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The Silver Key as a basis for a Scenario

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#1 JeffErwin

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Posted 31 December 2017 - 07:24 AM

After my Averoigne fiasco, I've focused my efforts on a different adventure, tentatively called "On the Trail of the Silver Key", based on that set of stories, which are inconvertibly in the public domain.
I see there's been little use made of this material so far in the game.

Interestingly not only is there an unnamed Boston circle of occultists associated with Ward Phillips and De Marigny (and the Cabot Museum) in the last story, but also "Boston Detectives" and a legal battle between Phillips and Ernest K. Aspinwall, Carter's closest relative over the estate and the fate of the dreamer. I think this could be be quite fertile ground for an adventure, that eventually ends up with time travel (perhaps by mental projection).

One possibility I'm thinking of is a discussion of several different NPCs as potential "good guys", "neutral parties" or "hostile/Mythos-aligned" figures - i.e., De Marigny, Phillips, Aspinwall, the Swami, and Carter himself could be given alternate agendas to the stories or more fully fleshed out ones, so that the players can't be confident of who is their ally and who is plotting against them/Carter. This would be akin to the treatment of NPCs in some of the Gumshoe campaigns.

Possible episodes might be the "Snake Den" and Cabot Museum, the Salem Witch Trials, Elizabethan London, Alamut, Ilek-Vad, and distant Yaddith...

PS. The adventures would be set around 1931.


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#2 yronimoswhateley

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Posted 31 December 2017 - 06:08 PM

It sounds like a fantastic idea to me - there were a lot of very cool, strange, and unique ideas going on in those stories, and they seem to have been sadly under-utilized to me - few Lovecraft fans seem to know or remember much about these stories.

 

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#3 JeffErwin

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Posted 31 December 2017 - 08:14 PM

Thanks, yronimus...



#4 Dante7

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Posted 31 December 2017 - 10:50 PM

If you want to get pulpy with it and draw some inspiration from a non-HPL use of the character, Carter/Swami Chandraputra shows up in Peter Rawlik's "The Weird Company", in the company of a few other HPL characters.

#5 dce

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Posted 01 January 2018 - 12:23 AM

I agree that the Silver Key is a Lovecraft invention that hasn't received a lot of love in games ... one (rare) exception to this is the free Penny Love scenario "Porphyry and Asphodel" that Cthulhu Reborn put out as a PDF some time back. It's still available for download on the CR downloads page -- see the link in my sig.

 

 

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#6 JeffErwin

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Posted 01 January 2018 - 01:31 AM

I agree that the Silver Key is a Lovecraft invention that hasn't received a lot of love in games ... one (rare) exception to this is the free Penny Love scenario "Porphyry and Asphodel" that Cthulhu Reborn put out as a PDF some time back. It's still available for download on the CR downloads page -- see the link in my sig.

 

 

Dean (from Adelaide)

 

Cool! I had forgotten... I'll look (again) at what she did.

 

I'm starting from the standpoint of the Cabot Museum and the occult circle in Boston as the default starting point for PCs. This should prove useful as a campaign structure for Keepers as well as setting up the adventure (The Haunting should be a good prequel to this adventure/mini-campaign).



#7 TMS

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Posted 01 January 2018 - 03:42 AM

Possible episodes might be the "Snake Den" and Cabot Museum, the Salem Witch Trials, Elizabethan London, Alamut, Ilek-Vad, and distant Yaddith...

 

"Through the Gates of the Silver Key" also mentions Price's Atlanaat, which I doubt many people know much about. It might make for an interesting setting. I own a book with the two Atlanaat stories in it and can provide some details if needed.



#8 JeffErwin

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Posted 01 January 2018 - 05:07 AM

"Through the Gates of the Silver Key" also mentions Price's Atlanaat, which I doubt many people know much about. It might make for an interesting setting. I own a book with the two Atlanaat stories in it and can provide some details if needed.

