Subject: Troll Drinking Belches, Volume 6, Number 8 RQDIGESTV06N08 First Distribution: July 3, 1991 This issue: Some ideas for a Byzantine "Alternate Earth" Patrick Waterson & setting Michael O'Brien Further ideas about a Byzantine "Alternate Patrick Waterson & Earth" setting Michael O'Brien A Reading List for RQ -- Byzantine Pack Michael O'Brien ====================================================================== "BYZ PACK" Some ideas for a Byzantine "Alternate Earth" setting by Patrick Waterson & Michael O'Brien Copyright 1990, 1991 Patrick Waterson & Michael O'Brien, all rights reserved. All or part of this article may be freely copied for non-commercial use, provided that this notice is included in said copies and/or derivations (fixes/changes), and that proper attribution is made. Any other use, without written permission from the authors, is prohibited. INTRODUCTION This paper serves as the basis for discussion, play-testing and development of a RQ scenario pack set in an "Alternate Earth" Byzantine Empire setting. It is by no means complete and is meant merely to serve as a springboard for expansion. Your comments are most welcome, either through RQ Digest, or by writing to us at: Australia: Michael O'Brien 2/33 Carween Ave Mitcham, 3132 Victoria AUSTRALIA. United Kingdom: Patrick Waterson "Innisfree" Fairly Lane, Hartley, Longfield, Kent DA3 8DA, UK. SUMMARY The basis of the system is drop virtually all "theology" and simply work historical results into RQ game system effects. The Byzantine "pantheon" consists of the numerous saints, each of whom grants a specific spell or spells to a worshipper. In addition, there is a subcult that allows a follower to attempt to become a saint! Two important considerations are unique to Byzantine religion: spell gain foci and Sin Points. Foci are required to gain, not to cast, spells, and what constitutes a focus depends upon the belief (or heresy) followed. Sin points are acquired for everyday activities as swearing, drinking, whoring, playing cards, breaking the Ten Commandments, going to the theatre, chariot racing, not fasting at Lent, etc. and detrimentally affect one's spell-casting chance. The only ways to get rid of Sin Points are to join the Saint cult or (much more usual) be shriven by a priest. Note that a priest cannot shrive himself. Byzantine-style shriving involves not confession, but being blessed at a Sunday service in a church by a priest of one's own persuasion. DETAILS Integral to the concept of Byzantine religion is that of one's actual doctrinal persuasion, hereinafter termed PROFILE. A character has two beliefs: the inward or true one, and the outward or apparent one (most Byzantine sorcerers are outwardly impeccably Orthodox.) If one's real belief matches one's outer (professed) belief, one is HIGH PROFILE. Such people are passionately attached to their own sect or understanding and will die for it, if necessary. If the two do not coincide, one is LOW PROFILE. Naturally, most priests are High profile, and most worshippers Low Profile, and every Sunday the priests try to do something about it. The advantage of being High Profile is that you can convert others, which is of particular advantage if you are of a heretical faction seeking to impose your belief as the new Orthodox religion (in RQ3 "Byz pack", the Iconoclasts are in this position). The catch about being High Profile is that if your faction is proscribed or loses, or finds itself in the wrong company, you can neither lie nor recant to save your skin. Being Low Profile allows one to change with the times, but does not allow one to convert others. One can change from Low Profile to High Profile at any time, but it is not usually possible to change back at all. There is one exception to this*: anyone with "True Belief: NONE" can be High Profile in any sect or belief he chooses, and can switch beliefs/sects/factions readily and at will. Many high-ranking courtiers are of this type. Such people may not gain Divine Magic whatsoever, nor may they learn Spirit Magic, and in Sorcery they are limited to being Students. *see also "The Cult of Satan", below. So much for the concept of Profile, integral to the "feel" of Byzantine religion; to round off, here is a sample table for the religious persuasion of a Byzantine citizen. This table does not attempt to cover heathens, western Christians APPARENT religion of NPC REAL NPC religion 01-25 Orthodox 01-05 None 26-40 Iconoclast 06-07 Manicheaen 41-00 Prevailing** 08-10 Monophysite or Monothelite 11-15 Eutychian or Maronite 16 Hellenistic (Greek pantheon) 17-20 Nestorian or Jacobite 21-22 Diabolism* 23 Satan* 24-40 Iconoclast 41-55 Orthodox or Melchite 56-95 Prevailing ** 96-99 Sorcery 00 Shamanism*** * Diabolism