Friday, 12 November 2010

It Has No Name

It has no name. Many brave men died to bring it here from the Galaxy of Pleasure... It will make your nights with Ming more... agreeable.

OK, that's not actually the right scene in the picture but I always rated Ornella Muti over Melody Anderson so that's what you get. (Anyway Princess Aura was clearly very, very dirty and probably really enjoyed Klytus and his bore-worms...)

That's a really inspirational line, reminiscent of the "Many Bothans died to bring us this information" line from Empire. Why do I like this and find it sets the ideas a-flowing when it's clearly just a throwaway thing in the original script?

OK, firstly what is The Galaxy of Pleasure? A whole galaxy dedicated to hedonism? The mind boggles. Perhaps it's a myth, a Shangri-La that many adventurers have died trying to find. So maybe that's just a story, there is no "Galaxy of Pleasure", but the thing with no name has such a reputation that popular myth can only see it coming from such because it's much more romantic than the reality which might be quite prosaic.

This doesn't help your adventurers when the artifact-of-the-month has a back story like this that gives no clues about it's location. Also, perhaps there is a Galaxy of Pleasure hidden away, and perhaps it gets better the closer to the centre you get, but then the flip side is that it becomes more difficult to drag yourself away. Obviously this doesn't have to a galaxy and for D&D it's almost certainly better than it isn't a whole galaxy. An Emperor's palace laid out in concentric rings? A temple of Slaanesh? The private estates of a decadent Dark Elf? You'd always be wondering what was at the very centre.

Secondly, the idea that this soma or liquor has no name. Why not? Maybe a superstition. If many brave men died whilst transporting it to Mongo and probably carry on doing so to fetch more perhaps it's regarded as akin to the Koh-i-noor and cursed because of all the blood metaphorically splashed up it's side. A treasure so whispered about and so potent that nobody dared to put a label on it. Names have power (as any demonologist is aware). If it has no name, then nobody can discuss it and that itself has power in a Newspeak fashion - I can imagine Ming making the uttering of it's name punishable by death to stop the peasantry getting any ideas above their station. Imagine if saying "The One Ring" brought Nazguls to your door. Imagine if saying it whilst in the servitude of Sauron brought swift execution.

(I have a half-memory from somewhere in Tolkien, that the inhabitants of Mordor were forbidden from speaking Sauron's name, but I may be wrong in that respect. Even if not it's a good idea).

Thirdly, it's clearly a fantastically valuable treasure and it's acquisition is as much a demonstration of raw power as anything else. How do your adventurers feel about a well-paid quest to recover something so trivial but the whole job is so dangerous and possibly other big cheeses feel the need to demonstrate their raw power and take it from the adventurer's cold, dead hands. It's one thing to risk life and limb bringing the important antidote to Nurgle's Rot back to your home city, another thing entirely to risk life and limb admittedly in exchange for fabulous wealth but for something this trifling - I find that an interesting proposition. You could even take it to it's logical extreme in that the item is of no real value at all - the wine is dreadful and barely palatable but the difficulties involved in reaching it's lands of production such that it becomes priceless.

Flip flop that and perhaps the patron wishes to prove his power by taking something that is priceless and of incomparable quality and then showing how he gives it to his slaves to clean the drains with. How do your bloodied and battered adventurers sitting on their newly minted piles of gold think about that one?

1 comment:

  1. Well thought out, I think the nearest I've come to this in a game was a tournament where the PCs were sent on a quest to retrieve a flower (pretty, unique, useless) from the Jungle at the Edge of the World while the decadent empire they were from slid into civil war. There was a sense of 'all that...for this ?'