Lovecraftian Insights from Ken Hite

Ken Hite is a man I admire the hell out of. His impact on the gaming industry, and on me as a gamer, has been huge, and his knowledge of all things Lovecraft seems to be limitless. I think it is safe to say that his main interests are the same as my own (gaming, Lovecraft, Weird Tales), so it should come as no surprise that I have such admiration for this individual. Mr. Hite has earned a well deserved spot in my Gods of Imagination photo gallery (sidebar on the left).

I wanted to share an interesting interview with Ken I found over at Booklife, titled "From All Directions at Once: Kenneth Hite on Cthulhu & Creativity." Here is just a snippet of the discussion:
Jones: What is it about Cthulhu that attracts you as a reader and as a writer? What can writers who aren’t familiar with the Mythos learn from reading Lovecraft?

Hite: I think the fundamental thing that attracts me about Cthulhu and the Mythos at large is its scope. It’s vast; the entire canvas of time and space, illuminated by a dozen or more A-list writers (and yes, scores of B-listers and on down) in just enough detail to inspire but never too much to restrict. Cthulhu seemingly explains everything from evolution to religion, but when you look closer at the stories, things are less explained than ever. Cthulhu also dwells at the intersection of fantasy, horror, and science fiction: he’s a magic monster alien. In proper non-Euclidean style, you can come at him from all directions at once.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a Cthulhu fan or a Mythos buff, you can learn a lot from Lovecraft. I maintain you can learn a huge amount about horror and about fiction from his plots, his story structure, and — yes — his style. It’s just not true that Lovecraft — especially after, say, 1926 or so — is a bad writer. He can be a challenging writer, for those of us who grew up on Asimov and Heinlein and the post-Hemingway plain-glass style of American fiction. But he is a truly great writer, and any writer can learn from his or her betters. If you think otherwise, try rewriting “The Call of Cthulhu” or “The Colour Out of Space” in a style you prefer, and see how many of Lovecraft’s decisions you wind up repeating anyway.

To that end, I’d start any look at Lovecraft with the real great stories: “The Colour Out of Space,” “The Call of Cthulhu,” The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, At the Mountains of Madness, “The Dunwich Horror,” “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” and “The Haunter of the Dark,” say. (There’s about ten more great stories in HPL’s lineup, but those will get you started.) Every one of those stories has a sympathetic — even tragic — character, a complex narrative structure, and passages of sheer wonder and terror that will knock your socks off.


Dragons at Dawn: The First Fantasy Game System

Dragons at Dawn is a game that seems to have come out of nowhere, and one in which I am extremely interested in finding out more about. Author, Daniel H. Boggs, has pulled together Dave Arneson's original pre-D&D game rules and presented them into one self contained book. So far the game is getting some positive feedback, and it is causing quite a bit of chatter over at Original D&D Discussion. Dead-tree and PDF versions are available, and I hope to get a copy very soon. An expansion has already been announced, and will be titled Dragons at Twilight. If anyone has had experience with this system please take a moment to share your thoughts.

From the publisher, Southerwood Publishing:
Experience the thrill of the very first RPG adventures with Dragons at Dawn, the rule set that hearkens back to the early days of adventure gaming when everything was new and the possibilities endless. The result of years of careful historical research, Dragons at Dawn is entirely consistent with Arneson’s original, largely forgotten methods of play developed roughly in the period 1970-1973.

First debuted at the 2010 Dave Arneson Memorial Game Day in NYC, the 60 page rule book allows play in two formats; original game where players take on the role of either Warriors or Wizards, or an enhanced game where additional classes – Elf Mage, Thief Assassin, Merchant and Sage – are also available. The combat system is easy to master as it uses some very familiar statistics in some very unusual ways reminiscent of the early wargames from which role playing games developed. Upon this basic format, layers of complexity can be added as players desire. This same philosophy is found throughout the game. Dragons at Dawn approaches gaming with none of the assumptions and habits developed from later rules, allowing a return to a kind of free form and open style of interaction between players and referees to develop and play whatever aspects of adventure gaming the group likes best.


My 1PDC2010 Entry Won "Best Cthulhu"

Well, it is official. The votes for this year's One Page Dungeon Contest are in from the judges, and I am happy to see that my entry, "Raid on Black Goat Wood", has been selected as a winner and named "Best Cthulhu." Not bad for an adventure that was not designed specifically for Call of Cthulhu, but was presented with a blatantly distinct old school D&D vibe... with a healthy helping of Lovecraftian mayhem slathered on for good measure.

What does this mean as far as prizes and such? Well, I am not quite sure. I guess we will see once I receive an email from the judges explaining things to me in more detail. For those interested, all the winning entries have been collected in one easy to download PDF, so please feel free to check them out. Finally, here is the list of all of this year's winners (congrats everyone!):

Entry Winning: (Category)
  • Adam Thornton – Central New Jersey After the “Big Whoops” (Best Post Apocalyptic Goodness)
  • Antti Hulkkonen – Den of Villainy (Best Pirates)
  • Chris Gonzales – The Tunnels of Turrack the Terrible (Best Sound Effects)
  • Clarabelle Chong – Time for Tea (Best Victorian Sci-Fi)
  • Corwin Riddle – City of Traitors (Best Lost City)
  • Craig Brasco – The Vault of Zerduzan (Best Evil Cultist Hangout)
  • Heron Prior – Trolls will be Trolls (Best Lair)
  • Herwin Wielink – The Crypt of Luân Phiên (Best Architectural Design)
  • Jimm Johnson and Jeff Lynk – The Contemptible Cube of Quazar (Craziest Map Award)
  • Lord Kilgore – Heart of Darkness (Best Mini Campaign)
  • Paul Siegel – Four Corners (Best Fitness Center)
  • Peter A. Mullen – Laboratory of the Asmodean Techno-Mage (Snazziest Way to Push the Envelope)
  • Rob Antonishen – Mine! Not Yours? (Best Mine Crawl)
  • Shane Mangus – Raid on Black Goat Wood (Best Cthulhu)
  • Simon Bull – The Ruination Of Tenamen (Best Monsters)
  • Stuart Robertson – Dungeon From A Distant Star (Best Mixing of Genres)
  • Tim Shorts – Where is Margesh Blackblood (Most Hideouts for the Head Bad Guy)
  • Tom Holmes – The Bone Harvest Horror (Best Cartography)