Thursday, May 14, 2015

Dice Game Cheats? The Solution is the Roman Dice Tower


Ever have a guy that wants to use his “personal lucky dice” for a game and when he does he makes his roll every time?  How about the gamer who had a “special” way to hold dice so he wins consistently or the guy that rolls wildly so that he hits “dead” dice that were already thrown to change the outcome?  Everybody who has gamed has seen this problem player. 
The ancient Greeks and Romans had a partial cure for this abuse in the fritillus, which was a dice box or dice cup.  The best way from keeping somebody from using slight of hand or using English (if you will) on the dice throw was to put the dice into a cup and shake them around.  Keep in mind that these “boxes” were generally cylindrical, so don’t let prejudice lead you to think that all dice boxes are square, in fact they were generally circular like a cup or bowl shaped.  In fact a common shape for the fritillus was one that looked a like a long cylinder and it was called a turricula, some tapering slightly to the mouth.  To help matters, some of these dice cups had grooves inside to help agitate the dice for greater randomness while shaking them up.
An amusing recurring theme from the film, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966) was the slave Pseudolus, who cheated at dice constantly even when using a dice box, because he has his personal turricula rigged for cheating.

The dice box, however, was a useful curb on cheating as Martial, the first century Roman poet wrote in the Tabula Lussora, saying of the use of the fritillus or turricula: 
    Quae scit compositos manus inproba mittere talos, 
    si per me misit, nil nisi vota feret.

    If the cheating hand, that knows how to arrange and 
    throw the dice, has thrown them through me, he will 
    achieve nothing beyond prayers.


Now the ultimate cure for cheating dicers of all types was created by the Romans and it was the pyrgus, which was a hands-free dice rolling device we call a dice tower.  This clever device had baffles inside to mix up the dice as they descended by gravity and then they rolled down a stair, randomizing them even more to obtain fair throw.  Additionally, some pyrguii had little courtyards or enclosures at the base to keep the dice that tumbled down the tower from rolling out father into the play area.  Remember back when you were gaming and you had players throwing dice into a box top to keep them constrained when some gamers were notorious wild throwers.  This courtyard was the ancient cure for enthusiastic or wild throws.   Nobody wants their miniatures knocked about by errant dice.

There are only a couple of intact dice towers found to date, one is wood and the other is made of metal, a copper alloy.  I suspect that there were once a large number of wooden dice towers, but all that exists of these now of these are some bone inlay as the wood has long deteriorated with age [1] . 

Here’s an article with a contemporary Roman era quote from letters of Sidonius Apollinaris that cites the use of the pyrgus: 

The pyrgus was a dice-box, usually wooden and shaped like a tower with inlaid steps, which was used to cast the three dice. Because the various references in Latin literature are sketchy, . . . but in another letter Sidonius [Apollinaris] clearly makes reference to the fact that tabula used a board, bicolored playing pieces, and dice:

‘Here there await you a couch built with cushions, a tabula board laid out with bicolored stones, and dice ready to fly from the ivory steps of the pyrgus.’

Discovered in 1985, some 30 years ago, this amazing metal prygus shown was found in what is now modern Germany near the villages of Vettweiss-Froitzheim, for which this dice tower was named.  This outstanding metal prygus, made from a copper alloy and now resides at the Reinisches Landesmuseum at Bonn, Germany.  

The dice tower was found near the remains of a Roman villa located 25 miles southwest of Cologne, which was then called Colonial in ancient times and was the capital of the Roman province of Germania Inferior.  The site is also about 20 miles straight due west of modern Bonn, which was once ancient Bonna.  It had a major Roman military complex called Castra Bonnesis, housing a large, permanent military presence to guard the west bank of the Rhine. The Legio I Minerva was stationed at Castra Bonnesis from 82 to 359 CE.  Previously it was manned by the Legio I Germanica, which was disbanded in 70 CE for cowardice during the Batavi Revolt.

You’ll note this metal dice tower has a inscription on the front which translates:
     The Picts are defeated
     The enemy is destroyed
     Play in safety

The sides and back has only a single inscription repeated:
    Use it and live lucky.

