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German folklore in Scion

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  • German folklore in Scion

    I had a cursory interest in Scion 1E, though considering how widely panned the ruleset was I never attempted to run a game for it. I didn't back the Kickstarter for 2E either - at the time, I was unemployed and out of funds for anything gaming-related.


    But now that the 2E versions of Origin and Hero have been released, my interest is rekindled. I bought the PDFs yesterday evening, and while so far I have only been able to speed-read through some small parts of the books, I like its overall approach of: "Old myths have faded into the background, but they were went away completely and are still around in the modern age if you know where to look."


    Because that fits very well with my current pet project - translating German folklore tales into English. With that I don't mean the popular Grimm-style fairy tales, but folk tales that are about specific locations and are frequently treated as "uncanny encounters" with the supernatural. These are far less well known, but frequently at least as much fun - and very gameable.


    From a Scion RPG perspective, Germany is a fascinating place to explore. Despite what some völkisch propagandists might want you to believe, Germany never really had a "national pantheon", but is located in the boundary areas of at least three: In the northern and central regions the Norse gods were prominent, but in the southern and western regions the Romans had a strong influence for centuries and brought their gods with them. And in the eastern parts of Germany, Slavic deities were worshiped by the locals - and there are still tales of all three pantheons and hints of ancient cult sites. And there might be some old Celtic influences as well.


    And while Christianity eventually supplanted them, there are still echoes in the form of folkloric entities that might be the equivalent of demigods - Frau Holle, Frau Gode, Perchta, Rübezahl, the Wild Huntsman, and others. And then there is the Devil, possibly the most common element of German folklore - powerful and always hungry for mortal souls, but bound by his word, and easily tricked by the clever or fortunate. In Scion terms, would he be a God, a Titan, or something else entirely?


    And then there are strange entities and pheonmena that beg to be included in games. There are "pressure spirits" like Aufhockers, Drudes, Alps, and Succubi who squeeze the life out of living beings. There are whole armies (and long-dead kings and emperors) waiting under mountains. There is a lindwurm that bites into its own tail for a cart chase sequence. There is a magical flower that blooms only on certain nights and promises fame and riches to the worthy - but death to the unworthy. And much, much more.


    These are just some initial thoughts, but I think German folklore is a topic well worth exploring for Scion. What are your thoughts?


    Sunken Castles, Evil Poodles is creating Public Domain translations of German folklore!

    A German Geek - my gaming blog!

  • #2
    Hallo Landsmann! Germany definitely has stuff to offer, though framing any figure as a God or even a collection of them as a Pantheon is probably not a good idea, as you seem to have found out for yourself already. However, in the realm of Creatures, Antagonists, Relics, and more, there is a lot that various Pantheons like the Aesir (Norse) or Bogovi (Slavic) could tap into. One thing I would note, though, is that it is neither helpful nor realistic to view all of this through a specifically German lense. A lot of the meaning of what you recount here only becomes fully intelligible through connection with the wider context of European and ultimately Christian folklore. The magic flower you mention has its counterpart in Slavic folklore, the Nightmare is called Alp in Germany and Mara in Scandinavia, but is ultimately the same figure, and the Devil of course has myriad faces across European, African, and American legends; both the similarities and the differences between the German, the French, the Russian, the South-US, the Mexican etc. Devil are productive for any player of Scion to think about. And one thing you haven't really mentioned yet but which I find to be among the most fascinating and varied elements of Christian-European lore is the witch in all her (or, often enough, his) rumour-ridden glory. Germany as the centre of the witch hunts has a lot of material on this as well, not least of which is the Blocksberg itself. So yeah, Christian European folklore is a treasure trove, and I would love to see it addressed in Scion (and as people here know, where the books don't go, I do )

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    • #3
      In my first game back in 1st ed a player chose a Scion of Heimdall that was a modern Freischütz and in a later game a guest wanted to play essentially Lorelei. And I often mixed in German versions of the Norse characters. And I love that they used the Erlkonnig in 1st ed.


      It is a time for great deeds!

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      • #4
        So... here is a thought for starters. Since "old myths and cults have survived into the modern day" is a major theme of the World, what if Rethra had survived into the modern era as a cult center to the Slavic pantheon?

        I am currently translating a story about this city which can be found on pages 5ff of Mecklenburgische Sagen by Friedrich Studemund, which uses Prillwitz as the (former) location - but we could say that Rethra still exists there as a small city near the Lieps/Tollensesee lakes. And then there is this part of the story:

        "It was surrounded by a forest which was considered to be highly sacred by the inhabitants and no wood was cut there. Two gates were open to normal traffic. The third gate, in the direction of the morning, was the smallest. The road starting there led to the sea, which had a frightening view."

