Friday, January 29, 2010

Grognard's Grimoire: Brazen Head

Once the cult of Turms Termax became the de facto power behind -- and, eventually, on -- the Thulian throne, its hierophants took on roles of importance throughout the empire, acting as advisers to provincial governors, military leaders, and even the clerics of the state-sanctioned Great Church. Each of these hierophants brought with him a peculiar magical device known to later generations as a brazen head.

As its name suggests, a brazen head is a brass representation of a man's head (that of Turms himself, according to some sources). However, the head is enchanted and possesses two unique functions. Firstly, once every three days, its user may commune with Turms Termax (as per the 5th-level cleric spell of the same name), with the god's answers issuing from the mouth of the head. Secondly, its user can, if the proper command words are known, communicate by speech with the user of any other brazen head within 5 miles of his current location.

Brazen heads were never produced in large numbers, but, over the centuries, enough were crafted that they can still be found in Thulian ruins everywhere. Likewise, many magic-users (not to mention groups like the Argent Twilight) seek out brazen heads, using them as a means to gain access to the secret wisdom of Turms. Others seek out the heads to destroy them, believing them to be a tool by which the god of magic -- or his contemporary cult -- seeks to spread his influence throughout the world. Indeed, there are many who claim that brazen heads only selectively tell the truth, so as to seduce their users into the unwitting service of the Thrice-Great. There are similar claims that continued use of a brazen head leads to religious mania, with the user forsaking all other deities in favor of Turms.

True or not, there are many superstitions about brazen heads and the mere mention of them is enough to frighten some who fear and revile Termax and his once-mighty cult.

15 comments:

  1. But can it give the recipe for encircling all the land in glass....errr brass to keep out marauding vikings? Recently discovered your site and just want to give my sincere thanks for your work here - keep it up! Oh, and couldn't resist the John Bellairs reference!

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  2. I got to say this is cool. Good job.

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  3. Yay Baphomet! This warms my heart. In my on-again off-again Flash Gordon game the priests of Ming (inspired by Klytus from the Dino de Laurentiis movie) all wear bronze masks which render them interchangeable, while Ming shrines (likewise bronze heads) are used to keep the sky-boats flying - knock over the shrine and the boat will come crashing down, as the Grace of Ming is withdrawn.

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  4. Yeah, I like this one, too.
    : )

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  5. Awesome - it's like you're channeling Clark Ashton Smith and John Jakes.

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  6. (aside: Sophocles; good call ;)

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  7. Richard,

    That campaign sounds absolutely awesome.

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  8. (aside: Sophocles; good call ;)

    You have no idea how hard it was to find a photo of a brass bust of a human male head. Most of them just don't look right, so when I saw the Sophocles one, it immediately "spoke" to me (no pun intended).

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  9. > Most of them just don't look right

    Greek > Roman in general for expression

    > it immediately "spoke" to me (no pun intended).

    => http://farm1.static.flickr.com/45/170828073_b54107e3be_o.jpg

    Agreed; recognised and remembered from the British Museum (which is saying something given what else is on display there).

    On the item, the maximum range of (only) 5 miles would mean a large number of talking heads required if designed with long-distance communication in mind. More use on the battlefield or for religious purposes, then?

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  10. Awesome idea! Yes - shades of Templar lore (and Tolkien's palantiri) here for sure.
    I'm stealing this idea for my NWN-based Greyhawk campaign.

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  11. Cool Baphomet nod.

    It didn't occur to me when I was creating my "knights imperious" templar knock-off

    Consider this yoinked

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  12. Looks like the head from the Phoenix and the Mirror, intercom system and all.

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  13. On the item, the maximum range of (only) 5 miles would mean a large number of talking heads required if designed with long-distance communication in mind. More use on the battlefield or for religious purposes, then?

    That's right. There may be more specialized versions of the head with longer ranges, but the ones most commonly encountered by adventurers were used by battlefield commanders.

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  14. Whoa- Just ran across another reference.
    There was a pope (Sylvester the somethingth) who was installed by Otho II. Apparantly he had a bronze head that would answer "yes" or "no" to questions put to it. I got this information from a book called "Morning of the Magicians", which should be required reading for anyone whose interests tend toward the outre.

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