chinoiserie, Eighteenth Century, English literature, Georgian, Ghastly Affair, gothic game, Gothic Gaming, Gothic Horror, Gothic Literature, Gothic Romance, Gothick, laudanum, Napoleonic, opium, Orientalism, Random Table, Regency, role-playing game, Romantic Horror, Romantic Literature, Romantic poetry, rpg
Samuel Coleridge’s poem “Kubla Khan” is one of the greatest works of English literature, but the writer famously insisted it was simply a fragment of a far larger vision that came to him in an opium dream. Kubla Khan (and his realm of Xanadu) are perfect vehicles for the “Ghastly Affair” Presenter to explore themes of addiction, retreat into delusion, and Western misconceptions of the “exotic East”. I have emphasized the implied darkness in the poem to create an insidious enemy who aspires to total control of nothing less than the imagination. Like all the Incarnations of spiritual powers in “Ghastly Affair”, Kubla Khan is a plot device to drive several Affairs (or an entire Saga), and not just another monster to be faced in combat.
The terrible master of Xanadu, and would-be Emperor of the Dream Worlds
Signs & Portents: The weather turns suddenly calm, sunny, and warm. The smell of flowers and incense wafts in the wind, even in winter. People are overcome with bittersweet memories of lost loves and times long past.
Initial Impression: An man of apparently Asian descent with a long drooping mustache, an arrogant bearing, and fierce eyes. His long hair seems to float in some otherwise imperceptible wind. He is dressed in an exquisitely embroidered robe of yellow silk, with an intricate crown of similar material. Sometimes he appears instead in ornate lamellar armor. The mingled scent of vanilla, musk, sandalwood, and jasmine suffuses the air around him. At his waist he wears a long dagger.
Charisma: 20 Intelligence: 20 Wisdom: 20
Strength: 20 Dexterity: 20 Constitution: 20
Armor Class: 10
Hit Dice: 20 (120 Hit Points)
Attacks: 1 dagger
Special Abilities: Mythical Abilities, Transpose Minds
Weaknesses: Limited Power Over Spirits, Defeated by Encirclement.
Assets: Imposing Presence, Connoisseur of all Pleasures, Brilliant Strategist
Preternatural Powers: All Glamors; all 0 – 3rd Level Divinations, Evocations, Fascinations, Glamors Maledictions, and Transmutations; but no Blessings.
Favored Preternatural Powers: Augury, Disguise Self, Read Minds, Charm Person, Confusion, Hypnotism, Ignore Pain, Enhanced Hearing, Mirage Arcane, Phantasmagoria V, Programmed Phantasmagoria, Speak with Dead, Sleep.
Usual Surroundings: The Pleasure Dome of Xanadu; High Society parties with an “Oriental” theme; Chinoiserie Gardens and Pavilions; wherever opium is smoked, or laudanum consumed.
From his Pleasure Dome in the paradise-prison of Xanadu, Kubla Khan schemes to dominate all the Worlds of Dream. He is not the historical Kublai Khan, but instead walking nightmare born from distorted and half-remembered tales knit together in fevered opium dreams.
Closely studying Kubla Khans’s visage (and a successful Wisdom Check) will reveal that his facial features are not actually those of an East Asian, but a Caucasian wearing makeup to make him appear “Oriental”. Likewise, anybody familiar with Asian cultures will be able to tell that the designs on his robes are an amalgamation of psuedo-Chinese, Turkish, Hindu, and Persian motifs – beautiful, but inauthentic in every detail. The apparent Chinese characters on his clothing do not actually have any meaning. Everything about his attire, manners, and speech patterns will seem wrong to someone actually raised in Chinese culture.
The personality of Kubla Khan’s is imperious and imposing. Always, he pursues his ultimate plan of conquest. To that end he will offer whatever pleasure is most tempting to his future pawns. He might pass a jeweled opium pipe, hand off a goblet filled with sweet wine and an orchid, or present a perfumed concubine trained in every art of love.
Kubla Khan’s paradisaical realm of Xanadu is a valley ten miles in diameter, surrounded by high hills, and encompassed by a wall studded with towers. The sacred river Alph meanders through the land, erupting in a tumult from a chasm at one end, and running five miles before tumbling into caverns that lead to a Sunless Sea. On the banks of the Alph is a grand and movable Pleasure Dome of gilded wood and bamboo, whose exact location is constantly changed according to the whims of Kubla Khan. Within wait courtiers and courtesans who may assume whatever body the seeker of pleasure desires. Underneath Xanadu are the fabled Caves of Ice, providing cool drinks and frozen sweets. The land surrounding the Alph is a patchwork of gardens, fields, and ancient woods, cut through by sinuous streams. Tall pagodas dot a landscape patrolled by men with the heads of white horses, some ridden by simian archers in plumed helmets. The fields are thick with tall hemp and flowers – most of all opium poppies bleeding the so-called “milk of paradise”.
Xanadu might be found by anyone traversing Astral Plane to the Dream Worlds, but the most usual way to enter is directly through the ingestion of opium. Those who surrender to the sleep-visions of the drug may find their minds in the fields of Xanadu, confronted with wondrous visions of splendor far exceeding anything they have known in the mundane world. But Xanadu is the worst kind of trap for the soul. Anyone who sees it must Save versus Wisdom, or thereafter mentally revisit whenever they dream. At first this will seem a blessing, until the dreamer learns they can now dream of nothing else. The visions of loved ones and beloved places that once appeared during the night will be gone, replaced with the bewildering opulence of Xanadu. And as souls spend more time there, they gradually come to know its true darkness. They will see the pagodas where every variety and implication of pleasure and pain are explored for the amusement of Kubla Khan. They will wander the hidden gardens watered with the blood of tortured bodies. They will witness naked slaves hunted by Kubla Khan and his tigers. Eventually, they will discover the mutilated corpses frozen in the Caves of Ice. And after have succumbed fully to the poisonous pleasures of the realm, they will be be imprisoned in gilded cages for all eternity.