        Which is odd, since Prillwitz is about 75 km away from the Baltic Sea. So... what if this city gate did not open to this world, but to a sea in some mythic fold, Terra Icognita, or even the Otherworld?

        Which in turn brings me to another story about the Wallersee in Bavaria, which must be propriated every year through a sacrifice of a golden ring, or else it would flood "all of Bavaria". Furthermore, it was speculated that it was connected to the "World Ocean" ("Weltmeer"). Now, we could assume that this was "just" the usual Seven Seas of Earth in defiance of all what we know of hydrodynamics - but what if this "World Ocean" was in itself some Otherworld or even the body of a Titan that needs to be bound with both the Wallersee rites, the rites at Rethra, and at all sorts of similar lakes. It might also explain such weirdness as giant fish inside of mountains who also threaten to flood the surrounding countryside...


        Sunken Castles, Evil Poodles is creating Public Domain translations of German folklore!

        A German Geek - my gaming blog!

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        • #5
          Here is also something useful - a scholarly discussion of magic and spells in northwestern German folklore by Ludwig Strackerjan of Oldenburg (the city I currently live in). Not only does he discuss a lot of actual spells and spell effects, but also the public perception of the same - while it could be argued that any kind of magic that seeks to alter reality is against God's Will (who created reality), actual German folk belief seems to distinguish between magic that is beneficial and magic that harms others - only condemning the latter, and not really asking too deeply where the "beneficial" magic came from.

          This works quite well with Scion - as long as those who invoke pagan gods do so to benefit the community, their beliefs will likely be given a pass by most people. But if they use it to do harm, the community will turn on them.


          Sunken Castles, Evil Poodles is creating Public Domain translations of German folklore!

          A German Geek - my gaming blog!

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Jürgen Hubert View Post
            So... here is a thought for starters. Since "old myths and cults have survived into the modern day" is a major theme of the World, what if Rethra had survived into the modern era as a cult center to the Slavic pantheon?
            As I'm myself doing Slavic 2E fan Pantheon - as Bogi, in this topic - it was informative to get to know Rethra. If you got more sources on Slavic beliefs, I invite you to discuss there



            My stuff for Scion 2E, CoD Contagion, Dark Eras, VtR 2E, WtF 2E, MtAw 2E & BtP
            LGBT+ in CoD games

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            • #7
              Originally posted by wyrdhamster View Post

              As I'm myself doing Slavic 2E fan Pantheon - as http://forum.theonyxpath.com/forum/main-category/main-forum/scion/1278397-2e-bogovi-slavic-pantheon"]Bogi, in this topic[/URL] - it was informative to get to know Rethra. If you got more sources on Slavic beliefs, I invite you to discuss there
              I'm mostly reading German-language sources - of which there are a massive amount available online and in the public domain. Most of these texts are about folk legends that don't have any obvious links to Slavic mythology (at least any that I would spot), but there are all sorts of references scattered in books that cover the eastern parts of Germany (including quite a few of regions that are no longer part of Germany).

              One that immediately springs to my mind is Vineta, the Atlantis counterpart in the Baltic Sea which has references to Slavic temples.


              Sunken Castles, Evil Poodles is creating Public Domain translations of German folklore!

              A German Geek - my gaming blog!

              Comment


              • #8
                I could totally see Venusberg as a Terra Incognita. Though I don't know much about German folklore, it'd be interesting to read about it.


                Scion 2e Homebrew Pantheon(s):

                The Nat, the Spirits of Myanmar

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Svarogg View Post
                  I could totally see Venusberg as a Terra Incognita. Though I don't know much about German folklore, it'd be interesting to read about it.

                  A German-language version of the tale can be found in the Grimm's collection here (unlike their Fairy Tale collection, "Deutsche Sagen" was only translated in the 1970s and thus is not available in the public domain).

                  To summarize, the "noble knight Tannhäuser" visited all sorts of lands and then ended up at the Venusberg ("Venus Mountain") where he spent a year (presumably much of that time was spent fornicating). But after a while he developed doubts and wanted to leave. Venus pleaded with him to stay, even promising one of her attendants as his wife, but Tannhäuser was firm, invoked the Virgin Mary to repel her, and replied that he didn't want to stay in Hell for all eternity.

