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Friday, 10 September 2010

Dear Psyche sweet entranced

This is Claude's famous painting of Psyche outside the palace of Cupid (usually known as "The Enchanted Castle") and the reason it's here is that it was one of the inspirations for Mike Polling's scenario "The Key of Tirandor" which is due to appear in Magnum Opus Press's forthcoming anthology of scenarios titled In from the Cold. These are adventures that originally appeared in White Dwarf magazine in the 1980s and have now been fully revised, refined and adapted to Dragon Warriors by today's top British RPG writing talent.

Mike originally ran the campaign up at Oxford in the spring of 1980. The players included Oliver Johnson, Mark "Min" Smith, creator of Orb, and Robert Dale, sometime contributor to DW and the creator of Brymstone. Mike had intended us to use Dungeons & Dragons rules, but I had recently been commissioned by Games Workshop to design a roleplaying game called Adventure (based on Steve Foster's Mortal Combat rules) and I begged, pleaded, cajoled and arm-twisted until Mike agreed to give that a playtest.

Not only was the Tirandor campaign a big influence on Legend, it was the major inspiration for the second Blood Sword book, The Kingdom of Wyrd, with its story of a king who - but no, that would be too much of a spoiler. It also achieved Mike's goal of measuring up against great literature, in that playing it changed our lives a little. And why not? A role-playing game, after all, has as much right and potential to explore crucial themes and emotions as a novel or a play. You may or may not get the same effect from the written version because, like all great roleplaying referees, Mike let us run his scenario right off the rails. In the end it all hinged on a poem and the redemption of a character who didn't even know he'd gone bad. Near perfection!


  1. Hey, at the beginning I did not understand why you only quote the first name of the painter. Indeed, he was born less than 50 km from where I live and is thus known as "Claude le Lorrain", while his family name was "Gellée"...
    By the way, wasn't Psyche the name of Aiken/Icon's sister in DW3; she lived in a villa outside Crescentium.

  2. Hi Olivier, here in Britain he's usually just known as Claude, the same way Leonardo and Michaelangelo are known by their first names. I didn't know his family name.

    Aiken's sister's name was really Saiki, but people in the West wrote that as Psyche. Aiken has a rant in either Book 3 or 4 about people interpreting his name as "Icon".