Clearly the Pict reference on the tower suggests it was owned at some time by a Legionaire or officer who served on the frontier against the Picts, possibly at one of the forts on Hadrian’s Wall.  Who knows how long it was used and changed hands until it was carefully hidden away in its box in the waning years of the Roman presence in Germania, 400 miles from Hadrian’s Wall, having crossed the channel from the British Isles.  Given the proximity of its final resting place near a villa close to the Roman super-fort on the Rhine, my guess is that the dice tower with its military reference had a closer association with Castra Bonnesis or was owned by a retired officer who was given land in Germania as reward for service.  Then again, it might have been won in a dice game.

The photo above is of the original restored artifact prygus.  Note that it originally had three bells (only one now exists) which would ring when struck by a die on exiting.  You’ll also notice that the dice tower has a lot of perforations much like lattice work on a wooden on a Roman window lattice.  I suspect that this is a form of gaming transparency to show that the same set of dice that entered the tower have run the course and exited.  Since the dice tower was an anti-cheater device, this extra step of showing that the dice box was not rigged and it was used in a fair game.  That may seem a bit excessive, but remember the rigged fritillus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and the period references to cheating at dice cited in this blog entry.

I suspect the most common dice towers were more than likely wood, probably with bone or ivory inlay according to taste and pocketbook.  But it’s not beyond the realm for a really wealthy person to have one in silver or even gold, but given the chances of one in precious metal surviving being melted down would be pretty slim.  About the only material that probably wasn’t used in a dice tower is terracotta as there have been no fragments found.  Although there are only two identified, complete dice towers discovered, the one in Germany and the other in Egypt (probably Ptolemaic or Roman era) housed at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo [2].   Archeologist R. E. Cobbett suggests that decorative bone fragments found at the Richborough Roman fort in the UK are fragmentary remains of a wooden dice tower used in ancient Britain [1].

Here is an article in Portuguese about a new find, which may prove to be a portion of another metal dice tower.  If so, it would be only the second metal prygus known to date.  My Portuguese is very poor, so I leave it to a reader to help me with a translation and maybe some additional information on this new find.

In the past few decades Roman style dice towers have made a small comeback with gamers and they can be seen on occasion.  Some are of new design and others are quite good reproduction of the originals.  Amusingly there are even some made of Legos.  If you Google around a bit on the internet, you’ll turn them up.  Check out the links at the end of the post for some that I found.  Check out the photo at the very end of the post of an outstanding reproduction of the Vettweiss-Froitzheim pyrgus.  Kudos (κῦδος) Steven!

Anyway, I hope this post about dicing cheats wasn’t too dry or esoteric.  I just wanted to give a brief overview of early devices to curb dice fudging and cheating, which is something I know you gamers out there have experienced over the years.  I really enjoy the historical context of games and eventually I want to make a post about just the dice themselves, but I felt it would make this post over long.  Happy gaming!

                                                 CoastConFan
Footnotes:
[1]  Article from Britannia, A Journal of Romano-British and Kindred Studies, Vol XXXIX, 2008, Pgs 219-235, R. E. Cobbett:  A Dice Tower from Richborough.   This article shows a suggested reconstruction of a dice tower from bone fragment decoration found at an archeological dig.
[2]  Other than a very old photogravure from an unknown publication showing this wooden Egyptian dice tower, I can’t find any recent information or images.  I suspect it may not be on display anywhere, but in storage.  Hopefully a reader will help me out with a better photo and more information about where it was found & etc.  I really hope it wasn’t destroyed in the recent round of looting by cultural barbarians. 

Additional notes:
The famous image shown at the start of the article of two Greek soldiers playing a board game on an amphora shaped vase is attributed to the Athenian painter Exekias, circa 540 BCE showing Achilles and Ajax sitting down playing a game during the siege of Troy.  Mind you, this particular vase was painted a thousand years after the famous siege.  Although anachronistically depicted in armor of a type dating thousand years after the Siege of Troy, it shows the popularity of board games and dice even at an early time.  This vase (#344) now resides in the Vatican Museum.

Links of interest:
On collecting RPG dice  http://www.rpgcollecting.com/dice/



The dice tower and the fritillus must have seen heavy use, see this article on gambling and cheating in ancient Rome  https://archive.org/stream/jstor-25102412/25102412_djvu.txt

See the Wikipedia article on the famous Vettweiss-Froitzheim dice tower  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vettweiss-Froitzheim_Dice_Tower

An article about the Richborough dice tower find

The Earlyworks blog has a nice reproduction of the metal Vettweiss-Froitzheim dice tower made by Steve Wagstaff

See the article, Literate Games:  Roman Urban Society and the Game of Alea

Even more links about Roman games


Repro dice tower by Steve Wagstaff

Letters of Sidonius Apollinaris who lived in  Roman Gaul:   http://legacy.fordham.edu/halsall/source/sidonius1.html

Roman soldiers and the Picts as mentioned on the German dice tower http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/01/2014/manning-the-ramparts-a-hillfort-on-the-edge-of-empire

For more information about Romans fighting Picts, which begins in 80 CE and drags on for 300 years see below:
Constantius I repelled a Pictish invasion and campaigns beyond the Antonine Wall in 305 CE dies in 306 CE:  
Maximus defeats an incursion of Picts in 381 
 
A German article on gaming with both dice towers shown.

Here’s a dice tower made of Lego blocks  http://www.daemonstorm.com/role-playing/accessory/Lego-Dice-Tower
 
A modern laser cut dice tower for sale  http://danbecker.info/games/articles/FlyingTricycleTower.html

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Free Comic Book Day 2015


This 2nd of May 2015 is Free Comic Book Day.  Support your local comic book shop by showing up for Free Comic Book Day and get your free comics.  It started back in 2002 and has grown to a nation-wide movement.

Three Alarm Comics at 15210 LeMoyne Blv., Biloxi (D'Iberville) MS 39532,  is a local sponsor here for Free Comic Book Day, held every year on the first Saturday in May. 

View my previous post, which was about the SF oriented issues of Classics Illustrated comics of the 40s, 50s, and 60s.  

If you want to see who in your local area is sponsoring Free Comic Book Day?  Use this link to find out:  http://www.freecomicbookday.com/storelocator

-----------------UPDATE--------------------


 
FCBD at 3 Alarm Comics was well attended and there were a good representation of artists doing what they do best, drawing and signing.  There were a number of excellent costumes covering the whole spectrum of fandom.  

Outside 3 Alarm Comics, the Mississippi contingent of the 501st Legion was encamped to the delight of many.  



Jenevieve Broomall
Brian LeBlanc
Wade Acuff
Andy B. Childress
Assorted artists at FCBD 2015 at 3 Alarm Comics

Steven Butler with Sonic Guitar


Steven Butler designed the graphics for a custom Sonic the Hedgehog guitar art last year and this year the finished guitar was signed at FCBD.   I'll post in detail about this very special guitar later with additional information and photos. 

This year seemed to be a successful FCBD and I am sure that at all the other locations, there was fun and comic books to be had by all.  I'd like to thank the organizers and participating comic book shops for making a lot of people happy. 








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I really like to push the idea of people enjoying to read and comic books/graphic novels are a good way to spark interest.  Many kids don’t like to read or have difficulty, so I believe that comic books are a way to spur a greater reading participation in the community.  Now I say kids, but adult literacy is something to consider also and it’s a national tragedy that many adults have difficulty reading.  This holds them back from better jobs, so I hope that comics might also get adults to read more.  Support your local literacy council and don’t forget to read to your kids every chance you can. 

                                                                                 CoastConFan

Links of interest
The homesite for Free Comic Book Day

Previous CoastConFan blog posts about Free Comic Book Day, with photos.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Classics Illustrated Comics, Remembering Science Fiction’s Printed Past

In the 20th century, science fiction became mainstreamed primarily through SF pulps periodicals in the beginning, outside of regular novel releases.  Monthly publications presented stories and art to readers often with outrageous covers and lurid images accompanying the story.  Comic books became another vector for SF most especially through Classics Illustrated in the 1950s and 1960s. 

Long before our modern “graphic novels” Classics Illustrated produced a series of 169 well-known titles from the mundane to the fantastic with a publication history that ran from 1941 to 1971 for the original series.  They were originally named Classic Comics Presents for the first five releases and then as Classic Comics Illustrated for the next two, after which they were dubbed Classics Illustrated.  When the earlier seven titles were reprinted, they were put under the Classics Illustrated banner thereafter.  They were printed in several countries over the years and in a number of different languages. Classics Illustrated was a stepping stone from the old-style pulps of the 20s and 30s and into a newer form at allowed slimmed down version of text stories with illustrations. 

I remember Classics Illustrated fondly, most especially as I bought them at flea markets when I was looking for more traditional text SF books in the 1960s.  In the days before computers, used book shops, flea markets, and garage sales were prime places to hunt books.  Few of the old Classics Illustrated comics I turned up were in mint condition and some clearly had been read hard and put away wet.  Many early printings in excellent condition can command high prices in the collector’s market.


Science fiction and horror/weird fiction were well represented in the repertoire of the Classics Illustrated series with several classic SF stories.  Interestingly, a good portion of them were stories that were Victorian in origin and more importantly (for the publisher) many were out of copyright. 
Some of the writers represented by Comics Illustrated were Jules Verne, Edgar Allen Poe, Mary Shelly, and Mark Twain.  Alas, there was no Robert E. Howard and no H. P. Lovecraft, although (surprise surprise) Talbot Mundy’s, King of the Khyber Rifles #107 and Arthur Conan Doyle’s, A Study in Scarlet  #110, Adventures of Sherlock Holmes #33, and The White Company #102 are in the lineup.  Additionally, The Man Who Laughs #71 by Victor Hugo appears, which was made into an outstanding silent movie* and the basis of the character of The Joker, makes an appearance in the lineup. 


You’ll easily recognize these classic gems of SF, horror and weird fiction, many of which were made into film, some several times over the years:
  Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde #13
  Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court #24
  Frankenstein #26
  Mysterious Island #34
  Poe’s Mysteries #40
  Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea #47
  Around the World in 80 Days #69
  The Gold Bug/The Tell Tale Heart/The Cask of Amontillado #84
  King Solomon’s Mines #97
  War of the Worlds  #124
  The Time Machine #133
  First Men in the Moon #144
  Invisible Man #153
  Food of the Gods #160
  Robur the Conqueror #164

In this day and age of reduced reading habits and reduced comprehension, comic books/graphic novels can be a way to hook kids into reading.  This isn’t to say comics and graphic novels are just for kids – by no means.  A love of reading is one of the most important tools you can have in life.  I had previously said before it was my father reading Tintin books (and others) to me, when I was still years away from attending school, and that got me hooked on the idea of reading even before I could read myself.  Parents, read to your kids if you love them and no age is too early to demonstrate reading to them even if they are too young to read them selves.

                                              CoastConFan

Footnote
*The Man Who Laughs (1928) a silent firm starring ConradVeidt, is based on the Victor Hugo story from 1869.
 
Other Links of Interest
List of Classics Illustrated Comic Books  http://www.tkinter.smig.net/classicsillustrated/list.htm

For those of you interested in those earlier SF periodicals check out this Pulps Primer:  http://io9.com/5680191/where-did-science-fiction-come-from-a-primer-on-the-pulps   and one on the origin of SF pulps:  http://www.pulpdom.com/history.html

For those interested in pulps covers of all types, check out this blog on just this subject:  http://pulpcovers.com/


An archive of pulps, many of which are downloadable   https://archive.org/details/pulpmagazinearchive


Project Gutenberg has the full text versions, in several formats, of these same stories for download for free:  https://www.gutenberg.org/ 
No, sorry this is just a spoof cover CI never made one
 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Happy H. P. Lovecraft Mardi Gras to You All -- Cthulhu Mythos Based Figures


The Mardi Gras season has about ended here on the Gulf Coast with Fat Tuesday looming in a couple of days.  This year Friday the 13th was followed by St. Valentine’s Day and just a few days later, Fat Tuesday will begin and signal the ending of the Mardi Gras season for 2015, so it seemed a post was in order with this plethora of diametrically opposing holidays. 

