Ye Liveliest Awfulness

Reading The Case of Charles Dexter Ward this weekend — probably a re-read, as it’s all very familiar to me — a question struck me: given that one of the founding principles of life in Lovecraft Country is that there were all sorts of unnatural doings afoot during America’s colonial period, particularly in the darkly wooded hills of New England — including the deeds of Keziah Mason, as related by The Dreams in the Witch House — why haven’t there been more role-playing opportunities set in that time period?

Certainely, there was Noth’g but ye liveliest Awfulness in that which H. rais’d upp from What he cou’d gather onlie a part of.
– H. P. Lovecraft, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward

Maybe I’m not aware of the texts that do so or maybe it’s because one of Call of Cthulhu‘s key themes is the modern person’s realization the universe is vast, ultimately unknowable and uncaring, but given everything going on at the time that crept down through the years to plague the residents of 20th century Arkham and its neighbors, it seems like colonial America is a natural time and place for mythos-based action. Even in Charles Dexter Ward, there’s an archetypal coterie of community members who take it upon themselves to protect their local world from the depredations of an evil alchemist. That screamed “party of wildly disparate yet bound by a common interest player characters” to me.

I see there’s at least one Chaosium monograph on the topic, Colonial Terrors. Have you ever run a Cthulhoid campaign or one-shot in colonial America? How did it go?

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6 thoughts on “Ye Liveliest Awfulness

    • I’m a huge fan of Northern Crown, as it happens. The setting’s more of a semi-high fantasy version of the colonial era, rather than Lovecraftian horror, but I get what you’re saying.

      Have you ever run or played Colonial Gothic? I’ve seen the name bandied about on RPG.net, but not done any digging. Almost joined a nascent campaign, in fact, but geography and scheduling intervened.

      • I have not gotten to play Colonial Gothic– just looted it for ideas about Ars Magica in 18C. The system reads better in 2nd edition, and I love the world. If I could get a table to give it a go, or find a table at Gencon, but there wasn’t one this year. I may see if I can find Richard Iorio, and pressgang him into a game, but I’m not sure if that’ll work.

  1. Oh, and I had considered it before reading _Stealing Cthulhu_, but look at how the “resurrection” works in “Curious Case;” essentially, there are vampires in Lovecraft.

  2. Not yet, but I have taken some inspiration from the Rats in Walls story – one of my favourites – and I’d love to run a game telling the story about the family history mentioned in the short story. I think I would probably just stick with CoC but make a few changes to fit the time period, but CHILL looks like a good match as well, again, modded to fit the time period.

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