In the latest episode of their ENnie-winning podcast, Ken and Robin talk Richard Sorge, NPCs as foils, Charles Richet and surrealism 101.
The war takes a profound toll on Salvador Dalí, whose rightward political shift can be traced to the leftist capture of his hometown, Cadaqués. Revolutionaries destroy his home and that of his father, execute thirty of his neighbors, and, it seems, rape his sister. Given the power he amasses in the Dreamlands, might he be able to send surreal dreamforms to the real Spain to exact revenge? Your Pen and Ink characters might find themselves battling stilt-legged tigers or chest-of-drawer minotaurs.
Picasso, radicalized by the war, might to do something similar to fight for the Republican cause. His minotaurs are bigger and scarier, and you don’t want to mess with his harpies.
Surrealist painter André Masson is personally present for the siege of Barcelona and experiences a metaphysical epiphany on the mountain of Montserrat a year later. With a bit of date-squishing you could play him in a Pen and Ink campaign and then carry him over to Dreamhounds, or vice versa.
For a literal portal from one series to the next, maybe the PCs get thrown into the torture chambers described here. According to Franco-era prosecution reports discovered by a historian in 2003, an anarchist named Alphonse Laurencic constructed prison cells meant to subject prisoners to “psychotechnic” torture inspired by modernist artists. Their punishing angles and off-putting visuals supposedly broke down the wills of those held there. As did, it is alleged, screenings of Salvador Dalí and Luis Bunuel’s Un Chien Andalou.
Now, as something that actually happened, I have my doubts. Claims made by fascist prosecutors have to be taken skeptically. Maybe some form of psychotechnic prison existed. However, prints of the rarely screened Un Chien Andalou would have been extraordinarily hard to get ahold of anywhere at this time, let alone during the chaos of the civil war.
Still, let’s not allow likelihood to get in the way of a good horror story. Player characters placed in Laurencic’s cells, no doubt due to the constant inter-factional struggle on the Republican side, might not only resist their mind-bending properties. The strange geometric forms painted on the walls might shatter the resistance of their fellow prisoners. But characters already exposed to the much worse resonance of the Mythos could leverage them to their own psychic ends. They might find themselves conveyed to the Dreamlands to meet the dream forms of Dalí or Buñuel. From there a little narrative hocus-pocus might lead to one or more of the PCs joining a Dreamhounds campaign, escaping from Spain to Paris.
In the latest episode of their ENnie-winning podcast, Ken and Robin talk Dreamhounds of Paris, herbs, Shakespearean gaming, and Northern Ireland black mass psy-ops.
Dreamhounds of Paris brings sandbox play to Trail of Cthulhu, as the surrealists of the 20s and 30s discover their ability to consciously reshape the realm beyond waking.
I play with a group that works best either in the completely dramatic realm of Hillfolk and DramaSystem, or in a procedural game with a strongly laid-out goal, like GUMSHOE in its default format. Their struggles with Dreamhounds proved instructive and helped me to improve the book’s GM section.
That’s not to say that they didn’t have any fun, or that nothing happened in their series. Its most memorable events include:
- A murder in Man Ray’s apartment building, with him the apparent target.
- Chasing the pulp anti-hero Fantômas through the marbled halls of Thran, while being accused of complicity in his murders and thefts.
- Dalí raising dreamscaping havoc in a Serranian tavern, striking terror into the hearts of its reticent citizens.
- The blossoming of a Dreamlands cult propitiating the dread god Buñuel.
- Giorgio de Chirico confronting his guilt for starting all of this in the first place.
- Going to the top of mount Hatheg-Kla to find the ancient gods of man, having hatched a plan with the poet Louis Aragon to extirpate them.
- Journeying to the shores of Lake Hali to open the coffin of the King in Yellow, only to find Magritte inside.
- Meeting Picasso in a Dreamlands grove, musky with corrupt fecundity. They found him and a minotaur engaged in leisurely congress with voluptuous plant women. The player characters declined Picasso’s offer to join in.
- A picnic with Nyarlathotep, who gave René Magritte a beautiful silver gun.
- A waking world raid on the chateau of a sinister Parisian occultist. There Nyarlathotep’s aforementioned beautiful silver gun took on a will of its own, massacring the servants in a spectacular fountain of gore.
- Salvador Dalí’s fateful meeting with Gala, wife of fellow surrealist Paul Éluard, at his family home in Cadaqués, Spain. His love for her cures him of his laughing fits.
