Saturday, July 6, 2024

Corum and the art of killing Gods


In Michael Moorcock's first Corum Series, the Swords trilogy, Corum must save his 15 planes from the powers of Chaos.

These powers are represented by the Kight, Queen, and King of the Swords.  For those who are more familiar with Michael Moorcock's Elric series, the Knight of the swords should be very familiar as it's Arioch, Elric's patron demon god.

Over the course of three novels, Corum dos manages to banish these gods.

Depending on the edition of Dungeons and Dragons you've run or played in, this might not seem that odd. Early editions of the god featured stats that, while powerful, were not so out of line that a group of players couldn't kill them.

Third party companies like Wizards of the Coast, when they were producing TRPG content, even made a series of books to augment gods with Primal forces which cut through mortal defenses. That was The Primal order series of books. Fun stuff. Find it if you can. Greatart.

But back to Corum.

Corum, at this point, has two artifacts, the Hand of Kwll and the Eye of Rhynn. They are described in detail. The hand is physically powerful and Kwll, unknown to Corum, controls the hand directly in several cases to save Corum's life.

So how does one go about killing the gods?

The Knight of Swords notes that Gods have to keep their heart separate from themselves so that the other rules know their whereabouts. Corum has to destroy it. Arioch leads him around, and Corum deduces where it is.

But it was a game because Arioch was unable to remove his own heart and Corum, taking it from it's chambers, has done Arioch a service.

Oh no!

So Corum's hand does the logical thing and crushes it. This banishes Arioch.

So no actual fight. No big battle. No clash of swords. 

The Queen of Swords is enraged at her brother's banishment. But she cannot go to Corum's five planes. There are rules of balance after all. The Eternal Balance must be maintained.

But Corum angers the Goddess so much she decides she is more powerful than the balance itself! She enters Corum's plane and... the Cosmic Balance Banishes her.

The King of Swords gets to meet the lost god Kwll directly. Corum, after finding Tanelorn, the city of refuge, the city of peace, a city with as many incarnations as there are champions, discovers that this Tanelorn is being used to imprison Kwll.

Kwll wants his hand back. Corum asks him to fight Chaos. Some back and forth and we get Kwll kind of agreeing but not really.

But then when it comes time to fight, Corum is shocked at the raw forces of chaos arrayed against them and tells Kwll to retreat and not honor the bargain.

Kwll gives a great line. "I made no bargain." And proceeds to destroy all the gods of chaos reamining.

Oh, and all the gods of law.

I don't point these out to indicate that it's lame or a cop-out. But to indicate that sometimes the way characters win, especially in older tales where the heroes have no direct manner of winning, no sword strength or sorcery powerful enough to win, there are often other ways to win.

Many of Corum's adventurers could be done with skill checks and investigation. Rare is it when Corum solely wins through strength of arms, and many times when he does, it is in a situation where he did not wish to do so, but Kwll controlled the hand and forced him to violence.

Think about how things can be accomplished in your own games that don't involve swinging a sword. Are there multiple paths that will get the players to the same place? Some are easier than others. Some provide a greater reward with risk than others.

Corum is an interesting read in that when Gods die, they don't die but are merely banished and have a host of early ideas that others have built upon. Go check them out.

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