I was born and raised in Marquette, Michigan, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, a town with a population of around 20,000. The nearest large city, Green Bay, WI, is about three hours south. I disliked living there as a child and teenager. It was secluded, I didn't connect at all with the local culture's huge emphasis on outdoorsmanship (tabletop gaming's arch-nemesis hobby), and I felt isolated from the area's Scandinavian heritage. As an adult, I really disliked living there, as in addition to the stuff that bothered me as a child, I had the added disappointments of a weak job market and poor economy. I would never go so far as to say I hated living there, but there certainly were times where the relationship between me and my homeland were quite strained.
But now, I look back on those open miles of virgin forest, those tiny clusters of civilization they call "cities," and the cold, deep waters of Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world, and I think "Man, that's a cool setting for Call of Cthulhu!" I have virtually no experience with living in New England, so that region doesn't really carry the magic for me that it did for Lovecraft, but the U.P. has much of the same thematic elements that make Lovecraft country such an ideal setting for lurking, cosmic horror. I can summon up pages and pages and pages of local color and detail about the region, infuse it with the Mythos, and have it feel extremely authentic, because it is.
And that is precisely what I did. Utilizing the sandbox campaign creation tools in Silent Legions, I wrote a dozen pages in just a few short hours detailing the Mythos and its centuries-old connection to the U.P. I outlined the major organizations, key members of the conspiracy, local rumors, and important locations. And all of that stuff is completely real. I didn't have to conjure up a single imaginary building. In fact, I even used some of the region's local celebrities as NPCs! I didn't have to Google a single detail; it all came from my own experiences living there. The few questions I had about the area I either sent to a few friends on Facebook, or just asked my wife.
I never would have thought in all my years that such detailed knowledge of such a little part of the country would be so valuable to me. I'm actually looking forward to the next opportunity I get to go home and visit my family and the handful of friends I have still living there, just so I can draw more inspiration for my games! It would be so cool to describe an area to my group, then show them a picture of that area that I took myself! Ha!
Anyways, the moral of the story is this: tabletop gaming is awesome. It's awesome because when you're into it, everything can become part of the hobby. And I'm not just talking in some trivial or abstract way, like how you think your office might make a cool level in a first-person shooter or how you named all your Sims after people you work with. I'm talking about actual inspiration that can directly lead to detail, utility, and purpose. Anything that makes life a richer experience is an activity worth pursuing.
|Michigan's Upper Peninsula: where the Elder Gods sleep. Also where I was born.|