Gaming Ideas - TV
Night Gallery - Pilot - The Cemetery - (Based on M.R. James the Mezzotint)
Ossie Davis as the Faithful Man-Servant
George Macready as Feeble Uncle Money-Bags
Roddy McDowall as the Evil Greedy Bastard
The Mezzotint was a truly frightening story. Not a jump out of a closet or slash your guts-open kind of scary, but instead the kind that slithers into the back of your head and stays there only to wake you up at 2am and turn your lights on kind of scary. Rod Serling's adaption doesn't have any of that kind of bite, I'm not sure if it ever scared anyone over the age of 8, and all it did for me is make me want to give McDowall a backhand slap for terrible over-acting (though after seeing Ossie Davis' performance at the very end makes it obvious that this is what they truly wanted).
There are a great many more ideas for mood and atmosphere generated by the original story, but in terms of gaming the basic concept of the cursed or enchanted painting is still sound.
For a fantasy or Cthulhu style game a cursed painting, mosaic or mural can be more than just an encountered item; it could be an adventure or even a campaign in itself.
1) A window to the past, present and future
The painting depicts a single past event or can be manipulated to show the past events of an individual's choosing such as the construction of a dungeon or castle, the methods used to develop a potion or magic item, the secrets that would allow safe entrance to a trapped or hidden location. It could reveal past actions such as murders or conspiracies or treasons. It might be used to show the identity of a criminal or prove parentage or whether someone had truly died (and how).
If it depicted current events it could be used to spy on enemies or keep an eye on friends or locations or items.
As a window into the future it could show possible actions and their consequences and perhaps ways to avoid them.
2) The painting (mural, mosaic, etc...) could show threats, or expanding on ideas from other sources such as Thieves' World it could show the true face of individuals and reveal traitors, liars, plotters, would-be assassins...
3) Again taking ideas from other sources, this time Zelazny's Amber series, such illustrations could be doorways to other places, different dimensions, the past or future, or allow transportation within certain distances.
4) Depicted creatures could come alive and step from mural or mosaic and serve, help or attack the players.
The theme of enchanted or cursed paintings has been touched on in many places. This small story within the pilot of episode of Night Gallery does the theme small justice and no justice at all to M.R. James' Mezzotint.