Thursday, April 6, 2017

Investigators for Under the Pyramids


The strangest episode in H.P. Lovecraft's real life literary career was when he ghost-wrote a story for Harry Houdini. "Imprisoned with the Pharaohs" (1924) was an allegedly true account told in the first-person about how Houdini got lost in caverns beneath the Great Pyramid of Giza and witnessed certain monstrous rites in praise of a dark god. This story is revived and brought to the gaming world with Under the Pyramids, an expansion for Eldritch Horror. As usual, I've painted up metal miniatures for each of the 8 characters in this set.





"Imprisoned with the Pharaohs" is a neglected gem -- it is rarely ranked among Lovecraft's top stories and is often omitted from his anthologies. And yet, it features some of his best writing. The descriptions of Cairo are filled with lively detail that convince the reader that the writer was really there. The worst (best?) of HPL's baroque language is saved for the very end, and truly lends force to the climax. Most importantly, in assuming the voice of Houdini, Lovecraft created a fully-fleshed narrator with a sense of personality that far outstrips his customary wan, hapless and bookish heroes.   

Even if it's not read as often as it deserves, "Imprisoned with the Pharaohs" had a lasting influence on the gaming world. It was a primary influence on The Fungi from Yuggoth (1984) by Keith Herber, which is (in my view) the best adventure ever written for the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game. So I'm happy to see Fantasy Flight Games carry on this tradition with Under the Pyramids (which was, by the way, Lovecraft's first name for "Imprisoned with the Pharaohs"). 

Well, on to the characters!





Above we have Hank Samson, the farmhand. FARMHAND? I guess Fantasy Flight Games is running out of ideas for characters. After all, there is only so often that you can re-use the idea of an Irish gangster.

In any case, Hank's miniature is the Citadel's CC1 Gothic Horror "Peasant" (1986).




Professor Harvey Walters is, well, a professor. At least that's a proper Lovecraftian career -- an expert in the field of crypto-antiquitarianologicalism. His miniature is the CC1 Gothic Horror "Sir Charles" (1987). He's been slightly modified by yrs. truly -- I added the impressive side-whiskers. I have a soft spot for Harvey Walters because he predates Fantasy Flight Games by many years and originates with the the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game, where he was the sample character in the rulebook:





Notice how his player's name is given as "Sandy" -- presumably, this is Sandy Petersen, the author of the game.





Above is Joe Diamond the private eye. His miniature is the CC1 Gothic Horror "Professor" (1986). With his studious crouch, this miniature looks less like a professor and more like Sherlock Holmes -- after all, we know from stories like A Study in Scarlett that Holmes would crawl around the floor with his magnifying glass. I'm not sure, however, where Holmes would have found the scroll for summoning a Star Vampire.





Above is Mandy Thompson, the researcher. I really love this miniature -- she's Citadel's CC1 Gothic Horror "Rancher's Lady". She's got a great stance and lovely details like her sweater vest. But when it came to paint her face, I realized that her mouth is formed into a very circular scream. It makes her look like she's "smiling like a donut".





Above is Minh Thi Phan, the secretary. Never trust a secretary who reads The King in Yellow -- she's apt to jam straightened paper clips into her eyes at inconvenient times. Well, in any case, Minh's miniature is the Gothic Horror's "Betty" (1987). 




Above is the infelicitously named "Monterey Jack"  -- the archaeologist. God I hate that name. Well, he gets a cool miniature -- the CC1 Gothic Horror "Rancher" (1986).





Above is Rex Murphy, the journalist. Coincidentally, here in Toronto there is a real life journalist named Rex Murphy, who's always looked to me like he's seen his fair share of cosmic horrors:





Citadel has not produced any sufficiently writerly miniature for Rex, so his miniature is "The Reporter" from Foundry's City Slicker's range. 




Finally, above is Sister Mary, the nun. Non-sexy, non-gun-wielding nuns are hard to come by in 28mm, but I finally tracked down a suitable figure from RAFM -- an excellent producer of Lovecraftian miniatures (and other delights) based here in Ontario. Sister Mary is the RAF02908 "Holy Sister" from the Cthulhu range.




"If only I had not read so much Egyptology before coming
to this land which is the fountain of all darkness and terror!"



Stay tuned for next week when I'll be looking at Carcosa and the King in Yellow...



25 comments:

  1. GM: Rex Murphy, what's your SAN now?
    RM: It's fine, I'm still in the teens.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's comments like that one that make it all worth while.

      Delete
  2. Excellent looking characters! Youre the best!

    ReplyDelete
  3. As a Lovecraft enthusiast, let me applaud !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Assless! I love (LOVE) the minis that you've been painting lately.

      Delete
  4. I remember playing AS Harvey in my earliest rpg'ing days when we were attempting to (And failing miserably seeing as we were only 12.) get to grips with the old CoC game rules.

    Painting-wise, Mandy is my fav of this bunch. Sculpts-wise she is my least favourite. Yes, her pose is good, but that face looks like the old blow-up dolls I used to sell in the sea-side store back in my early teens in Wales!

    Regardless of my above dronings, I really enjoy the choices of each miniature that you use for each character. Lovely work indeed Matthew!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's fascinating that you actually played Harvey back in the day! And good for you and your friends for getting into CoC back when you were 12. I don't think I really discovered it until I was 18 or 19. But like gymnastics, it's the sort of thing that you want to start young.

      Delete
  5. I love these, as I love about anything related to HP Lovecraft. These have been painted wonderfully and I envy your lead collection that you must have to be able to pluck these it off the pile and paint them!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've been collecting the Gothic Horror range for several years now. And I think (??) I have the whole range with all the variants, excepting of course the "Damsel Detective" (which, as far as I can gather) exists in the catalogs only... but that's another story...

      Delete
  6. Marvellous, evocative work :O I don't know if I could pick a favourite one, you certainly got the vibe for tem all!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Suber.

      If any of the other readers haven't done so already, go read Suber's wonderful 40K comic on his website.

      Delete
  7. Oh, man. I got a good laugh out of Rex Murphy. Anyway, wonderful choice of miniatures, all fine matches for the illustrations of the characters. And great painting as usual.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad that you appreciate my attempts to match the miniatures to the illustrations. That attempt to match is what makes the whole project fun for me.

      Delete
    2. Yeah... That got a laugh out of me too... #justcanadianthings

      As usual, a remarkable set of characters... I'm not sure what I'm more in awe of, your consistently good painting or your bulldog-like tenacity at tracking down vintage miniatures.

      Delete
    3. I am working very hard right now with the help of a therapist and a priest to curtail my impulse to collect.

      Delete
  8. Great work here, as others have said. I must say, I am glad to find another fan of 'Imprisoned with the Pharaohs' as I also really enjoyed this story. Top work!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm happy to hear that you're another fan of the story. That one and "Herbert West - Reanimator" are two gems that too many people neglect.

      Delete
  9. As always, great to see miniatures for the Call of Cthulhu RPG.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love this range, as opposed to a lot of the modern ones, because the investigators aren't all carrying sub-machine guns.

      Delete
  10. I hear Monterey Jack's personality really grates on people.

    Terrific post & miniatures.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Sweet! I love Harvey Walters! A good bunch of minis here and I'll have to go check out RAFM. I'm sure I've looked at the site before, but I have the attention span of a gnat. Monterey Jack is one of my favorite characters form the Arkham Horror games.Just plain silly. I have a daring archaeologist figure from Bob Murch who I call Michigan Smith. I should paint him one of these days.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd love to see your Michigan Smith. Is he related to Duncan Idaho?

      Delete
  12. Great work- I didn't know about Imprisoned, I'll read it.

    ReplyDelete