and "Satan" are described later in this article. ** Prevailing indicates the dominant ( or at least prevalent ) sect in the area. Note that those with "prevailing " in ONE category are invariably Low Profile. *** If Shamanism is rolled for an urban inhabitant, count instead as sorcery. Where REAL and APPARENT religions match, the NPC is High Profile and therefore likely to try and convert, or at least argue with, Player Characters. SIN POINTS Every time a PC (or NPC) is placed in a Temptation situation (opportunity to steal, lie, cheat, drink, wench, gamble, etc.) he must either decide ( of his sect believes in Freewill) or make a Temptation Check (if his sect is set on Predestination) to see if he commits the Sin. A Temptation Check is a POW times 5 percentile roll, adjusted for any accrued Sin Points. EXAMPLE: a wench beckons to Basil, a POW 13 character with 27 accrued Sin Points. His Temptation Check (he is Orthodox) is 13 times 5 = 65 - 27= 38%. He rolls a 43 and goes off with the lady to sin some more. GENERAL RULE: every penny (Byzant) spent on Sin accrues one Sin Point for the performer of the Sin. Sin acts exactly as Encumbrance for the purpose of casting spells acquired through Byzantine religion. Serious sinners can be rendered incapable of Spellcasting: Sin Points may be accrued beyond the point where spellcasting is impossible. The above considers venial sins. Deadly sins have much steeper Sin Point accrual rates, usually in the order of about 50-100 for Incest and/or Murder, and about 200 for Blasphemy. (Contradicting your own true beliefs when High Profile constitutes Blasphemy.) Sin Points that leave the character with a positive cast chance can be removed by shriving- taking Bread and Wine on a Holy Day and being Blessed by a priest. Sin Points that leave the character with a negative spellcasting chance (assuming no encumbrance) can only be gotten rid of by penance. Depending upon the severity of the negative total, this can range from praying all night in front of a focus to having to enter a monastery for life: usually about 3-5 years, after which one can "begin a new life " and leave if one becomes High Profile). EXAMPLE: the penalty for a soldier who kills an enemy in war is to be excommunicate for three years: he can neither receive new spells nor clear Sin Points. For this reason, the number of Orthodox soldiers is steadily declining, and units with many Orthodox often have poor battlefield performance. As a result, increasing numbers of mercenaries are being hired. One reason for the Byzantine preference for archery en masse is that if an arrow slays a man, it is the will of God, and the archer is not responsible. To strike down a foe in hand-to-hand combat, however, is considered by Orthodox and Iconoclast alike to be an act of murder. There is one exception: to slay a heretic is not necessarily an act of murder, and therefore does not count as a sin, as long as the heretic was either personally or collectively) suitably condemned beforehand. FOCI Unlike other RQ3 cults, Byzantine cultists need a focus to receive, rather than to cast their spells. Exactly what constitutes a focus is the cause of much wrangling and dissention: to an Orthodox, an ikon is the ONLY focus by which a worshipper may receive and cast spells. To an ikonoclast, this is Blasphemy: only the worshipper's church can be used as a focus. Certain sacred relics are usable as foci: parts and possessions of saints are so usable but often only for spells related to those saints (e.g. a link of chain from St. Michael's armor for Protection; a tooth of St. George for Truesword), but a splinter of the True Cross can be used as a focus for any spell obtainable through Byzantine or Schismatic (Western Catholic) religion. (In Celtic, Irish, and Manichaean religion, the worshipper is his own focus, which causes much hatred and jealousy among the more limited Byzantine and Schismatics.) Needless to say, in game terms, there will be fairly constant trouble over uses of different foci: an Iconoclast who sees an ikon must destroy it at the first opportunity or be guilty of Blasphemy; a character who gains spells without attending Church or using an ikon will be suspected of heresy, and so forth. SORCERY Sorcerers in the Byzantine Empire are usually happy, prosperous, law-abiding citizens who keep a Low Profile and attend Church regularly every Sunday. They are discreet, reliable individuals, often well known to the local Low Profile community. They are otherwise treated as ordinary RQ sorcerers in all respects, but command (and seek) little, if any, political power. Byzantine gossips speculate that the Emperor Constantine VII Copronymus ("shit-head") was a sorceror. DIABOLISM Diabolism is a