Friday, October 4, 2019

Holloween OSR Adventure - H.P. Lovecraft's The Case of Charles Dexter Ward & Free Lovecraft Download

"The essential Saltes of Animals may be so prepared and preserved, that an ingenious Man may have the whole Ark of Noah in his own Studie, and raise the fine Shape of an Animal out of its Ashes at his Pleasure; and by the lyke Method from the essential Saltes of humane Dust, a Philosopher may, without any criminal Necromancy, call up the Shape of any dead Ancestour from the Dust whereinto his Bodie has been incinerated."

Already I'm trying together together my players for a Halloween game & the scheduling hasn't exactly been easy. Halloween is beyond a busy time here in New England but I just realized that I don't actually have an adventure written?! What I do have is the germ of an idea & it involves H.P. Lovecraft's novella The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. Now I'm about to take a leaf out of my friend Jeffrey Talanian's notebook. For various Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea's rpg adventures over the years Jeff has used the titles of Lovecraft stories then adapted the themes to his adventures. Instead what I want to do is adapt the whole cloth Lovecraft material to an adventure.
Here's a quick run down of the Lovecraft novel's history from the wiki entry;"The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is a short horror novel (51,500 words) by American writer H. P. Lovecraft, written in early 1927, but not published during the author's lifetime. Set in Lovecraft's hometown of ProvidenceRhode Island, it was first published (in abridged form) in the May and July issues of Weird Tales in 1941; the first complete publication was in Arkham House's Beyond the Wall of Sleep collection (1943). It is included in the Library of America volume of Lovecraft's work."

The first installment of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
was promoted with an outsized banner headline on the cover of 
Weird Tales.

I'm not going to lie here the 1963 Roger Corman film The Haunted Palace is beyond a favorite of mine. As a kid I was absolutely obsessed with the Roger Corman Poe films.And for any Lovecraft fan this is a perfect film in many ways. For the old school & OSR fan its a sort of blue print but its not the only one. 

Just in case you haven't read through Lovecraft's novel here's a plot synoisis again from the wiki entry; "Charles Dexter Ward is a young man from a prominent Rhode Island family who has disappeared from a mental asylum. He had been incarcerated during a prolonged period of insanity, during which he exhibited minor and inexplicable physiological changes. His empty cell is found to be very dusty. The bulk of the story concerns the investigation conducted by the Wards' family doctor, Marinus Bicknell Willett, in an attempt to discover the reason for Ward's madness and physiological changes. Willett learns that Ward had spent the past several years attempting to discover the grave of his ill-reputed ancestor, Joseph Curwen.
The doctor slowly begins to reveal the truth behind the legends surrounding Curwen, an eighteenth-century shipping entrepreneur and alleged alchemist, who was in reality a necromancer and mass murderer. A raid on Curwen's farm was remarkable for the shouted incantations, lights, explosions, and some not-quite-human figures shot down by the raiders. The raiders swore any witnesses to strict secrecy about what they saw and heard." Curwen get's resurrected & Lovecraftian hilarity ensues in  Arkham Massachusetts. Now the one thing that I loved about the 'Haunted Palace' film  besides everything is the fact that the village itself was very isolated & otherworldly with the use of mists everywhere. The film reminded me of Tom Moldvey's X2 Castle Amber module. In fact I'd go so far as to say that X2 is a perfect blue print for how to pull off The Case of Charles Dexter Ward as a Halloween adventure.

In fact I'll go one better & say that Joseph Curwen could be a contemporary wizard to 
Stephen Amber. How?! Well these are high level wizards who transcend time & space, they regularly deal with & have rivalries with each other. There are several references throughout the story off of the fact that Joseph Curwan owns a copy of the Necronomicon & has had regular traffic with HP Lovecraft's Dreamlands. And he's perfected a body jumping form of 'serial immortality'. He might as well be an instructor in the colleges of Glantri. 

I can already see the wheels turning & why not just use Ravenloft from second edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons?! Curwen could be a Dark Lord & all of the trappings are there?! Which gets me back to something I noticed last night while rereading the Arduin rpg. The accessiblity of Curwen's Arkham. The village adventure location is small, essential to the Haunted Palace & it can be reached by anyone.

Now consider for a moment that the old school & the OSR has already proved me with everything I need to make this a reality. The Arkham of Joseph Curwen's era is right around the corner in Goblinoid games Realms of Crawling Chaos.  The evil of Joseph Curwen will arise again this Holloween my friends & rest assured the guests will be relieved of their essential salts!

The sorcerer is simply waiting for his next pumpkin spiced guests to arrive! More about this project as the month goes on!  

The Complete Works of H.P. Lovecraft
are available for Free Here. 

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