Saturday, July 18, 2020

Journey to the Center of the Earth By Jules Verne As Old School Campaign Setting

So I've gotten another email request to further clarify what I meant by utilizing Jules Verne's Journey To The Center of Earth book and other media sources for AD&D 1st edition, OD&D, & even OSR campaign builds. To get into those other sources we're going to have to turn back the clock to about '82 or so. Cable television was really getting into its own & suddenly afternoon television was filled with exotic reruns of shows from other eras. For us kids this meant a taste of stuff our parents & some older kids talked about but stuff we'd never seen. This included Filmations line of cartoons & that brings us to the Journey to the Center of the Earth cartoon which ran from September 9th to September 6th,1969.This was a staple of weekday after school viewing for us kids & the start of a peusdo OD&D campaign. Way before the Hollow World was even a glimmer in TSR's Mystara product line The Lindenbrook party of adventurers were dodging trips, giant monsters, lost tribes of survivors, etc.
"Journey to the Center of the Earth is an American science fiction Saturday morning cartoon, consisting of 17 episodes, each running 30 minutes. Produced by Filmation in association with 20th Century Fox, it aired from September 9, 1967 to September 6, 1969 on ABC Saturday Morning. It featured the voice of Ted Knight as Professor Lindenbrook. It was later shown in reruns on Sci Fi Channel's Cartoon Quest."

"It appears to have taken the 1959 film, Journey to the Center of the Earth, as its starting point rather than Jules Verne's original novel, e.g. including the character of Count Saknussen and Gertrude the duck. However it moved even further away from Verne's novel than the 1959 film." actually it take the 1959 film & takes a left deep into sci fi gonzo weirdness which was a staple of Filmation from that period. Just look at their D.C. super hero lines from then. The Teen Titans & Aquaman fought more weird menaces & aliens then you shake a stick at. But I digress off of my original point here, the filmation cartoon takes some incredible liberties with the classic Jules Verne source material. Which is fine because science fiction pulps have been doing the same thing for a very long time. Below is the classic Amazing Stories from June of 1926 with its iconic cover. Here's where we part ways with the Filmation cartoon & start talking about the Jules Verne novel ( sort of)

Believe it or not all of the classic elements that Filmation uses in the cartoon are actually in the book & in point of fact the cartoon made me read the novel right after seeing the first episode. If your not familiar with the plot its a classic of speculative fiction;"Journey to the Center of the Earth (FrenchVoyage au centre de la Terre, also translated under the titles A Journey to the Center of the Earth and A Journey to the Interior of the Earth) is an 1864 science fiction novel by Jules Verne. The story involves German professor Otto Lidenbrock who believes there are volcanic tubes going toward the centre of the Earth. He, his nephew Axel, and their guide Hans descend into the Icelandic volcano Snæfellsjökull, encountering many adventures, including prehistoric animals and natural hazards, before eventually coming to the surface again in southern Italy, at the Stromboli volcano."
Spoiler alert the Lidenbrock party doesn't actually reach the center of the Earth;"Although it is often suggested that Jules Verne used the idea of a partially hollow Earth in his 1864 novel, A Journey to the Center of the Earth, his characters actually descend only 87 miles[1] beneath the surface where they find an underground sea occupying a cavern roughly the size of Europe. There is no indication in the novel that Verne intended to suggest that the Earth was in any way hollow, partially or otherwise."

"Book cover for a 'double hitter' containing the two first Jules Verne novels: "Five weeks in a baloon" and "Journey to the Center of the Earth" Etching by Édouard Riou for the Hetzel publishing house, probably late 1860's." So the cartoon came out from Filmation and each episode is perfect material to mine for a Hollow Earth game but if we go back to the novel we've got a ton of megadungeon campaign for the taking given the,"beneath the surface where they find an underground sea occupying a cavern roughly the size of Europe."
For me its Édouard Riou's artwork that really gives some incredible richness to Verne's vision. All of the classic elements that we know and love are in the novel from are the giant mushrooms to the ruins of Atlantis.

