The Tenth Shelf: Beliefs I (Religions, Nazi Occultism, & Cthulhu) – Introduction by Mike


It’s always difficult when you need to take something that was supposed to be whole and split it in two, usually for reasons of practicality. Take this shelf and the next as a case in point: No-one can argue that Religion, Superstition, Unlikely Beliefs (such as Cryptozoology), and Mysticism form a continuity of sorts, bound together by the common foundation that people believe in them to varying degrees, and that those beliefs are held in different degrees of social credibility. But where do you draw the dividing lines? If you are a devout believer in one particular theology, all others have to be superstitions. If you don’t then they all hold equal weight, except when considered as a social force that one must take into account.

Fortunately for us, we can adopt the objective measurement of the level of acceptance, globally, in the 1930s, without making any statement as to the validity of those beliefs – a statement that would be sure to rub someone the wrong way. That’s a position that lets us then employ the even more objective measure of simply dividing the two halves as evenly as we can manage, given the categories and subcategories which we have employed to bind like subjects together, sometimes superficially.

Even so, the placement of individual works into different categories was often the subject of much angst. Take Wicca: should it be listed as a religion (which is how modern practitioners want it to be perceived) or a superstition (because that’s how most people in the 1930s see it)? Where should Voodoo be placed?

Or take superstitions – some of these have a foundation in fact that has been recognized; others are as out-there-with-the-pixies as flying saucers, which is to say that while some people believe implicitly, others are skeptical, and some are even derogatory in their assessments.

Taking fringe science out of this category helped, even though there is at least a superficial match in terms of the core subject. If the principle approach to a subject was science-based, no matter how flawed or manipulated the science, then the core of the subject is evidentiary-based and supposedly objective, rather than being matters of faith. That distinction made the distinction between Fringe Science and Mysticism/Superstition/Religion easier to make and ‘purified’ the remaining content.

This shelf and the next, then, are all about beliefs. Some are deemed credible by a large number of citizens, some not; some are respected by the western world of the 1930s, some are not.

Before concluding this introduction, I need to make it clear that no offense is intended to anyone’s beliefs by the categories into which a particular book has been placed. Such decisions are not intended to even be commentary on the beliefs except in terms of how the world at large perceived them during the 1920s and 1930s. Many churches and faiths don’t even get a mention, and omission should not be deemed significant in any way, either.

Of course, what is “truth” in the Pulp Reality of a game may be something completely different to what is acceptable as a belief in the real world. The Adventurer’s Club campaign has featured Zombies, Vampires, Werewolves, Amazons, A reincarnated Aztec Deity (or so that person thought), a Chinese Vampire, A Japanese Demon, A Freshwater Kraken, A unified Hell, Ghosts and people pretending to be ghosts, and a resurrected Chinese Emperor – amongst other things. The Wrath of God routinely strikes down supernatural evils. How much of this do we believe in ourselves? In the form in which they have appeared in the campaign – pretty close to zero. That’s never stopped us in the past; the criteria is always what makes for the most interesting story.

So check your personal beliefs at the door and join us as we begin an exploration of human beliefs in the Pulp Era.

Relevance to other genres

Of all the shelves, this one and the next are the ones with the most direct relevance to many other genres. Superstitions are fertile grounds for plots in any genre, and where would a cleric be without his religion? Then we have all the books on Nazi Occultism, which offer a completely different perspective on the relationship between power and “theology” to the usual – in particular, the discordance between those beliefs and the way in which the Nazis were nevertheless able to cozy up with the Vatican. And, as for the Cryptozoology (on the eleventh shelf), what campaign can’t make use of additional weird creatures?

glasses on opened book, mobile phone

Image credit: / DariusZSankowski

Shelf Introduction

This shelf contains five sections, some of which started life as subsections within others.

