H.P. Lovecraft's fantasy novel, as a comic and animated movie
February 1, 2013 8:58 PM   Subscribe

H.P. Lovecraft, inspired by Lord Dunsany (Wikipedia; Project Gutenberg; UPenn online library) and Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom (annotated stories online), created the Dreamlands, in which he set the 20+ stories of the Dream Cycle. The longest story was The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (Wikipedia), completed in 1927, but unpublished in his lifetime. Comic artist, Jason Thompson, started illustrating the story in high school, then re-drew the story after college, and that comic was semi-animated as a feature-length film. He wrote up his influences for a hidden commentary on the DVD, and expanded it online as The Annotated Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. More Lovecraft sketches and comics online in Thompson's Mockman archive. [Previously: Lovecraft comic adaptations]
posted by filthy light thief (34 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
Bonus links: The Complete Works of H.P. Lovecraft, a free, curated ebook from Cthulu Chick; and The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath audiobook made by fans on Archive.org
posted by filthy light thief at 9:01 PM on February 1, 2013 [4 favorites]

I have the semi-animated film on DVD. I liked it.
posted by JHarris at 9:30 PM on February 1, 2013

I love Thompson's art (which is a good thing, 'cause Dream-Quest is kind of a long painful slog as a prose story.)
posted by Zed at 9:31 PM on February 1, 2013

This is awesome; I've been wanting to run a role-playing game in an updated version of the Dreamlands. This will be a great resource.
posted by MrVisible at 10:01 PM on February 1, 2013

Also: Yog-Blogsoth [NSFW].
posted by Nomyte at 10:08 PM on February 1, 2013

Also also, the name is apparently Jason Thompson, not Thomas.

Also also also, the artist notes his heavy use of visual references from Little Nemo in Slumberland.
posted by Nomyte at 10:16 PM on February 1, 2013

Chaosium published a whole sourcebook for the Dreamlands. It's a little more D&D-ish than the standard game, and it takes dedication on the part of the Keeper to keep up the Dunsanian descriptions, which can be a hard tone to strike.

Some things I found help--
1. Have things in the Dreamlands affect the real world in unexpected ways. You can have a lot of fun with this; one of my players found an artifact in the Dreamlands, a Glass of Leng, and when he woke up he found the glass clutched in his hands. Creeped him right out that did. If something really bad happens to a player, don't just wipe away when he wakes up; find some way to have its consequences show up, mysteriously, in the real world.

2. Tradeoffs. Resist the urge to let the players have D&D-like magic items with no drawbacks. Like, say, eating a fruit you buy at a stall in Celephais that permanently increases your POW by 1, but makes it so that you can never taste cinnamon again. Instead of taking items out of a catalog, try to make each item unique. But if you're really lacking for ideas, there are items in early editions of D&D (1E especially) that might fit.

3. The Dreamlands lend themselves more to picaresque, episodic stories than straight Call of Cthulhu. It might help to come up with a number of weird encounters beforehand that you can drop into play on the fly.

4. You still have the Mythos monsters to play with; in fact, you have more than before, since several entities basically only turn up in the Dreamlands. A few of them are marvellously disturbing, like Yibb-Tsill. (Yes it was created by Brian Lumley, but no matter, he did good with that one.) Nyarlathotep, in many ways the most fearsome Mythos entity, is more prominent in the Dreamlands. Remember: Cthulhu Mythos point gains are still permanent, and SAN losses in the Dreamlands are not restored upon waking up.

5. One of the best locations is the Library of the Dreamlands, which exists simultaneously in multiple cities, one of which is Ulthar, which is not far from the entrance. You can have all kinds of Mythos knowledge show up there; our campaign was generally straight 20s Call of Cthulhu, but the players would use the Library as a resource for research.

6. You absolutely must have cats in the story somehow. My players learned how to speak cat, and carried that knowledge over into their waking lives.

Note, players are intrinsically in less danger in the Dreamlands than the waking world. You will have to work harder to keep the stakes high, but I find the tone, while different, is still entertaining, and my players tended to enjoy their excursions there. Your mileage may vary, of course.
posted by JHarris at 10:23 PM on February 1, 2013 [11 favorites]

As much as I dislike Vance's Dying Earth cycle, most of the material in Eyes of the Oveworld and Cugel's Saga is appropriately unpredictable, ominous, disconnected, and peculiar, and can be brought directly into CoC.
posted by Nomyte at 10:46 PM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also: Yog-Blogsoth.

