Colonial Terrors: Call of Cthulhu Adventures Prior to the American Revolution
Chaosium MULA Monograph 58pp
Author: Jeff Woodall
Cover Art: Matt Zeilinger
Interior Art: Jeff Woodall
Published October 2011
Credit to Jeff Woodall for seeing potential in the colonial period of American history and to whoever got Matt Zeilinger to do the cover art. Unfortunately the content and interior art donâ€™t begin to live up to what the cover promises.
Bit late to the party on this one but there seem to be a couple of Lovecraft-themed plays still to ...er… play before the festival ends.
Looks like it's too late for Pickman's Model, but there's still Providence (29-31/10) and Asenath's Tale: The Thing on the Doorstep (1-3/11) to go.
I've been working my way through the podcast The Magnus Archives and part of the mythology in that series revolves around specific books that act as touchstones for abstract incomprehensible entities, allowing the entities to act through those who read and/or possess them.
Here's a link to the series's wiki showing some of the books, with links to the books' own pages for the more prominent ones
Is this in regard to the new book by Golden Goblin Press or another incarnation of Cthulhu Invictus?
I'm asking, because I don't know the new book yet, but I do have a PhD in ancient history and social and religious history of the Roman Empire is my trained specialty. Yet, I would need to know more about the system of rules used. A pure method of percentiles is ill-constructed to reflect the Roman society of the second century CE.
Generally speaking, a person during the Roman Empire between 14 CE (the death of Augustus) and 161 CE (Emperor Antoninus Pius' death) could be characterized along several axes (as in: plural of axis) of social status. The principal axes are:
Is the person free or unfree (i. e. a slave)?
Is the person a Roman citizen or the citizen of another entity?
From the first axis, that of personal freedom spin of multiple questions, including the second one. Being unfree would render the person actually a subject of someone elses will and his (or her) property. As an unfree person, as a slave of someone else, the person would be the property of that person and for example could not be sued (and hence punished) in court. But it also meant that one would have the opportunity to become free, by being participating in an act called affranchisement or in Latin manumisso (from this the word "emancipation", lit. letting someone or something go out of the hand of the owner). Slaves were often freed by testament or by an act of clemency, usually when the slave reached his thirties.
When this happened, the slave became a free man (or a woman), but a deep social bond to his/her former master/mistress remained. The master became now the patronus (patron) of the former slave, who became the cliens (client) of his former master. Both were politically and socially tied to each other, the client e. g. had to vote for his patronus in elections and carry out services requested by him. The patron on the other hand had to make sure his former slave had an economical outcome befitting the social standing of the patron.
This essentially meant that the richer a patron was, the more economical means he had to invest into a slave, whom he wanted to set free. And since setting free slaves was an act of clemency, a highly sought after trait in noble Romans, this meant creating freedmen (and freedwomen, Latin libertus/liberti and liberta/libertae, together phrased as libertini, i. e. "those set free") was both expensive and an investment: for creating new Roman citizens this way meant showing off one's own riches, gaining new supporters and new influence in the trades and crafts those people from then on worked in. The libertini quickly became a social class of their own during the Empire, especially those of noble slave masters and those of the emperors in particular.
Transferring this to Cthulhu should mean that the Social Standing of a character should reflect that of his social network. Everyone had a patron or was a client (or both), the network of clienteles is a corner stone of the Roman society and that of the Greek city states during the time as well.
The second question can only be answered if the first answer was determines to be "free", but it is nonetheless critical. Living in the Roman Empire by no means meant that one was a Roman citizen (civis Romanus). In fact, people born to a non-Roman father would inherit their fathers citizenship, which usually meant they became Greeks of some sort. After all, Greek colonization and the conquests by Alexander the Great and his generals centuries earlier meant that most of the cities around the Mediterranean were Hellenized.
Notable exceptions were the political entities (speaking of states draws the wrong parallels here) of the barbarians of the North; especially Germanic and Celtic/Gallic people. The latter included the populations of large parts of the Iberian peninsular and the British Isles. Exceptions included parts of the Levantine states in historical Syria - including Palastine, Judea and other regions - as well as Arabian, Mesopotamian and North African political entities, which today form parts of Algeria, Morocco, Syria, Israel, Jordan, the Middle East etc. Egypt however was firmly Hellenized and quickly made subject to Roman laws.
Most of the population in these areas would be citizens only of their respective cities. A man from Athens would be Athenian by law and an embodiment of Greek culture, as would a man from Alexandria or the island of Rhodes (Rhodos). Some of the most important men from such a city could also be given Roman citizenship however, making them dual citizens and thus having twice the privileges, for only a citizen could be elected into offices.
