Tag Archives: H. P. Lovecraft

H. P. Lovecraft Gaming

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Back in the early 1990’s my little group of game players turned the full power of nerd obsession on the fantasy role-playing game Call of Cthulhu.  It is a totally weird little game based on the novels and short stories of H. P. Lovecraft.   It is a game about solving mysteries that, if successfully solved, will lead you to confrontations with all-powerful ancient evils that you cannot win against.  And you keep playing until your character absorbs so many insanity points that they go completely insane.  Your character then becomes a minion of demonic and irresistible evil that the next player character you roll up will have to hunt and defeat.  It is not a game you ever win.  You merely have to learn to survive and stay sane, things at which the game is set up to make you fail.

In 1991 the television gods took an old vampire soap opera that I had loved in the 60’s and remade it.  Dark Shadows came back to life starring Ben Cross as Barnabas Collins (the Chariots of Fire guy playing the vampire role that would later have a part in the downfall of Johnny Depp.)  The lead player in our group, a kid who was such a nerd that he would go one to be in the intelligence division of the Marine Corps, decided his character would have to be the vampire Barnabas Collins.  He reasoned that the only way to fight big evils was to fight back with evil that had been converted back to goodness.

And his instincts were good.  Barnabas and his lady love, Victoria Winters, were the only player characters not eaten by the minions of Nyarlathotep in the first adventure.  And Victoria had to be raised from the dead by having Barnabas turn her into a Vampire.

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Of course, the very next challenge would be from a white witch voodoo priestess from New Orleans, the Vampire hunter Sofia Jefferson.  (She was an NPC, not Sofie’s player character).  And she had a special potion that, given to a vampire, would restore it to normal human life.

This was a problem for Barnabas, because he really depended on his powers as a vampire and was not willing to go on without those powers.  So the vampire hunter had to be avoided without killing her and putting an end to her good work fighting evil.  If you can’t tell from the picture, Sofia was blind, yet could see with uncanny vision through sightless eyes.

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The next player character added to survive more than one adventure borrowed Luis’s vampire idea by making his character from the movie Darkman, a Liam Neeson movie about a doctor who had burned his face off, but could become other people by wearing their cloned skin.  He was the lead investigator to help solve the werewolf problem in the bayou , and took on the dark circus adventure where the foolish sideshow people were trying to make money exhibiting the captured Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow.

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There was a lot of death and horrible murders in those game sessions, but not committed by the player characters.  They had to keep good notes and draw conclusions and manage their characters’ powers and assets.  Notes like these;

And so, while the game never ended to my satisfaction, the players did get the feel of acting in a horror movie and fighting on the side of goodness against evil.  It was weird, but definitely worth doing.

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Filed under autobiography, Dungeons and Dragons, horror movie, horror writing, humor, Paffooney

H.P. Lovecraft, The Master of Madness

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When I was but a young teacher, unmarried, and using what free time I had to play role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons and Traveller with students and former students and fatherless boys, I came across a game that really creeped me out.  And it was quite popular with the kids who relied on me to fill their Saturday afternoons with adventure.  It led me on a journey through the darkness to find a fascination with the gruesome, the macabre, and the monstrous.  The Call of Cthulhu game brought me to the doorsteps of Miskatonic University and the perilous portals of the infected fishing village of Innsmouth.  It introduced me to the nightmare world of Howard Phillips Lovecraft.

“H. P. Lovecraft, June 1934” by Lucius B. Truesdell

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Old H.P. is as fascinating a character as any of the people who inhabit his deeply disturbing horror tales.  He was a loner and a “nightbird” but with little social contact in the real world.  He lived a reclusive life that included a rather unsuccessful “contract” marriage to an older woman and supporting himself mostly by burning through his modest inheritance.  As a writer, he got his start by so irritating pulp fiction publishers with his letters-page rants that he was challenged to write something for a contest article, and won a job as a regular contributor to “Weird Tales” pulp magazine.  He was so good that he was offered the editorship of the magazine, but true to form, he turned it down.  He resembled most the dreamer characters who accessed the Dreamlands in various ways, but let their mortal lives wither as they explored unknown continents in the Dreamlands and the Mountains of the Moon.  He created a detailed mythos in his stories about Cthulhu and Deep Ones and the Elder Gods.  He died a pauper, well before his stories received the acclaim they have today.

