Sunday, May 17, 2015

London Calling - LOTFP in the time of Shakespeare

Ah, Spring - when a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of horror.

I started a new job in April (same company, bigger role) and it's put the hurt on gaming and writing.  I've played a little Magic here and there, since it's so easy to fit into small pockets of free time, but otherwise, I've been reading.  I had never read Fritz Leiber's Lankhmar stories, so I've become acquainted with Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser.  As a seminal influence on early D&D, it's pretty interesting to see the focus on a city setting, the ever-present Thieves' Guild, and Fafhrd and the Mouser undertaking various D&D style jaunts and adventures.  It might not be great literature, but the stories are fine entertainment.

I've messed around with hex crawls, and any long time visitors know I suffer from extreme dungeon love - especially the mega dungeons!  I've never really tried to run a D&D game focused exclusively on a large city.  It's hard to read about Lankhmar and not consider the possibilities of an urban game.  The City-State of the Invincible Overlord looms over the early days of the hobby as a foundation work, yet no players of mine have ever walked the streets of that storied place.

Of course, whenever I spend too much time away from Call of Cthulhu and similar games, thoughts turn to horror, and I pine for adventures that challenge players with death and madness.  I see a way to combine both of these imperatives.  Consider this as the elevator pitch for a new setting:  adventures in the manner of Call of Cthulhu, set in Elizabethan London, with lightweight D&D style rules - Lamentations of the Flame Princess would work very well, for instance.

London in the time of Shakespeare is familiar and accessible to players through film and cinema, yet has enough of the rowdy elements to appeal to the "Wild West" style of games favored by D&D players.  The city south of the Thames is flush with thieves, cut-purses, entertainers, charlatans, and an ale house on every corner.  It's a time with little law and order (no police force) and every man carries a blade or weapon for defense or dueling.  It wouldn't take much to push this into a setting fine for hybrid D&D\horror adventures.

In fact, there was a Swords & Wizardry setting some time back, Backswords & Bucklers, that provided rules guidelines for adventures in Elizabethan England, but more to the point, it suggested using a local tavern as the home base and building all the adventures around street-level challenges in the neighborhood.  Now just take that a step further and make the adventures inspired by Lovecraft, or gothics like Bram Stoker's Dracula, and you can see where I'm heading.  I recently had the chance to see Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere TV series on DVD, and "London Below" (and similar tropes and ideas from urban fantasy) would provide inspiration as well.

Anyway, this has become the subject of my latest 'little black book', the brainstorming notebook I carry around on trips and daily sojourns.  I'm learning how to visit Shakespeare's London on 5 Groats a Day (via a faux travel book by the same name) and musing how classic stories and situations from Lovecraft's work could happen in the sordid back streets and alleys of London in the time of Dr Dee and the School of Night.

Suggested resources would include the aforementioned Backswords & Bucklers, the Vornheim city kit, various Call of Cthulhu supplements, LOTFP game rules, and Ken Hite's "The School of Night" (a setting sketch for Trail of Cthulhu). (Edit:  there was also a 2E era book, A Mighty Fortress, that featured rules for Europe in the 17th century that I'll consult as well,  )In the meantime, I'll see how things brew and ferment in the notebook and whether I see enough campaign potential there.

No comments:

Post a Comment