Tuesday, January 8, 2013
WIR: The Book of Ebon Bindings II
The rest of The Book of Ebon Bindings is flavorful descriptions of Tekumel's demons and how to summon them. It's obvious that a lot of work went into these entries; they're imaginative and lavishly detailed. A lot of care has gone into making them both lurid and similar to the kind of demonic lore found in real-world occult books.
The problem is that after a while the descriptions get really tedious.
Maybe this is just me, but after a few of these I start to wonder why I'm bothering to fight my way through all the detail because much of it isn't immediately gameable.
I'm all for flavor text that is rich with adventure hooks and embellishments to add into your games, but The Book of Ebon Bindings is a case of diminishing returns: once you've read one of these and implemented it into your game in some way, can you really go back to that well again? Frankly, the entries in the book are really well done for what they are, but they're not particularly compelling reading one after another.
Let's also talk about "the Carcosa factor." The rituals detailed in this book feature human sacrifice, human violation, and other oogie stuff (one of them seems to imply necrophilia, for example). It's in a cultural context, but it's also definitely used to emphasize the evil-ness of the demons and their rituals.
That said, I find it all to be not nearly as squick-tastic as Carcosa's rituals. Here's the difference as I see it: Carcosa's chief offense is in presenting horrific rituals in a banal way; it's simply the horrors of the nightly news transposed matter-of-factly into a fantasy setting. It's laundry-list malevolence; it wants to be shocking, and transgressive, but instead it just renders horror empty of impact.
The Book of Ebon Bindings at least presents its horrors as part of an occult context that gives you a sense of the setting and its mythology. I can't see myself using either as written, but somehow The Book of Ebon Bindings felt far more interesting and far less mediocre than Carcosa's magic descriptions.