View Full Version : Karsus
02-06-2011, 02:45 PM
This is an ancient character in the D&D Forgotten Realms setting, that I think may speak to some NTs.
Karsus was born about 3,100 years after the nation's founding, in -696 DR. He was able to cast his first spell at the age of two, and by the age of twenty-two had become the youngest arcanist to ever create his own floating city.
Gifted with magic, but lacking the necessary discipline that comes with hard work and research, he founded a school of magic on his enclave and encouraged the attendance of radical thinkers and those interested in taboo projects. One of his students, now known only as Lord Shadow, wrote a treatise on the exploration and exploitation of other planes, such as the Plane of Shadow, which garnered initial criticism but was eventually embraced as the key to an infinite source of shadow-creatures as slave laborers as well as a dumping ground for unwanted garbage.
Creation of Karsus's Avatar
In -345 DR, Arthindol the Terraseer appeared before Karsus and stated, “Mystryl was about to face her greatest challenge - one that could alter the perception of magic for all time.”
Shouldering the responsibility for preserving his civilization, Karsus finished creating a spell, Karsus's Avatar he had been developing for years. This spell would steal the power of a deity and transfer it to the archwizard that cast it. Karsus believed that with the power of a deity at his disposal, he could destroy the Phaerimm and unite his people. Karsus cast the spell in the 3,520th year of Netheril, -339 DR, and chose Mystryl, the goddess of magic, as his target, feeling that she was the most powerful deity and the most appropriate choice for his purposes. Karsus gained the powers over all magic.
Fall of Netheril
Unfortunately, his choice was a terrible mistake, for one of the responsibilities of the deity of magic was to regulate the flow of magic to and from all beings, spells, and magic items in the world. Lacking the ability to do so properly, magic surged and fluctuated. With her last remaining bit of power, Mystryl sacrificed herself to block Karsus's access to the weave, causing all magic to fail. The flying cities of Netheril plummeted to the earth. The severing of the link also killed Karsus and transformed him into stone, and the last thing he saw was his entire civilization being destroyed because of his actions. This was to be known as Karsus's Folly. The stone form of Karsus eventually landed in a part of the High Forest, now called the Dire Wood.
Honestly, if you're going to fail and die, this is not a bad way to go :)
True, the whole civilization died, but he'd done his best and had almost become a god in the process. Plus if you're going to fail, you may as well fail spectacularly :p
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... Kinda sad in a way (even if its a fictional character)
---------- Post added 02-06-2011 at 09:54 PM ----------
This character also represents IMO, the view ordinary people want to have of talented people. For Karsus, among the truly talented of his age, is made out to be an example of hubris. Of reaching for more than humans should strive for and suffering the consequences.
If I had written the story, there's no way I would write it in a way that such a character failed horribly and was destroyed. Why would you not dream of success in reaching the heavens.
02-07-2011, 07:38 AM
In order to make this story work the way you want, with a happy ending for Karsus, you would have to create some aspects differently.
The goddess, Mystryl, whom he usurps (and I have a problem with that, idealistically speaking) is a force set to balance other powers in this universe, and as a wizard/sorcerer (this is a sorcerer, isn't it, too impatient for studies, more about raw talent) he should understand this.
I agree upon the hubris reference, it is actually a very classic hubris pattern beneath it.
The old hubris element from the Greek has a for me right now somewhat diffuse evolution from being about destroying dead bodies to disturbing the natural order by attemping to be more than you are.
So what makes it such a classic hubris, is more the disruption of balance caused by his attempt at supremacy, and not so much others desire to see the talented fail. In Europe, the understanding of set structures for the human individual can also be seen in our folklore, where many of the classic fairy tales are about how fallen nobles are to be restored as a part of a greater order in things.
Cinderella, for an example, is such a tale, where the young girl is the true heir in her family, but is rejected after her fathers death. Then she rises to her natural position again at the end of the story. I find it interesting how the Americans have managed to change this into meaning that the poor will become rich if it is deserved.
(I'm sorry about the derailing. I may come to a point :p)
02-07-2011, 02:37 PM
Karsus is supposed to be from a time before there were wizards and sorcerors. He's just incredibly talented and has a natural grasp of things.