Given all the monster cock, that link might merit an NSFW warning.
posted by XMLicious at 11:28 PM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Given all the monster cock, that link might merit an NSFW warning.

Sometimes a double or even multiple serving of gibbous, cyclopean monster cock. So, perhaps a NSFYourSanity warning, too.
posted by Nomyte at 11:33 PM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Dennis Detwiller haddock created a Dreamlands campaign. From his work on Delta Green I'm assuming it will be bleakly terrifying.
posted by Artw at 11:37 PM on February 1, 2013

Mod note: Fixed the Thomas --> Thompson typo in the post, and added a NSFW to Nomyte's link
posted by taz (staff) at 11:56 PM on February 1, 2013

I bought the comic as it came out, and was delighted when it was (semi-)animated. It remains my favourite version of the Dream-Quest. The art style works tremendously well for its environs.
posted by bouvin at 4:53 AM on February 2, 2013

I'm afraid I find Kadath underwhelming, but the Dunsanian side of H.P.L. is interesting because it often gets forgotten.
posted by ersatz at 5:30 AM on February 2, 2013

I much prefer the dream cycle side of Lovecraft. I found Kadath very moving as a teenager, the idea that this ordinary sad man had this fantastic and amazing world in dreams. The same sort of escapism that Harry Potter appeals to, I think, the idea that you're really special and no one knows and you can escape your mundane high school world. Particularly poignant for Lovecraft to write that kind of stuff as an adult, and while I forget if it's in the actual story I always read a cautionary part to the story, like real-world Carter was becoming an opium addict to escape into this meaningless dream life.

I've got two versions of the Mockman comic. He sold the early version on the Internet years ago, maybe via Usenet? Can't remember. And then later a Kickstarter, several of them by the looks of it. They're very well done, although I don't think I care for the sort of cartoony style for such high gothic fiction.
posted by Nelson at 7:58 AM on February 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

Who doesn't want to be rescued by an army of Cats?
posted by ovvl at 9:27 AM on February 2, 2013

Moon cats.

/must write that HP Lovecraft on the moon story some day.
posted by Artw at 10:42 AM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

BTW, here's Free Complete Works of H.P. Lovecraft for Nook and Kindle. There's been a little controversy about the exact date of copyright expiration, but I guess the boots are on the ground now. I was so proud to get Joshi's version of the complete works, those three bound volumes were the first thing I ever bought via the Internet.
posted by Nelson at 10:47 AM on February 2, 2013

Did anyone else enjoy (in spite of some pretty rough bumpy stretches, pity) the comic boook series Fall of Cthulhu? I thought the author's version of the Dreamlands and the new characters for it were amazing, though I can imagine HPL's shock at finding such a character as the Harlot wandering the place. Yes, in spite of the switch-and-bait series name, it mostly deals with the Dreamlands and who ends up controlling it (as you find out at the very clever end).
posted by Iosephus at 10:54 AM on February 2, 2013

It was okay - TBH it being so very Dreamlands-centric was probably a factor in me being a bit standoffish about it.
posted by Artw at 10:56 AM on February 2, 2013

Ftaghn! Thanks for posting.
posted by New England Cultist at 1:28 PM on February 2, 2013

I Fall of Cthulhu was a decent horror story, but not particularly Lovecraftian, just having a bunch of Mythos names involved.
posted by Zed at 5:08 PM on February 2, 2013

I also kind of hate Nodens, who features prominently.
posted by Artw at 5:41 PM on February 2, 2013

Deities and Demigods from 1st ed. has stats for creatures and heroes from the Cthulu mythos.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:58 PM on February 2, 2013

How could one put so small a thing as Hit Points on so great a thing as Cthulhu?
posted by codswallop at 7:11 PM on February 2, 2013

