Imagine the world, a primal place of raw potential, where the magick is strong and true. The People live within the boundaries of a forest glade below an outcrop of rock, within which the tribal elders say the origin of our village is found. There are shallow caves that sit upon the outcropping, delving into the cool rock of those stone shrines. The tribal shaman dwells here and, it is said, knows the way deeper into hidden caves wherein the Stone Spirits commune with her, guiding her in the ways of healing and wisdom.
Words written with pencil upon thick, fine paper in the early hours of the morning. Words which, for me, conjure the essence of the world of Mykovnia – that primal place I first discovered in 1983 through the auspice of a dream. I have begun some new journeys into that ancient place and this week has been the time of invocation.
I remember, back in 1983, being inspired by Palladium Fantasy – the black and red tome I bought sometime around it’s publication that same year. Initially, I couldn’t find this original but I did know the location of the 1992 Revised Edition copy (as well as my Second Edition hardback), so I grabbed that out instead. It is worth noting that, as of writing this, I have now located my original Palladium Fantasy book.
I remembered the Palladium art, especially the monsters and the images of the magical circles from the evil Summoner class – these strongly influenced the way in which I view fantasy worlds. As I flipped the pages I was also drawn to the mystic symbols which, I remember, also influenced my interest in magick, symbolism, and the Tarot.
The sight of the mystic symbols triggered memory of my other great influence, namely the RuneQuest Second Edition boxed set in 1980. My father had introduced me to the wonders of roleplaying games by buying this wondrous set and then discarding it as nonsense. For me, RuneQuest was treasure!
The cover image of the woman fighting the lizard-like beast – wow! It has always stuck with me and inspired both my vision of Bronze Age fantasy and my ideals about feminine identity: while the art is not to taste in these latter days, featuring as it does the bikini impracticalities of that era, I never felt she was anything other than an icon of strength and courage in the face of monstrousness. There was always something primal and powerful in that image.
Glorantha’s map, as printed in the Second Edition book, was similiarly familiar and entrancing. The map of Sartar, likewise, still draws me in. Yet I knew I did not wish to travel to Glorantha, not yet. Of course, looking again, I was reminded of how I felt when I heard that Greg Stafford had described his own moment “discovering Glorantha” in 1966 – my own dreams of Mykovnia have always felt more akin to discovery than an act of imaginative creation.
I felt drawn back to that primal game experience I had enjoyed as a young teen. I remember making characters for RuneQuest and Palladium for hours. Later, it was Rolemaster and Middle-earth Roleplaying too. One thing intrigues me: the use of a similar die mechanism runs through all of those games. Is there something near magical to me about that d100 die roll? Is that why I was drawn to Mythras? In terms of roleplaying, is RuneQuest my spiritual home? Was Palladium my imaginative resource? I considered whether I should be playing with d100 – those two twenty-sided dice marked with 0-9 twice.
Although I dug out my Mythras rulebook, my first stop was to an unexpected source. To begin, I decided that I would stay with GURPS… but look where I started building Anima, my character for the new journey I would make in Mykovnia:
I felt drawn to the GURPS First Edition boxed set while I was hunting out Mythras. I believe it is the aesthetic, the layout and art that connects me back to the 1980s. I also felt the desire to keep things simple, to limit myself to the options found within just three resources: Basic Set, Fantasy, and Ice Age.
It was Ice Age that helped me to realise that Mykovnia is a world in which the People are primitive by all the standards of most modern fantasy gaming. As my primal warrior and shamanic apprentice, Anima fights with spear and shield – a spear tipped with stone and a shield of wood covered in hide. She is concerned with survival in a brutal and intensely magickal world, filled with spirits both malign and benevolent. She reminds me of all the intensity I once saw in the art of Frazetta, haunting all of my dreams of the fantastic realms.