The Emperor in Yellow: some thoughts on a potential new RPG campaign world.

For the next Patreon offering. This would be explicitly Cthulhu Mythos, with a HEAVY reliance on The King in Yellow. Thoughts?

Idea: Emperor Norton I did die on January 8, 1880 — and his body was taken over by the King in Yellow, which then used Norton’s miraculous ‘recovery’ to insidiously spread through California.  Now it’s 1911, and San Francisco mayor Winthrop is about to run for President, on the strength of his leadership during the horrible statewide earthquake of 1906. And Norton’s husk is finally about to die.

Other characters:

Sam Clemens (76 years old – he did NOT go out with Halley’s Comet).  Pulled back into Norton’s orbit in 1881, he wrote The King and the City (a purported biography of Norton I) that year.  He is a wealthy investor in clever mechanical devices and an ardent supporter of American expansionism.  His public fiction is praised as paeans to the innocent grandeur of America; his private works are available only to the most refined and decadent sort.  Twain also owns large amounts of stock in the Castaigne Steel Company, which has risen into prominence and wealth after the California Earthquake of 1906.  Secret: in 1884 he murdered Ottmar Mergenthaler and stole Mergenthaler’s plans for a linotype machine, incorporating key elements of its design into James Paige’s Paige Compositor.  

Ina Coolbrith (71 years old).  Keeper of the Library of San Francisco.  Still a beauty at her age; in public she appears no more than a well-preserved 50 or so.  No husband but many lovers, Coolbrith has been linked with most literary figures in Norton’s California; indeed, her skill as a poet alone would include them in her company.  There are many strange and queer books in Coolbrith’s Library, and she had read them all, and worked out their meanings. Secret: in private Ina Coolbrith keeps her age at an unnatural 30 or so.  How does she do it? By finding promising young artists and battening upon their life essence, of course. Not the best ones, though. Coolbrith would never do such a thing to those with true talent — well, except for Ambrose Bierce, of course.  But he deserved it.

John Chaney (35 years old).  One of Coolbrith’s prospects, Chaney proved talented enough that his mentor/mistress contented herself with taking him as a lover at a scandalous age.  ‘Scandalous’ describes Chaney well; he is a journalist and writer of the wildest sort who has thrown himself into the reclamation of California after the 1906 Earthquake.  Some joke that if werewolves were real, they would look like him. Secret: there is a madman who stalks the half-ruined streets of a dozen California cities. The people fearfully call him ‘London Jack,’ for surely he must be England’s Ripper reborn.  John Chaney does everything he can to encourage that belief; and he can do quite a bit.

Robert Louis Stevenson (61 years old).  Stevenson is convinced that he owes his life to Emperor Norton’s wise counsel and support; the odd foreign herbs and concoctions have kept Stevenson’s lungs clear and his wits sharp for decades.  Stevenson’s decision to move to San Francisco in 1883 sparked a series of Pacific-themed piratical and exploratory novels that made him one of the most popular writers for the Kane publishing empire of newspapers and books.  His The Strange Case of Captain Obed Marsh was banned in half a dozen countries and ritually burned in Boston; it also assured his financial stability for all time.  Secret: none, actually. Stevenson is no more corrupted than any other man. But he will never turn on Emperor Norton, or truly see any evil done by him.  He will also readily rationalize away any horrors done in his presence.

One thought on “The Emperor in Yellow: some thoughts on a potential new RPG campaign world.”

Comments are closed.