Religion, Mythology, and Philosophy – We aren’t especially inclined toward political correctness, but at the same time, remain sensitive to, and respectful of, any individual’s beliefs and in particular of that individual’s right to believe. In our original plans for this series, we weren’t going to list anything that meets this description, as much because we didn’t want to leave anyone out as because the subject didn’t seem that strongly in keeping with pulp sensibilities; but as one compromise after another was forced on us. and we were forced to grapple with the realization that this list was not and could not be perfect, it became clear that something needed to be offered in this section. There was also a strong temptation to include these books as a section or subsection in the “everyday life” shelves, because that was the connection that seemed to have the greatest relevance to the Pulp GM; what changed that position was a count by Mike of the number of adventures within the Adventurer’s Club campaign in which Religion, Mythology, or Philosophy had played a strong role, either to the main adventure or to a singular encounter. The only responsible course after the results were revealed to the co-authors was to make the category as broad and inclusive as possible. But, because we’re human and this was an afterthought mid-way through the development of this series, it’s always possible (even probable) that something has been left out, or mis-categorized as a legacy of earlier phases of planning.

Nazi Occultism & Nazi-related Fringe Theories – Although it is listed second, this was actually the first section to be explicitly defined as being part of this shelf. When turning everything up to eleven for a pulp campaign, it becomes impossible to ignore the superstitions and radical occultism of the Nazi regime. Indeed, it would be very easy to construct a pulp campaign which was nothing but Nazi Occultism and an elite force who sought to block them from achieving supernatural primacy. Of course, the extraordinary levels of success achieved by the Nazis in their early campaigns play into these myths and legends and always raises the question of what changed – how was Britain able to resist, and why did Eastern Russia fail to fall? And then there were the Maltese campaigns and North Africa. In the real world, there were sound tactical and political reasons for those failures, but the contrast in success rates is so marked that in a fictional environment, the temptation must always exist to attribute the change in fortunes to some behind-the-scenes supernatural cause. Although we weren’t able to include all the books in this section that we wanted to list for reasons of price and availability, we were pleasantly surprised at the number that we were able to provide.

The Spear Of Longinus – While tempted to include these books in the preceding section, it was ultimately decided that there was enough non-Nazi involvement in the subject to warrant creating a new, specific, subsection. Note that many of the books listed in the previous section probably mention the Spear at some point.

The Ark Of The Covenant & Holy Grail – Similar logic and caveats to those expressed regarding the Spear Of Longinus. It’s probably worth observing that there is good reason for two of the Indiana Jones movies being derived from these legendary artifacts.

Cthulhu Mythos Reference – If there is an outlier on this shelf, this is it. No-one actually believes in the Cthulhu Mythos except the characters involved, and yet the nature of those beliefs on the part of the characters is completely appropriate to this section. And, in a way, that’s the significance of including this section on this shelf, signaling that we aren’t interested in what people believe in the real world, but we are interested in what characters believe in the pulp world. Besides, it was the right size in terms of number of entries to even the two halves up at the time we committed to our taxonomy! So, why include it at all? The answer comes in a single word: Inspiration. Cthulhu literature is a strange beast in many ways, bridging the gap between modern horror and the more lurid and macabre imaginings of the Victorian age. The concepts of ancient evils awakening is one that can be cited as a source of inspiration for everything from Hellboy to Alien, and is prime fodder for pulp adventures. On top of that, a lot of Cthulhu sourcebooks provide invaluable cultural and social relevance to the pulp era.

A Recurring Note On Images:

Wherever possible, we have provided an illustration showing the cover of the book or DVD under discussion scaled to the same vertical size (320 pixels for Recommended Books, 280 for DVDs, 240 for items in the ‘For Dummies’ Sections). Where there was none available, we have used a generic icon.

Prices and Availability were correct at the time of compilation.


Books About Religion, Mythology, and Philosophy


Spacer comparative-religion-for-dummies

884. Comparative Religion For Dummies – William P Lazarus and Mark Sullivan

Most GMs, pulp or otherwise, have neither the time nor the inclination to make an in-depth study of the religions of the world, even though religious beliefs of some sort are pretty omnipresent – and distinctive – throughout the world. This book promises the ‘abridged version’ of this vast subject and as such should conceivably have a place on every GM’s bookshelf.

