Call of Chicago: Is Two Voodoo Too Voodoo?

VeveI have been “into” voodoo — the magical belief system, as distinct from Vodou, the religion — for decades now. I’ve got a shelf of books on voodoo that’s even long for one of my shelves. Macumba, obeah, palo, the whole shouting match. I’ve even got Michael Bertiaux’ Voudon Gnostic Workbook, which is even zanier than that title intimates. (It came out of a group of pre-Thelemite (and post-Crowleian) Golden Dawn-inspired voodoo theosophists right here in Hyde Park called the Monastery of the Seven Rays. My kind of town.) Of course, voodoo and Vodou (and Shango, and Santeria, and Candomble, and Umbanda, and 21 Divisiones, and …) are mighty intertwined, so onto that shelf go more books on the religion and its confreres from New Orleans to Rio de Janeiro. Plus On Stranger Tides is a hell of a novel.

I’ve run at least four separate campaigns featuring voodoo as a central theme. Yes, one of them was a straight ripoff of On Stranger Tides. Don’t judge me.

All of which is to say that I might have been a little ambitious, thinking I could fit all of that into one issue of Ken Writes About Stuff.

When last Simon and I chatted, I mentioned that I was about 8,000 words into this month’s issue of KWAS with no end in sight. A normal issue of KWAS is around 5,000 words. And then he uttered the words that only a bold and surefooted publisher who really wants to put this month’s issue of KWAS to bed can utter: “Is there a way to make this a two-issue series?”

The answer, my friends, was “Yes.”

Thanks to a fortuitous outline, the issue already split neatly between the magic system — which can be played “as is” with only your foggy memories of Live and Let Die and your lovingly dogeared copy of On Stranger Tides to guide you — and the Invisibles section, the writeups on the demigods themselves. That section, featuring lots of lovely loa just waiting to ride you and reveal things and give you superpowers and nightmares, can now expand to a better length, meaning more loa (or orisha, or orixa, or misterios, I’m not picky) for you. That issue can even stand on its own, if you just want to add flavor to another game with magic rules or thrust your Investigators into Haitian mythology or the New Orleans underworld (literally). But together, well, they do voodoo.

So what was the May 2014 issue of Ken Writes About Stuff, GUMSHOE Zoom: Voodoo, is now the May and June 2014 issues of Ken Writes About Stuff. Each one rather longer than an average single issue, to boot. Three issues in two! Specifically, and to wit:

  • May 2014: GUMSHOE Zoom: Voodoo 1: Magic. The first of a new series of GUMSHOE Zooms looking at historical magic traditions — and giving you the tools and rules to evoke these puissant powers in your own game! This first issue in a two-issue series examines sympathetic magic and zombies, and Zooms in on the Afro-Caribbean magical-religious complex encompassing Vodoun, Candomble, Santeria, Obeah, and Palo Mayombe. The loa ride in May!
  • June 2014: GUMSHOE Zoom: Voodoo 2: The Invisibles. The Invisibles, more than spirits and a little less than gods, can fit inside stones, trees, and their servitors’ heads — but not into just one issue of KWAS! Whether you call them Loa or Orisha, these mighty beings demand your attention and your sacrifice, but give you hidden knowledge and awaken your interior fires. This second issue of our two-issue Voodoo series gives you plenty of Invisibles to summon, battle, invoke, and ally with whether you’re hunting Dagon in Haiti or rogue programs on your starship.

All the other issues will stay the same, just pushed back an extra month. So now Hideous Creatures: Lloigor, for example, will be the September 2014 issue.

But lesson learned. The upcoming (early 2015?) GUMSHOE Zoom: Goëtia will be short, compact, and stay inside its pentacle. Just like medieval Christian demonology did. Maybe I should get some more books on the topic just to make sure.

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