 

Yes, that sounds interesting. Price's own works are less definitively in the PD than Lovecraft's (the story the collaborated on was never renewed) - so I'd have to tread carefully, however.

I have a tentative theory, having researched the identities of the namesakes in TtGoSK and their genealogies, as to where Lovecraft sourced "Aspinwall" - along with the names "Asenath" and "Pickman" - in the family tree of Lafayette Aspinwall, his grandfather Whipple V. B. Phillips' former business partner.

 

It also looks like the Snake Den is based on a real place. I've been mapping the "rolling hills" between Arkham and Salem and discovered some interesting stuff.



#9 JeffErwin

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Posted 02 January 2018 - 07:02 PM

I've found that "Snake Hill" - the obvious analogue to Elm Mountain and the Snake Den - actually was in large part the property of my grandmother's family, the Coles. The road running through the land is still called Cole Street.

 

The attached map is an annotated version of a 1919 USGS map.

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  • South of Arkham.jpeg


#10 JeffErwin

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Posted 04 January 2018 - 04:07 PM

I believe there was a change in the maps from 6th to 7th of Lovecraft County, one which has a fairly significant effect on my scenario...

 

On the 7th edition map you'll see the line of the RR running from Beverly to Gloucester. It's close to the real world RR built in the 1840s. Earlier versions of the map had a northern jag of the line via the existing line through Wenham to take in Arkham, but now we have a rail line running behind Kingsport Head, meaning that there is - as discussed on these forums - a rail link to Kingsport. The RR runs just north of Snake Hill and would perhaps have been built by condemning and eminent domain over the farmstead of the Carters, or at least been a ghastly intrusion. This would have contributed to their migration to Boston, save for old great-uncle Christopher. Lovecraft himself took this route when he visited the area.

 

Kingsport replaces Beverly Farms, which was a resort from c.1909 through the 1930s, inspired by President Taft's summer visits to Beverly. There was even a resort on Great Misery Island, burned down by someone in the later 30s, which is now ruins.

 

Carter's mother came from a family that owned a white colonial house south of Arkham where one could see the 'spires of Kingsport'... This has to be NW of Kingsport or the Head would block their view. I may note that an old farmstead near Snake Hill belonged to a certain "West" family, and t would have a view of Kingsport - of Marblehead in our world.



#11 JeffErwin

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Posted 06 January 2018 - 05:58 PM

I've found what looks like the original source for Lovecraft's Silver Key - i.e., folklore and associated geographies that he developed into the idea of time travel, Fowler's witch house, etc. Very exciting...



#12 Nick Storm

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Posted 06 January 2018 - 07:14 PM

Heck, I would love to see more artists renditions of the key. My friend Gage Prentiss who is the sculptor for the HPL statue made a pretty cool Silver Key. It is very...ornate.


Edited by Nick Storm, 06 January 2018 - 07:14 PM.

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#13 skaye

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Posted 06 January 2018 - 08:11 PM

There was even a resort on Great Misery Island, burned down by someone in the later 30s, which is now ruins.

 

I am intrigued by the notion of someone deciding to build a resort on a place called "Great Misery Island." That's reminiscent of parts of Oregon, with the Dismal Nitch and Humbug Mountain and such.



#14 JeffErwin

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Posted 06 January 2018 - 09:28 PM

I am intrigued by the notion of someone deciding to build a resort on a place called "Great Misery Island." That's reminiscent of parts of Oregon, with the Dismal Nitch and Humbug Mountain and such.


See here... https://streetsofsal...-misery-island/

#15 Taavi

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 12:11 AM

The Silver Key is also strongly tied to the Alhambra in Spain IIRC.


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#16 JeffErwin

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Posted 14 January 2018 - 12:44 AM

The Silver Key is also strongly tied to the Alhambra in Spain IIRC.

 

 

Interesting - I found a "silver key" associated with the gates of Sevilla (handed over to the Castilians at its conquest by the Jewish community there) - preserved in that city's cathedral.