If we were relying on Amazon’s description, or on the cover, this book would not even have made the list, let alone being deliberately placed to lead off this section. Fortunately, we looked deeper, specifically at the contents pages, and discovered that it was far more comprehensive than either of those sources would lead you to believe. There are sections on everything from the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Kabbalah. Nevertheless, there are major omissions from this book, and we are not going to pretend otherwise.

Where it provides greater value is in demonstrating the principles of Comparative Religion, and that’s something that any GM can benefit from – and the minor distinction that has promoted it to the head of the queue.


885. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to (Eastern) Philosophy – Jay Stevenson Ph.D. (Second Edition)

While there are many “For Dummies” books and “Complete Idiot’s Guides” on specific religions and philosophical movements, we deemed these to be too specific in subject matter to have general relevance; hence our recommendation of “Comparative Religion for Dummies”. This book fits neatly under the same umbrella.

The first edition included the word “Eastern” in the title, but there are virtually no copies left and the less-than-a-handful that were listed commanded ridiculously high prices. So we have linked to the more liberal second edition which omits “Eastern” from the title, of which there are many copies available at low prices. For now.

There is also a third edition (pictured) available with comparable prices and availability. This has an additional 71 pages of content, so you might want to make this your first choice, even though the existence of this more-recent edition will suppress prices of the older one for a while to come.

…and a fourth edition, but there aren’t as many copies of that, and prices are a bit higher. And some of those additional 71 pages aren’t there any more – this edition is only 352 pages in length.


886. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to World Religions, 4th Edition – Brandon Toropov and Father Luke Buckles

This is similar subject matter to “Comparative Religion For Dummies” but this seems to tread, however lightly, into strange religious backwaters and side-alleys that other books do not. And there are specific sections that would definitely have been useful in the Adventurer’s Club campaign. It definitely belongs in this list.


887. 12 Major World Religions: The Beliefs, Rituals, and Traditions of Humanity’s Most Influential Faiths – Jason Boyett

A great many books treat a faith as a monolithic whole. Not only does this go beyond the “big three”, covering religious systems as diverse as those of ancient Egypt and of the Norsemen, but it also looks at the subdivisions within the most common faiths, which include Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Taoism, Judaism, Confucianism, Bahá’í, Shinto, Jainism, and Zoroastrianism! What’s more, a number of reviewers have commented on a complete lack of bias within the text.


888. South American Mythology – Harold Osborne

Lacking the expertise to criticize the volume, we can only describe it as lavishly-illustrated and seemingly comprehensive. Includes the Incas but not the Aztecs (who either were not considered “South American” by the author or who were covered in a separate volume of the series), and that’s our biggest criticism.


889. Tales From The Rainforest: Myths and Legends from the Amazonian Indians of Brazil – Jeanne Wilmot and Mercedes Dorsen

Compiled from numerous sources, these tales place the mythology of the Amazonian Indians into urban, social, and village-life context.


890. Mythology Of The American Nations: An Illustrated Encyclopedia Of The Gods, Heroes, Spirits, Sacred Places, Rituals And Ancient Beliefs Of The North American Indian, Inuit, Aztec, Inca And Maya Nations – David M Jones and Bryan L Molyneaux

It’s ironic given their exclusion from the previously-mentioned volume that the only South/Central American deities to figure in either the Adventurer’s Club or Zenith-3 campaigns are Aztec in origin! To address the deficit, we recommend this volume, which has the bonus value of Amerind mythology. 256 pages and over 500 images suggests that they are not terribly lavish, and the description of this as an A-Z suggests a less-than-user-friendly encyclopedia- or dictionary-style format, but it’s hard to find books on the subject that aren’t, for some reason. Interestingly, this was first published in paperback format and has only just come out (Mar 2016) in Hardcover; most publishing works in the other direction.


891. Celtic Mythology – Ward Rutherford

We also lack the expertise to critique this one very much. Reviews tend to give it from 3-5 stars out of five – from which we infer that it’s at least reasonable, and might be better than that.


892. African Mythology: An Encyclopedia of Myth and Legend – Jan Knappert

More useful as a reference than a primer on the subject, and criticized by one gamer in a position to do so fairly for being insufficiently critical in separating the beliefs of one African Culture from those of another. But there’s not a lot going around on the subject.

