Wednesday 6 February 2013

Amazonia: The Mysterious Cities of Gold

It is the 16th century. From all over Europe, great ships sail west to conquer the New World, the Americas. The men eager to seek their fortune, to find new adventures in new lands. They long to cross uncharted seas and discover unknown countries, to find secret gold on a mountain trail high in the Andes. They dream of following the path of the setting sun that leads to El Dorado and the Mysterious Cities of Gold. 

If you watch the intro (do it, do it now!), You'll notice that the title sequence starts in space. Theres a reason for that - the Olmecs (the bad-guys) are in fact a race of alien beings, who use solar energy to power super high-tech equipment, made out of gold, such as the eagle aircraft, to rule over South America, except they've forgotten it. or something, I can't quite remember.

Olmec:  Alien Mekon Types : Stat as Drow / Dark Elves

South American Alien pyramids sound vaguely familiar? Well it could be you remember the writings of Ancient Alien funky mojo proponent, Erich Von Daniken. Unable to believe that anyone who isn't a modern white European was able to do anything remotely significant in terms of culture or structural engineering, Von D jets around the world claiming every ancient structure bigger than a mud-hut was built by aliens.

Mexican Zigurats? aliens
Nasca lines? aliens
Egyptian pyramids? aliens
Stonehenge? aliens

Not only that, but all these ignorant people worshiped the aliens as gods....

No, Erich, God was not an astronaut.

Chariots of the Gods was first published in 1968. A film was made, with awesome music (tho' not up to Cities of Gold sing-a-long in a broom-cupboard level) and by the power of youtube you can watch it, it's fun romp with some killer imagery, as long as you remember it's as silly an idea as Uri Geller's spoonbending. I loved reading this stuff as a kid, aliens, exotic landscapes, unearthing ancient mysteries, the adventure and the hodgepodge of ancient art, so when the Mysterious Cities of Gold aired, I felt right at home.

And of course, this makes for cool D&D campaign background stuff. Hmm, prehistoric aliens with advanced technologies, leaving remnants of their ancient super-civilisation behind. Kinda reminds one of M A R Barkers Tekumel, where of course, the humans are the aliens. And I'm sure there is something Warhammerish about the idea...

John Blanche illustration | Slann | AD&D stat as Bullywugs

Oh yeah! A quick recap of the Warhammer 2nd Edition timeline, ice-planet, ruled by dinosaurs / dragons /lizardmen and a small population of human-like Amazons (see the Hammer fur bikini trilogy: One Million Years B.C. (1966) Prehostoric Women (1967) and When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth (1970)) Warhammer worlds secret pulp-adventure origins... Then the alien Slann arrive, with names like Gotta-lotta-botl and Koppa-Ketl who proceeded to put warp-gates at the north and south pole for easy interstellar access, and begin terraforming the planet, and building pyramid-engines to stabalise the atmosphere and stuff.

Chariots of the Frogs | John Blanche Concept Art | Bullywugs

The Slann then genetically engineered various slave-races for different jobs,  " Eldest of all, the elf-children, Dwarf the delver, dark are his houses; Ent the earthborn, old as mountains; Man the mortal, master of horses" Oh no that's something else. Elves to psychically control things, Dwarves to build, Orcs to Waaaagh... Anyway, the frogmen created a world-spanning empire of genetic mutants, controlled the climate and battled with the Evil Forces of Skeletor Chaos spewing forth from their increasingly malfunctioning dimensional portals.

Alien Bullywug Overlords, 2nd compendium 1984 | Dave Andrews

Although, of course, by the time the adventurous westerners of the Old World in a fantasy version of the 16th Century, discovered the Slann on their steamy tropical continent of Lustria, their warp-gates had long-since collapsed, sending raw-chaos material into the world, their empire had crumbled, and they had decayed into barbaric tribal ways, haunting the jungles that had overgrown their once mighty city-states. The Slann had long lost all grasp of their ancient technology, although others, of course, had not entirely forgotten...


  1. Ah, so this is where my current preoccupation with Lustria and its inhabitants come from!

    I was an avid fan of Cities of Gold as a kid, devoured Chariots of the Gods and many others of its ilk - even thought about reading up on the epic of Gilgamesh a few times... Must adm it though, I could do with some extraterrestrial assistance in constructing the full size model of Rigg's shrine I'm embarked on at the moment!

    Tekumel is about the only thing I'm not familiar with here.

    Now off to track down more episodes of Cities of Gold :)

  2. Ah yes, it was Zacheria Stitchin in his 12th Planet series that proposed the Babalonian myths and the biblical Nephilim were all about aliens. All good fantasy fodder, and we can probably pin the Slann as genetic manipulators on him..

    Empire of the Petal Throne (PDF £11/£7) - the World of Tekumel was the 2nd game published by TSR after D&D. It is awesome. To translate it to Warhammer terms, imagine a world entirely populated by primitive Zoats, Rogue Trader era Tyranids and Slann, then invade with a super-hightech human race. The world is mysteriously displaced to a pocket universe, human empire collapses. The game begins around a million years later, technological remnants remain as magic artifacts and strange gods have emerged...

  3. Nice stuff.
    I remember seeing a very small part of Cities of Gold when I was a little kid (probably a rerun) but it was the end of an episode and I think it was in someone else's house. Never saw it again :(
    "The chariots of the gods"-thing was brought to my attention by a guy in a bar who really believed that stuff. A Dutch musician/writer had a (serious) show about it, available youtube (In den beginne, Bram Vermeulen), watched it, nice story that.
    It's an interesting connection you discovered. It really puts perspective on GW's Slann/Lustria, and I wonder what would have happened if GW had made the Lustria supplement during the 1st/2nd edition era, with all the stuff they wanted to put there back then, rather than the rather bland "how to play warhammer in jungle terrain" that was released a few years ago.

  4. Indeed, the later Lustria supplement is very weak beer, and the Amazons fan army-list equally impoverished. I think returning to the potential sources for the setting, Von Daniken, Stitchin, MAR Baker rejuvenates the core idea. People seem quite suprised at how swords-and-sorcery, pulpy, weird-fantasy Old-school Warhammer can be.

    I had no idea that anyone still took the Alien Astronaut theory seriously (and I'm a lapsed subscriber to the Fortean Times), but unfortunately my Dutch is nonexistant, so I don't know what Bram was talking about!

    1. yes, there is still a little weirdness in the current version, but it is also "very serious business" 96% of the time.

      the late Bram Vermeulen basically recounted the story cooked up by von Daniken and had the opinion that it was believable/plausible. in the show he said that Daniken's book (chariots of the gods) blew his mind.
      He was a steady atheist for most of his life, but with philosophical inclinations, so I guess it just struck a chord with him (pun not intended).
      The "In den Beginne" show is not well-known and he's remembered more for his music and other thespian outings.

  5. I just found this post. Amazing stuff. I laughed out loud a lot!