Brazen Head
rating: +2+x

The head spoke in a voice like continents shifting:
"From the den of the Lion a light shines. The red light of a crescent moon that runs thick as blood through the city of the crossed keys. Blood, blood like that of my old master's heir, the Son of the City taken amongst his children - where is the fisherman? The shepherd dies for his sheep and the sheep too are lost. In welcoming life, they found only death"
The head fell silent and they waited for me to translate from the Latin.
"They're sending a unit in from Venice - target is the Easter Sunday in St Peter's Square. They kill the Pope and a signficant number of the Congregation."

Basic Information

The Brazen Head (alternatively the Bronze Head or the Head of Brass, depending on the narrative) was an oracular device in the shape of a man's head made either of brass or bronze. The device was said to accurately answer any question that the user put to it … and owners and users ran the gamut of medieval scholars, including Roger Bacon, Pope Sylvester II, Boethius and Faust. Their frequent inspiration Virgil was also credited as having possessed one. Latter day examples show up in Don Quixote (later revealed to be a fake) and Neuromancer (albiet a retrotech replica).
There's no solid agreement as to whether the device was magical or mechanical, or how many there were … it is possible that the same head served all of the occultists thought to have used one. Was the brass head a vessel for a bound demon of prophecy or an impossible primitive computer? Did it have access to external data sources or did it merely analyze data presented to it? How reliable is its reputation for accuracy?

Sources

Bibliography
2. Novel: Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes
3. Novel: Neuromancer by William Gibson

Game and Story Use

  • In White Wolf's World of Darkness the Brass Head was a powerful interrogation device owned by House and Clan Tremere: it ate the brains of prisoners and regurgitated the information that they contained at the command of its masters … this would be a suitably macabre way of operating that could be easily pinched for you campaign.
  • Perhaps the Head is a brain in a jar preserving the personality of an ancient sage from Mu or Atlantis.
  • If it is a computer, who built it, and how did they make such a powerful AI without silicon technology?
  • Could be a bound spirit or demon … how far can you trust it? Is it really prophetic or just really good at faking a prediction?
  • If the PCs get hold of it, make sure that it is suitably malicious, Delphic or expensive to operate…
  • The head would make a wierd but effective BBEG
  • For a silly game: The PCs go to great lengths to "liberate" a brazen head from the private collection of the villain… only to discover that it's nothing but an anachronistic brass "Magic 8 Ball". Was it worth all the trouble for this? Reply hazy, ask again later…
  • The Knights Templar were accused of worshipping the head of a demon named Baphomet. Could this be an artifact like the Brazen Head?
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