There is another volume by the same author entitled “The Aquarian Guide To African Mythology” with virtually the same cover, of exactly the same page count and page size, and which we suspect of being the same book with a different name. If there are no reasonably-priced copies of the first available, buy the second.

“An Encyclopedia”:
“The Aquarian Guide” (pictured):


893. Myths and Legends of the Australian Aborigines – W Ramsay Smith

Since our preferred choice isn’t available in anything close to sufficient quantities (and therefore has to be listed in the honorable mentions section), we can only rely on recommendations by others, and this volume seems like a good place to start. It suffers from a common problem in homogenizing the aborigines into a single culture when, in reality, there were thousands of separate cultures side-by-side, but as a collection of stories without context, it’s a good starting point.

(To understand the scale of the homogenizing problem, take a look at this map of Native Australian Tribal groups/languages). (yes, this is the same resource that Mike has linked to in the past).


894. Mythology of Asia & The Far East – Rachel Storm

Not quite enough copies to make our list normally, but there is a shortage of alternatives. The utility is obvious.


895. Mongolian Folktales – Hilary Roe Matternich

Contains 25 folk tales from the plateau between Russia and China. “The most ancient date back to the 12th century and are concerned with human relations with the natural world. Others use the whimsicality of animals to describe people’s struggles to find a good and decent life. Still others frankly applaud cunning … and the ability to survive an unfriendly competition.” 132 pages, from $12.31. New copies are currently one cent cheaper than used.


896. Tibetan Shamanism: Ecstasy and Healing – Larry Peters

The results of sixteen years spent investigating the daily lives, beliefs, and healing rituals of four Tibetan shamans forced into exile by the Chinese invasion of the 1950s. Which means that these belief systems and practices were present in Tibet during the Pulp Era.

For-Dummies Books relating to Religion, Mythology, and Philosophy

In most cases, we haven’t read any of these, and are recommending them for consideration based purely upon the publisher’s descriptions and on general principles except where otherwise noted. This also shifts the content of each review from one of “this book is recommended and here’s why” to “this book might be useful and here’s why”. We have made the assumption that availability and price would fall within our parameters, or close enough to them; we have rarely found this not to be the case.

Selected works were so promising and so relevant, that they have been promoted to the main list of recommendations, excluding them from the above caveats.

A note about Complete Idiot’s Guides

While the “For Dummies” series has a website that lists all the books currently available in the series, there is no equivalent for the “Complete Idiot’s Guides”.

Our blanket advice is that if Amazon lists a “Complete Idiot’s Guide” that matches the subject of one of our “For Dummies” recommendations, you should buy both.


897. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Wicca and Witchcraft – Denise Zimmerman and Katherine Gleason

This book has enough material in it that might be of value that it deserves a listing somewhere, but we have some concerns that the Pulp GM will want to romanticize what magic and witchcraft can and can’t do in their campaigns and this book – which treats Wicca from the perspective that modern practitioners want to promote, i.e. that it’s a religious movement – is more likely to confine if used too liberally. Make up your own mind. And yes, we know this isn’t a “For Dummies” book. Never seen a ringer before?


898. The Origins Of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth For Dummies – Greg Harvey

Tolkien drew on a lot of influences to achieve his stated goal of creating a European-style epic mythology for England in Middle-earth. Many of his creations have assumed iconic status in many RPGs, regardless of genre. We defy any gamer not to have immediately thought “Orc!” on seeing the green-skinned pig-faced guards in Jabba The Hut’s palace in Return Of The Jedi, for example.

Of more relevance in the pulp genre, Mike has seen one interpretation of the three primary groups of Elves being French, Swiss, and Belgians, respectively, while the Orcs were allegedly inspired by the invading Mongol armies of Genghis Kahn. We don’t necessarily agree with that interpretation, but drawing such parallels can afford a distinctive and unusual perceived flavor to the different nationalities of Europe.

