Tuesday, April 21, 2015

R is For Roland

I've been watching the History Channel's completely historic-unhistoric show Vikings. Currently on season three, the Vikings are invading Paris, an actual historic event with of course the History Channel's usual flourishes.

The King of France is the grandson of King Charlemagne. Worthy of his own entry, suffice it to say King Charlemagne was reknown for many attributes and deeds that his children would strive to live up to and often come up short. But of those who served under King Charlemagne, it is Roland who has his own tales, told most famously in the book The Song of Roland.

Outside of the Song of Roland, this Paladin also features in the Matter of France or the Carolingian Cycle.

Personally, I remember Roland best not for his foolhardiness displayed in the book, but rather, for his appearance in Dragon Magazine and it's regular feature, Lords and Legends, issue 127 . This was a feature that often took characters from history or myth, and provided gaming stats for them.

In some ways, it was nice. You could see what a professional thought such and such would be in an actual game of Dungeons and Dragons. On the other, often because of the historical nature or at best 'legends' of the character, these heroes were woefully under equipped for Dungeons and Dragons having few magic items.

Roland is a part of France's history and his sword a part of what many could consider the first Holy Avengers in terms of its legend.

But those magic items they did have... For whatever reason, the author of that article, made Roland's sword, a named blade called Durandal, a +7 long sword holy avenger with other abilities like automatically hitting anyone with non-magic armor. As a power gamer even back in the day, I was impressed with it.

But I was also impressed because I had read the Elric saga when I was younger. These books are ancient so beware the spoilers ahead. In the later volume, Elric seeks out a Horn. It's Roland's Horn he seeks out and the Elric and Roland duel with Elric being the victor. In my youth, I had visions of Stormbringer, stats pulled forth from the original Deities and Demigods, and Durandal.

But the reason that fascinated me, was I had read the Song of Roland. I knew who Roland was. If you're reading a book and it throws an odd character in there whom you've never read about before or know anything about, the result probably isn't going to be the same.

That's why I always urge people to expand their horizons. Don't stick with just the popular current stuff. Dig into the older material not only so that you can see where the foundations of the modern authors often lie, but so that you have a broader appreciation of the genre as a whole.