Kubla Khan’s Special Abilities:
Mythical Characteristics: Kubla Khan is immune to all mundane weapons, all poisons, all diseases, any effect of an electrical nature, and all Fascination effects. He can see perfectly regardless of illumination, is immune to blindness or any other debility caused by extremely bright light, retains the ability to distinguish colors in conditions of total darkness, and does not need time to adjust his eyes to changing light. Kubla Khan can speak, write, and understand all languages and forms of communication.
Transpose Minds: By looking into the eyes of another, Kubla Khan can Transpose Minds with them. The victim must save versus Charisma, or swoon into unconsciousness. When they awaken, they will find themselves in Kubla Khan’s body, sitting on his throne in the middle of the Pleasure Dome. The victim gains all the powers of Kubla Khan, and every inhabitant of Xanadu will address and treat them as such. They will be fed on honeydew, and generously given the “milk of paradise”. They will feel exhilarated, overcome with the splendor of their surroundings, and convinced that they have transcended the mundane world. Meanwhile, the mind of Kubla Khan will inhabit the earthly body of his victim, temporarily losing his own Abilities and Preternatural powers, but gaining those of the victim instead.
Time passes more quickly in Xanadu than on Earth (but inhabitants neither sleep nor age). For the first earthly day of the Transposition, the victim will live a full day in the Dream World, but only an hour will have passed on Earth. For every day that passes in the Mundane World thereafter, the amount of time the minds of Kubla Khan and his victim spend transposed increases by one earthly hour, and one day in Xanadu.
If the Transposition occurred while the victim was awake on Earth, the Incarnation of Kubla Khan will suddenly disappear from sight. Now inhabiting his victim’s body, Kubla Khan will proceed to to ruin their life. Friends, family, and lovers will be betrayed and abused, and the victim’s fortune will be wasted on every variety of vice. If the Transposition occurred while the victim’s mind was already in Xanadu, Kubla Khan will proceed to hide in the forests, gardens, and caverns of his realm. When the period of Transposition ends for that day, the victim will suddenly become aware of being back in their own body again, with no knowledge of what Kubla Khan did while wearing their form.
On the 25th earthly day, after the experience of 24 uninterrupted days ruling Xanadu, the victim will awaken in their own dream-body. They will be imprisoned inside one of the towers of Xanadu, however. Forever after they will be tended by courtiers and courtesans who will alternate between indulging the prisoner’s every sensual desire, and subjecting them to fiendishly inventive tortures witnessed by the true Kubla Khan. Meanwhile on Earth, their fleshy body will have fallen into a stupor from which it cannot be roused.
To undo the Transposition before their inevitable imprisonment, the victim must find and capture Kubla Khan and force him to look into their eyes again. Then their minds will switch back into the proper bodies, and the victim of the Transposition will thereafter be immune to the effects of Kubla Khan’s baleful gaze.
Kubla Khan’s Weaknesses:
Limited Power Over Spirits: Kubla Khan can only target other Mythical spirits of the Dream Worlds when he employs the Preternatural Powers Banish Spirit, Bind Spirit, and Summon Spirit.
Defeated by Encirclement: The Incarnation of Kubla Khan can be defeated by winding a length of specially-prepared cloth around his body three times. The cloth must first have been inscribed with the names of everyone the writer loves, and who loves them in return. The Master of Xanadu must first be be somehow held or restrained. Then the writer must close their eyes, and make three successive Dexterity Checks (with a -4 Penalty due to blindness) to successfully wind the cloth. If any of the Dexterity Checks are failed, the attempt will be wasted, and the cloth shredded. If they succeed, Kubla Khan is banished to his throne room in the Pleasure Dome, and all his current prisoners are released (either back to Earth, or on to their proper afterlife). If the Encirclement is performed on a willing victim with whom Kubla Khan has Transposed Minds, or on Kubla Khan while he inhabits a victim’s body, the Dexterity Checks do not need to be made. Kubla Khan would then be automatically banished back to his throne room, while the victim’s mind returns to their own body.
Concerning Astral and Dream Bodies
The Astral or Dream Body of a character possesses all of their characteristics and Hit Points, as well as copies of all the items they were wearing when they entered the Astral Plane (or Dream Worlds). Death on the Astral plane (or in a Dream World) does not usually kill the dreamer’s real body, however. If they were using Astral Projection the effect suddenly ends, and if they had been in slumber (natural or drug-induced) they awaken. This experience can be traumatic, however, inflicting the Affliction “Fatigued” until the subject experiences a full night of uninterrupted sleep.
Songs for Kubla Khan and Xanadu
Oriental Masquerade – Celtic Frost
Sweetleaf – Black Sabbath
Tomorrow Never Knows – The Beatles
Over the Mountain – Ozzy Osbourne
Xanadu – Rush
Shambala – Three Dog Night
In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida – Iron Butterfly
Magic Carpet Ride – Steppenwolf
I Don’t Like the Drugs (But the Drugs like Me) – Marilyn Manson
Snowblind – Black Sabbath
Heroin – The Velvet Underground
Sober – Tool
Master of Puppets – Metallica