1E Deities & Demigods, original printing:
Greater god

Armor Class: 2
Move: 18"/36"
Hit Points: 400
No. of Attacks: 30
Damage/Attack: 1-10 (x30)
Special Attacks: See below
Special Defenses: Immune to magical control, +2 or better weapon to hit, regeneration (10 HP per round)
Magic Resistance: 80%
Size: L (100' tall)
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
Worshiper's Alignment: Chaotic Evil
Symbol: Image of Cthulhu
Plane: Prime Material Plane
Cleric/Druid: Nil
Fighter: As 16+ HD monster
Magic-User/Illusionist: 20th level magic-user
Thief/Aassassin: Nil
Monk/Bard: Nil
Psionic Ability: I
S: 25 (+7, +14), I:20, W: 23, D: 20, C: 25, CH: -7
Other abilities: Teleport up to half a mile at will, immune to the effects of water, cold and vacuum, can summon from 10-100 Deep Ones out of the sea. If released, everyone within 100 miles must make a saving throw or go insane for a number of months equal to that creature's intelligence.

Call of Cthulhu (6th edition):
GREAT CTHULHU, Master of R'lyeh

STR 140 - CON 110 - SIZ 210 - INT 42 - POW 42 - DEX 21
Move: 24 Stride/20 Swim/16 Fly
HP 160
Damage Bonus: +21D6
Claw 100%, damage 1D6 + 21D6
Tentacle 100%, damage 11D6
Armor: 21, regenerates 6 hit points a round
Spells: Knows hundreds, but not Summon/Bind Nightgaunt or Contact Nodens
Sanity Loss: 1D10/1D100 to see Great Cthulhu
Additionally: Can roughly change his shape, if ever depleted of hit points reforms in 10 + 1D10 minutes at full hit points again, and in addition to everything else, in combat automatically consumes 1D3 investigators per round.
posted by JHarris at 7:48 PM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Trail of Cthulhu wins in this regard, offering up multiple interpretations (without stats) for each of the big things.
posted by Zed at 8:40 PM on February 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Ken Hite is pretty great at that kind of thing.
posted by Artw at 10:03 PM on February 2, 2013

I much prefer the Dreamlands stories to anything else Lovecraft writes. I love the unfocused, psychedelic, elegiac feel to them. I prefer Lord Dunsany's stories and feel that the dominance of Tolkienesque fantasy has robbed us of picaresque stories of the truly strange.

I'll just leave this link to my brother's LEGO Lovecraft movies here.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 10:21 PM on February 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Note, my comment above statistics provided for information and entertainment purposes, I don't necessarily agree that it's a good idea to think of Cthulhu in terms of statistics, but one of the creators of Call of Cthulhu has said that the stats provided in the game for Mythos entities are provided to give players a sense of insignificance, not because players are intended to destroy these entities. Additionally, Call of Cthulhu uses "characteristics" for many purposes unrelated to combat, so it can be sometimes useful to know just what kind of INT or POW score the big 'C' has.
posted by JHarris at 11:47 PM on February 2, 2013

Here's Call of Cthulhu d20:

Hit Dice: 42d12+378 (882hp)
Initiative: +5 (+1 Dev, +4 improved initiative)
Speed: 140 ft., swim 140 ft., fly 360 ft. (poor)
AC: 47 (-8 size, +5 Dex, +39 natural, +5 divine)
Attacks: 6 tentacles +56 melee, 2 claws +50 melee, stam +50 melee
Damage: Tentacle 4d6+16 (Improved Critical), claw 2d8+8, stamp 4d6+8
posted by Zed at 5:14 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Thanks Zed!

To set aside the wonder and horror of Lovecraft's creations for a moment to indulge in a bit of system geekery....

Before you look at BRP Call of Cthulhu as some kind of schmuck (only 160 hit points, in a game in which shotguns do 4D6?!) don't overlook the aspect that makes him truly awful (beside the 1D3 investigator per round thing, which is famous enough to have inspired a demotivator meme, the huge damage, the hit point regeneration, and the infinitely-reforming thing). He has an armor of 21! In system terms, you must take off the first 21 points of everything that damages him. The most 4D6 can roll is 24.
posted by JHarris at 9:41 PM on February 3, 2013

Tramp steamers get a x4 damage against him though.
posted by Artw at 11:42 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Problem is, eventually you're going to run out of boats.
posted by JHarris at 11:58 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

« Older Now with more hedgehog!   |   Quest For Fire Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments