Saturday, July 3, 2010


One of my favorite poems is Ozymandias.  Not just the more well known Shelley version, but I'd say even more so the competing version by Horace Smith.  Both are below as inspiration and you can decide which version speaks to you more.

As a historian the rise, fall, and rise again of man over and over throughout history is intriguing.  Most notable is that at man's zenith in any particular civilization, he becomes arrogant and assumes his sliver of time on the top in a given age is the pinnacle of human existence and that it shall never end.  History shows time and again that is not the case, as a collapse inevitably comes, and man must find his way again through the wilderness.

In both versions of Ozymandias each poet deals with this arrogance of man and civilization in a different tone, yet both are evocative and powerful for different reasons.  It's the individual poets focus that creates a different sense and emotion for the reader.

So how does this apply to gaming?  Consider the lowly dungeon.  Though not always the case, in general it is a ruin from a past time being explored.  The Referee should consider if those who came before were at the height of their civilization?  In an ascendancy cut short?  Were the builders the result of a race in hiding or survival mode during their decline?  When you decide at what point the builders constructed their dungeon, then that will influence what is found by the new age explorers as well as color how you present the dungeon and how the builders present themselves to the players exploring.  Without further rambling-the poems:

In Egypt's sandy silence, all alone,
    Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
    The only shadow that the Desart knows: --
"I am great OZYMANDIAS," saith the stone,
    "The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
"The wonders of my hand." -- The City's gone, --
    Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
The site of this forgotten Babylon. We wonder, -- and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro' the wilderness
    Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
He meets some fragments huge, and stops to guess
    What powerful but unrecorded race
    Once dwelt in that annihilated place.
--Horace Smith 1818

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

--Percy Bysshe Shelley 1818

Additional Note:
There was a solo adventure The Security Station from Metagaming for TFT that dealt with this idea quite well.  Sort of an S3 for the Fantasy Trip...
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