Amusingly among other things in that world, we find out that Mystryl didn't know that her power would pass on to another... in a world that needs magic to exist (so her choice was closer to choosing to destroy the world - as far as she knew) - emotional stupidity.
Also, both the mortal deified in her place and the one after that managed to master the power and maintain the balance. Karsus had it for a couple of seconds.
But anyway, yes, we believe in people having the potential for greatness and striving for it. And in some people having more talent than others.
But anyway, its stuff like those two mortal successors of Mystryl working out - both quite pathetic individuals btw, where Karsus fails horribly, that I consider an example of normal people not wanting to imagine people who are great.
Its like many cartoons lately. Child heroes who have no morals/discipline/maturity, who have to and end up saving the day... but they don't have the qualities of people that should be respected. People would like to believe that being ordinary, immature, and uncontrolled is what you should strive for.
02-07-2011, 03:33 PM
The reason why hubris is so important, is that it is a threat against the delicate greater order. If something is moved out of place, the other elements will be disturbed, also, and there will be chaos.
(This Karsus guy strikes me as a fire temper)
From what I read about this particular version of the fable, the "mortal" Karsus, creates an incredibly strong spell, prepares for a couple of hundred years, then he is ready to take over a the power of a deity whom his world needs to be able to exist.
This deity, of all the dities he could have chosen, insures the balance between the two first deities, representing light and dark - I believe. Or something, they have to be balanced by Mystryl, of that I am certain. She also controls how magic flows - which is what he finds so attractive, which is why his world needs her to exist. She controls time - and dimension traveling. It takes something delicate to do this, not some random, yearning, egocentric rogue.
.....And SHE is the emotional one? She can't trust the world to someone like him.
---------- Post added 02-08-2011 at 12:36 AM ----------
About her mortal successors - that is another one of our returning themes, the rebirth.
Very popular - imported from Persia and beat the hubris stuff to a pulp. :)
02-08-2011, 06:22 AM
Considering that as far as she knows her death like that destroys the world. The more sensible view is still to let Karsus have the power.
This is convoluted more by - her being able to understand and predict all spells that will occur - in theory, and her knowing that the spell is (in newer lore) temporary, and will likely kill Karsus in the process. So the dude is basically becoming a god for a little while to save his people, and choosing to die in the process anyway.
Of course, people have never reinterpreted the original view with respect to the updates to the lore :p
And Mystryl's divinity ball goes and hits a retarded woman that's slobbering all over herself and raises her to be the new deity of magic instead of Karsus. <- Thus the idea that those with great talent who strive for greatness are undeserving of such in the eyes of ordinary people who would write such stories.
02-09-2011, 03:07 PM
If we are to go into details about this tale, and if the details exists in several variations, I need to read up on it so please link to the articles if they are available.
Anyway. If we imagine a tale somewhat closer to what you want where this magician casts his spell and succeeds - then he will have to do all Mystryls duties in her place for his world to still be able to function. (I think the "temporary" bit just makes it all very strange. Is that a newer edit?) I don't think it's such a great idea to replace a perfectly functional deity with millenniums of expertise behind her, with some noob.
It is also a great responsibility which to a high degree consists of keeping things in place, and an impatient, aggressive and slightly destructive personality (with hubris) may not be very well fit for the job.
When it comes to the girls who inherit Mystryls powers - I haven't seen anything about some retarded person - I read her powers were reborn in Mystra, originally a peasant girl who had shown some promising talent for wizardry.
Retard makes sense, thought, for a rebirth - theme.
---------- Post added 02-10-2011 at 12:16 AM ----------
The part about people being negative towards individuals with great talents and think of them as undeserving of success - that's your very personal read of this tale.
I see a man who tries to steal something which does not belong to him.
If he sort of created himself as a deity (don't they do that all the time in D&D) without usurping someone, it would have been different.
02-09-2011, 03:26 PM
Hubris? hubris? He thought he could become a god. He was right. Then the old wench killed herself :p
Actually my personal read is more on 'the writer chose to write a story like this. A nation of great wizards where the greatest sought godhood itself. But 'the monkey who thought he could fly' did achieve it, only to be cast down and be destroyed - but not alone - along with all who had similar ambition and power'.
Its the difference between who the writers chose to have succeed and who they chose to have fail. The most competent and talented ever, fails. The most worthless possible succeeds where he failed.