Some cities or political entities however were more or less annexed by Rome directly. This is especially true for the towns of the Northern barbarians, but also for key cities of a region. Those cities were given the status of a Roman colony (colonia) or a Latin municipality (municipium) and their populations became Roman citizens proper (I'm shortening this down here, thing are far more complex in reality, but I hope it will suffice for the moment). This made these towns or cities direct parts of Rome, with Roman citizens being enrolled into voters lists (and yes, gerrymandering was a thing back then), being eligible for taxes, military service etc. It also gave Rome much more control, which was often the point.
The way this happened was often one of two. First, a general or emperor founded a colony by settling veterans in an ancient city or town. This for example happened in Beirut (ancient Berytos) or Carthage. The veterans were given land and essentially took over the city on a political level. In some cases a city had proven itself a valuable ally to Rome during a war or - later during the Empire - a civil war (i. e. that usually meant they had backed the successful contender or usurper). In this case, all citizens became Romans and the former status of citizenship of that city simply vanished.
Becoming a Roman was less easy for those not born to Roman citizens, however. One way was, being a slave and set free by his or her master/mistress. Another way was given the citizenship by (Imperial) decree, usually that meant being part of a city that received the honor or for outstanding services to the Imperium. Another common, yet hazardous choice was to serve in the army as a foreigner (as part of the auxiliary forces) for 25 years and receive citizenship after retirement.
As I mentioned, being a Roman citizen in the Roman Empire had huge ramifications for a person, more so if one lived outside Rome proper. For one thing, one could apply for offices of the Roman state, but one had to be of a certain social status. Even more important, one would be taxed exclusively by the Roman state, which usually meant paying less taxes, for Rome was rich, partly because it could simply raise taxes on the cities in its provinces or earn the spoils of war.
And thirdly, a Roman was only subject to Roman judges. No simple provincial magistrate or non-Roman city official could judge a Roman citizen. Remember Apostle Paulus appealing to the highest Roman provincial magistrates or directly to Rome, when being incarcerated for his religious works? Those might have been illegal in some Greek cities or even illegal by Roman law, but dare that Greek aristocrat trying to cast a stone: as a citizen of Rome Paulus has to be tried by the provincial governor or in eternal Rome herself.
After one has answered those two questions, there will come many more. One I have briefly touched already: that of social status. During the Empire the question of Patrician or Plebeian descent is almost mute. Only few Patrician families actually survived the civil wars of the first century BC. Instead of the the Empire of Augustus rearranged the nobility by census of taxation. You could be part of that nobility or you could not be, that made a huge difference. Within the nobility you could be part of one of three order: the senators, the knights (equestrians) or the decurions (provincial nobility). Beyond the nobility you could be a veteran - although they were usually made decurions if the had reached the rank of centurion - or you could be part of the plebs, the common people.
Within the plebs, you could be a variety of things, most notably you could be nothing special in particular. Your social status was very much set up by birth - due to the status of your father - by acquintances - especially by the status of your patron - and by merit: Rome after all respected people trying to become someone. A Roman could also be less than normal and that certainly included freedmen, because the stain of being a former slave remained for live. Freedmen became citizens, but not properly so. They were banned from almost all offices, save a couple of religious ones, and they could not serve in the army. But children of freedmen became citizens proper. This of course created a sorts of ramifications, because as mentioned freedmen were often wealthy and influential, especially if their former masters were of the highes nobility or even emperors. But by law, freedmen were citizens with lesser rights.
Of these lesser rights were also the so called infames (sg. infamis). They were actors, debtors in bankruptcy proceedings, dishonourably discharged soldiers, prostitutes and pimps, dancers and gladiators (if they were not slaves in the first place). Being an infamis meant being liable to corporal punishment usually reserved to slaves and being barred from holding offices, jury service and the role of prosecutor. It thus seriously diminished political participation, but the status by law was still higher than that of a Greek aristocrat who did not have Roman citizenship. At least in theory, which in antiquity could mean all or nothing, especially since "knowing the right people" in practice was invaluable.
A Roman actress could be consort of a political leader (Sulla, Marc Antony, Emperor Justinian) and get away with everything. But if a low-life bum actor play all high and mighty in front of a Greek aristocrat, just because he or she is "a proper Roman citizen" and that non-Roman aristocrat complains about the incident at his senator friends next dinner party, said actor might find himself or herself getting whipped or worse.
In total, I would use the percentile value of Social Standing only as a rough guideline in Invictus. The right friends can get you everywhere in Imperial Rome and for players and keepers that's a good thing. The distinct social status however cannot protect you from the drastic and often harsh reality of the Roman or non-Roman law. As they say in Rome: "If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas." [Qui cum canibus concumbunt cum pulicibus surgent.] And that goes both ways. A highborn son of a senator might find his co-investigator useful precisely because she is an actress and can infiltrate the party of a sinister cult at a senator's villa urbana. But if she screws up, he should pretend not to know her too well, or her infamy might become his and his father's. And if there is one rule in Roma (and Greek etc. as well for that matter) it is: Don't bring shame to your family. "Honour thy father and thy mother" is more than one of the ten commandments, it's a corner stone of societies in antiquity in general.