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Wednesday, 11 November 2015

10th Anniversary Classic Rant: The Piria Code

I didn't mean to do two posts about my campaigns in a row, but hell... last night, my "Piria Code" campaign for Unknown Armies came to a close. It wasn't a surprise, the game was slated to run for the set number of weeks, and afterwards we will be starting the Chinese campaign.

Now that the campaign has come to a close, I thought I'd explain a bit about the concept behind the campaign; it revolved around a real-life historical figure and the real-world architecture of Uruguay.

Francisco Piria (1847-1933) was a highly prominent Architect during the golden age of Uruguay's construction boom, who ended up influencing not just the capital city of Montevideo with his incredible structures, but also constructed his very own city/resort of Piriapolis, today one of the most successful beach vacation resorts in the country.

But Piria wasn't just a regular architect. He was a esotericist, and more specifically an alchemist, who believed that sacred geometry put into design practice through his constructions could have real magical effects.

Piria's city, Piriapolis, was originally going to be named Heliopolis, the city of the sun (it was the journalists who named it Piriapolis, originally mocking him, since no one believed he'd be able to make a full-blown city out of a plot of beachside land he bought in the middle of nowhere). It was meant to be a city that was built upon the principles of the age of aquarius; indeed, if you view it aerially, the principle constructions of the city line up to mirror the constellation of aquarius.

The central structure of his city is the Argentino Hotel, which is shaped in such a way that from an aerial view the hotel is in the shape of the astrological symbol for Uranus, and filled with occult symbolism: Dolphins (symbolic of Aquarius), temperance (statuary of young women emptying a vase), the templar cross, floor works of black white and red (the three alchemical colours), and the front garden are graced with statues of gryphons (though these days uruguayans incorrectly refer to them as the "Lions").

Likewise, in Montevideo, Piria constructed a number of significant constructions, including the spectacular fountain of the Plaza Matriz. This fountain is situated in the center of the most significant plaza of the old city of Montevideo. The catholic church had placed their cathedral on one side of the plaza, as the church likes to do to claim their position of prominence over the social polis; the government house was directly on the other side of the plaza. But Piria put the fountain, graced with Masonic symbolism, in the center of the plaza, to symbolize that the masonic fraternity was in the center, the core, of Uruguayan culture.

The fountain is covered with images of occult significance:

Meanwhile, he was also responsible for the construction of the building that currently houses the Uruguayan supreme court; which is filled with a rosacrucian symbolism, images of roses being visible throughout:

And last but by far not least, there is the Palacio Salvo, built not by Piria but based on his concepts; that was for a long time the tallest structure in South America. This building is filled with images of the aquarian age; and the cthonic forces of the sea, including some that might seem more than a little familiar to all us gamers:

Also, for reasons that aren't clear, there's an almost identical slightly smaller copy of the Palacio Salvo in Buenos Aires. It was there that the most famous Tango in the world, the cumparsita (the song you tend to think of when you think "tango") was first performed.

And finally, there's Piria's "church". It was constructed outside of piriapolis on a hill; offered to the curia but they soundly rejected it (and I suspect he knew they would) on account of the occult symbolism that adorns it. Today, the church is virtually in ruins:

A key feature of Piria's church is that it has an eastward-facing Altar, and a central stained glass window (with the symbol of the Rose in the centre) that is set up so that in the spring equinox sunlight will shine directly through the centre of the rose in the window directly onto the middle of the Altar. It is there, Piria taught, that the secret of alchemy can be revealed.

All of these constructions weren't just object lessons in alchemy; they were meant to be practical: you see, Piria believed that there was an approaching apocalypse, and that Uruguay would become a protected place against that future disaster. He created a three-point triangle, between piriapolis, Montevideo, and a third point in the Uruguayan department of Rivera (and, on a plot of land in the middle of nowhere in Rivera, you can find a pillar standing alone, relatively nondescript, with the word "Piria" inscribed on the bottom, as the marker for the third point in his triangle).

So with all this, imagine a game where different great forces in the world struggle with each other to have control over the artifacts and places of power Piria discovered, but only your group of adventurers, brought together by the death of a strange magician that all of you knew (but none of you knew to be a magician) are the only ones who have access to the code that explains just how Piria plans to turn Uruguay into the one place that can survive the end of the universe as we know it.

It was a great campaign, with a lot of unexpected turns; great fun. Now, its on to the Three Kingdoms!


(Originally posted October 20, 2006)

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