practice followed by power-hungry, sado-masochistic, partly-crazed delinquents who summon and study sorcery under demonic masters. They rarely reach the status of Adept, often make a nuisance of themselves, and are despised by regular sorcerers. who sometimes go as far as paying the local police to suppress the offending diabolists (if the local High Profile religious types do not get there first). This is because religious purges against diabolists have a way of extending to normal sorcerers once a high-profile fanatic gets in the driving seat: sorcerers prefer to nip the problem in the bud before it comes to the attention of "the religious". SAINTS Saints belong each to their own particular cult, which acts as a sort of subcult of associated cult for the provision of spells (or skills). EXAMPLE: an Orthodox initiate is going on a long journey, He donated two hundred pennies to his church, sits all night praying in front of an ikon of St. Christopher, and by morning has a PATHWATCH spell, St. Christopher's speciality as the patron saint of travel. As a general rule, any saint can be contacted at any Church that contains an appropriate relic or ikon. Churches thus seek out relics, as these increase their prestige (and worshippers, and income), and relics are largely nondenominational. There are some sect-based relics (from sect-based saints): these area usually well hidden, as they are regarded as Blasphemous by sects who do not recognize the saint in question. Saint Dismas, the patron saint of thieves, is below even this category: he is not recognized by any Byzantine sect, nor has he any relics. Certain relics or ikons, such as the True Cross, the Image of Edessa (Mandylion), or the ikon of Our Lady of Blachernae, have the power of mass inspiration and can be used with large crowds or armies to give the effect of a City Harmony or make the entire crowd/army present immune to the effects of mind-influencing spells. This requires a Ceremony to be undertaken, usually on a lavish scale, and lasts until sunset on the day of use. As previously mentioned, there is also a Saint Cult, i.e. a cult whose members can employ Divine intervention. Saints may belong to any faction, but all follow a common, rigorous code of conduct by which they live in comparative poverty, dress simply, never harm another human being, and try especially hard not to Sin, as saints-in-the-making may not be shriven! The prospective saint is then subjected to Temptation, rolling a number of tests each week equal to his POW. Every failure nets him one Sin Point; every success gains him a Virtue Point (gainable only by the Saint Cult: prospective entrants to this cult may gain Virtue Points by giving away all their worldly possessions: for every 100p worth of possessions given away, 1VP is gained. Very rich people can turn into very virtuous saints. Virtue Points are the exact opposite of Sin Points in that they enhance one's spellcasting chance; 1VP cancels 1SP and vice versa. VP's are added to the chance of resisting temptation. When the proto-saint's VP total reaches 100 (by which time the prospect will have been immune to temptation for some time) he (or she!) can get down to the really serious business of becoming a true saint. This is accomplished in one of the following ways: 1) Martyrdom - go High profile in a troubled area 2) Miracles- employ successful Divine Intervention 3)Missionary work - go High Profile among the heathen. Note that the three are by no means mutually exclusive. The goal of the saint-in-the-making is to get to 1000VP, by the following methods: *For each heathen baptized: 1VP *For each heretic converted: 3VP *For each criminal reformed 2VP *For each attested miracle: 500VP A "miracle" is the successful use of ordinary initiate Divine Intervention. (This is understandably not performed very often.) If a miracle takes EXACTLY one's POW rating to perform, then one receives double VP's (1000) and is taken up to heaven on the spot. The hard part about miracles is actually getting them attested, which has to be done at a full Church Council (these are rare: two per century on average). If your particular sect happens to be out of favour, you could wait a long time for recognition. (Needless to say, there is always a rush of miracles in the run-up to a Council.) Martyrdom gains 500VP, but is also subject to being attested: for this reason, most martyrs choose to die among the heathen, or at a pinch among the lesser popular sect at the time. If a "saint" is martyred, but returns to life through Divine Intervention. he gets only the award for a Miracle (once attested), but successfully converts every heathen present on the spot. If this occurs among heretics, only 10% are converted, and