Inspirational Art: The Harrowing of Hell

About five weeks late the next round of inspirational items for the World After and the one that drew a content warning.

As I have pointed out in the past, the changes between The World Before and The World After are inspired by the novels Black Easter and The Day After Judgment by James Blish (available in a omnibus called The Devil’s Day). The books use a good deal of medieval imagery and seem to draw heavily on both Dante and Milton (especially the second).

The final chapter of the second book is called “The Harrowing of Heaven” as a parallel to The Harrowing of Hell. The Apostles’ Creed mentions Christ’s decent into Hell for the three days prior to the resurrection. Depending on the source (religious or literary) this may have released souls dead before Christ, but the interesting part to me is from Dante. In The Inferno Virgil tells Dante of the Harrowing and shows him damage to the structures of Hell, specifically the destruction of the bridges that connect that span the ditches where the sinful are punished in the Eighth Circle of Hell.

It is from these two sources I drew my inspiration for The Harrowing or more properly The Harrowing of Creation. One of the simplest but to me very interesting thing is the destruction of bridges: literal in Dante and metaphorically in Blish. One has a harder time traversing Hell or contacting the creator. Now, 23 times 25 years after the Harrowing the world is still assorted city states, vast and very hard to traverse wastes separate people from each other, much that was known was lost, and fewer and fewer people can touch the divine. The Harrowing of Creation seems to have destroyed travel and communication. This includes the communication of knowledge…no one knows where the elves came from and even the Hierarchy, which predates The Harrowing knows few details of it.

The question is how to translate this to my game. The first thing, and easiest, is lack of roads and other structures of travel. The more complex some travel structure, the more creative effort required to built it, the less likely it is to exist and the more vulnerable it is to entropy. Reading and writing have fallen to medieval European levels in most places. Spells of travel and communication are rarer and perhaps of higher level.

Finally, the way around this transport problem is The Demon Ways that connect the parts of the megadungeon. People just need to remember demons aren’t among The Fallen.

Art notes: the two illustrations of The Harrowing of Hell are by Pieter Huys and Jacob Isaacsz. van Swanenburg.

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