Abecedarian Arcana

I keep a pocket notebook in my bookbag for the scrawling of notes and ephemera to remind myself something at a future date. Occasionally, my notes are a little too ephemeral.

Last night, for instance, I found the phrase “abecedarian arcana” on a line all by itself. The uses of the word generally have to do with the alphabet: ordering it, learning or teaching it and so on.[1] Now I’m not sure why I wrote “abecedarian arcana” down, as it doesn’t seem to be a title or name for anything on a cursory search. It was probably a turn of phrase that popped into my head one day.

It immediately puts me in mind of one of Unknown Armies‘ less well-known schools of post-modern magick, anagram gematria (also known as A Grammarian Gate). What sort of power does a magician wield through the ordering of letters? They’re the visual symbols for the sounds we make to talk to each other. By changing the qualities of letters, maybe one could obscure meaning or remove certain words from consciousness.

[1] Interestingly, the Abecedarians were a 16th century Christian sect that eschewed human knowledge and instruction, believing God would grant them knowledge directly. I wonder how they managed to pass on their teachings.


Raging Swan gives us ten nifty words to work into role-playing. And that’s one post in a whole series!

A most excellent resource. The years I read TSR’s Dragonlance, Spelljammer and Forgotten Realms fiction did more to dump archaic words in my head than any other body of work, excepting maybe Lord of the Rings.

Ban the Man

I’m feeling more than a little mentally glazed today. Which puts me in mind of a pair of traits I’m looking to overcome in GMing role-playing games: brain farts in general and more specifically: the sudden inability for the GM — i.e., me — to be any more descriptive than “The man attacks you.”

It happens to me a fair bit, usually when a fight scene’s dragging on longer than I expected. When health conditions and attack modifiers start piling up, it takes my attention away from making the action descriptive and engaging. Furiously slashing broadswords give way to swords that do seven points of damage or miss. If my energy starts flagging mid-session, non-player characters often become “the guy” or “that woman.”

I consciously work against this most of the time. During the Labyrinth Lord game, during a melee with a clan of troglodytes, I found myself scouring memories of Labyrinth of all things for inspiration on how to inject some humor into a bunch of short little putzes taking on a party of adventurers. Two elements I used were physical comedy in how the troglodytes attacked — usually expressed by mimicking their over-enthusiastic axe-swinging and fooling with over-sized helmets; headgear of any kind can be a great physical prop for a character to fiddle with or struggle against — and voices. I decided to play these guys high and squeaky, like the goblin hordes of Labyrinth. I think I confused everyone who’s actually familiar with the source race, but it seemed to work for the moment and gave me another characteristic around which to build a lively presentation.

Continue reading