become believers (true believers) of the saint's religion. If his miracle is not attested at a Council (i.e. turned down) they lapse. Conversion is the only time one's True Belief may change, and is the only way that a High Profile Believer may change their Belief at any time, as previously seen. Conversion is pretty drastic, involving as it does a radical shift in deeply-held beliefs, and can therefore occur only under extreme duress or as the direct result of a miracle. Player Characters can always opt NOT to convert - they can never voluntarily, without duress - convert. Upon reaching 1000VP's, the character becomes a Saint (even if still alive) and can now perform miracles (if alive) or be worshipped (if dead). A still living saint must make an immediate POW times 5 (unmodified) Pride Check, and if he fails, he loses his POW times 5 in VP's and is no longer a Saint. (He may carry on trying to again reach the VP threshold.) If he passes the Pride Check, he may use any VP above 1000 that he gains as if they were POW for the purpose of fulfilling miracles only. He may use Ceremony (prayer) to increase his chance of a successful Miracle (the d100 Divine Intervention roll eats Ceremony bonus first before taking VP's), may Enchant relics (VP's plus Enchant roll: may use Ceremony to enhance: each VP is used as if it were a point of POW), and may Summon angels (Summon roll + 1VP per grade of Angel: there are nine grades.) Note that his VP total may never dip below 1000: if he has no VP's in excess of 1000, then he cannot perform miracles, Enchant, or Summon. He gains VP's at the rate of POW times 1 per week, each Sunday (Holy Day). He is, of course, constantly sought out by people importuning for miracles , favours, and the like. For this reason, many Saints prefer to retire to inaccessible places. A constant source of annoyance to Byzantines is that Irish, Celtic and Manichaean sects duplicate the Saint cult in almost every detail, but seem to produce more Saints. The reason is simple: Irish, Celtic and Manichaean cults can continue to gain VP's by resisting Temptation even after 100 VP's are attached and do not have to employ other methods listed, albeit they are free to do so (except Manichaeans, who are forbidden to make converts). Another useful feature is that miracles in these cults are NOT subject to attestation: they take affect immediately. Martyrdom is likewise on the spot to Irish and Celtic sects: it is not granted to Manichaeans. Manichaeans are, however, the only sect officially allowed by its own clergy to study sorcery, but may not progress beyond Students. SATAN The Satan Cult consists of misguided people seduced by the Dark Side trying to pass themselves off as saints. The individuals concerned fervently believe themselves to be doing good, and will not be persuaded otherwise, They act as a parody of the Saint Cult, with the following stipulation: Instead of VP's, Flagellation Points are used to "cancel" Sin Points. Each flagellation point suffered removes one Fatigue point as well as one Sin Point. Taking Flagellation Points equal to one's CON at a single sitting loses the unfortunate recipient one Hit Point: it is possible to die of exhaustion "expiating" a mortal Sin under the auspices of this cult. "Flagellation" is general term encompassing all manner of harsh and painful pursuits aimed at "cancelling" sin. Furthermore, the requirements for "Sainthood" are expressed in terms of Penitence Points, which are earned as follows: *For each person converted to the Satan Cult 2 PPs *For each person refusing conversion killed 5 PPs *For each such person upon whom FP's are inflicted to prior to death or conversion 1 PP per 10 FPs *For martyrdom 1000 PPs The Satan Cult never operates under its own banner: it always acts in the name of the cult of apparent belief. Its ultimate aim is to take over all such cults and set them about each other by the ears. All Satan Cultists are ALWAYS High Profile in their professed belief. They do however use this belief as a cloak to spread the precepts of the Cult of Satan, while believing that what they are doing is trying to spread the true principles of Byzantine religion. The Cult of Satan also stages spurious miracles, on the grounds that any means are justified in spreading the "True Belief". Thus, Orthodox Satan cultists will stage spurious Orthodox miracles, Monophysite Satan cultists will produce fake Monophysite miracles, and from Satan Cult traders will come a steady flow of spurious relics (including some from Satan Cult saints). Where Satan cultists seek martyrdom they do so by stirring up inter-sect hatred and then leading a howling, ravening mob to destroy their sect's immediate opponents (getting 5 PP for every opponent