A Weird Roleplay

Summary: A contemporary necromancer conjures up the spirits of famous pulp writers to play a tabletop roleplaying game.

When I found a genuinely functional ancient tome of dark necromancy at the gaming store near campus, I immediately set to work fulfilling the strangest of my life goals: a roleplaying session with the forebears of modern fantasy, horror, and science fiction. I will not bore you with the specifics of brewing the potion, nor the trivial ease in which I tricked some frat boys into drinking it.

Suffice to say, four spirits were plucked from the tranquil oblivion and inserted into the hosts I had prepared for them. The frat boys' features were transformed into the physical likenesses of their spirits' youthful countenances. They also received an infusion of modern knowledge from the tiny brains they possessed, but much to my distaste, they spoke with modern terms. I am not fully aware of how the ritual works, but rest assured, I will try it again. One does not tamper with the dark arts trivially. (Unless I feel like it.)

I had a hard time finding players for my homebrew roleplaying campaign. The system and premise I used was too esoteric for most players, and the local RPG groups were already occupied with their own campaigns. So, I set about compelling the bound spirits to play by magical geas, as to enforce my will upon them.

As I was a fan of classic pulp weirdness, I decided to call forth the ancient founders of the genre: the erudite Howard Philips Lovecraft, the indomitable Robert E. Howard, the poetic Clark Ashton Smith, and the fan-boy August Derleth. Once the ritual had proceeded to my satisfaction, I gathered them together at my apartment on a Friday night.

The others brought their recently acquired hobbies with them. Lovecraft was standing in the corner, pretending to ignore everyone else. Derleth was looking up at him like a dog trying to hump is leg. Howard was watching a boxing match on TV, cheering with a beer in one hand and wings in the other. Smith was making out with a random girl on the couch.

"It's time," I said, compelling them to get ready.

Smith took his date back to his room. Lovecraft shuddered as he beheld the gibbous and waning moon outside the window. Derleth watched me move the reflective dice around, as he's easy to distract with shiny things. Meanwhile, Howard polished off all the food and snacks I prepared. He already finished his six-pack and wings, and was half-way into my bag of chips before I realized it.

Once Smith had finished up with his date, he came out to join us with a grin on his face. Lovecraft looked like he needed a hug, and hid his head under a blanket like a turtle withdrawing to its shell. Derleth was totally obvious. Howard high-fived him on the way out. I set the board and handed out the character sheets.

Teaching them the principles was simpler than I imagined it would be. Smith was intrigued by the idea of a cross between a play and a tale as he saw it, and I suggested he be a character like his stories. He ended up being a thief that had bitten off more than he could chew. Lovecraft was decided to stick with the only point of view he was familiar with, that of a haughty snob, so wizard it was for him. Howard, of course, went for an axe-swinging barbarian. Derleth, ever worshipful of his betters, was the cleric.

The game opened with the party encountering a dark, nameless ritual invoking the Great Old Ones. Howard's barbarian charged into battle, with the rest of the party trailing behind them. Smith's rogue snuck up behind the camp and tried to steal a relic from the cultists, only to lose a hand for his trouble. Lovecraft started meta-gaming, using his own knowledge of his imaginary mythos to describe how he disrupts the ritual. Derleth (and his cleric) just did everything Lovecraft told him.

The battle ended when the lead cultist, a decadent necromancer, fled into the woods with two undead concubines. Howard used his barbarian's skill to track him, and the rest of the group decided to follow. That was how we ended our first session, and it seemed everyone had a grand old time.

Much to my chagrin, the night's excitement was not yet over. Through some quirk of my geas, the four had been granted abilities from their characters. I wasn't sure what started it, but I began quarreling with Howard over the results of a dice roll. An unnatural anger came over him, and the next thing I realize, he starts swinging a fire axe around. Lovecraft's shooting magic missiles from his fingertips. Smith's poetry is mesmerizing me, while Derleth is patching up the injured.

A few frantic seconds after the fracas started, I remember waking up with everyone unconscious, but alive on the floor. After making sure all the sharp objects, spell books, and potential weapons are away from the crew, I let them have their sleep. After all, just wait until I see what I've got planned for them next week.