The temporary bit was probably added later because someone thought the idea of a human being able to totally take a God's power with a single spell was going too far. Yet, if you change the spell that way, that changes everything. Since Karsus knowing that its temporary and will likely kill him, suddenly makes it more an act of self-sacrifice rather than seeking power.
I agree that taking someone else's power is less respectable. Although its kinda like conquering a country in a way. Resources exist, and they can be taken by one who can find a way (No, I don't really like it either - but he had a nation to save)
All of the Phaerimm that the Netherese were in combat with were in their original incarnation - a species of naturally powerful wizards, who had been casting spells to drain life from the area that Netheril was made up of so that what had been great places earlier all turned to desert... and they were acting from the shadows so few people in Netheril were even sure that they were under attack.
The Goddess of Magic was a fair choice, as a God whose power to take, to fight a whole race of powerful wizards.
This actually feels more like a philosophical discussion than something that should be in Arts and Entertainment.
02-09-2011, 03:30 PM
I think D&D got too inspired by the story of Icarus on that one To view links or images in this forum your post count must be 2 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
02-09-2011, 03:36 PM
I must admit I have a hard time buying the "nation to save" part. It just wasn't in the picture until I objected to the stealing.
Like some poor alibi which has been put out there just for grumpy, criticizing people like me. :)
It's the greatness part you are talking about - sacrifice....well, that may cover for the irrational desire to replace something which is already working.
I disagree with whoever edited it. If you are to let an entire world fall, it should have a spectacular reason.
---------- Post added 02-10-2011 at 12:37 AM ----------
Icarus is my second home, Zsych.
---------- Post added 02-10-2011 at 12:38 AM ----------
Eh, Aezur. :)
02-09-2011, 03:52 PM
I am reading between the lines. :)
Well get back on you guys...shortly.
02-09-2011, 04:17 PM
@Bella: True - even if he has other reasons, I focus primarily on the 'created as an example of a talented human reaching too high and suffering horribly for it'. The dude was 300+ years old when he cast the spell (obviously people don't assume intelligent people attain wisdom over centuries either)
The whole idea of becoming a god to solve that big-ass problem, sounds like an expression of Ne to me :)
02-09-2011, 04:26 PM
Zsych, did you edit your last post, or did I miss a part?
I do not know Forgotten Realms that well, what I have to base upon, are fairy tales and general folklore with the patterns and themes which can be seen as important from there.
This is what they base much of the D&D worlds upon also, I understand.
I agree that it is a very tragic tale, but I do not object to the girls being chosen as vessels instead of Karsus - it makes sense. Of course, if it's just a temporary spell, it seems a bit extreme of the goddess to terminate herself. (What an annoying and clumsy detail)
Anyway, I am really on my from analyzing this tale to creating a new.
I want to see what you want.
02-09-2011, 04:33 PM
I... think that the idea of being talented and reaching very high is to be respected, irrelevant of consequences. I think we should dream high.
Separate from that point, I dislike people who object to the idea of dreaming high.
02-09-2011, 04:36 PM
Will you create a tale where this is told?
02-09-2011, 04:38 PM
I might. I have way too many ideas and things I want to do so I can't say when I'd get around to it. I do want to write a novel at some point though (or maybe have a comic made, based on my story ideas)
I'd actually want to write a story with a slight Harry Potter-ish tinge, but about kids in a trying time, who grow through intelligence, hard work, and taking risks (and not in a way where the world depends on them because the world depending on kids totally violates my sense of sanity)
02-09-2011, 04:55 PM
:) Yes. We'll end up as Evangelion with too much dependence on kids to save the world....
(I never could spell that title correctly....)
02-09-2011, 04:58 PM
And now that the thread has been officially derailed.
Seriously, when we were kids, most of the cartoon heroes were respectable-ish adults. Now they tend to be bratty kids instead. The idea that being brats is okay does not appeal to me.
02-09-2011, 05:03 PM
Oh, I will derail forever.
I just saw this kid's show....I carry a long rant with me after that.
Ahem. Back on track. Greatness....
02-09-2011, 05:05 PM
Exactly. Part of the derailment point there was that people are no longer visualizing greatness, or even respectable, as what they should aspire to.
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