall.
Painting by the Dutch master, Pieter Brueghal, 1525 - 1569.

The story of the coming of Christianity and civilization to Ruritania is a long and doleful one, signposted by martyrdom and hallowed by the blood and suffering of the faithful. Though there had been some glimmerings of hope in the days of the Roman Empire when the mercenary spearmen of the Ruritannii flocked to the banner of Ammanius, the true faith made little impression upon them. It is to be remembered with great regret that the first two recorded missionaries sent from the court of Charlemange were most barbarously handled and ended their days impaled upon oak trees in a manner consistant with the piety of that rude and savage people. Their names have been lost to us, but their sacrifice is still remembered at the feat of All Hallows when their images are hung from trees and a Mass is sung in their honour in the Cathedral at Strezlau.

The next recorded missionary, Brother Cathal of Clonmacnoise enjoyed some limited success. The learned brother, who was a man of some education and great parts, won by his skill and wit, the toleration if not the acceptance of the Christian faith. The tribes united under King Ulric the Bad made war on their neighbours with vigour and made use of the accounting skills of Brother Cathal, but regrettably when King Ulric was most treacherously, but well deservedly slain, his successor did not look kindly upon the man who had helped his predecessor enumerate his subjects and organize their taxation. Brother was burned alive in a fire kindled with his own books.

Others followed his example with similarly unpleasant results, until it became clear that the cross was not to be brought to Ruritania except by the sword.

Frankish friars from the court of Charlemange – Impaled on oak trees

Cathal of Clonmacnoise – Burned alive

Duirmuid of Glendalough – Sawn in half

William of Trent – Hung from an oak tree

Brother Cian of One Eye – Boiled alive in the King's beer

Two unknown monks from Rome – Thrown down a well

Peter of Venice - Drowned in the King's bathwater

Cecilia of Paris – Ravished and insulted

Ethel the Good - Ravished and insulted

Monique the Chaste - Ravished and insulted

Jasper the unready - Insulted and ravished

George of Nantes – Worried to death by the King's hounds

Peter the Simple – Beaten to death by the King's Fool in an argument over an orange.

Roger of Berwick – Done to death by bees.

Simon of Knossos – Starved

And so it was when the Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights, Herman von Salza, having completed the conquest of eastern Prussia declared a new campaign against the barbarous slavs and sent an army composed of his bravest retainers to subdue the Ruritanians. The knights, led by Lothar the Good, took the field against the tribesmen and levies of King Kubar the One Eyed.

Kubar's control over the tribes was loose and he was forced to give battle before his forces were fully mustered. The two armies met at Danisova (Danis's river) and a great battle was fought.

From the histories of Sir Adam of Venice written by Father Mikhail the Short.

"The shields of the barbarians were as an iron wall and they stood impervious to the blows of the knights. Many gallant knights and gentlemen of quality fell before their terrible axes. The air sang with bolts and arrows and many fell dead, and it seemed that victory lay with the heathen, when King Kubar was struck down by the Almighty. He became dumb, his face dropped and he became blind in one eye. He could not bear his axe and suffered it to fall to the ground.

This sign of the Lord's wrath threw the camp of the heathen's into confusion. Some cried that the King was dead, some that he lived, some for water and still more for their gods to save them. The knights took heart and gathering themselves into a mass charged. Luther the Good was at its head with his brother Simon and their confessor, Father Alexander and many other Lords and men of quality. They trampled the barbarians beneath their horse's hooves, until they reached the bodyguard of the King.

But around Danis's hill, the royal guards stood firmly about the fallen King, who was still twitching with Divine vengeance for his sin of pride in resisting the True Faith. Never did men stand so bravely in so ill a cause and they sold their lives dearly. Luther and Alexander fell with many dead about them and the day looked black again.

However, there arose a champion from amongst the ranks of the knights. He was Rudolph the Red, of Elphberg, a poor knight of humble means, but ancient family. He was as terrible in battle as he was meek in his manner and his disposition was so sweet that all who know him loved him.

Rudolph, who had led the charge on the barbarians left wing, turned upon their centre and drove them before him. They were trapped against the banks of the Danis and were slaughted and lay in great heaps upon the ground. There then arose a great roar from King Kubar's guards standing about Danis's hill and hearing it the brave Sir Rudolph, taking arms, flew to the aid of his fellow knights.