New Orleans is linked to one the most central of Lovecraft mythos stories, The Call of Cthulhu, which was written in 1926, but did not see print until February 1928 in Weird Tales.  Interestingly, Lovecraft didn’t actually visit New Orleans until June of 1932[1], eventually getting in touch with author and editor Edgar Hoffman Price at his apartment in the French Quarter near where Lovecraft stayed at a hotel.   Mutual correspondent Robert E. Howard had alerted Price via telegram to Lovecraft’s presence in the Crescent City and that led to a writer’s confab that lasted many hours.  I only wish we could have a transcript of their long conversations.  It’s just too bad that Robert E. Howard couldn’t have made that meeting in NOLA, but the stars just weren’t right. 
Well it wasn’t even close to Mardi Gras in June ‘32 when H. P. Lovecraft paid a visit to New Orleans.  But the weirdness and rule of inversion that is the soul of Mardi Gras just seems to lend itself to his writings nonetheless.  The human arbitrary temporal measure of days and times just don’t seem to work within the magic crescent of New Orleans so the fact that Lovecraft wasn’t in N.O. during Mardi Gras.   Synopsis of the story, Call of Cthulhu  
With all that said, to celebrate the 2015 Mardi Gras season, I put together a photographic ad hoc tableau of artifacts celebrating a H. P. Lovecraft New Orleans Mardi Gras and the looming end of the 2015 season in the mood of his story Call of Cthulhu.  Featured in this photo set is a 19th century Italian cast iron mask form for making traditional carnival masks, as well as a fairly old conch horn, typical of the Caribbean and used in certain rites not condoned in the Catholic Church.  In voodoo ceremonies the loa, Agwe[2] is called with one of these conch shell horns.   
Scattered about the photos about are some original Native American Gulf Coast potshards dating from before the “discovery” and colonization of the area by D’Iberville in 1699.  The flints are imports that the Biloxi Indians and other coastal tribes traded for with northern tribes, as there was no local source on the coast.  These also predate “discovery” so they are fairly old.  As background, I have included an interesting French contract document dating to the 1680s.  Although it has little to do directly with the proceedings, it just seemed too cool to not have in the photo, with its intricate stamps and the hand-laid paper.  A note to prop makers, the 300 year old paper is not yellowed nor does it look like the edges were burned.  Also in the picture is a (20th century modern) hand-hammered iron knife made from a single piece of iron with a dragon handle.  Although not old, it also seemed rather appropriate for inclusion in a Weird Fiction tableau. 
In the story, Call of Cthulhu, inspector John Raymond Legrasse[3] of the New Orleans police contacted the American Archeological Society in 1908 about a figure found, “in the woods and swamps south of New Orleans during a raid”.   Previously Legrass had captured some items from a voodoo meeting.  He led a party of police who found some “oddly marred” bodies used in a ritual.  But you know the story.  If you haven’t, you can download the story from the links below.  Consider that these items are from Legrasse’s collection made over a number of years. 
The swamp featured in Call of Cthulhu was supposed to be quite close to the French Quarter, just outside the original old walls of New Orleans.  This leads me to believe that the area suggested just might be near Chalmette, which coincidentally is the site of the Battle of New Orleans, which just so happens to have celebrated its bicentennial just last month on the 8th of January 1815.  The coincidences just seemed to be too good to pass up! There is an interesting military graveyard at the site dating from 1815 to the near present.

Anyway, most of the figures, icons, and the like in these photos were made by that ceramic artist Michael Moses, whose diversity shows in the plethora objects he has made over the years.  The rest of the items are a mix original artifacts, one of which is the voodoo related conch horn.  Some other items here are antiques dating from the time of European “discovery” or before.   The Mythos ceramic figures are made of pottery clay and fired at a high temperature (twice) and should last centuries, even when dropped in a swamp.
Mardi Gras has always had a wild kind of pre Christian flavor, so this assemblage seems to work out well in association.  I thought a cornucopia of Chthonian goodies would be a fine ending to the season.  The collection needed a little airing out so a photo shoot just seemed to follow.  Hopefully this will get folks reading HPL’s Call of Cthulhu, if they haven’t already or at least be amused by the assemblage of items, both original and spurious.  Keep on reading.             CoastConFan
Footnotes:
     [1] Info on Lovecraft’s visit to New Orleans http://mfkorn.blogspot.com/2009/02/new-novel-sold-and-mention-made-of.html and  https://tentaclii.wordpress.com/2012/02/02/lovecraft-and-new-orleans/
  
   [2] As a bit of coincidence, see also Kenzaburo Oe’s story, Aghwee The Sky Monster from his book, Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness (1994).  See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agw%C3%A9
Additionally, one of Michael Moses’ other pieces of pottery is called The Day he Himself Shall Wipe My Tears Away (not shown).  Here's another one, the loa called Agassou, one of Papa’s Agwee’s crew, is in the form of a crab.  Now it just so happens that Agassou is close in sound to Sargasso – the place of giant crabs and groping tentacles in the novella, Boats of the Glen Carrig by William Hope Hodgson (see my post about same), whose influence on HPL is discussed therein.  This is all just happy coincidence and makes the story work even better by this bit of serendipity.  See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agassou  and  http://altreligion.about.com/od/symbols/ig/Vodoun-Veves/Agwe.htm .  Also Agwe's female counterpart is La Sirene, the siren of the seas, the conch horn also comes into play with this.  It doesn't take much of this kind of loose association to make it all appear to be part of the whole narrative. These kinds of random and weak association can enhance the backstory of a prop or in a RPG/LARP scenario sequence. 