Overall I've focused on Ismaili/Nizari gnosticism and Alamut as part of the story. 



#17 skaye

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Posted 14 January 2018 - 01:28 AM

The Silver Key is also strongly tied to the Alhambra in Spain IIRC.

 

I think it's mentioned as a possible connection in The Encyclopedia Cthulhiana, but I don't have that handy.

 

There's a hand on the keystone of the outer arch of the Puerta de la Justicia and a key above the inner arch, with various explanations of each, including the legend that Granada wouldn't fall until the hand grasped the key.



#18 JeffErwin

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Posted 14 January 2018 - 01:44 AM

I think it's mentioned as a possible connection in The Encyclopedia Cthulhiana, but I don't have that handy.

There's a hand on the keystone of the outer arch of the Puerta de la Justicia and a key above the inner arch, with various explanations of each, including the legend that Granada wouldn't fall until the hand grasped the key.


I don't recall seeing it in my copy but I have the last dead tree edition. However, I do recall that story, so I'll have to consider whether to use it in some way...

Presently I've got sketches for the following chapters:

1. Initial investigation into the disappearance of Randolph Carter with "seepage" from the Dreamlands into the vicinity of the ruins of the Carter farmstead.

2. Encounter with a Carter doppelgänger in Boston and with Pickman.

3. A "double" of the Silver Key surfaces; the investigators are entrapped in a series of time travel episodes:

4. The Salem Witch Trials

5. The Elizabethan period (entitled "Rose Flesh")

6. Alamut

7. Ilek-Vad and denouement...

8. Conclusion in New Orleans.

There are a number of hostile figures, including doubles of Carter, Nyarlathotep, and potential villains such as Pickman, Aspinwall, De Marigny, the Old Man, etc - the format is loose, so that the PCs determine the degree and correctness of the overall atmosphere of phantasmagorical paranoia.

It does seem that "silver key" was in vogue in the 19th century as a metaphor for "that which opens all doors," particularly in terms of the gates of the Alhambra, which were opened to tourists only on application to the porters.... https://books.google...y" hand&f=false

Moreover, the legend goes: “the day that the hand holds the key, the Alhambra will disappear” http://www.jesswonde...m/the-alhambra/

Now I wonder if Ilek-Vad is actually attainable: if R.C. reaches it, holds, the key, and he, and the city, dissolve into the Abyss - which - in gnostic Islam - is Theophany - union with the Divine. Certainly R.C.'s entrance into the cave in BtGotSK sounds like the oceanic impulse of death by passive suicide.

Well it comes from TtGotSK: ”But the key—Carter sent me a photograph of that. Its curious arabesques were not letters, but seem to have belonged to the same culture-tradition as the hieroglyphs on the parchment. Carter always spoke of being on the point of solving the mystery, though he never gave details. Once he grew almost poetic about the whole business. That antique Silver Key, he said, would unlock the successive doors that bar our free march down the mighty corridors of space and time to the very Border which no man has crossed since Shaddad with his terrific genius built and concealed in the sands of Arabia Petraea the prodigious domes and uncounted minarets of thousand-pillared Irem. Half-starved dervishes—wrote Carter—and thirst-crazed nomads have returned to tell of that monumental portal, and of the Hand that is sculptured above the keystone of the arch, but no man has passed and returned to say that his footprints on the garnet-strown sands within bear witness to his visit. The key, he surmised, was that for which the Cyclopean sculptured Hand vainly grasps."

​This also identifies Irem with the Wadi Rum (a persistent theory but one displaced today by the claims of Ubar) in the south of Jordan - a place hostile and beautiful. It was used for the surface of the Red Planet in The Martian.

Interestingly, the 'cyclopean ruins' of Mars are mentioned in the same story. If L did not love that word so, I would think that he meant to link the planet with the city of the Jinn.





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