I finished The Complete Pegāna last weekend and I must say that it is an obligatory read to any fantasy fan (and Gamemaster). Dunsany’s prose is not as hard as E. R. Eddison’s, and while it certainly lacks the epic heroism of the later, it’s a much more vivid and oniric tale... in other words: pure and surreal fantasy at its best. Dunsany’s style also influenced (among others) two of my favorite writers: Tolkien and Lovecraft.
Of course, I’m not an expert on fantasy literature (far from it) and the point of this post (if there is any) is a crazy idea that stuck with me since Gods of Pegāna.
H.P.L.’s Dreamlands is in the same vein of the Lands of Dreams and the worlds under the sway of the Gods of Pegāna from Dunsany. Actually, I found both tempting compatible.
Dunsany’s pantheon of indifferent and poetic Gods that enjoy playing with the lives of men (and not just take pleasure in it, but demand this “game of the gods” as their exclusive right) are as cool as Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos. My problem with the Dreamlands (as a setting) is that the so called “weaker gods of the Earth” are too bland and absent.
So (risking absolute blaspheming for some fans) I thought about how would be a Swords & Wizardry campaign set in a world influenced by both pantheons. The worlds would have been created by the Gods of Pegāna (or so they claim), dynamic forces of creating and destructing. Men would pray and make sacrifices to these gods and try to survive the “thousand home gods” (good candidates for H.P.L.’s “weaker gods of the Earth”). On the other side we would have the absolute nihilism and stagnant destruction of the Court of Azathoth and the Outer Gods, whose special agent – Nyarlathotep – desire the unravel all the worlds that still remains under the power of the Gods of Pegāna.
In this picture, the Gods of Pegāna replace the Elder Gods (whom were never properly described by H.P.L. and I never really liked them, maybe with the exception of Nodens).
This hypothetical fantasy setting would be a very dangerous and challenging place to mortal men and thus perfect for adventurers and heroes. Instead of the good and distant (and boring) Elder Gods from August Derleth we would have the vibrant, powerful, proud and pretty Gods of Pegāna.
There’s also some interesting cosmological question: what is the relation between MANA-YOOD-SUSHAI and Azathoth? Archenemies? Opposite polar forces? The same entity in the different times of epochs? There’s a lot of room here.
Using S&W as a basis, player characters could choose from the three basic classes: fighting-man (no changes), prophet (the old cleric, maybe using turning undead as a spell, with restriction to armor, but able to cast spells at 1st level) and magic-users (no changes either).
In the setting, prophets must be Lawful and follow the Gods of Pegāna, while magicians must be Chaotic, because their lore comes from Kadath (i.e. Nyarlathotep, Hastur or any others Outer Gods). Pegāna and Kadath (or Carcosa) would be the opposite amoral forces of the setting.
Well, it may be a crazy useless idea, but I had to share it.