Thursday 19 March 2015

Why, though?

Hi, I'm Howard Ingham. I write.

Among the things I've written are roleplaying games. In the last fifteen years I've written rules and supplements for a stack of games. I wrote for White Wolf for a while. I wrote a little bit of Call of Cthulhu stuff. About six years ago now (and man, was it that long?) I self-published a game called MSG™. I was quite proud of it, I still am, but I'm not going to lie, it was never going to catch any popular imaginations.

About five years ago, I moved away from games, largely. I got other work, worked as a performer, poet, writer of fiction, and occasionally as an illustrator and while I've done bits and pieces here and there for tabletop games, I'm not really working as a game designer anymore.


There was this one game I always wanted to write. It's personal to me, has been since like dot, when my dad used to keep his books on the occult on a high shelf and one day I balanced on a stack of wobbly chairs and got them down, and there was this one about Atlantis, only I'm not talking about your Plato Atlantis or your Graham Hancock Atlantis or even your Howard Overman Atlantis, I'm talking about the dream Atlantis of Madame Blavatsky and Rudolf Steiner, William Scott-Elliot and Charles Leadbeater. The Hyperborean age of the Lhas. The Lost Lemuria. I'm talking about a world invented by and for psychics. Mystics. Dreamers. Not filtered through any lens of pulp fantasy, either. I wouldn't read the American writers who riffed on this stuff until well into adulthood, and that's probably a good thing.

I was about eleven, and I'd discovered Dungeons and Dragons about the same time (I still have the box, purple sides, Erol Otus dragon, acquired second hand from some older lads down the road who couldn't make head or tail of it, at a time when everyone else had the Elmore dragon), and in my lonely head the blurry fragments of theosophical imaginations turned into lost ancient worlds full of psychic three-eyed beastmen who domesticated dinosaurs, and tribes of sad blue giants who walked through lands scoured by the depredations of airship fleets commanded by crazed tyrant witch-kings. This was in the books. This was all there, I swear to God, with Chris Foss paintings and diagrams of the concentric islands of Poseidonis and discussion of cosmic memory and theosophical root races. All there.

But all there in skeleton. No details, no more than what I've just said, really. I was twelve. So I added to it, filled in the gaps with people with silver skin, cold-blooded sky-scaled warrior women, isolated communities of carefree people who, if you ate with them, would never let you leave (and nor would you want to).

You grow up. I thought about writing a book about Atlantis some years ago. Back in 2013, I wrote a one-man show that I performed a couple of times (and hope to again soon). I went back to the original books. Reading the source material, I began to realise how racist it was, how prurient, how much of it was about furthering private agendas (in The Lives of Alcyone, Leadbeater and Besant make the most significant people of the ancient imaginary realms previous incarnations of their mates, investing them with cosmic significance. You can read the loves and hates of that little claque of people, their private dramas, all painted up as ancient history).

The theosophical account of the races of Atlantis is flat out racist, no lie, a myth of the ascendancy of the white race above Asians, Native Americans and Africans. The story flies in the face of everything we know about science and history and, well, humanity.

But what if it could be made into something true? What if the story of this imaginary world were true and were only filtered through the prejudicial eyes of the racist Victorians who channelled it? What if the Atlantis and Lost Lemuria of theosophical myth were a story that spoke to something real? What if the myth were, well, the world that I so dearly wanted to see when I was a kid? 

So I decided some time ago to resurrect the idea of my roleplaying game. A world I could play in, and shape. I thought I'd share it with anyone who cared.

I want to use this blog to share the world I've been making and kick around ideas about the best way to approach the system I made (it uses tarot cards rather than dice, which allows for things that dice can't do). The plan is to write this up as a game, get it playtested, and see if I can't get a modest crowdfunder to pay for some of my peers to write supplemental material for it.

Mostly though, I just want to make my game because I'm invested in it.

This is my project. I think it's likely to be the last roleplaying game I ever write.