    [3] John Raymond Legrasse, inspector of the New Orleans police from 1904 to 1916, after which he enlisted in the U.S. army.  He was discharged in 1919 after a tour in the military police and returned to New Orleans.  Born in 1874, in New Orleans, Legrasse was of Creole descent and educated at parochial schools and later at Tulane.  He was in the N.O. police from 1894 to 1916 and again from 1919 to 1927, after which he retired.  Legrasse passed away in 1932 and his estate funded the Legrasse Endowment for Cultural Studies in 1932.  The collection was housed in a private residence for years.

Some links of interest to you Lovecraft and New Orleans fans

CoC RPG ref  Sourcebook for New Orleans   http://www.yog-sothoth.com/wiki/index.php/The_New_Orleans_Guidebook





An kickstarter article about a NOLA-based CoC set of RPG scenarios   https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/goldengoblinpress/tales-of-the-crescent-city-from-golden-goblin-pres

An overview of some CoC RPG titles https://www.sfsite.com/11b/chao21.htm

Free downloads of the story, Call of Cthulhu

The complete works of H. P. Lovecraft for Nook and Kindle (free -- why pay more) http://arkhamarchivist.com/free-complete-lovecraft-ebook-nook-kindle/

The complete works of H. P. Lovecraft in PDF form (708 pages) free again -- https://maggiemcneill.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/the-complete-works-of-h-p-lovecraft.pdf

Some posts about the Cthonian inspired ceramic works of Michael Moses




Cthulhu reverse glass painting icon by Michael W. Moses  http://coastconfan.blogspot.com/2010/09/cthulhu-icon-painting.html


A little lagniappe:  An article by Robert Bloch, Poe & Lovecraft, 1973:  http://alangullette.com/lit/hpl/bloch.htm
 Text Copyright © by William Murphy, aka CoastConFan, 2015  
as well as some photos.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Collinsport, Arkham’s Sister City, a Weird Fiction Playground for the Call of Cthulhu Gamer


Tucked away up on up on the coast of Maine, Collinsport is the (fictional) home of the Dark Shadows TV show fame.  With a plethora of information put together by Dark Shadows fans, consider playing the H. P. Lovecraft mythos RPG, Call of Cthulhu in beautiful downtown Collinsport for a change of pace, if Arkham becomes a bit too expected.

If you are of a certain age, you remember running home from school to catch the latest episode of the daytime soap opera, Dark Shadows.  It was an afternoon weekday TV show that ran from 1966 to 1971 originally.  But it was a bit different because it was a horror series, something not seen in a daytime slot.  There were 1,225 episodes overall and a couple of movies+.  The series starred the notorious vampire Barnabas Collins as played by Jonathan Frid and featured a parade of Frankenstein monsters, witches, zombies, and werewolves.  The show also had time travel story lines and parallel universes.  Clearly there is enough ground there to please any eldritch gamer.

Although obscure to most of you today, Dark Shadows was a huge hit in its heyday in the late 1960s.  Today, the episodes are all but unwatchable by modern standards, but Dark Shadows brought in slow pacing, tropes, and memes that we see more often in our modern graphic novels these days.  Dark Shadows was ground breaking and had a good deal of influence even years after the show went off the air.

There was also a bit of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos connection in Dark Shadows.  The story arc, The Leviathans, brought some Lovecraft stirrings to the TV series, although fans really didn’t like seeing Barnabas as the pawn of the Old Ones.  Given the parallels with Lovecraft Country, working on scenarios in Collinsport wouldn’t be too hard.

A couple of links about Collinwood Mansion the lair of the Collins family and Barnabas himself:   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collinwood_Mansion  and  http://darkshadows.wikia.com/wiki/Collinwood

Well worth your time is a trip to the Dark Shadows Wiki, which has tons of useful information: http://darkshadows.wikia.com/wiki/Dark_Shadows_Wiki

Pictured is a map of Collinsport drawn by Jean Graham at Dark Shadows wiki  http://darkshadows.wikia.com/wiki/Collinsport

Playing in Collinsport in the 1920s would prove to be a lot of fun for those who don’t mind a bit of initial preparation.  Being contemporary with Arkham and the Cthulhu mythos works well, especially since most folks are not familiar with Dark Shadows enough to find continuity errors in your home-build scenarios if you color outside of the limes somewhat.