Finally, there’s the mythology itself, which can be used as the inspirational foundation for pulp adventures set in Northwestern England or spun more broadly to inspire adventures elsewhere in Europe. Sauron’s sword makes a perfectly acceptable Macguffin that can have your players guessing about lost history for many contented hours. So this book definitely deserves a place somewhere on the bookshelf.


Books About Nazi Occultism & Nazi-related Fringe Theories

The big-name Nazis may be near-to household names in their strange beliefs, but their predecessors in intellectual mysticism are not. Most works that describe the beliefs and activities of these predecessors would be informative regarding mysticism and racial politics within the Nazi regime. The predecessors that we have in mind are Guido von List, Lanz von Liebenfels, Rudolf von Sebottendorf, Karl Maria Wiligut, Hans Horbinger, Dietrich Eckart, and Houston Stewart Chamberlain, who were the more notorious mystics of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Any work which does not cite Goodrick-Clarke, who wrote the definitive analysis of these early mystics, is also a little suspect in our eyes.


899. The Secret King: The Myth and Reality of Nazi Occultism – Stephen E. Flowers and Michael Moynihan

This is a fairly factual book on the subject, which makes it less useful to a pulp GM than a more sensationalist work might be. This book will be at its most useful if you want to parallel and contrast such a sensationalist work with this one to define the differences between what (some of) the Nazis thought they were doing and what was really going on in some of the stranger recesses of the Third Reich. This would not normally have been one of our first choices but our two primary choices had to be rejected due to excessive prices.


900. Unholy Alliance: A History of Nazi involvement in the Occult – Peter Levenda

If there is a book in third place (behind the two we would like to recommend but can’t), it’s likely to be this. Controversial in that some reviewers appear to have made deliberately misleading statements attempting to discredit it with claims of bias, but the research appears impeccable; the author even specifies where readers can find the original microfiche versions of his source documents. Accordingly, we discount those. Of greater concern are one or two reviews that suggest the book’s organization is scattered and anarchic; however, most reviews describe it as very readable. A few reviews hint that the presence of side-bars on every page, or close to it, interrupting the main text, might be the source of these complaints. Nevertheless, it’s one of the most promising-sounding volumes we can suggest under this heading – since the books we want to offer aren’t available to us. Once again, there are times when he seems to believe his own theories too unobjectively.


901. The Nazis and the Occult – Dusty Sklar

This is a difficult book to evaluate. The same comment can complain both that the book is too broad in its subject matter and also that subjects such as the search for the Spear Of Destiny are not mentioned – but you can’t have it both ways! This book had the conspiracy theorists coming out in droves in the reviews – which could mean that it’s perfect for a GM’s needs, or that the author has drunk too deeply of the kool-aid – it’s very hard to know. Fortunately, used copies are quite affordable so most readers will be able to make up their own minds. We find it useful. Not to be confused with the similarly-title book below.


902. Nazis and the Occult: The Dark Forces unleashed by the Third Reich – Paul Roland

This volume is rife with unsubstantiated speculation of the worst kind, so much so that it is useless. On top of that, the author steeped the book in scandal by posting his own reviews both in his own name and using pseudonyms. Nevertheless, the title sounds so good that we’re including it with a recommendation not to buy at any price. Not to be confused with the similarly-title book above.


903. Hitler’s Occult War – Michael Fitzgerald

Also known by its original title, “Storm-troopers Of Satan”. Reviews suggest that this is an excellent overview of all – well, most – of the loony fringe theories surrounding World War II. They also suggest that the author implicitly believes them all, on the flimsiest of evidence or no evidence at all, has melded them all together into one grand conspiracy, and that might make them difficult to tease back apart for use in a Pulp campaign, where one would want to pick and choose.


904. The Nazi Occult (Dark Osprey) – Kenneth Hite, illustrated by Darren Tan

The first paragraph of the Amazon description of this book makes it sound perfect for a Pulp GM’s needs, and certainly comprehensive in its content. The second paragraph undoes most of this good impression by stating, “For years, the Allied governments worked to keep this information from reaching the public, and sought to discredit those few who dared to seek the truth.” Nevertheless, this book offers content that the previous one does not (and apparently leaves out some of the things that it reports) so you would need both to be comprehensive. This is a fun book to read, but the author freely admits to mixing real history, Nazi occultism mythology and invented fantasy based on literary and film in-jokes, on his website. This makes it unreliable as an overview, but might make it more culturally-accessible to a pulp GM.