killed; more if the opponent is cruelly done to death), and seeking to get killed in the performance of their "duty", thus giving their followers and co-religionists an excuse for more violence. Such martyrdoms are subject to being attested, and the Satan cult usually gets such attestation in the name of the "host" cult on the strength of inter-cult rivalry. As will readily be surmised, the Satan cult is a vast cheat that lives on the delusions of others, so it will come as no surprise to learn that "saints" of the Satan cult have no power themselves, bestows no powers on their followers, and are worshipped only because people fear something bad will happen to them if these "saints" are not given their proper observances. In addition, Flagellation Points have no effect whatsoever on Sin Points except in the Satan Cultist's imagination, so cultists of Satan quickly lose the ability to cast spells. They, however, tend to label ANY person who casts spells as a sorceror and devil-worshipper, and their strident voice is increasingly heard in Church Councils (and from pulpits). As a result, more and more and more people are losing the knowledge and ability to cast spells, and miracles are becoming rarer (and fake relics more common). The Church leaders of the various sects feel that something is wrong, but cannot quite put their finger on it: one reason is because they feel (erroneously) that all the trouble is due to lack of a homogeneous doctrine, and the solution is to pursue, stamp on, and drive out one's opponents with more vigour. This, of course, is exactly what the Cult of Satan wants. Note that Diabolism has absolutely no connection with the Cult of Satan: it is kept alive and running partly because there are always enough masochistic fools to believe that in bargaining with powerful demons for trivial spells they could get for less from any sorceror, they are being extremely clever; and partly because Satan wants attention diverted from his real effort, and to have some excuse for his cult to start up a reign of terror against everyone in general and spellcasters in particular. (Historically this position is not reached until the formulation of the Inquisition in the early 1200's, but there are many examples of Satan Cult behavior throughout Byzantine - and Western history, until "the Devil deceiveth the whole world" and "men of violence shall seize the Kingdom of Heaven by force.") ====================================================================== Further ideas about a Byzantine "Alternate Earth" setting by Patrick Waterson & Michael O'Brien )1990, 1991 Patrick Waterson & Michael O'Brien, all rights reserved. All or part of this article may be freely copied for non-commercial use, provided that this notice is included in said copies and/or derivations (fixes/changes), and that proper attribution is made. Any other use, without written permission from the authors, is prohibited. Ideas about a religious system for a Byzantine Empire "Alternate Earth" setting were presented in an earlier issue of RQ Digest. Further ideas are given here. Again your comments are most welcome. We are looking for people interested in developing a Byzantine scenario pack. An in-depth knowledge of the period would be helpful, but is not necessary. All you need is a lot of enthusiasm and good library! We're after a lot of helpful criticism, scenario ideas and suitable material for inclusion in a "Byz Pack". If you want to take part, please contribute through RQ Digest or contact us at the addresses at the end of the article. RELICS Relics of dead saints have a Virtue Point (VP) value equivalent to that of the saint at his death. They have two major uses: spell bestowal and (rarely) miracles. Gaining a Divine spell from a relic uses up 1 VP (regenerable) from the relic per point of POW sacrificed for the spell. Gain is automatic UNLESS one is in a state of Sin (i.e. has Sin points accrued) in which case one must pray (Ceremony roll) successfully; the Ceremony Roll is adversely adjusted by the amount of Sin Points accrued. Gaining a Spirit Spell from a relic is identical, except that the recipient expends no POW. The relic regenerates VP's at the rate of the saint's original POW at the time of death. This figure is usually about 20. If a relic is ever drained to zero VP's , it ceases to function as a relic and may never be restored. Such "drained" relics are usually sold to Schismatic (Western Catholic) churches. The second major use of a relic is miracles: these are generally limited to Healing and Purification, but may include Resurrection if the relic is sufficiently powerful. Such relics might include the True Cross, the Crown of Thorns, the Sacred Lance, part of the Robe, the Mandylion (Turin Shroud), etc. Miracles work exactly as the saints' Divine Intervention, including the possible use of Ceremony to negate VP loss. Any VP loss can be regenerated as above, but too-lavish use of miracles risks draining the VP to zero. "Purification" is a special way of getting rid of hopelessly vast Sin Point totals. A successful Purification miracle wipes out any and all Sin Points accrued even if the total is an absurd figure, like Judas iscariot's 250 000 or so for the betrayal, (plus another 500 for committing suicide!). The recipient of Purification then must become High Profile in the religion of the Priest who did the ceremony, and may join the Saint Cult on the spot. In any case, with any Miracle from the relic, it is customary for the recipient toe give up to 90% of his goods and moneys to the church of the Priest who performed the Ceremony. Any recipient of the miracle from a relic MUST become High Profile in the sect of the priest controlling the relic (ie. the priest who did the Ceremony). SOME GENERAL SYSTEM NOTES 1. Only HIGH PROFILE sect members may gain Divine Magic. Low Profile members are limited to spirit magic. Certain sects, such as the Pelagians and Manicheans, are exceptions. With them, as long as True Belief is true, outward show does not matter. 2. CASTING SPELLS does not require a focus per se, but most sects need to carry a token of some sort somewhere upon their persons (eg a crucifix) in order to be able to remember their spells A Bible or holy book can be used as such a token. If the token is removed spells are forgotten at the rate of one per hour, with Divine Magic going first. Naturally the strongest spells are forgotten first. Hang onto your Sacred Books and/or crucifixes! 3. Relics with a mass effect, like the Labarum or the ikon of Our Lady of Blachernae do so with a successful Ceremony roll, and consume VP's in the process. The procedure is as for a standard miracle. The effect is item-specific (usually protection against mind-influencing spells for a whole army, or Warding for a whole city, at a strength of 20 or thereabouts), and the relic regenerates VP's at about 20 per week. Such relics are, of course, prone to exhaustion in sustained campaigning. The labarum, which gave shield 20 to its guards and Countermagic 20 to the whole army, was exhausted in the campaigns of Constantine I; the Image of Edessa/Mandylion/Turin Shroud, which provided Warding-20 over a whole city or camp may have been exhausted in the last siege of Edessa, and the Ikon of our Lady of Blachernae is still going strong (largely because the Iconoclasts are in power and it is hidden away unused) and (historically) will continue to do so until exhausted in the AD 1071 Manzikert campaign. Its power is to add 20 Magic Points to every member of the army for the purposes of resisting spells and boosting spell effects. (In the hands of Nikephorus Phokas and John Zimiskes it will help thrash the Arabs on the battlefields with massed use of Demoralization spells). 4. PC SIN in a non-freewill sect can be readily handled by assuming that each week the PC spends half his standard of living expenditure on sin unless he makes a successful Temptation Check. This saves roleplaying pub crawls. 5. ONE THOUSAND YEARS OF EMPIRE The basic assumptions in the Religious system are based on a date of about AD 800. It should prove possible to extend the system for the life of the Byzantine Empire: who would want to miss the reign of Justinian (Belisarius, Victory Riots, Porphyry the Whale, etc) or the final fall of Constantinople ("It began with a Constantine and will end with a Constantine")? If players are introduced to a generational game they will (among other things) have the shock of realizing that their eminently Orthodox grandfathers are now the vilest heretics are consigned to hell; they will see Emperors, relics, Arabs, and Schismatics come and go; they will feel (at first) contempt, then suspicion, then fear, then hatred for the arrogant and burgeoning Schismatics of the West, with their crude ways and lack of ancient culture; they will cling stubbornly to the shadow of the fading glory of the Empire that was Byzantium; and then, in the last few generations, when the situation is obviously beyond hope, you will allow one of the PCs to be crowned Emperor and Autokrat of the New Rome. We leave these thoughts for you to ponder. So, until we hear from you, in the name of the Emperor: farewell! Kataphraktoi; advance! Australia: Michael O'Brien 2/33 Carween Ave Mitcham, 3132 Victoria AUSTRALIA. United Kingdom: Patrick Waterson "Innisfree" Fairly Lane, Hartley, Longfield, Kent DA3 8DA, UK. ====================================================================== A READING LIST FOR