Insanity in Call of Cthulhu

Episode 136: Insanity in Call of Cthulhu

We’re back and we’re building on last episode‘s discussion of the theme of mental illness in Lovecraft’s work. This time, we turn our attention to the role of insanity in Call of Cthulhu. Obviously, Call of Cthulhu is based upon Lovecraft’s writings, but how much does the sanity system actually reflect the source material? Moreover, does it in any way model real-world mental illness and trauma? And should it even try to?

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We each come to this topic with different perspectives, which leads to some lively debate. While it never becomes heated, it is one of the more intense discussions we’ve had. There has been some criticism of Call of Cthulhu for trivialising mental health problems and we tackle this head-on. We hope the result is nuanced and doesn’t come across as dismissive of such concerns.

News

Cults are another huge part of Call of Cthulhu. Paul suggests some inspiration in the form of Wild Wild Country. This recent Netflix documentary tells the story of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, an Indian guru who created a religious community in Oregon in the 1980s.

Paul also mentions his recent visit to the Tolkien: Maker of Middle Earth exhibition at the Bodleian Libraries in Oxford. If you want to try to work out what was really in Tolkien’s pipe, the exhibition will run until the 28th of October 2018.

Other Stuff

There was some confusion in our last set of show notes. We warned you of singing when there was none. This may have caused unnecessary tension and puckering of orifices. We apologise. The confusion came about after some last-minute editing and reordering to synchronise our Masks of Nyarlathotep episodes with the release of the PDF. Let us reassure you that there is no singing in this episode. We do have some new $5 Patreon backers to thank, but the disruptions of summer prevented Paul from mixing our idiosyncratic vocal stylings. Next time, however…

Insanity in Lovecraft

We’re back and we’re tackling a potentially contentious subject. If you spend much time on gaming forums or social media, you may have stumbled across debates about whether mental illness is a fit subject for gaming. Many horror games have a sanity mechanic of some description, an idea that began with Call of Cthulhu. Of course, Call of Cthulhu, in turn, picked this theme up from Lovecraft’s fiction. But is the portrayal of insanity in Lovecraft what we assume it is? If not, how might this inform our games?

135: Insanity in Lovecraft

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We start by discussing Lovecraft’s family history and his own experiences with mental illness. These undoubtedly shaped his work, and we offer some thoughts on the matter. Then, we move on to a few examples of insanity from Lovecraft’s work, trying to determine whether it’s as major a theme as conventional wisdom holds. Finally, we try to understand what madness really means in Lovecraft’s work. All this forms the foundations for our upcoming discussion of the portrayal of mental illness and trauma in Call of Cthulhu.

If you’ve noticed that Lovecraft looks dour in most photographs, we offer some theories about this too.

News

Paul mentions Torchlight Candles and their unusual combustible wares, designed for gamers. The melting brains sound especially gruesome, although sadly they’re not currently listed on their website.

The smoke that rises from this candle is laced with maddening dreams. Or is that patchouli?

Matt then leads us into a discussion about Kickstarters. He can’t help himself. We briefly discuss the recent release of The Fall of Delta Green, the new 1960s setting from Pelgrane Press. Then, we move our focus to something far more sanity-blasting: a new line of plushes from the nightmarish entities behind C is for Cthulhu. I really don’t know why we encourage them.

Not pictured: the twisted visage of Lovecraft, screaming wordlessly from beyond the grave.

One of our listeners, Dominic Allen, got in touch to say that he and Simon Maeder are performing at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. Their play, Providence: The Shadow Over Lovecraft, will be on between the 2nd and 25th of August at the Assembly Rooms, starting at 5 PM. The trailer looks rather wonderful. Paul plans to go on the 15th, so please say hi if you spot him in the audience.

Other Stuff

We are legally compelled to warn you that this episode contains our first bout of singing for a while. In case you’ve forgotten, we offer thanks to $5 Patreon backers in the form of what we pretend is song. This one should cost you no more than 0/1D4 SAN. Honest.

We also spend a little time discussing the feedback we received about our episode on subterranean spaces in Call of Cthulhu. If you would like to descend deeper into the discussion, the bulk of it may be found on our Google+ Community, or in the hidden spaces beneath your home.

 

Masks of Nyarlathotep part 2

Masks of Nyarlathotep part 2

Would you like a peek behind the new Masks of Nyarlathotep? After last episode‘s spoiler-free discussion of the classic campaign, this time we’re revealing all. Mike Mason and Lynne Hardy from Chaosium join Paul Fricker and Scott Dorward for an extended chat. This means we have the full team responsible for the revision offering insights into what to expect from the new Masks of Nyarlathotep.