905. The Occult Reich – J H Brennan

An examination of the occult influences on the third Reich and on Hitler personally. Most interestingly, it goes into the symbolism of the Nazis, something that many other works ignore.


Documentaries About Nazi Occultism & Nazi-related Fringe Theories



906. Hitler’s Jurassic Monsters

The title is misleading. This National Geographic Channel documentary describes Nazi attempts to retro-evolve modern-day creatures into their more primitive antecedents. This was (of course) completely unsuccessful, but does not have to be so in a Pulp World – and neither does the title have to be so misleading in such a campaign, either. It does not appear to be on DVD anywhere (perhaps it’s part of a series, and we’ve forgotten the fact), but it is available through YouTube
at the current time.


907. Myth Hunters, aka Raiders Of The Lost Past, season 1

We are recommending this for five of the 13 episodes: Episode 1: “Hitler and the Spear Of Destiny”, Episode 3: “The Hunt For Pirate Treasure”, Episode 7: “Himmler and the Holy Grail”, Episode 8: “The Hunt For The Book Of Spells”, and Episode 10: “The Nazis and the Book Of Power”.

Available in the US as an import from Australia only ($63.69, but the UK has access to domestic versions of the DVD set (£47.69 Unfortunately, Canadian readers again miss out – while Amazon Canada lists the box set, they also state that there are no copies available.

Fortunately, three of the episodes are available through YouTube as well (again, at the time of writing): “Hitler and the Spear Of Destiny”, “Himmler and the Holy Grail”, and “The Hunt For The Book Of Spells” For both these and the remaining episodes, you can also try this link. [UPDATE: That resource now appears to have gone belly-up. We’re continuing to list it anyway in case it was just a temporary problem when we checked].

NB: We had already approved part of this, back when there were only two episodes we were recommending, with a caveat that the price might be too high. With the increase in desirability, we dug a little deeper to uncover the additional options.


Books About The Spear Of Longinus

There are three artifacts of early catholicism that figure prominently in Nazi Occultism, bridging the gap between the two preceding sections. Another of the somewhat esoteric discussions that took place in planning this list was whether those three should be grouped into a single category. Bearing in mind that this section was originally a subsection within the broader subject of Nazi Occultism, whereas outside of the Indiana Jones movies, the other two were not the subjects of as much Nazi attention, the ultimate decision was taken to maintain the separation because their treatment and historical relevance were sufficiently different and distinctive.


908. The Spear Of Destiny: The Occult Power behind the Spear which pierced the side of Christ – Trevor Ravenscroft

Not to be confused with any of several other books with the same name, this is a ‘history’ of the Spear of Longinus up to Adolph Hitler. It can be very heavy going, but is one of the most ‘definitive works’ on the subject – if you can say any such thing about a subject in which much of the evidence was obtained by Psychic Visions courtesy of Rudolf Steiner and General Helmuth von Moltke. In addition, many of the more grandiose statements in the book are not referenced at all, and thus the reader has no way of verifying the authenticity of the author’s claims. All of which can be ignored by the Pulp GM who decides that Ravenscroft was bang on-the-money for campaign/plot purposes.


909. The Mark Of The Beast – Trevor Ravenscroft and Tim Wallace-Murphy

Built on the same foundations as “The Spear Of Destiny”, rehashed. Any good conspiracy theory grows to incorporate new and disparate events, and this narrative follows the same pattern, building to a rather spiritual and mystically-oriented sequel, carrying the ‘story’ of the Spear of Longinus all the way forward to its role in the The Apocalypse – with some very strange stops along its travels.


