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...