Episode086

We’re back and we’re mostly live! No, we haven’t fallen into the clutches of Herbert West. The bulk of this episode is a live recording of a seminar we gave at the Continuum 2016 convention in Leicester. Mike Mason joins us for a discussion of what makes convention games special. This is a subject close to all of our hearts. We not only love convention games, but they have honed our skills as GMs, players and writers. Conventions are not just opportunities to sit up drinking until 3 AM, talking bollocks about games.

continuum 2016 seminar

And the fact that we all look tired and hungover is completely coincidental.

Convention games may be a niche experience within the hobby, but there is plenty we can learn from them for general gaming. We discuss pacing, spotlight time, dealing with uncomfortable content and general etiquette. The consensus on the last point is that you should always raise your pinky when rolling dice.

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And never add the milk to your dice cup before rolling.

We also talk about some of our favourite gaming experiences and what made them so special. This was a nice excuse for some nostalgia. Possibly more usefully, we offer some suggestions for people interested in going to conventions but find them intimidating. The high point, however, is the excellent questions asked by audience members. It’s going to be hard to go back to just relying on our own ideas when recording.

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Happily Bob is always somewhere nearby, ready to whisper suggestions into our ears.

When we talk about the different requirements of pacing convention and home games, Paul mentions Cory Welch’s excellent recordings of his run-through of  Blackwater Creek on Skype of Cthulhu. We have been remiss about sharing them, and this was a good reminder.

Skype of Cthulhu

We heartily recommend Skype of Cthulhu in general to anyone who enjoys actual play recordings.

We also give a few updates about books we’ve worked on. In particular, we mention the new Section 46 Operations Manual for World War Cthulhu: Cold War, the print release of World War Cthulhu: London, and the new scenario collection, The Things we Leave Behind.

The Things We Leave Behind cover

Episode085

We’re back and we’re resorting to violence again. Combat is a large part of roleplaying games, arguably disproportionately so.  Even in Call of Cthulhu, a game where academics, librarians and antiquarians carefully search crumbling ruins and pore over forbidden tomes in search of knowledge that will either save or doom humanity, sooner or later most groups load up on shotguns and dynamite, reciting their favourite lines from eighties action movies and bringing fiery destruction to all they survey.

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“Can you guys finish just one scenario without summoning Cthugha?”

Unlike our look at the combat mechanics of 7th edition all the way back in episode 23, this is more of a general discussion about the role violence plays in games. Why is combat such a huge part of RPGs, and Call of Cthulhu in particular? Why do many games have devoted combat sections while modelling genres where violence is a rare thing? Why do most characters in RPGs fight to the death as a matter of course when fictional characters or real people rarely do so? Why do fights in games tend to be long, repetitive and mechanical, and how can we avoid this? We dig into these questions, as well as offering ideas for making combat scenes more interesting.

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We recommend using violence as a resolution mechanic. Not just in combat. Or games.

We also take a little time to give our impressions of a short film called Shadow of the Unnamable. Our friend in Germany and terror of six-inch nails everywhere, Frank Delventhal, sent us a copy of the DVD last month, and we finally found time to watch it as a group. It’s an engaging and faithful adaptation of The Unnamable, another of Lovecraft’s frequent warnings about the danger of befriending Randolph Carter. The special effects in the film are a cut above most independent Lovecraftian shorts, and it’s definitely worth investigating if you have a taste for the uncanny.

After our singing extravaganza last episode, you will be relieved to hear that there are no songs this time. In case you’re one of the lucky few not to have encountered them, these songs are our idiosyncratic and discordant way of thanking Patreon backers who have been generous enough to sponsor us at the $5 level. We had been threatening Chris Clew with a song, as he raised his pledge level last month, but we have relented. We spoke to Chris over the weekend, when we all attended the wonderful Continuum convention in Leicester, and his heartfelt thanks at not being warbled at have swayed us. A non-singing thank you to you anyway, Chris!

Episode084

We’re back and we’re ransacking lost temples, mouldering tombs and forbidden ruins to bring you things man was not meant to know. Our searches have uncovered a number choice Mythos artefacts to share with you. Specifically, that number is three. As we discovered in issue one of The Blasphemous Tome, our previous Top Three countdowns have really been Top Nines. The premise has proved just as much of a lie as the Lovecraftian Word of the Week being weekly.

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“And here’s the special filter we use to replace the word fortnight with week in every introduction…”

Happily, the scarcity of Mythos artefacts has forced us to be honest this episode. There really are only three entries. We could have included tomes or the products of human mad science, but we decided to save those for future episodes. The items we have selected are all guaranteed 100% alien, eldritch and unwholesome. The ISO number for this certification proved to be a glyph that turned our eyes inside out and made everything taste of rubber.

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It’s done wonders for our pineal glands too.

As cutting our choices threefold leaves us with more time, we spend of it some talking about what makes an artefact interesting, and how we might use them in our games. We had planned to create an artefact between us, but we ran out of time. We should have chosen a piece of Yithian technology that creates more of it.

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This item, for example, can make the passing of 90 minutes feel like bloody days.

We have another installment of our not-so-new segment, Ask Jackson. I keep referring to it as new, and Paul has taken to correcting me. He is a year younger than me, and thus much better equipped to deal with change. This question comes from the Uncaring Cosmos, whose excellent blog about Lovecraftian horror gaming I promised to link to. And now I have.

Uncaring Cosmos

Oh, and there is singing in this episode. Oh dear God, the singing. Three more brave and generous souls have backed us on Patreon at the $5 level, so we are singing their praises. Well, we are making out voices do things that sound unlike normal human speech. That is as close as we can get.