All of us are products of our environments. The circumstances of our upbringing influence our perceptions, our personal philosophies, our likes and dislikes, and even helps form the lens through which we view this hobby of ours. While not the most influential of all the aspects that forms our sense of self, it certainly is one of the more important ones. But environment is not just the beliefs and teachings of our parents, peers, and contemporaries – it also what we see when we look outside our window. It is the trees, the hills, the mountains, the cities, the wind-swept seas, and the grassy plains; all of these influence what excites our imaginations and colors our dreams.
In my own case, I’m a child of the American Northeast and the landscape of that place has had a profound effect on my choices of setting when comes to literature, history, movies, and games. My mental geography is composed of seaside villages, ancient mountain ranges, scrubby pine barrens, salt marshes, evergreen forests, deep lakes, sandy beaches, and bustling cityscapes. No matter how hard I may try to escape these influences, I always find myself returning home. This doesn’t mean that I’m incapable of enjoying works set in other locales, but these speak loudest to my creative ear.
Having admitted this, it is unsurprising that I’m drawn to H.P. Lovecraft’s Miskatonic Valley and Stephen King’s Castle Rock. Both of these locales are set amongst the geography that feeds my soul, and it is an easy task to superimpose my own memories on such settings to breathe more life into them than the authors’ writing alone could. In college, two friends and I created our own quiet town with dark secrets as a setting for a Halloween Vampire: the Masquerade game, a place that drew heavily on Arkham, Massachusetts, Castle Rock, Maine, and Antonio Bay, California. This fictional town was located, both in game and in reality, in New York’s Hudson Valley, allowing me to paint the setting with my embedded collection of geographical influences.
While working on my dreamlands idea, I pulled my copy of H.P. Lovecraft’s Kingsport from the shelf so as to peruse it again for ideas. Although mining it for ideas was my original intent, I soon found myself enraptured by the supplement again and dove back in for another read-through. This second glimpse spawned the idea for a new series of posts here at the Society, one that I’m looking forward to doing.
Starting on Wednesday, the first of an occaisonal series of posts entitled “Hitchhiking through Lovecraft Country” will appear. In these posts, I’ll take a retrospective look at the Lovecraft Country series of supplements published by Chaosium. Part review and part contemplation, through these posts we’ll work our way through the Miskatonic Valley, stopping in Kingsport, Innsmouth, Arkham, and Dunwich as we go. This gives me the opportunity to reflect on things other than the dungeon for a while and to talk about one of my other RPG loves, Call of Cthulhu. It also permits me to wax philosophically on some of the quiet New England towns that I find myself drawn to. If interest warrants, we’ll expand the tour down to New York City and consider buying airfare to other exotic locales around the world.
So set your mental calendars for the 1920s, pack a star-stone of Mnar, and get ready for a seafood dinner as we prepare to disembark in the quaint seaside town of Kingsport on Wednesday. I hear they’ve got a house up on a cliff which is somewhat interesting…