Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Dungeons & Dragons, HP Lovecraft, Cats, Time, Mist, & Arduin Adventures

So I'm recounting my own introduction into the other side of playing in Arduin lately. Dave Hargrave's Arduin Grimoire series back in the early Nineties wasn't something you mentioned in the company of certain dungeon masters. The 'other three little brown books' as they were know at my local hang out had a more then slightly sleazy reputation & there was more then a little outright hatred. This was especially true among those who took a more traditional second edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms approach.

We on the other hand stuck with both original Dungeons & Dragons,a smattering of B/X Dungeons & Dragons, & Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition. All of it was on the cheap back then because no one really cared. The harmonized dungeons, cookie cutter world settings, & super tons of modules had pretty much rendered the 'do it yourself''  aesthetic of early Dungeons & Dragons null & void back then.  Oh sure there were a few die hard dungeon masters who took me under their wing & made sure I knew how to do things the right way. Our group had long since moved its game base by then from West Hartford Connecticut. The problem during this time is that my other 'three little brown books'

 were burnt  toast at this time long torched up in an apartment fire in my flat in Boston. This meant that I had to beg, borrow, or steal a set!? Well fortunately a friend of mine lent me his whist we were playing. Eventually, I bought my own set which I kept for many years but a  ex friend of mine made off with those. Everything was about to change for the better with a box of books on the side of the road. I'm not exactly sure where the box turned up but on one of my many trips out to play at our dungeon master's house I spotted & grabbed a box of paperback's. There was the usual collections of Edgar Allan Poe, a few Conan pastiches, a ton of Lovecraft, Gordon R. Dickson, & Lord Dunsany.
The King of Elf Land's Daughter was/is one of my all time favorites & there's more then a few nasty surprises that a dungeon master could lift for his or her campaign.

I made a huge mistake showing that box to our dungeon master or did I? Richard was a clever bastard who lived down in New Town who lived around the corner from  a used book store. Within the two week period that we had our last game & got our experience points he had gotten a copy of every book in that box. This included Gordon R. Dickson's fix up time travel novel Time Storm. Its a weird time travel novel that has a man waking up from a mist filled landscape where time storms have taken away half of the human population.

Suddenly our parties were facing down mist filled valleys, strange dungeons with abandoned machinery, Deodanth clans hunting Elven glades, & Trelves hell bent on extermination of our party! All of this would later on come to bite Richard in the behind when I took him into Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition as a Lovecraftian cat! The party's PC's passed through a certain bank of fog like mist. But this was no ordinary mist no this was a mist from a certain valley in Arduin. The exploration of Underborea became a lot more challenging. Or was it?

Lombard School c1700 Cats being instructed In the art of mouse-catching by an owl.

The party could suddenly go where & when they wanted to! Their eyes were sharper & their claws keen for closing in on the wizard's trail. The fact was I took most of my ques from HP Lovecraft's Dunsanian Dreamland novels & stories for this little excursion.
"It is said that in Ulthar, which lies beyond the river Skai, no man may kill a cat; and this I can verily believe as I gaze upon him who sitteth purring before the fire. For the cat is cryptic, and close to strange things which men cannot see. He is the soul of antique Aegyptus, and bearer of tales from forgotten cities in Meroe and Ophir. He is the kin of the jungle's lords, and heir to the secrets of hoary and sinister Africa. The Sphinx is his cousin, and he speaks her language; but he is more ancient than the Sphinx, and remembers that which she hath forgotten."
Things got a little dicey though when the party ran into one of the Cat generals from Ulthar on their way back to the mist curtain though. They barely escaped being taken back to HPL's Dreamlands for questioning. But some clever talking & mutual respect got them back into human form!

Théophile Steinlen's Summer: Cat on a Balustrade was the inspiration for the wildly dangerous NPC cat general who watches over the tunnels from AS&SH's Hyperborea. He & his pack are still watching those tunnels & occasionally my players still talk about their encounters down there!

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