RQ - BYZANTINE PACK By Michael O'Brien Quite a few people have written to me saying that they would like to participate in the creation of a RQ - Byzantium source/scenario pack, but didn't have enough knowledge of the period. Listed here are some of my fave Byz books, and a brief comment about each. My own knowledge of things Byzantine is self-taught (apart from one semester doing "Sixth-Century Byzantine Literature" in which the lecturer chose the driest, most unappetizing texts from an otherwise very racy period). I got into it after reading Robert Grave's masterly historical novel Count Belisarius, which is set in sixth-century Byzantium. Then I discovered there was actually a Byzantine emperor called Constantine V Copronymous "Constantine the Shithead" , and another called Basil II Bulgaroctanos "Basil the Bulgar Butcher". By the time I discovered that the Byzantines had 33 different degrees of eunuch and 4 methods of eye-gouging, I was hooked! But enough of my rantings! Here's my reading list for things Byz: First historical novels. I've mentioned Robert Graves' COUNT BELISARIUS. This is probably my favorite historical novel. Not quite Byzantine, but another excellent novel is Gore Vidal's JULIAN. This is set in the mid-4th century and the hero is Julian the Apostate, the Roman Emperor who tried (in vain) to revert the Empire back to paganism. A good idea for an "alternate earth" might be a world where Julian succeeded? Another fab novel set in the late Roman period is FAMILY FAVOURITES by Alfred Duggan. Read ANYTHING by Duggan: he's almost as good as Graves, and that's saying something! "Family Favorites" is about the decadent emperor Heliogabalus, who exploits would have made even Caligula blush! More relevant to the topic is Duggan's LORD GEOFFREY'S FANCY, which is set in the Latin Crusader states of the 13th century. Lord Geoffrey is the "best knight in LaMorie", according to the character who tells the story: but, as you read it, you'll slowly realize that in actual fact, Lord Geoffrey is a total bastard! Two novels about the first crusade by Duggan are KNIGHT WITH ARMOR (his first novel) and COUNT BOHEMOND (his last, I think). But explore similar themes, but Knight... is written from the point of view of a simple knight, whereas Bohemond has the son of Robert Le Guiscard as the main character. An unusual "alternate earth"-type novel is AGENT OF BYZANTIUM by Harry Turtledove. A true Byzantine patriot, Turtledove's book is set in an earth where Mohammed became a Christian saint rather than the founder of Islam, and where the mighty Byzantine empire thrives rather than declines. There is no 1453 in his universe! Primary sources. There are several readable primary sources which you might find interesting. All are available in Penguin Classics. I'll go through them in chronological order. First is Procopius's SECRET HISTORY. Procopius was Belisarius's personal secretary. He was ordered to write a laudatory account of Justinian's reign, but Justinian didn't like it and made him write it again. Procopius did so, laying on the praises with a trowel. But, in spite, he also wrote the SECRET HISTORY, in which he exposes the hypocrisy of Justinian, the perversity of Theodora, the adultery of Antonina, and the pliability of Belisarius. As the blurb on the back of the Penguin Classics edition says, " in all, the vileness and hypocrisy of this decadent city is exposed with a candour which is often revolting". What better recommendation could one give? Next in line is Psellus's "Chronographia", which in Penguin Classics is titled FOURTEEN BYZANTINE RULERS. Psellus was the Byzantine world's Sir Humphrey Appleby. As chief minister to a succession of short-lived emperors, he can be blamed for turning a military superpower into an effete bureaucracy. Not that you would get any idea of this from his book. Another fascinating book is THE ALEXIAD by Anna Comnena. This book is the life of the able emperor Alexius I Comnenus, written by his daughter. Alexius reigned from 1071-1118, the time of the First Crusade. One of his most significant acts was the devaluing of the gold Bezant, which was the most stable coin in the world, having retained its value for over 700 years. The CHRONICLES OF THE FOURTH CRUSADE is actually made up of two books. By far the most interesting I found was Geoffroi de Villehardouin's "The Conquest of Constantinople", which describes the perfidious Latin sack of the city in 1204. The work in this book is a "Life of St. Louis". Secondary Sources. If you read anything at all, read Sir Steven Runciman's FALL OF CONSTANTINOPLE 1453. It is a superb account of the end of the empire and Runciman's elegant writing style reads more like a novel than a history book. As you