The Dunwich Horror

We’re back and we’re examining these strange bite marks, boarding up the windows and trying to work out where that damnable smell is coming from. This is the start of our look at Lovecraft’s classic weird tale, The Dunwich Horror. Make yourself comfortable — this mystery is going to take us a few episodes to investigate.

Main Topic

As well as being one of the foundational works of the Cthulhu Mythos, The Dunwich Horror set the template for a thousand Call of Cthulhu scenarios. More than any other Lovecraft story, it presents the kind of actions we might expect to see investigators perform. All right, maybe The Lurking Fear is a better model for the Tommy guns and dynamite school of play, but the point stands.

In this first episode, we look at the setting of Dunwich as described by Lovecraft, digging into some of the history, geography and folklore that inspired it. We also experiment with including our suggestions about what might be used for gaming alongside the synopsis. Please let us know whether this new format works better for you.

News

Filled with enthusiasm for the wonders of the year ahead, we mention a few things that we are looking forward to in 2019. The two that we can link to are Necronomicon 2019 and Contingency, two major conventions that will see at least some of the Good Friends in attendance. Only Matt will be at Contingency, but all three of us are planning the pilgrimage to Providence for Necronomicon. After our wonderful experiences in 2017, all the elder signs in the world couldn’t keep us away.

Speaking of live events, Scott will be appearing at the PodUK convention with the How We Roll crew. We will be conducting a live playthrough of a short Call of Cthulhu scenario before an undoubtedly bemused audience. Dirk the Dice from The Grognard Files podcast will be joining us as a special guest player. The event will take place in Birmingham on the 2nd of February and tickets are still available.

Other Stuff

We spend some time thanking new Patreon backers, although, mercifully, there are no songs in this episode. Before you relax too much, there are songs coming soon. So many songs.

As usual, we share some hand-picked social media feedback and comment on it. Since the inception of the podcast, our main online home has been Google+. Unfortunately, in April, G+ is due to vanish in a puff of poor management. We have been exploring alternatives such as MeWe and Reddit, but we are very open to suggestions. If you know of a suitable platform for searchable, threaded discussions, we would love to hear from you.

That is not dead which eternal can… No, hang on. It’s dead.

We also share a new iTunes review. If you fancy writing one of your own, you will earn our undying gratitude. And when we say undying, we mean it. Our essential saltes shall praise you from their cramped little urns until the idiot chaos blows Earth’s dust away. We would be delighted with a review on any platform from which you might download podcasts, no matter how cryptical and esoteric. If you do post one somewhere obscure, please let us know in case we miss it. Our omniscience is failing with age.

The Two-Headed Serpent

We’re back and we’re cocking our hats, lighting some torches and wondering where the hell all these snakes came from. Why did it have to be snakes? This is our look at how we developed The Two-Headed Serpent, the epic Pulp Cthulhu campaign published by Chaosium.

Main Topic

Appropriately enough, this episode serves two purposes. As well as offering insights into The Two-Headed Serpent, we also talk about how we put the whole thing together. A few listeners have asked us for advice on writing campaigns and we thought we’d use this episode to explain how we do so. We spell out our development process, from initial concept to editing. Obviously, not everyone who writes a campaign does so for publication, so we also offer some advice about less formal approaches.

Obviously, this discussion includes spoilers. We’ve tried to keep these to a minimum, however. You could potentially listen to this episode and still play The Two-Headed Serpent. We give away a few plot points, including one major reveal, but leave plenty of surprises that could bite unsuspecting pulp heroes.

If you need a refresher about what Pulp Cthulhu is and how it differs from Call of Cthulhu, you may find our episode on the subject useful. And if you’d like to hear what The Two-Headed Serpent is like in play, Scott is currently running it for the How We Roll podcast.

Rachael Tew’s rendering of our doomed brave heroes.

News

Our good friends at Torchlight Candles have sent us something unusual. Few things we receive in the post are quite so fragrant and most are decidedly less odd. The Insanity Candle is a uniquely pyrotechnic way to track Sanity in Call of Cthulhu. By planting a scented replica of your investigator’s brain in a wax head, you can track SAN loss by melting it. As a bonus, once your investigator has been reduced to a puddle of maddened goo, you will find a secret message hidden in their remains. This may be the strangest Call of Cthulhu product that Chaosium have licensed. 

As you may have heard us mention once or twice, issue 4 of The Blasphemous Tome is now out. We’ve released our first batch into the winds like so many playful nightgaunts. Many have found their targets, bringing glorious nightmares with them. It’s not too late to get your copy, however. All you have to do is back us via Patreon by the end of the year. Full details can be found in our recent post.

The Blasphemous Tome issue 4 cover

Other Stuff

Our good friends at Chaosium have generously provided us with a copy of The Two-Headed Serpent to give away to one lucky listener. We’ve decided to hold a slightly different competition than our usual lucky dip based on social media shares. Of course, if you’d still like to share this episode, we shan’t complain! Full details of the competition can be found towards the end of the episode.

Dragonmeet 2018 Seminar

We’re back and we’re once again locked in battle with our good friends Baz and Gaz from The Smart Party. For the first time since 2015, we managed to arrange a joint seminar at Dragonmeet. Once again, we chose to make it a debate. This time the topic was “Are all RPGs simply customised versions of D&D?” Obviously, the answer is “no”, but we still found ourselves invited to prove this.

Unfortunately, Scott fell ill shortly before Dragonmeet and was unable to attend. We tagged Mike Mason in as a substitute Dorward, and he took on the role of moderator. This freed Paul up to be partisan. As for how that went… well, you’ll just have to listen to find out.

