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Donald Tyson's "Necronomicon: the Wanderings of Alhazred" is right on point

Started by thespiderprince, June 26, 2007, 09:35:47 PM

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I don't like to use the catch phrase "must read" but I would definitely put this on the recommended reading list. This is an excellent pastiche/ tribute of H.P. Lovecraft's original work, the Necronomicon. It is a masterful blend of Cthulhu mythos, ritual magic, demonology, and real-world myths and legends. Canadian author Donald Tyson himself has been studying the Hermetic paradigm of magic for most of his life and it shows in this masterful blend of Cthulhu mythos, astrology, and kabbalah.

The poor tormented figure of Alhazred most perfectly fits the tone and theme of the Sorcerer RPG addressing the question "what is the price of your power weighed against your own humanity." The figure of Ahazred shows great promise in his youth. When he lays with the beautiful daughter of his benefactor he is punished by having his nose, ears, and virile member cut off. He is then sent out into the desert to die. In spite of his disfigurement he learns how to survive amongst the ghouls and shades of the desert. Through the course of his travels he learns many dark secrets of necromantic magic and becomes a powerful necromancer himself. Despite this, he is never able to find a ritual that will restore his body or features to what they once were. Near the end of his journeys he comes to the conclusion that the dark desert is his mistress and his place is amongst the ghouls and graveyards where one can see with the Second Sight by the light of the moon and feast on the flesh of the freshly dead.

The chapters themselves provide excellent otherworldly jump-off points for adventure. This could technically be read as an adventure for both modern day Sorcerer or Sword & Sorcerer or both if you've got some type of immortal characters going at an epic. It comes with a map and lists all the interesting points of the land without railroading the characters into anything. It could almost be thought of as an adventure or dare I say module (old AD&D coming out). That being said the book could provide a basis for a campaign as there are several adventures that could unfold.

What is most impressive is how Mr. Tyson weaves the Cthulhu mythos with the sephiroth of the kaballah in the performance of necromantic magic rituals. It all works very well together as he not only reveals the practical applications of such but also describes the secret and dark rituals done in the depths of the earth and out in the desert(the Empty Space) far from the eyes of mortal man. In other words he tells you how to do the ritual step by step and what results one can expect if they are done right. Alhazred also is possessed of cunning as the author hints at some of the ways he acquired scrolls of hidden and forbidden knowledge and teased powerful secrets from a great otherworldly Cthulhu-type beast without actually releasing it from its subterranean prison.

Without giving too much away just leafing through the tome should be enough to get the fires of creativity and inspiration going. This is a true inspiration and exemplar of what the Sorcerer RPG world can be at its best. Incidentally, Mr. Tyson has written several excellent books on the practice of magick itself:


Sorry Ron, got caught up in the review.

Ron Edwards


Although I'm sure you're correct regarding the themes and issues of the book at the story/character level, I am a little doubtful about one thing. It's this: in Sorcerer, the flatly-non-negotiable feature of the shared imagined space (the fiction) is that demons and magic do not exist.

So settings in which "magick is real!!" are ... well, they're not eligible. So my questions is, does the story treat sorcerous rituals and so on as breaking reality or as a feature of reality?

Best, Ron

P.S. One technical point: the name of the game is Sorcerer. Not "Sorcerer RPG." That's a distressing neologism that crept into the culture somehow, long ago.


Oddly enough, this is never stated nor is it really implied, but if I had to venture a guess I would say that they are breaking reality as most supernatural entities and occurrences happen in the dark corners of the world. Also, because the stories are an extension of H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos I would say that they break the common paradigm of reality which parallels our own.

It is also interesting that even magic is not a cure-all as Alhazred never does find a way to grow back his missing body parts and so he must endure the brutal scars. That causes me to ask what is the true nature and purpose of magic in fiction. Real magick is a way to know thyself. Magic in traditional rpgs such as AD&D seems to be a matter of tactical or melee applications; a martial skill. Magic in Sorcerer addresses moral and social issues; something movies attempt to do. As in the case of Harry Potter it is not his power but the choices and responsibilities he has to deal with for someone in his position. My friends and I have discussed the fact of whether or not we would trade places with Harry Potter or Clark Kent from Smallville for despite their power they and the ones close to them are constantly threatened and they must remain eternally vigilant.