It also makes it rife for OSR historical games like Lamentations of the Flame Princess or Dark Albion. The fact is that such a prehistoric location deep within an oceanic cavern would have to be artificially maintained for centuries. Lindenbrook is only the latest surviving finder of these mini campaign settings. Whose created these caverns? Well for me it could range from the Elves of Dark Albion to the Elder Things of HP Lovecraft.These places are not going to be in isolation either they're going to be a part of the deepest forbidden occult texts & inner cult doctrine. This is how its going to be in my games especially given how my 
Pellucidar  OSR Hybrid game is starting to verge into Beta Max Black cult movie territory. One of my buddy Glen's players & I got into a discussion over the accuracy of the prehistoric dinosaurs in 'Journey To The Center of the Earth.' His argument is that they're too big & not scientifically accuracy which is true given our modern knowledge. What these things actually are is biological weapon systems created by the owners of the caverns, sea, and other locations described in the book.

These owners have caretakers who might have been left behind or are still reporting to their masters. In the novel the party of adventurers comes across a giant skull on a part of the coast line of the inner Earth sea. Later they actually encounter one of these care takers;"A lightning storm again threatens to destroy the raft and its passengers, but instead throws them onto the coastline. This part of the coast, Axel discovers, is alive with prehistoric plant and animal life forms, including giant insects and a herd of mastodons. On a beach covered with bones, Axel discovers an oversized human skull. Axel and Lidenbrock venture some way into the prehistoric forest, where Professor Lidenbrock points out, in a shaky voice, a prehistoric human, more than twelve feet in height, leaning against a tree and watching a herd of mastodons. Axel cannot be sure if he has really seen the man or not, and he and Professor Lidenbrock debate whether or not a proto-human civilization actually exists so far underground. The three wonder if the creature is a man-like ape, or an ape-like man. The sighting of the creature is considered the most alarming part of the story, and the explorers decide that it is better not to alert it to their presence as they fear it may be hostile."

Who are these mastodon herders? Well in my mind their specially bred hill giants who have a telepathic hive mind with the Elder Things. In a future game of Dark Albion these hill giants are going to belong to the Elves of Dark Albion. They're telepathic, intelligent after a fashion, very dangerous, & have a very alien society who still worships their masters as 'gods'. This was something I used in a recent Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea adventure last year when the party journeyed deep into Under Hyperborea.

In my own 'Warlords of The Outer Worlds' the Journey to the Center of the Earth caverns are a hot house laboratory that has been used for centuries & is one of the Elder Things nodes where they bred thousands of biological weapons for when the 'stars were right'. They're hill giant handlers let them loose across the world along with other Mythos entities. The time when they reclaimed parts of the Earth for their own. Here's where Realms of Crawling Chaos comes in handy for the Fish Blooded, the White Apes, etc whom have been making pilgrimages to the ruins of Atlantis for centuries. They're chaos cults are flourishing across the globe in record numbers. Mankind is fighting a war on many fronts from the worlds of Jupiter to the wastelands of what was once his paradise. He's no longer at the top of the heap & the world is changing as he is as well.

So what does the novel Journey to The Center of the Earth have to do with Lamentations of the Flame Princess? Well it has everything to do with the retroclone game, the novel provides a perfect basis for ton of weird stuff to crop up in unexpected locations, it can add another megadungeon to World of the Lost which in turn create the vast prehistoric and weird underground locations of the novel. It can also be used to create a very nasty point crawl between the various underground locations. The various lost tribes & so forth can be generated using World of the Lost or any OSR system.

For downloads there are a few options the
Journey To the Center of the Earth 1877 edition is one of my favorites and is available from

Wiki Source to read on line here.

Amazing Stories Volume 01 Number 03 has one of the best versions of Journey To The Center of Earth By Jules Verne complete with classic pulp artwork.

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