Monday, September 14, 2015

Retrocommentary On The Free OSR Download - The Haunted Palace By Edgar Allen Poe For The Lamentations of the Flame Princess Rpg and Other Retroclone Systems

With Fall definitely on its way here in Connecticut I've been rereading a bit of Edgar Allen Poe and especially his poetry. Mostly because Poe's poems seem almost over looked by the OSR community to draw adventures from. Going over my copy of the free  Lamentations of the Flame Princess Referee's book there were certain things that stood out to me. The advice of the book on adventure design seemed tailor made for Poe's Haunted Palace.

Read It Right Over
Today we're going to be talking about using another Edgar Allen Poe poem as the basis for an adventure encounter in the Lamentations of the Flame Princess rpg. There are several reasons for doing this, one its one of his lesser known works of poetry, two its most often been dovetailed into the Fall of the House of Usher and three it easily can be used for challenging & yet deadly adventure encounter. We're actually offered our first clue how to incorporate the Haunted Palace into an adventure by Wiki :
The poem serves as an allegory about a king "in the olden time long ago" who is afraid of evil forces that threaten him and his palace, foreshadowing impending doom. As part of "The Fall of the House of Usher", Poe said, "I mean to imply a mind haunted by phantoms — a disordered brain" [1] referring to Roderick Usher.
The poem takes a marked change in tone towards the second to last stanza. After discussing the wit and wisdom of the king, and song and beauty in the kingdom:
But evil things, in robes of sorrow,
Assailed the monarch's high estate.
The house and family are destroyed and, apparently, become phantoms.
The beginning of the poem compares the structure with a human head. For example, the windows are eyes, its door representing a mouth. The exterior represents physical features while the interior represents the mind engaged in imaginative thought
Once again, I was reminded of Dore's artwork, after rereading the poem several times. The idea of doing a giant skull like map with the various points and structure of a human head does have a certain appeal.

There is a certain sense of doom and darkness that surrounds the poem and that makes it ideal as an adventure location. Is the king a wizard whose magick has infected the lands, his entire estate,and the palace with his madness. Has the entire palace become unhinged in time and space, a place isolated from the rest of the normal world? The thing that sprang to mind with this poem was the bubble of space time in No Salvation For Witches.

The magick of the king has long since isolated the location from the rest of the world. Entering the bubble brings the characters straight into the waiting arms of the weirdness of the Haunted Palace. Perhaps the structure of the palace compared to a human head is more then merely an allegory.Perhaps its a part of the demonic ecology of the landscape. Birds, plants, etc. are all weirdly twisted and tied into a mind haunted by phantoms — a disordered brain. If we begin deconstructing the narrative of the poem we're left with the narrator, the palace, the phantoms, and the events of the poem itself. All of this can easily be constructed into an adventure.


In the greenest of our valleys
 By good angels tenanted,
Once a fair and stately palace—
 Radiant palace—reared its head.
In the monarch Thought's dominion—
 It stood there!
Never seraph spread a pinion
 Over fabric half so fair!
Banners yellow, glorious, golden,
 On its roof did float and flow,
(This—all this—was in the olden
 Time long ago,)
And every gentle air that dallied,
 In that sweet day,
Along the ramparts plumed and pallid,
 A wingéd odour went away.
Wanderers in that happy valley,
Through two luminous windows, saw
Spirits moving musically,
To a lute's well-tunéd law,
Round about a throne where, sitting
In state his glory well befitting,
The ruler of the realm was seen.
And all with pearl and ruby glowing
 Was the fair palace door,
Through which came flowing, flowing, flowing,
 And sparkling evermore,
A troop of Echoes, whose sweet duty
 Was but to sing,
In voices of surpassing beauty,
 The wit and wisdom of their king.
But evil things, in robes of sorrow,
 Assailed the monarch's high estate.
(Ah, let us mourn!—for never morrow
 Shall dawn upon him desolate!)
And round about his home the glory
 That blushed and bloomed,
Is but a dim-remembered story
 Of the old time entombed.
And travellers, now, within that valley,
 Through the red-litten windows see
Vast forms, that move fantastically
 To a discordant melody,
While, like a ghastly rapid river,
 Through the pale door
A hideous throng rush out forever
 And laugh—but smile no more.