I have to say that I was so enamored of his stories that I had to read them as fast as I could acquire them from bookstores and libraries all over Texas.  My favorites include, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, The Dunwich Horror, and At the Mountains of Madness.  But reading these stories lost me hour upon hour of sleep, and developed in me a habit of sleeping with the lights on.  In Lovecraft’s fiction, sins of your ancestors hang like thunderheads over your life, and we are punished for original sin.  A man’s fate can be determined before he is born, and events hurl him along towards his appointed doom.  H.P. makes you feel guilty about being alive, and he shakes you to the core with unease about the greater universe we live in, a cold, unfeeling universe that has no love for mankind, and offers no shelter from the horrors of what really goes on beyond the knowing of mortal men.

Loving the stories of H.P. Lovecraft is about deeper things than just loving a good scare.  If you are looking for that in a book, read something by Stephen King.  H.P. will twist the corners of your soul, and make you think deep thoughts to keep your head above water in deep pools of insanity.  I know some of his books belong in yesterday’s post, but we are not talking about happy craziness today.  This is the insanity of catharsis and redemption.

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Filed under book review, humor, photo paffoonies

Where-in Lies the Funny?

The author without his make-up and after imbibing extra caffeine.

The author without his make-up and after imbibing extra caffeine.

I am attempting to be a humor writer.  There’s a statement that calls for more than a little rationalization.  Why would anyone want to be funny?  Especially why would a manic-depressive sick-old former school teacher want to be funny and write books for young people that tackle subjects like suicide, lying, nudity, sex, trans-genderism, death, suffering, religion, alien invasions, and getting old?  (Well, okay, getting old is inherently funny… especially the noises you unintentionally make from orifices and joints whenever you try to sit, move, lift, eat, or breathe.)  I ask myself this question only because I need to get to 500 words and stretch out the hoopti-doo to cover up the fact that I already know the answer and it is short and simple.  Joking about the things that tear your life apart is the only way to handle things and not become a serial killer.  (Make that cereal killer, especially Kellogg’s cereal of any and every description.  I am a very loving and accepting fool at heart and could never kill even one person… probably even in self-defense.)  I recently took a Who-do-you-write-like test that I found on another blog at All Things Chronic.  Here is the link; https://painkills2.wordpress.com/2015/05/31/who-do-you-write-like/

That silly little analyzer took a bit of my purple paisley prose and churned out a horror-writer answer, H.P. Lovecraft.  The Lord of the Old Mad Gods and Moonbeasts is a particular favorite of mine, one of several writers whose novels I have read everything I can get my hands on.  I still sleep with the lights on at night because of The Dunwich Horror, and The Shadow Over Innsmouth.  I am mad with admiration for his allusions to gibbering sounds and unholy terrors that taint and transfix our lives with fear to the very marrow of the bones.  I have to admit, I like the idea of being compared to him, in spite of the fact that he tries to inspire fear and madness, while I aim for goofiness and gaiety.   It is a delicious irony to try always to be Mark-Twain funny while writing with a horror writer’s convoluted and dictionary-intensive style.

And don’t get the idea from my mention of him in this self-reflecting ramble through jumbled ideas that I really believe I am as funny as Mark Twain.  I am not deluded or mentally ill… well, not deluded, anyway.  I am still learning to make people laugh with words.  And I don’t mean to be mean about it.  I don’t do George Carlin F**k-the-world-style humor.  I don’t even do Don Rickles-style insults.  I am more in favor of gentle humor.  I am not looking to call anybody names or trying to make certain folks look like Biblical-word-for-donkeys.  (Not even Republicans named Rick in yesterday’s post).  I want to show fictional people undergoing some of the dark things that filled my life with hurt, and doing it with the grace and good humor that only comes from a heart full of self-sacrificing love.  (Gee, no wonder I find comedy hard… I have chosen the most difficult and elusive kind of humor for my art.  I’d do a lot better with poo-poo jokes.)  (Oh, wait, I do poo-poo jokes, don’t I.  This one counts too.)Senator Tedhkruzh

I wonder if I made a mistake yesterday in portraying Senator Ted Cruz as a lizard man from outer space.  Was that a mean, name-calling sort of joke?  Or was I painting him in broad, humorous strokes with my colored pencils?  Once again, you can be the judge.  Here’s the picture again.  And you get to decide if anything I have ever said is funnier than it is just plain sad.

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Filed under humor, Paffooney, writing humor