read it, think about the possibilities for a RQ tournament or series of scenarios set during this doomed siege. Reading about the doomed defenders almost brought tears to my eyes, and made me gulp when I read about the heroism of the last Byzantine Emperor, Constantine XI Dragases. This mighty siege would be an excellent work to base a scenario on!! Another excellent book on the same topic is David Stacton's THE WORLD ON THE LAST DAY. This book is definite must if the 1453 idea is to be pursued! Stacton is very readable, but has less style than Runciman. He is, however, partial to giving the reader all sorts of trivia and minutiae about our pals the Byzantines, such as their four methods of blinding I mentioned above, or the 33 different degrees of eunuch. Come to think of it, I might have got the eunuch bit out of Noel Barber's LORDS OF THE GOLDEN HORN, a similarly spicy account of the Ottoman sultanate's splendid decline. (The Ottoman Turks conquered the Byzantines in 1453 and ruled over them into modern times). Runciman's HISTORY OF THE CRUSADES is perhaps written with a western European perspective, but does have interesting tit-bits about Byz. BYZANTINE STYLE AND CIVILIZATION is an art book also by Runciman, which nevertheless has interesting details about the Byz way of life. It challenges the view that Byz art is lifeless and sterile. If you can hack his pompous style and anti-Byzantine bias, Gibbon's DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE is worth a look-in, if only to marvel at the way he can write 500 word sentences and get away with it. Another book which traces the decline and fall of the empire is Georgi Ostrogorsky's HISTORY OF THE BYZANTINE STATE. It is a strictly political history book, and does not dwell much on social or artistic elements. A MAP HISTORY OF MEDIEVAL EUROPE by Colin McEvedy was one of the first books that got me into the Byz biz. Through the sequence of maps you can trace Byzantium's colossal fall from a superpower to a decadent city city, dwelling on past glories. McEvedy's commentary is droll, sardonic and very readable. I have read John Julius Norwich's A HISTORY OF VENICE and highly recommend it. His section on the "Papal Pornocracy of the tenth century, which included "...such creatures as John X, strangled in the castel Sant' Angelo by his mistress's daughter so that she could install her own bastard son by a former pope in his place", is especially entertaining. A clear, detailed introduction to the Orthodox faith can be found in THE ORTHODOX CHURCH by Timothy Ware (also known as the monk Kallistos). Peter Van Sittart is an author that would not be everyone's cup of tea. I've read THREE-SIX-SEVEN and LAUNCELOT, which are set at the time of the Roman evacuation of Britain and vividly portray the last sputtering flicker of the Roman idea in the west. (He'd be just the sort of guy I'd like to see write a book about the last Western emperor Romulus Augustolus.) I'd like to also add one of the strangest books I've ever read: THE KHAZAR DICTIONARY, by Milorad Pavic. There is evidently a "male" version and a "female" version (I've got the male). The author claims his dictionary is a reconstruction of a dictionary destroyed by the Inquisition in the 1480's. I found this a truly disturbing work, but fascinating. Although I have not got the slightest idea what the author was on about, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. "He washed his dishes with his beard, only shat when he swam and could cut bread with his bare feet" is a typical character description from the book. The man who mated with the dying so he could make "children for the next world, not this one" is another of these weird characters. This book has got all sorts of oblique Byz references! The above books are simply texts I own, have read and thought particularly enjoyable. I'm sure there are plenty of other books out there that would also suffice. If you are interested in a RQ Byz pack, I really would urge you to get a hold of Runciman's FALL OF CONSTANTINOPLE. Even if you aren't, I would still recommend this book because it's a bloody good read! ====================================================================== The RuneQuest(tm) mailing list is a courtesy of Andrew Bell. All opinions and material above are the responsibility of the originator, and copyrights are held by them. Unless specified in the specific article, all RQ Digest material is freely redistributable on a not-for-profit basis as long as author credit is included. RuneQuest is a trademark of Chaosium, Inc. Send submissions, mailing list changes, requests for old article lists, etc. to: email@example.com ...!mcnc!unc!bell Request old articles by volume number and issue number.