Caught between Simon, brother of Luther, and the fury of Red Rudolph, the last guards were cut down and died to a man at the side of their King..

And so the battle was won and the heathen power cast down in the Kingdom of Ruritania."

However, those chieftains that had escaped the great slaying on the riverbank would not accept the verdict of God or battle and retreated to their fastnesses.

The struggle that followed was both long and cruel. While some of the Chieftains could be persauded to see the light of Christ, many more refused to give up their ancestral worship, which depraved though it may have been was the worship of their forefathers.

The result was not a happy one, what could not be won by reason and revelation, had to be won by the sword. There followed a dark time where knights who had hoped to win by their struggles both a kingdom for the Lord and for themselves, a little peace, were forced to take up arms again.

The heathen chieftains stood at bay and ferocious though they were in battle, they had no idea of combinations or strategy. Thus when one of their number was attacked, they would keep to their own lands and were therefore crushed one by one. Even so the crushing was neither swift nor merciful and for every chieftain that capitulated there were three that fought to the bitter end. Once their chiefs had fallen, the common people took to Christianity and thoguh there were two uprisings within living memory of the conquest, the faith which had cost so much to plant, laid deep roots.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Notes for an 1809 Kriegspiel

(culled mostly from Arnold's Thunder on the Danube and Rothenberg's Napoleon's Great Adversary)

- Austrians have shifted to a Corps structure, but they have not gained the full benefits due to institutional factors.

- Austrian Corps rest seven days out of twenty and cover approximately ten to fifteen kilometres per day.

- Berthier remains in command until Napoleon arrives.

- The Austrians have strategic surprise and inteligence superiority.

- Austrian cavalry are excellant, but lack a suitable large unit doctrine. Consequently they are more likely to succeed in small fights than large ones.

- The French Intelligence machine has only recently been mobilised and is therefore less likely to achieve results.

- The French possess a very accurate picture of the Austrian order of battle.

- Bavarian public opinion is anti-Austrian and they will fight invasion.

- Napoleon has beaten the Austrians three times before and is therefore likely to underestimate them.

- The terrain of the Eckmuhl-Abensberg-Ratisbon triangle is very close, limiting visibility and movement.

- The Austrians use converged battalions of grenadiers rather than distributing this elite throughout the army. This is unlikely significantly effect events at this scale.

- Secondary roads were routinely made impassable by adverse weather conditions.

- Davout's III Corps is an elite formation made up of veterans.

- Austrian commanders are considerably older than their French counterparts and as a rule, lead from the rear.

Excerpt from "A Child's History of Ruritania" by Mr. Esmer Fudge. London, 1852

This is more of a collection of notes than anything else.

(Dates to follow, name of X to be supplied by noted historian of the later Roman Empire, Dr. Donagh Y. MacGonagle.)

- Ptolemy first makes mention of "...a wild, barbaric people, much given to raiding and living in a very rude state on sausage and goats milk."

- The lands of the Ruritani are conquered by X and incorporated into the Western Roman Empire.

- The Ruritanian tribes unit under Donog the Bastard and rally to the banner of Aetius to defeat the Huns at the battle of Chalons.

- Fall of the Roman Empire. A dark time descends on the lands of the Ruritanii. Petty tribal chieftains fight a series of internecine wars the devastate the country. The Christianised tribes are driven out or forcibly converted.

- Ruritania fell into a morass of sin and barbarism for a period of nearly six hundred years. The folk fell into many ill practices, idol worship, polygamy and infanticide, as well as others too shocking to be described. If the Ruritanians of this period had anything to their credit it was that while this resisted Christianity, they resisted the invading Turk and Musulman just as fiercely.

902 - St. Cian of the One Eye arrive to spread the Gospel and was martyred by being boiled alive in the King's beer.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Gaelcon Weekend (part 2)

Your correspondent, in the pub, with the Spirit of Gaelcon Award and Gaelcon's Con Director. The Spirit of Gaelcon Award is a clear lucite dome holding the crumpled notes written by Gary Gygax for a seminar given at Gen Con '79-'80 (or so I'm told).