Thank you to everyone who attended and who asked some great questions. And many thanks to Joerg Sterner for sharing his photograph of the panel.

Call of Cthulhu for Beginners

We’re back at the beginning, where we started our grim journeys many years ago. Looking at our grey hair and wizened features, it’s difficult to imagine that we were ever young. Yet here were are, trying to remember what it was like to start playing Call of Cthulhu. This would be so much easier if we were able to literally cast our minds back through time. Does anyone have a number for the Yithians?

Main Topic 

Call of Cthulhu‘s position as one of the most popular tabletop RPGs means that it may be many people’s first game. Even if you have played something like Dungeons & Dragons before, Call of Cthulhu is different enough to warrant an introduction. So, after almost 150 episodes, we thought it was time to help people get into thiCall of Cthulhu thing.

Goal number 1: don’t let this chap eat you.

We offer some tips on Call of Cthulhu for beginners, both players and Keepers of Arcane Lore. Hell, we even explain that “Keeper of Arcane Lore” is Call of Cthulhu‘s eccentric way of describing a game master or GM. We also suggest some books and other resources to help set you on your path into darkness.

Between us, we’ve been playing Call of Cthulhu for around 90 years. This makes it tricky to remember what it was like to be a beginner. Luckily, we had some help for this episode. Lucy Fricker, Paul’s wife, recently ran her first game, so we asked her how she prepared her move to the other side of the GM’s screen. 

Although, sadly, that does mean not being able to see the artwork on the front of the screen.

And speaking of guests, we have a short interview with Mike Mason, line editor for Call of Cthulhu. Mike offers us some insight into the new Call of Cthulhu Starter Set. This is a new boxed set designed to ease fledgling Keepers into running the game.

News

All three of us plan to be at Dragonmeet in London this Saturday (the 1st of December). We shall spend most of the day in the podcast zone, talking to anyone who will let us. At 11 AM, we will take a break for a joint seminar with our good friends Baz and Gaz from the Smart Party. And at 2-3 PM, you can find Paul and Scott on the Chaosium stall, signing copies of Masks of Nyarlathotep alongside Mike Mason and Lynne Hardy. We can be talked into signing other things as well, within the bounds of decorum.

As you might have inferred from that last sentence, Masks of Nyarlathotep is now shipping worldwide. Our contributors’ copies turned up last week and they are massive! It’s going to be a toss-up whether this edition will be responsible for the deaths of more investigators or trees.

Paul also mentions his recent trip to Austria, where he met one of our listeners, Joerg Sterner. As Paul discovered, Joerg is the co-owner of Planet Harry, a games shop in Vienna. Paul completely failed to ask why it is called Planet Harry. We hope to rectify this when we see Joerg at Dragonmeet.

Other Stuff

Issue 4 of The Blasphemous Tome is now creeping across the globe, spreading madness and dismay. This is the print fanzine we create to thank all the lovely people who back us on Patreon. There is still time to snap up a copy for yourself. All you need to do is back us on Patreon by the end of the year.

350 little harbingers of madness safely tucked into envelopes.

The other thing we do for some of our Patreon backers is sing to them. This episode’s song is something rather special, however. A little while back, we had an iTunes review from Wilson MacGyver. He wrote about the small role listening to the podcast played in his wife’s cancer treatments. After reading this, we knew we’d need to set aside an entire segment to talk about their story. When Wilson backed us at the $5 level and made a special request for the song, we built the segment around that. Thank you again, Wilson, for sharing your and Priscilla Meredith’s experience with us all.  

Violence in Call of Cthulhu

We’re back and we’re loading our shotguns, lighting a bundle of dynamite and laying waste to everything we see. This is our look at the role of violence in Call of Cthulhu. Boom!

Main Topic

If you’ve spent any time discussing Call of Cthulhu online, you’ve probably had someone tell you that if your investigator so much as enters combat, you’ve lost. This is a game of careful investigation, putting pieces together and learning secrets man was not meant to know. If that’s the case, why do most of our games end up with everything in smithereens?

Careful investigation in progress.

This is not to say that violence in Call of Cthulhu is a bad thing. We’ve all played plenty of fun, action-packed games. It just seems like the easy option sometimes. In the real world, we (as individuals, not a species) usually sort out our conflicts non-violently. An average group of investigators, on the other hand, tends to resolve most scenarios with extreme prejudice. Why is this and what are the alternatives?

Can’t we all just get along?

Following our usual format for such discussions, we look at the portrayal of violence in Lovecraft’s fiction, the role it plays in Call of Cthulhu and how we might put together a scenario that doesn’t rely on a violent resolution. Then we punch each other in the face and burn Paul’s house down.

News

Dragonmeet is mere weeks away and we’re giddy with excitement. All three of us plan to be there and we would love to meet you. For most of the day, we can be found in the podcast zone, doing podcast-related things. Then, at some point, we shall appear on a seminar with our good friends Baz and Gaz from the Smart Party. We will debate whether all RPGs are pale imitations of D&D (spoiler: they’re not). If you can’t make it in person, we plan to record the seminar and release it as a special episode.

Other Stuff

Violence is only one of the unspeakable acts that people perpetrate upon each other. Our singing is another. We sing twice in this episode, thanking two new $5 Patreon backers. Being torn apart by a rampaging mob of investigators has nothing on this.

And speaking of Patreon, issue 4 of The Blasphemous Tome is almost ready to go to press. This is the print fanzine we produce to say thank you to our backers. Anyone backing us by the end of this year will receive at least one copy. See our recent post for more details.

The Blasphemous Tome issue 4 cover