- Shortly thereafter, Buñuel strangling Gala, the other pulling him off her before he kills her.
Items 11 and 12 are well-documented in the historical record. The others can be proven only by visiting the shores of dream, which still bear the scars of what the surrealists did to it ninety years ago.
Evocative, enigmatic, and haunted by airborne polyps, The Book of Ants, a.k.a Livre des Fourmis, gives Trail of Cthulhu Keepers and players an essential window into Paris of the 20s and 30s, and into the Dreamlands beyond.
From November 1918 to September 1929, the young poet Henri Salem fell in with the surrealists of Paris. Swept up by the imperious charisma of group leader André Breton, he rapidly found himself sharing cafe tables with the key figures of this most influential and fractious art movement of the pre-war period. According to this, his diary of the era, he traded quips with Marcel Duchamp, feared the madness of Antonin Artaud, and served as model for the famous shot of ants crawling from a hole in a man’s hand in Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel’s scandalous film Un Chien Andalou.
If his tale can be fully believed, he stepped with them from waking Paris to an ancient yet surprisingly malleable realm of dream. (Save for Breton, who could never make the leap.) There he walked alongside such Mythos figures as Randolph Carter, King Kuranes and the ghoul once known as Richard Pickman.
As such his diary serves as an indispensable guide to anyone wishing to explore the dangerous demimonde of the Parisian art scene, where disagreements over aesthetics are often settled with knife wounds and broken bones. Even more, it provides a rare look into the ever-shifting shores of the Dreamlands, just as its air of the fantastical gives way to horrific reflections of a world spinning into chaos and death.
|Stock #: PELGT39||Pages: 184|
|Artist: Sarah Wroot||Author: Robin D. Laws|
Playtest feedback for Dreamhounds of Paris, the upcoming Trail of Cthulhu campaign sourcebook in which you play the major figures of the surrealist movement wreaking –psychic-revolutionary havoc in Lovecraft’s eerie fantasy realm, is in. Participants should pat themselves on the bat for a collectively great job. They’ve turned in detailed, thoughtful responses that will make the book better. This must have the highest ratio of comments made to comments used of any project I’ve received playtest feedback on.
Because the campaign strongly encourages you to play real historical figures, supplied for you in the book, we can do a fun thing that doesn’t usually arise from playtest reports. We can see who the most popular of the 20 supplied characters were, and in what proportion. Here’s the breakdown for the six most chosen characters, in handy pie chart form.
Clearly, seeing to it that you have Dali or Cocteau along is the Dreamhounds version of making sure somebody’s playing the cleric.
From the 1920s to the coming of the Occupation, a new breed of artist prowled the fabled streets of Paris. Combative, disrespectful, irresponsible, the surrealists broke aesthetic conventions, moral boundaries—and sometimes, arms. They sought nothing less than to change humanity by means of a worldwide psychic revolution. Their names resound through pop culture and the annals of art history.
But until now, no one has revealed what they were really up to.
In this comprehensive campaign guide for Trail of Cthulhu, you recreate their mundane and mystical adventures as you stumble onto the Dreamlands, a fantastical realm found far beyond the wall of sleep. At first by happenstance and later by implacable design, you remake it in the fiery image of your own art. Will you save the world, or destroy it?
Choose your player character from a roster of 19 visionaries and madmen.
- Put up your dukes as two-fisted filmmaker LUIS BUÑUEL.
- Flee a formless entity as Dada impresario TRISTAN TZARA.
- Photograph tentacled entities as American expat MAN RAY.
- Personify the joy and decadence of the city as chanteuse KIKI DE MONTPARNASSE.
- Wield the magic cane that will end the world as theater of cruelty inventor ANTONIN ARTAUD.
- Or arrive in Paris as fresh-faced young painter SALVADOR DALÍ, who has come to tear the movement all down and rebuild it in his image.
The Dreamlands are as strange as you can imagine.
|Stock #: PELGT38||Pages: 160|
|Artists: Tyler Clark, Ben Felten, Emilien Francois, Melissa Gay, Jérôme Huguenin, Leah Huete, Rachel A. Kahn, Anna Kryczkowska, David Lewis Johnson, Pat Loboyko, Rich Longmore, Jeff Porter, Patricia Smith, Jeff Strand||Authors: Robin D. Laws, Kenneth Hite, Steve Dempsey|