910. Secrets Of The Holy Lance: The Spear Of Destiny in History and Legend – Jerry E Smith and George Piccard

Not to be confused with “Adolf Hitler and the Secrets Of The Holy Lance,” which you will find in our Honorable Mentions. This is similar to the other books listed, but it includes the Nazi period in between as well. Unfortunately, it doesn’t flow in a linear fashion, chapters jumping from one era to another and back again. This makes it heavy going and hard to use as a reference work.


Books About The Ark Of The Covenant & Holy Grail



911. Otto Rahn and the Quest for the Holy Grail: The Amazing Life of the Real “Indiana Jones” – Nigel Graddon

This book has a mixed reputation as a result of containing too much frothing speculation and too little fact with some of those few facts demonstrably wrong. That makes it unreliable as a historical reference but lovely for the Pulp GM willing to go over the top. Available in Kindle and in Paperback. And, no, your eyes are not deceiving you: the cover text really is off-center.


912. Emerald Cup, Ark Of Gold – Col. Howard Buechner

Traces the history of the Cup and the Ark and ties in Otto Rahn. Receives mostly negative reviews on Amazon – one states “An extremely speculative work about the real quest for the Grail in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. He gives at least two new definitions as to what the grail is: 1) The Cup of Moses, 2) A series of enruned tablets,” while a second, more negative, reviewer comments, “The whole book is filled with highly speculative stories and straight out inaccuracies”, based on the reviewers personal knowledge of the subject matter of one chapter and projecting its flaws over the totality. None of which should matter to the Pulp GM who wants to use it as source material!


913. The Lost Ark Of The Covenant: Solving the 2,500-Year-Old Mystery of the Fabled Biblical Ark – Tudor Parfitt

One man, who the Wall Street Journal describes as “The British Indiana Jones”, and his quest to find the Ark. Booklist describes the book as “thoroughly cinematic in tone, with scenes of heart-stopping action and featuring characters so quirky they feel more fictional than real” – though they add the caveat that with the names (and who knows how much more) changed and no notes, it’s hard to tell where reality ends and fiction begins. That said, if you are going to reinvent the content for a pulp setting, who cares? It might even make it easier to use for our purposes!


914. Blood Of Avalon: The Secret History of the Grail Dynasty from King Arthur to Prince William – Adrian Gilbert

The author’s name on Amazon has a middle initial “G” that doesn’t show on the front cover, and can complicate attempts to locate copies of this book, which suggests that Princess Diana was related to King Arthur as part of its thesis on the importance of the Holy Grail in British History. In order to find this book credible, you first have to accept that King Arthur is real, and not a myth. That said, using the logic espoused above, the difference between what we consider “true” in the real world and what we consider “true” in a Pulp Campaign can be worlds apart.


915. The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail – Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln

Rennes-le-Chateau is a small mountain village in the foot of Pyrenees where a buried cache of documents were reportedly discovered by a French Priest in the 19th century. Starting from these alleged documents, the authors trace their way back through the Knights Templar, the Cathar Heretics of the 12th and 13th centuries to a dynasty of obscure French Kings deposed more than 1300 years ago, suggesting that Christ did not die on the cross, instead marrying and becoming a father to a bloodline that persists to the modern day.

There are three editions of this volume, and each has their own attraction; the oldest dates from 1996 and has a kindle edition and a lot of cheap copies

The middle edition is from 2004, has hundreds more copies available at a pittance,, and is 118 pages shorter that the first; while it’s possible that this saving has been achieved by smaller print and tighter editing, it represents more than 1/6th of the length of the original – so it seems more likely that there has been a cut in content.

At first, Mike thought that maybe they had cut out a large photographic section to account for a large portion of the reduction, but then he found the third edition – one explicitly described as an “Illustrated Edition” (pictured), with an abbreviated title – and another reduction of 7 pages. There are not as many copies of this version and they are not as cheap, but if you want to use this for inspiration, the illustrations are likely to represent a significant enhancement of its utility – and the illustrated edition is still well within our price and availability criteria.


