Hello everyone, and welcome to De Profundis, the Lovecraftian Letter Writing RPG.
What Is This?
“Wait a minute” I hear you ask, “Letter writing? You don’t mean writing ACTUAL letters do you? Like, with envelopes and stamps and all that?”
Why yes, strange and fluting voice in my head, that is exactly what I mean. De Profundis is a roleplaying game that is played using the eldritch and forgotten technology of the postal service. Players will be writing actual physical letters to each other, and literally placing them in real and tangible post boxes. It is sort of like a LARP, only without the stupid outfits. You will receive strange diagrams, photographs, missives in languages unknowable and vile, all addressed to your character in 1928. If you would like to take part in this madness, I would encourage you to read the PDF, available at DrivethruRPG here (It’s still on sale!). Actually, even if you have no interest at all in playing, you should probably download it anyway. It is a great read. Probably one of the most interesting and inspiring roleplaying books I have ever read, actually.
It is the year 1928. The world is slowly recovering from The War To End All Wars. It is the Golden Age of Jazz, women are finally gaining equal rights to vote. It is the age of Prohibition in the US, and the year “Talkies” first start showing up on our cinema screens.
20 years ago, just before The Great War, you were a member of an exclusive club called “The Inquiring Heteroclite” - A group of friends, with a common interest in The Occult. This society was run mainly out of The University of Cambridge in England, by a queer young man named Cornelius Pittman. You may have been a student there at the time, or merely come by the club by a mutual acquaintance, that is up to you. Perhaps your interest in the occult persisted, or perhaps you lost touch with your compatriots in the war, or diverted your curiosity toward other things in later life. This is also up to you.
Recently, the rumour has reached you that Cornelius Pittman has disappeared.
If you have read the PDF for De Profundis, the Convention or Theme that I have chosen for this campaign is best described by a combination of “Other Worlds” and “Jewellery Box”. In terms of Lovecraft’s fiction, the vibe I am going for is best depicted in The Dreams In The Witch-House, the full text of which is available here. You will be receiving letters from a man named Ebenezer Barlow, a lawyer from Kent Town, South Australia. Following the unexplained disappearance of Cornelius Pittman, Mr Barlow has been tasked with settling the affairs of the strange young man. Making the situation a little more difficult is the fact that Pittman never left a will, and has no known family. In examining the bizarre disarray left behind by Cornelius, his lawyer will find a great many notebooks, maps of no known lands, and inexplicable paraphernalia, seemingly of no use to anybody. In all these writings, Ebenezer will find that Cornelius never gave up on his society, The Inquiring Heteroclite. And addressed many unsent letters, questions, and notes to his old compatriots at Oxford, apparently as if no time had passed. It had become clear, to those that knew him, that Cornelius Pittman had gone quite mad in the years before his disappearance. He had become a hoarder, a recluse, and had shunned all but his closest friends. Rumour had it that he had wasted away his inheritance, and gone into a not insignificant amount of debt, after taking an interest in purchasing peculiar artefacts from all corners of the globe. The police believe him dead, and his debtors have come to collect.
This is the situation that confronts old Ebenezer. Partly out of pity, and partly out of curiosity, he will begin to send those unsent letters and notes. Hoping, somehow, to make sense of the downfall of Pittman, or perhaps, even, to find out what happened to him.
You will create a character that was once a member of “The Inquiring Heteroclite”. This will mean that you were likely a student at Cambridge in the 1910s, but this may not necessarily be the case. You may, or may not have continued your interest in the occult since then. You will have lost touch with Cornelius Pittman in the years of The Great War. You will probably be an established professional in your field, aged somewhere in your middle years. Please describe your character, in as much detail as you can, in the thread below, including how you knew Cornelius Pittman, and perhaps what drew your interest to the society.
Ebenezer Barlow will send out his first batch of letters to every former member of the society all at once. I hope to get that done by the end of this week… This is partly due to the difficulty of the endeavour, but mainly due to the fact that I am broke, and cannot afford all the stationery I want to use until my payday on Friday. When you receive your initial letter, it will be all clear to start writing to each other.
I realise quite a few letters have already been sent, and that’s fine, but for the purposes of this campaign we will have to consider them non-canon where they conflict with the present narrative.
Further letters and packages will be forthcoming from Ebenezer, as he uncovers them under floorboards, or behind mysterious dark panels in the wall.
Stay in character
When writing letters to each other, make sure you address them to the character, and not to the player. If, for some reason, you think a letter will not get to you if it has somebody else’s name on it, perhaps you can have the other players address another envelope within the envelope addressed to you. The WHOLE LETTER should be in character. Please keep all OOC discussions entirely to this forum.
Try not to contradict each other
This can be difficult when you haven’t seen the letters that others have sent to each other, but try not to contradict each other wherever possible. I think it might help to keep a notebook of the truths that have been established so far. Or possibly to make use of this forum to track down a bit of meta knowledge here and there.
Try not to contradict the time period
This can be challenging to those of us who are not students of history, but try not to contradict the reality of the world as it was in 1928. No computers, no email, no smartphones, yes. Sure. That stuff is easy. But when it comes to more obscure things, like whether or not there were flashlights in 1928, you should endeavour to do your research (Believe it or not, they were actually quite common!)
Date your letters
All letters should be dated as the day they were written, minus 90 years. E.g. If I were to write a letter today, I should pretend as if it was written on the 3rd of June 1928. When looking back over our letters, it will help greatly to be able to establish a proper chronology.
Keep every letter
It might help to make photocopies, or to take pictures of the letters you write before you send them, so you can remember what you’ve established as the truth of your character so far. I would advise perhaps not to post pictures of your letters before you send them, as then the recipient may be able to read it before they even get it! But by all means, post pictures of the letters you receive on this forum. I’m sure other people will get a kick out of what this peculiar business actually looks like.
Keep your postal address to Private Messages only.
The internet is a weird and creepy place, and we’re already doing a weird and creepy thing. Don’t make it weirder and creepier than it has to be by allowing strangers to come knock on your door.
Use a fountain/calligraphy pen if you can
I know penmanship, in the modern age, is a very rare art. But try to go for as much authenticity as you can. It really makes a big difference to the look of the thing if you use a proper calligraphy pen to write your letters. I know Ebenezer has excellent handwriting, and treasures his pen collection greatly. Cornelius… Not so much.
Organise who you are writing to on the forums
It might be better if we establish who is writing to whom, at least initially, on these forums. This way, we can get a bit more of a trigger and response thing bouncing off each other. I.e. One character asks questions, makes suggestions of another, and that character then comments and advances the idea to a third player, and so on. Things might get weird if we’re all posting conflicting theories at the same time.
I know this is a game of Psychodrama, but please, try not to go completely insane all at once. I believe the game will be a lot stronger if we go about this very slowly. The abyss should crawl unseen into our minds, not gibber us completely right off the bat. Maybe set a schedule for your downfall. Perhaps some of us may not even go mad at all!
And lastly, but most importantly…
P.S. I apologise for the wall of text. But hey, if you’re not into reading, then this probably isn’t the game for you.
I will now tag everyone who has expressed an interest in partaking of this tomfoolery. If I have missed anyone, please let me know.