Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing A Day No.27: Castle Amber

It's a virtual truism now to say that Lovecraft and gaming have become almost inextricably linked, with Lovecraftian themes and tropes populating much of the world of rpgs, board games, card games and video games. I've previously indicated the important role played by The Call of Cthulhu rpg in popularising the mythos and leading many people to Lovecraft’s writings. And whilst Tolkien is rightly cited as the key influence upon much of the fantasy gaming genre, Lovecraft is never far behind (or, in today’s case, lurking in the background by proxy).

Thus I present one of my all-time favourite pieces of Lovecraftian gaming history: Castle Amber, an adventure module for the Expert edition of Dungeons & Dragons published by TSR in 1981. Whilst this is a (wonderfully sandboxy and Poe-esque) gaming simulation of Clark Ashton Smith’s fictive medieval French province of Averoigne, Smith’s tales of this imaginary region make a good few references to the mythos – some of which make their appearance here. Except for the occasional hobgoblin, this module is also notable for its avoidance of typical Tolkienesque fantasy fare: no orcs, elves, dragons or dwarves here.

Less a scenario than a mini-campaign, I spent many memorable hours wandering the strange environs of Chateau d’Amberville and the ghoul-haunted woodlands of Averoigne.

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