                  Thus he went to Rome to attain absolution from Pope Urban. But when he told the pope that he spent a whole year with the women of the Venusberg, the pope told him that he would only give him absolution "if the wooden stick in [his] hand starts to sprout". Dejected, Tannhäuser thought: "If I am doomed for all eternity, I might as well spend that eternity fornicating" and returned to the Venusberg. Three days later, the stick did start to sprout, but Tannhäuser had already vanished into the mountain before the ambassadors of the pope could reach him.


                  Sunken Castles, Evil Poodles is creating Public Domain translations of German folklore!

                  A German Geek - my gaming blog!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Okay, here is a good one - a legend of how the island of Hiddensee (in the Baltic Sea) separated from the nearby island of Rügen. I recently translated it and will publish the translation at some later date on my Patreon page, but here is a quick summary:

                    Basically, two woman - one miserly and evil, one charitable and kind - were visited by a strange man (in the story it is speculated that he was from a monastic order, but in the World it might very well have been a God) who asked for something to eat and a place to sleep during the night (for it was a cold and stormy night, as it was appropriate). The evil one first drove him away, but the charitable (who was also rather poor) gave him food and hospitality. In exchange, he told his host that the first thing she attempted this morning would be something she would succeed at all day.

                    The woman, who was merely happy to have done a good deed, paid these words no mind and simply went on with her business. Which this morning was to make a new shirt for one of her sons. She took her measuring stick and attempted to measure three lengths of linen from a small linen roll, but then discovered that (a) the linen roll would not end no matter how much linen she measured and (b) she could not stop measuring linen. When the blessing finally stopped at sundown, her house and much of her field was full with linen, which made her a rather rich woman.

                    The evil woman heard that, went after the strange man, apologized and likewise offered him a place to stay for the night, and in the morning he gave her the same blessing. She intended to count her savings so that she would have a vast fortune in the evening. But so that she would have her mind free for this business, she first took a leak.

                    ...you can probably guess what was coming next. In fact, she peed so much that the... results first formed a lake, and then washed away the land connection between Rügen and the new island of Hiddensee. I did a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation, and even with a very conservative estimate she probably peed around 14,000 liters per second. For comparison, a modern fire hose probably has an output of 80 liters per second...


                    So, if your game has room for some rather silly and gross humor (though it is authentic folklore!), have some fatebound acquaintance of the band make the same mistake - and have the PCs arrive on the scene shortly after. When faced with a deluge of urine that threatens massive flooding of the surrounding area - what can they do to stop, or at least mitigate the damage?

                    Other mistakes that involve "the first thing" a character does in the morning I will leave as an intellectual exercise to the readers...


                    Sunken Castles, Evil Poodles is creating Public Domain translations of German folklore!

                    A German Geek - my gaming blog!

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                    • #11
                      I think all of this would be excellent subject matter for one or more Nexus sourcebooks.



                      What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
                      Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by No One of Consequence View Post
                        I think all of this would be excellent subject matter for one or more Nexus sourcebooks.
                        As it happens, that is the plan once my folklore translation Patron campaign has been running for a while and I have enough material to work with.


                        Sunken Castles, Evil Poodles is creating Public Domain translations of German folklore!

                        A German Geek - my gaming blog!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I admire you guys, Jürgen, Sacerdos, Watcher and a bunch of others.

                          The way you talk about your passion for the lore is contagious. Thank you for bringing these stories to my daily life.

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                          • #14
                            Glad you like it!

                            German folklore has such an amazing range of oddball stuff that is eminently gameable, but too few are aware of what's out there.

                            Oh, and here's another good location - the Untersberg near the German-Austrian border. It has all sorts of mountain fairies, two sets of armies, and a sleeping emperor. I've translated a few stories:

                            https://www.patreon.com/posts/weird-locations-25978238
                            https://www.patreon.com/posts/weird-locations-26002270


                            Sunken Castles, Evil Poodles is creating Public Domain translations of German folklore!

                            A German Geek - my gaming blog!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Jürgen Hubert View Post
                              One that immediately springs to my mind is Vineta, the Atlantis counterpart in the Baltic Sea which has references to Slavic temples.
                              That reminds me - I've recently published a translation of one variant of the Vineta legend here:

                              https://www.patreon.com/posts/that-s...3?cid=24307533

                              The story is especially relevant for Scion since it explicitly describes a city where multiple pagan faiths from different tribes co-existed. If you assume that the city still exists as a Terra Icognita, it might serve as a neutral ground for Nordic, Slavic, and other European pantheons.


                              Sunken Castles, Evil Poodles is creating Public Domain translations of German folklore!

                              A German Geek - my gaming blog!

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