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Article - 'Legendary Figures' by Angroth

An item about Plots/Characters posted on Jan 14, 2004

Blurb

A discussion about legends and how and why you could go about adding them.

Body

What is a legendary figure?
Legendary figures can vary greatly, from those who have had an aura of brilliance around them to those who are so malevolent that they get the same reaction. It takes something great to become a legend; otherwise there wouldn't be any reason to remember the people. It is theoretically like becoming a saint but a slice harder (there's so many saints, and no everyone knows them all).

How is a legendary figure formed?
Legendary figures are formed in a variation of ways. Some of them aren't even required to do much, people and their loud mouths do the work for them, whereas other legends are liable to have done as much as the legends themselves speak of. A living legend is usually just a really famous person, like Bruce Willis or good ol' Arnie! But its not until a good 40 or more years after dying do they really get remembered. Bruce Lee is a good example, at the time he was famous and now he is considered a legend, if you catch my drift.

Angroth's favourite legendary figures
Well, seeing as its my article and by the time you read this it will be complete, I'm going to include my own favourite collection of legends.
Georgius Sabellicus Faustus Junior AKA Faustus or Faust
The story behind Faust is indeed very dark, grim, mysterious and cool!
Apparently some time at night his room shook, roared and frightened the neighbourhood. At the light of dawn the inn keeper plucked up the courage to speak with Faust. With no answer, the landlord unlocked the door. Amongst the broken furniture was a gruesomely mangled body, mutilated and disfigured. The solution was that Faust had made a pack with one of the most powerful devils to gain extraordinary powers. The devil was Mephistopheles (Mephisto) and after 24 years the pact had expired, and Mephisto had delivered Faust' soul to eternal damnation. Faustus supposedly referred to mephisto as his brother-in-law.. Many accused Faust of being a cheater, sly and evil, an abomination and a disgraceful beast. Yet on the otherhand respected scholar and monk Trithemius seemed to be more on Faust' side. He worked in many places, in a scool at one point but was said to be corrupting the children and was sacked. In some books Faust is told to be a dark wizard who uses black magic for his evil acts. It's strange how there is varying degrees of how bad he was and what he did.
Personally I think it all stemmed from him being a mere scientist (seeing as that was what he studied). But as many people were quite religious back then, his innovative ideas were thought to be treachery and work of the devil. he was probably killed by some people who didn't like him. Nonetheless sorcerer or scientist, his story was really quite interesting. If you could find some books about him, you might enjoy reading them, who knows!

What Can We Learn
Well, legends and myths are built upon a foundation. Usually the foundation has to be very realistic but something which could easily be exaggerated. If you have legendary figures in your games remember this and make sure people comment on something which is really impossible and surreal. And it would be even better if they met the person or somehow found it that it was lots of needless commotion etc.

Astaroth the Fallen Angel
It's odd, I don't really know much about Astaroth but I just think he is so great. Basically sorcerers like Faust and Friar Bungay would use magic circles and chanted spells to summon daemons. Powerful daemons were hard to characterize because they could always shape shift. They do this to carry out their jobs without causing too much suspicion. Such as Mephistopheles turned into a dog when working for Faust. Amongst all of these daemons was one named Astaroth. You can find his name in the satan bible amongst the rest of them (Moloch, Mephistopheles, Diablos etc).
When summoned Astaroth (also known as the Grand Duke of Hell) would resemble either a man or a horse. He would be able to tell the summoners the truths about all the happenings of history and predict what should happen in the future. He would appear as a parti-coloured man and on other occasions as the fallen angel that he was. His beautiful face would look horrifically disfigured and distorted and his mighty wings dulled. He was said to bring a stench so foul that the summoners would have to wear special rings to protect against the daemonic miasma. Astaroth also knew the full meaning of any of the arts of man or socerers.

What Can We Learn
All different daemons and creatures have their own unique abilities and traits. Nobody is the same.

The Nephilim
The Nephilim are a race produced by the sons of God who seduced some women on Earth. According to legend the taught man about wafare, magic and astrology. Much of the remaining information of these creatures survives in the book Apocrypha - from the Greek apokryphos which means secret or hidden. Amongst the Nephilim were also unnaccepted Bible material such as a cruel arrogant christ child killing several innocent townspeople who merely got in his way. The Apocryphal books tell us that the angels who watched over the Earth were tempted by the beautiful women of the land. So one day two hundred of these watcher angels came down and defied the divine rules by going down and helping the humans. Each different nephilim taught different things as they all had different knowledge. Some nephilim are famous and others are less well known.
Azazel: Taught men of weaponry and armour.
Amezarak: Taught of spells and potions.
Baraqiel & Asradel: Different sections of astrology.
Penemue: Taught men of literature.
Kasdeyae: Showed the sons of men the blows which attack the embryo in the womb so that it miscarries.
Kasdeyae's power was considered the best because there was no contraception or anything close. Stories vary slightly and tell of wise heroic nephilim whereas some say that nephilim began to become sly and horded the woman and devoured the men, casting charms and spells. Nephilim are more important than we think, stretching into stories such as Beowolf where they give the magical sword and such. Personally the whole story of the Nephilim is very intriguing and sheds new light on old stories and tales.

What Can We Learn
Ancient races are vital as are contradictions between tales and religions in a deep historical background. Much like in Final Fantasy X where Wakka see's his beliefs crumbling before him. It's a well added bonus.

So Where Does That Lead Us
That leads us to the end. It would seem that there are many different figures and races throughout history, many we do not know of and few that we do. Together, they have all shaped the world that we live in today. So it wold appear that history is a key factor in rpgs to set a suitable background and environment, much as it is in real life.