Books About The Cthulhu Mythos



916. Cthulhu by Gaslight – William A. Barton

Predates the pulp era a little but there’s enough crossover to make it worthwhile. If you want a new copy, the third edition is more affordable, if you want to save a few bucks and buy a used one, the second edition is the better-priced.
2nd Ed:
3rd Ed (pictured):


917. The Keeper’s Companion Vol 1: Blasphemous Knowledge, Hidden Secrets – Herber, Deitz (Chaosium)

Lots of excellent material on the era in general as well as more Cthulhu-mythos specific content. Parts were reprinted in the Call Of Cthulhu 1920s sourcebook “Keeper’s Compendium” which may contain new material as well, but we weren’t confident enough of that to list it separately.


918. The Keeper’s Companion Vol 2 – Gauntlett, Sammons, et al. (Chaosium)

More content useful in both general and mythos-specific ways. We suspect that the Keeper’s Compendium may also contain reprints of some of this volume.



Afterword by Saxon:

This may seem like a broad and eclectic category – and it is! – but a gamesmaster can usefully get a handle on it by identifying what the various mystical elements are contributing to the adventure or even the game setting as a whole. On the one hand, the mystical elements can be thematically linked by a general description that: “Some people think that the world operates in a way other than that of the everyday, obvious and mundane (and who knows, they may be correct).” (And thinking about it, that’s a description that even applies to weirder and counter-intuitive aspects of modern physics.)

On the other hand different religious and mystical elements may be doing different things, from benign cultural effects all the way through to incredibly hostile metaphysical threats. In a pulp game based on two-fisted adventure these might be arranged by answering the question: “How much (and what type) of danger does it pose to the player characters?” That’s not the only way sort the answers, of course, but it can be used as a starting point.

At the simplest, it might act as local color. This has been discussed before in this series, and can be summarized as minor details placed to pique the interest of characters (and players). Then again, it need not be quiet as simple, since religion and mysticism can form an important part of a non-player character’s world view. In such a case, the gamesmaster could use it to answer basic questions such as: “How would character X react in such-and-such a situation?” Moving on, does a religion or cult hold some form of influence that complicates the local politics? Is there some element that complicates local (or not so local) metaphysics? Is there some way that it provides a Macguffin for the player characters to chase after? Does it provide some sort of problem, threat or enemy that the player characters must work around or overcome? And since this shelf includes the possibility of using Cthulhu mythos elements, is there some existential threat which overshadows the entire campaign setting?

And, finally, there is the eternal question of how one set of beliefs interact and interrelate with another. One population believes one thing, another believes something else, and they can’t both be right. Or can they? Are there unspoken assumptions that, if challenged by the creative GM, makes room for both? Or perhaps it’s the case that they are both 95% right – and unity of applicability can be forged in those 5% gaps, through things that have been left unspoken. Mike and Blair have repeatedly challenged simplistic perceptions of religion and theology while permitting individual characters to be as singular and unwavering in their beliefs as the operator of that character thought appropriate to their personality. An excellent example is the assistance offered the group by the Goddess Kali through one of the least-religious and most practically-minded characters in the party simply to put such questions aside when they weren’t relevant to the situation at hand – a neat technique for preserving that respectful divergence between “objective character reality” and “subjective understanding of the world”. If Kali had chosen to work through my character, a catholic priest, a theological crisis for the character would be a foregone conclusion; working through Captain Ferguson avoided that issue, leaving Father O’Malley free to continue to wrestle with the compromises forced on the religious authority he regards as supreme and the political realities of the world around him.

Although these questions have been ranked in a rough hierarchy of danger for simplicity’s sake, you’ll observe that the answers are not simply escalating levels of threat. The answers demonstrate how different elements of religion and mysticism will operate in different ways within a game, possibly in several different ways at the same time. That’s a useful analytical tool, for real life as well as Game and campaign construction. The gamesmaster can variously use that as a springboard for new ideas, as well as a way of identifying something that the game needs and then looking about to see what elements can be used to fulfill that need.

Next in this series: The 11th shelf – Other beliefs from the credible to the even stranger fringes: Secret Societies! Freemasons! Knights Templar! Voodoo! Zombies! Urban Legends! Ghosts! Cryptozoology! plus General Mysticism, Superstitions, and some really strange stuff!!


Related Posts with Thumbnails
Print Friendly