Here’s a bit of background to pique your interest in adding Collinsport to the topography of Mythos haunted New England.  To show you how much fun Collinsport might be, I gleaned a few things from the series itself, but other parts I extrapolated, borrowed or made up whole cloth.  Pay a visit to beautiful Collinsport sometime, especially in the 1920s.

Collinsport was founded in the 1620s but began a decline from the 1870s onward as a fishing village.  By the late 1890s, it’s picturesque quality attracted summer visitors escaping the summer heat of large cities.  Plus it was a lot cheaper than other resorts.  The railroad made the village accessible.  Note that by 1962 the railroad stopped making daily scheduled stops, due to lack of traffic and the decline of fishing industry cannery cargo.  A seasonal artist colony sprang up just after WWI.  It was a quiet place for relaxation in seclusion.  The townspeople were insular and often uncouth and the village did not attract “the right kind of people” and remained unfashionable.

In previous centuries ship salvage was a source of income and when that proved lean, wrecking would suffice.  Smuggling from Canada to avoid taxes started in colonial times down to the present.  Additionally the Collinsport fishing fleet ranged down to Florida in winter months to fish for the Havana market starting in 1815, wrecking there in the dangerous reefs to make extra money.  Often used Indian Key, Florida as a headquarters.

Historically, Collinsport was seldom directly involved in the slave trade from Colonial times to Civil War, although their shipping expertise would have been useful from their smuggling and wrecking days.  Some profit was made in outfitting and crewing slave ships, but the most money was made in financing the trade both when it was legal and later illegal.   Later, there was a little income from the China Trade, but not much.

Prohibition (1920 to 1933) saw some activity in Collinsport with rum running from Canada, but Collinsport’s activity was primarily as a middleman, generally by poor fishermen trying to make ends meet rather than large, national-level gangs.  Meeting larger ships, they broke down the cargo into smaller lots and hid it until they it picked up or shipped out again.  Some use of false-bottom train cars used for shipping fish were used early on, but were too easy to catch, leading to dispersal of illegal liquor throughout the fishing fleet and being hidden in spots around the coast.  There was some small-scale moonshining, but it was generally for local consumption. 

You can visit to the so-called Viking ruins well outside of town and the long-abandoned site of the old Indian village site in a clearing just down the coast.  The famous treasure pit, which sees occasional excavation for elusive gold (see Oak Island treasure).  Collinsport ships may have stumbled on treasure from the 1733 treasure fleet while “fishing” down in Florida, at least that is the origin of the story of the treasure pit.  Sometimes dark things are found at the site and there are stories of “disturbances” in the area.    Also http://info.flheritage.com/galleon-trail/fleetOf1733.cfm 

Anyway, I suggest you do a little Googling around, follow some of the links provided below and see if you don’t get excited about gaming in and around Collinsport and other haunted sites around Maine.  I think this is fertile ground for CoC or any paranormal role playing gaming and there is plenty to discover.  The background to the Dark Shadows world is interesting in itself and would lend itself creditably to some RPGing from the Victorian era, the 1920s, and even up to modern times.  The sea has always been a link to the dim, primordial past as well as a highway between cultures.  Some exploring is in order.

                                                                        CoastConFan

Footnotes
+Films made Both theatrical films, House of Dark Shadows (1970) and Night of Dark Shadows (1971).  There was also a revival movie in 2012 starring Johnny Depp

Some good links for RPGing in the Collinsport area:
A must-visit is the fan site, The Collinsport Historical Society, with tons of information  http://www.collinsporthistoricalsociety.com/

A detailed Wikipedia article about Collinsport and its environs https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collinsport

Dark Shadows Every Day, a blog that reviews an episode of the popular 60 TV show each day  http://darkshadowseveryday.com/

Maine has it shares of domestic monsters and the like:  http://dsduby.hubpages.com/hub/Urban-Legends-and-Haunted-Places-the-series-Maine-Edition    

Of course, Steven King’s home is in Maine and some of his stories are set there as well.    He created a number of fictitious towns in Maine for his stories and Collinsport would fit in nicely:  http://www.syfy.co.uk/blogs/top-10-stephen-king-towns 
If this doesn’t give you enough Weird Fictional New England towns as grist for your scenario mill, then you are probably not much into gaming.

Well worth a download, American Architecture and Building News, 1890 on Project Gutenberg for building ideas and floor plans  http://www.gutenberg.org/files/21596/21596-h/21596-h.htm