Castle Amber Designer’s Diary #4: Required Reading
by Michael Curtis
Castle Amber may not be the most literary-inspired adventure, but I’m hard-pressed to name another one off the top of my head that owes so much of its existence to works of literature. While you’re eagerly awaiting the adventure to arrive in your hands (hopefully purchased through your local brick-and-mortar game store if you have one, because they need your business more than ever), here’s what you should be pulling off your bookshelf, checking out of your local library, or downloading onto you ebook reader to fully appreciate and run Castle Amber.
- “The Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar Allan Poe. Not only does this classic Poe tale present a family and a house that is falling to pieces (an appropriate comparison to what’s happening to both the family and Castle Amber), but a pair of characters and events in the module are lifted directly from this story. I won’t give anything away, but you’ll know them when you see them. If you don’t have time to read the story (but it’s a short one, so that’s a terrible excuse) or you want to supplement your reading with the always fantastic Vincent Price, check out the 1960 Roger Corman B-movie version of the story.
- “We Have Always Lived in the Castle” by Shirley Jackson. Jackson, one of the great macabre writers of the 20th century, tells the story of an isolated family despised by their neighbors and dwelling alone in a dilapidated mansion just outside of town. A terrible event shrouds the surviving family members in an aura of mistrust and the main character dwells in a world of her own making. Not only does it give you that great weird family in a ruined home vibe, but I added my own nod to Jackson’s story to the expanded Castle Amber.
- The Averoigne Cycle of stories by Clark Ashton Smith. If you’ve not read any of these weird fiction tales of an imaginary medieval French province and that which lives within it, you’re depriving yourself of some of Smith’s best work. Even if you never expect to run any version of Castle Amber (much to your own detriment, I assure you), you simply must read the Averoigne stories if you’re a fan of the pulp fantasy and horror traditions. While almost every one of Smith’s Averoigne’s stories gets at least a passing nod in the course of the adventure, the following stories are the most important to read if you’re limited on time and/or availability: “The Holiness of Azédarac,” “The Beast of Averoigne,” “The Colossus of Ylourgne,” and “The Enchantress of Sylaire.” All of these stories as well as the rest of Smith’s work can be found online at The Eldritch Dark.
This concludes our Designer Diaries series for OAR 5: Castle Amber. We hope you enjoyed these insights into the latest book in the series and how we did it. You can see the results of our work right now. OAR #5: Castle Amber is now available everywhere!