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Unfortunately, Matt wasn’t able to join us for the main discussion. Sure, having a day job assures him a steady income and plenty of money to spend on plush abominations, but we freelancers get to talk about games during working hours. It seems like a fair trade-off. We managed to record some additional segments with him, however, in which he discusses his own experiences with the campaign.

Masks of Nyarlathotep cover

News

Appropriately enough, our good friends at the How We Roll Podcast are preparing to play the new Peru chapter of Masks of Nyarlathotep. They have asked Scott to run it for them, as he wrote it, and it would have been rude to say no. The recording should happen in August, with episodes appearing later in the year. Watch this space for more details.

How We Roll podcast

And speaking of How We Roll, they are currently releasing their recording of Scott’s scenario Bleak Prospect, from Nameless Horrors. This is a particularly gruesome game and the crew have done a great job of bringing it to skin-crawling life.

Since we recorded this episode, we have learnt that The Two-Headed Serpent has made the ENnie shortlist for Best Adventure. Paul has put together a short insert and slipped it into the news segment. ENnies voting opens on the 11th of July and closes at midnight EDT on the 21st of July. We would be delighted if you voted for our ophidian baby or any of the fine Call of Cthulhu products from our good friends at Chaosium.

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Wherever a cult of Nyarlathotep gathers, one expects to witness blasphemies. There will be blood sacrifices, orgiastic rites and, of course, chants in alien languages that make the air itself bleed. This episode is a little light on the first two, but we do sing some hellish praises. It’s been a while since we had a new $5 Patreon backer to thank, so maybe your nightmares have subsided. We only hope that the psychic wounds we inflict are suitable offerings to our dark master.

Patreon

And it’s not only cults who lurk in the dark places of the world, discussing secrets that would break saner minds. We have a lively Google+ community where listeners have offered thoughts on our episode about subterranean spaces in Lovecraft and Call of Cthulhu. Please, come and join us down here in the dark. The echo isn’t too bad once you get used to it and, if you really try, you can ignore the nibbling on your ankle.

Masks of Nyarlathotep part 1

We’re back and we’re excavating ancient horrors, dragging them up into the light and revealing them to a trembling world. This is our spoiler-free discussion of the new edition of Masks of Nyarlathotep, with all four of the authors of the revision offering their inside views. Next episode, we shall remove the mask completely and take a good look at what lurks underneath. Get ready for that 1D10/1D100 SAN roll!

The Black Pharaoh

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The bulk of the episode is an extended chat with Mike Mason and Lynne Hardy of Chaosium. Paul and Scott worked with Mike and Lynne on the revised edition, which allows us to offer all manner of personal insights into the process and result. We talk in general terms about what to expect from the new edition, teasing some of the additions and alterations we made. This new Masks of Nyarlathotep is still the same campaign that everyone has loved for the past 33 years. We have, however, restructured it and fleshed it out, trying to make it as easy as possible for Keepers to absorb. We spend some time explaining what this means, from the additional background for each location to the options for Pulp Cthulhu. Oh, and the new opening chapter, of course.

The Carlyle Expedition

Mike and Lynne were only available during office hours, which unfortunately meant that Matt was unable to join the discussion. We balance this out by having a long chat with Matt about his own Masks experiences at the end of the episode. As with the main discussion, we keep this spoiler-free. Never fear — there will be plenty of spoilers next episode!

News

Obviously, the big news is that the new edition of Masks of Nyarlathotep will be available from the 1st of July. If you buy the 666-page PDF from Chaosium, you get a discount voucher equal to the full purchase price if you buy the print version. The two-volume slipcase edition is due out later this year.

Masks of Nyarlathotep covers

We also mention the HP Lovecraft Historical Society‘s new Dark Adventure Radio Theater production of Masks of Nyarlathotep. If you have ever heard any of the HPLHS’s other productions, you will know how exciting this news is. The three of us saw a live performance of their adaptation of Day of the Beast at Necronomicon. It captured the essence of the campaign in two short hours and turned it into an exciting theatrical event. What makes the Masks release even more exciting, however, is that the HPLHS are producing a special edition that contains a full set of their excellent handouts and props for the campaign and an even more special edition that includes a horrifying array of physical artefacts.

Masks of Nyarlathotep Gamer Prop Set

 

Other Stuff

Our investigations have also led us to an extensive discussion about our episode on survival horror. If you wish to join us, grab a machete and hack your way into our Google+ Community. You will find other survivors there, gathered around the campfire, telling each other of the horrors they have heard.