I rose late on Saturday with my sins of the previous night weighing heavily on my aching brain. I shower, a shave, a quick run around the house to gather Little Wars and I headed out. I arrived to discover that I'd forgot to bring the cards for Donogh's Memoir 44 game. Fortunately, he had already set up a game of Jump or Burn and was merrily gunning down the pride of the RFC.

Young Master Creanor and I set up Little Wars and got the first of many games rolling. The comittee had given us a nice corner of the main hall to crawl around in and lots of people came by, watched or asked to play. Now as it happened I had volunteered to GM roleplaying games for Gaelcon's RPG co-ordinator the week before, mainly because I hadn't heard back from the comittee about my offer of Little Wars.

As things panned out, Young Master Creanor took Little Wars, thanked me for bringing it and told me that I could be on my merry way as the RPG co-ordinator had need of me. I was on call for the weekend, but only ended up running three games in all, a four or five year low for me at Gaelcon I think, though nowhere near the lunacy of Warpcon 2001 and its seven games over three days.

The games themselves were pretty good; there was a relatively thin Conspiracy X game that was rescued by a group of very engaging players from up north, who managed to turn a mediocre into a pleasure for all concerned. There was a Dark Heresy (Warhammer 40,000 rpg) game written by my good buddy Xaoseed, which went very well as well, probably due to the return of the northerners to my table. It's very rare for a Convention hack GM to find himself with an entire group of people who are genuinely willing to roleplay for three hours, particularly if they don't know each other. These players, three of whom did know each other, managed not only that, but also to include the other two players, one of whom had limited English, at every point in the game.

The last game that I ran was a Star Wars game based around an Oceans Eleven style theft of a painting written by Mr. Turner, another pal. I had not originally been slated to run this game as I'm not really familiar with the new Star Wars D20 system, however one of the scheduled GMs didn't show up. As it happened I was in the bar with Uber about to eat lunch, which we'd been waiting for for quite a while. My club sandwich had just turned up when the two rpg co-ordinators, Fatz and Boomer, showed up with the news that there were six players in the rpg room waiting for a GM that wasn't going to show up and could I read the scenario on the way there?

I opened my mouth to say something, when Boomer grabbed my sandwich and ran from the bar, through the hotel lobby and down to the rpg room. I was in hot pursuit when I realised that I hadn't paid for the sandwich and had to run back. Needless to say, by the time I got there, I couldn't really disappoint the six happy smiling faces around the table by grabbing my food and running away, so I pretty much had to stay and run the game. It wasn't bad for a game run on the fly.

There wasn't much wargaming of me over the weekend, I played one game of Jim's Napoleonic adaption of Battlelore, tearing defeat from the very jaws of victory in the process. I would have gotten away with it too if it wasn't for those meddling Grenadiers of the Guard!

Mrs. Kinch, Donogh and I, amongst others, led Table 5 to victory in the Gaelcon pub quiz, winning some t-shirts or mugs or something for our pains. What does the prize matter? Glory lasts forever!

Gaelcon 2008 will always be a special one for me as it was the year that something very special and very unexpected happened. I was given the "Spirit of Gaelcon" award. The "Spirit of Gaelcon" is given to someone the committee feels has contributed heavily to the convention. In my case, I was told it was more of a life time achievement award.

It was a profoundly humbling experience. I gave a speech infront of the assembled con goers that I've been told was inspirational. I don't really remember, I was shaking too much. My only clear memory of what happened was standing there, utterly speechless, until a good friend of mine yelled from the crowd.

"Just give the wedding speech again, it was good the first time!"

I ended up using the same opening gag. Which got a laugh and jump started my brain enough to say something which was well recieved.

Your correspondent later in the evening,
attempting to eat part of Gary Gygax and thereby steal his power.

I've been going to Gaelcon since 1993, when at the age of 13 I was taken on an "improving" trip to the modern art museum that shared a venue with the con. I wandered off, trying to find somewhere quiet to read my book and found myself surrounded by gamers.

I've missed a couple over the years, but not many and it's been great. I've worked on the committee, written games, met great friends and had a lot of good times. Gaelcon has enriched my life and I only hope that I've put even half as much back in as I've gotten out of it.