Carcosa Dreams

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Into the Unknown

I have just finished re-reading (well, listening to, on my commute), Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock. I first read it when I was very young, and perhaps not ready for it; it made a profound impression on me but I didn’t “get it” until much later. It is the first of what became a meandering interconnected series of stories called the “Ryhope Wood Sequence” each of which expanded on, and deepened, the mythlogy of the stories and their background world, but my favourite remains this, the first and perhaps most complex of them all. Mythago Wood is a story about stories, and how they form, change, evolve, grow, and sometimes, die.

I’ll not spoil the plot for those of you who may wish to give it a read, but the mechanics of the wood, and how it does what it does, are one of the key principles informing how we want to run the game. We are deliberately keeping our own mythology sketchy and lacking in detail because we are trying to define and design archetype myths which your own stories will evolve and colour. In a culture like Alba where there is very limited recording of histories outside oral tradition, there are very few ways to pin a myth down like a butterfly on velvet – there is no objective truth – which can be a difficult concept for modern minds, used to definitive authorities and appeals to fact, to grasp.

The Keepers record what they see, and what they are told – but even their records are second- and third-hand. Their tellings are embellished in the retelling, and evolve more slowly, but still evolve.

My advice to players of Alba is; do not concern yourself overly with “canon” or “knowing the background”. We have deliberately created a world where small groups of people with limited to no contact with one another have reason to come together. Sharing their stories and myths enriches and changes both parties, and creates something new. In this world, very few people beyond the Keepers even know what lies beyond the next hill. Embrace that, with all the wonder of discovery and fear of the unknown it carries with it.