Constructing the Frame Work of Poe's The Haunted Palace  As
An Old School Adventure
Because of the very nature of the Haunted Palace, the haunted part makes this location weird from the start and contents of the palace are almost but not quite going to be truly and deeply haunted. And this is what's key to running this adventure, this is a location whose time has long since passed and yet nothing realizes it. Phantoms, ghosts, and other supernatural entitiYnes are going to be encountered and lives are going to be altered forever.
The Palace, its grounds, the NPC's all exist in a realm that straddles the planes of dream, death, and possibly the underworld. This is an adventure whose's ghosts and spirits are going to possibly be very,very dangerous. Several of the random monsters in this adventure might possibly sport powers and abilities randomly rolled from No Salvation of Witche's random generators to give the NPC's something unique and very,very dangerous.

So the motive for visiting the Haunted Palace is simply human greed. Even over the warped distances the Haunted Palace has been whispered about in taverns and brothels across the pseudo historical Europe. This will bring good adventurers and horrors together time and again. The fact that the mansion exists outside of normal space time brings plenty of cross over potential for OSR campaigns. There's a black metal feel to the poem and this enables a DM to take this place into the realms of Silent Hill or some other supernatural horror survival game. Another possibility is that none of the adventure locations or NPC's are actually real? Besides what if the entire adventure location, all of the monsters, and more are actually the product of the king's deranged mind.

Adventure Location Encounter
Table Based On The Haunted Palace

  1. Ghosts and spirits drawn to the magick of the king's misery and insanity. These horrors will be more dangerous then regular ghosts and the like. 
  2. Ghostly staff and servants who are not aware that they are dead but will turn instantly to try and kill PC's in a murderous rage. 
  3. Cursed objects or treasures in weird places. 
  4. Angel of Death whose hold on the place is almost absolute. And this allows the DM plenty of excuses to mess with time, space, aimed right at the PC's. 
  5. The ghosts and phantoms of other former adventurers haunt strange corners of this palace ready to deal out pain to those who disturb their slumber. 
  6. The king himself who may be a dangerous and deranged undead wizard king just waiting for fresh adventurers.
Actually Using Edgar Allen Poe'sUnderworld
For Your Old School Campaigns

There are several ways of using Poe's Haunt Palace, one is as a time lost adventure location that exists on the edge of the realms or planes of dream and death. The  events are separated from normality because of the location. What you will need is the Lamentations of the Flame Princess Referee's Grind House Edition book .This book has some outstanding reference points in it for adventure generation and the maintenance of adventure locations. The beginning adventure a Stranger Storm could be used as a perfect excuse to have a party of adventurers blunder into the location of the Haunted Palace. This place could be used as a great cross over retroclone adventure location with various adventurers wandering into the reality of the Haunt Palace. This is a great way to introduce some of the adventurers of Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea to their LoFP counterparts. Given the other worldly and dreamlike quality of the doom laden nature The Haunted Palace I can easily see it as a part of the Dream cycle of HP Lovecraft. This also means that the influences and set up for use makes Poe's Underworld perfect adventure fodder for  a Red and Pleasant land its an easy leap to have the timeless adventure location that I've thumbnail sketched out be a perfect cross over point.  One of the things that makes Poe's work timeless is the fact that it fits so many points of horror fiction so easily. The Gothic set up is a nice way to introduce some of the dark aspects of Rpg Pundit's Dark Albion. The time lost quality of the adventure location, the deeply disturbing nature of the Haunted Palace, some of the weird bits of the setting, and more make this a perfectly exploitable Dark Albion adventure location. The palace can lure adventurers to their doom as it continues its journey across space and time luring adventurers and freebooters to their doom. 

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