Updated: Jan 5
I don't want to go too far into the details of the mythology and world of Sidarhael because I don't want to give away any big spoilers for my current players or any future players, but there is a clue in the name. It's magical, and I mean that in the modern esoteric sense of the word. That is to say, it relates to a kind of trans-personal experience and is designed as a kind of 'initiation' if you will, into the realms of deep-psychology and Jungian alchemy. As a milieu, it would feel very familiar to most fantasy RPG players and readers and it is indeed based heavily in the mythology of the game's multi-verse without referencing anything outside of the open source, SRD (Source Reference Document which Wizards of the Coast produced to essentially allow independent publishers and gamers access to their core rules and central game content).
“Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem,”
“Visit the interior of the earth and rectifying (purifying) you will find the hidden stone.”
The world of Sidarhael itself is a kind of flat-earth construct, playing into our most base subconscious conceptions of reality, with two suns, and a shattered moon; immediately telling us that this place is both alien but also broken. It is set in a demi-plane surrounded by an astral sea and is made up of several continents and islands with an ocean that floats on a kind of etheric fluid that can be traversed by those with the knowledge and power to do so.
Gashed through the central land mass is an enormous rift known as The Rift of Pakkad from which all terrible things came after the fall of the dragons. It was formed when the one eyed god of the orcs destroyed the moon near the dawn of time with a weapon--a twisted, blackened, hell born comet--which he forged with the assistance of the queen of dragons, to take revenge upon the elves. With Pakkad he destroyed the avatar of the moon goddess and her sky temple, leaving a vast string of floating dungeons hovering above the world like a broken staircase to the heavens. The central tensions in Sidarhael lay party in a complex web of politics, religion and mythology but also in the discovery that time itself is speeding up. If the Divine Feminine (in the form of the moon goddess) is not returned to this world, time itself will speed up so rapidly that even the most ancient beings will be forced to face their end. This is something of a reflection of our current real-life predicament regarding the ongoing environmental crisis and the growing sense that time is running out if we don't do something to stop it. In the main campaign story-line, (which can be central or peripheral to any groups campaign) this impending catastrophe has become the raison de etre of an order of fae clerics and paladins, known as The Daughters of Twilight. This matriarchal order, founded by the cleric, Petriarch Skyhammer considers itself to be the greatest hope of Sidarhael and thus its central mission is to save their goddess from the Abyss, to where she was banished. In the main story-line (The Sidarhael Mythic campaign), players take on roles central to that mission, either as members of the order or as mercenaries hired to assist. The main Mythic quest-line takes the shape of a series of magical-pathworkings utilizing the qabbalistic Tree of Life as a memetic model and utilizing the symbols of the Tarot, Jungian alchemy, and chaos magick to draw archetypal inspiration for the game. The great thing about these symbols is how fractal they are and how they can be manipulated to work in the already very neo-pagan universe of D&D. I have gone to great lengths to correlate the deeply embedded symbols of our actual mythology (conscious, and unconscious) into the meta-plot, characters, narratives and mythology of the world. Gary Gygax made it easy. He did half the work already. The tricky part is separating out the pop-cultural noise from the archetypal signal.
In our main campaign (because it is not just mine anymore) the players keep journals and continue to make constant correlations between their dreams, our games and their own personal subjective experiences in their lives. Jung talks a lot about 'active imagination' and creative imagination. Now as a role-player, consider how that can be applied? One of our main tools is an oath that we all take at the start of every session (which my wife wrote) imploring us to use the game as a vessel of personal growth and to instill into it our highest aspirations and creativity. It's stunning how taking an oath like that turns meta-gaming min-maxing hack and slashers into serious role-players who laugh and cry (appropriately) over the story-line that they themselves have a hand in creating. For the Sidarhael Mythic campaign (because this is what those players signed up for) I encourage players to become familiar with many of Jungs primary terms such as 'shadow', 'Id', 'anima/animus', 'persona', and ego. I also suggest they study works on psychological alchemy as a system and metaphor for personal transformation along with other works of post-modern occult magic(k). Especially Hermetic Qabbalah. This is a language of symbols that directly interact with our subconscious. And the more you use it, the more powerful it becomes. The more meaning you can glean from your life and from your most precious commodity--game time. For me role-playing is deeply connected and related to the human narrative sense-making apparatus. That is to say, we understand ourselves and our world by telling and retelling our stories. From a solipsistic point of view, when you role play you are backgrounding your five senses in return for a new set of senses, granted and arbitrated by your dungeon master and the other players as you form and experience a consensus narrative with your group. The stories I wish to tell are based on concepts and ideals that relate to our subconscious as self-evident, universal and consistent archetypes. That is to say, I wish to tap into the collective unconscious and draw forth meaningful experiences that will not only ignite our imaginations and creativity but find a place in our authentic inner lives. That is to say, the stories we tell together will not only be remembered, but they will be pondered, learned from and will continue to speak to us for the rest of our lives. I know this already from experience. And I know it to be true also of the other players I have extensively worked with. This style of gaming is probably not for everyone. In fact, probably not for that many people. But for those who are into this sort of pretentious nonsense -- it's extremely rewarding on a variety of levels. For those of you who find this whole rant to be absurd, maybe even disturbing, don't worry, I like to roll dice, kick down doors, and kill orcs too. =p