Saturday, June 02, 2018

The Lovecraftian Thing a Day (2018) No.153 Averoigne

Less a thing than an imaginary realm, I first encountered Clark Ashton Smth’s Averoigne - a fictional medieval French province and a setting for tales of vampirism, lycanthropy, necromancy, and the Cthulhu Mythos - in the UK Neville Spearman edition of Lost Worlds, a copy of which was to be found on the shelves of my local library. The edition shown above is volume 1 of the Panther paperback edition, with cover illustration by Bruce Pennington (whose art is well-suited to Smith’s richly imagined worlds). I believe I picked this edition up from a second-hand bookshop in Leeds in the late 1980s.

As I mentioned yesterday, Smith never quite grabbed my attention in the way that Lovecraft and Howard did (although I have a greater appreciation of his work today than when I was engaged in my earliest explorations of weird fiction); even so, I was drawn to his tales of Averoigne  - I think because they seemed to resonate more closely than Smith’s other stories did with the kind of fantasy fare which I was also reading at the time (late1970’ - early 1980s). This was compounded by the discovery of Module X2 Castle Amber for the D&D Expert edition, which rather deftly wove characters, creatures and plots from the Averoigne tales (with elements of Poe and Lovecraft added) into an extremely well-plotted scenario - and which doubled as a sandbox setting allowing player characters to enter and explore the horror-haunted world of Averoigne itself. Not only does this remain my single favourite D&D module, but I consider it to be something of an unacknowledged blueprint for the gothic horror-inspired Ravenloft, which appeared about a decade later (and remains to this day a classic and well-loved staple of D&Ds game worlds). Castle Amber was one of 2016’s offerings, but is also included here (with its hexcrawl map of Averoigne) in a newly-available print-on-demand version - because one copy is never enough...

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