Gen Con 2018

We’re back and we’re discussing all the nifty Cthulhu-related stuff that happened at Gen Con 2018 (and one non-Cthulhu thing). Well, I say “we”, but this largely means Paul, as he’s the only one of us who went. To stop this being a monologue, however, he interviewed some of the people he met there.

Some of Paul’s 60,000 closest friends gather to say hi.

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Paul starts with news about the convention, including the Diana Jones Award, the Cool of Cthulhu panel (recorded by our good friends at the gold-ENnie-award-winning Miskatonic University Podcast) and the ENnie Awards

Now I think about it, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Chad without puppets, even if only of the finger variety.

He then tells Matt and Scott about all the interesting people he met. These include Chris Spivey of Darker Hue Studios (whose Harlem Unbound dominated the ENnies this year), Sam Riordan of MetaArcade (publishers of the Cthulhu Chronicles app), Bob Geis of You Too Can Cthulhu, and multi-award-winning writer and artist, Zak Smith. You can hear interviews with all of them in this episode.

Paul also mentions a number of listeners he met at the convention, including the hosts of the Dave and Gary podcast. Thank you to everyone who introduced yourselves!

As if Paul hadn’t worked hard enough to make Matt and Scott jealous, he also whipped out a box of goodies from the HP Lovecraft Historical Society that he had picked up at Gen Con. This was the Gamer Prop Set that accompanies the HPLHS’s upcoming Dark Adventure Radio Theatre presentation of Masks of Nyarlathotep. The box contains more authentic period handouts, props and eldritch marvels than you could shake a black sceptre at.

News

Paul and Scott will be joining Mike Mason at Tabletop Gaming Live 2018, at Alexandra Palace on the 29th of September. We will be giving a seminar at 12:00, titled Calling Cthulhu, as well as running some demo games.

Stygian Fox have released Fear’s Sharp Little Needles, their latest anthology of modern-day Call of Cthulhu scenarios. Matt and Scott have scenarios in the book, and Scott also has a short story in the accompanying fiction anthology, Puncture Wounds. Both of these publications are available as ebooks or print-on-demand hardcopies.

Scott also talks about his recent visit to the Grand Tribunal convention in Cheltenham. This friendly little get-together started out as an Ars Magica convention and has grown into something more general over the years. It takes place annually, with the next one due in August 2019. Highly recommended!

Other Stuff

If you miss Matt and Scott’s voices during the interviews, just hold on for a bit. Towards the end of the episode, we all sing our thanks to a Patreon backer. If you’re not sick of the sound of us after that, we have failed.

Speaking of Patreon rewards, we also remind you that we are busy preparing issue 4 of The Blasphemous Tome. This is the annual old-school fanzine we produce for backers of the podcast. If you would like to know how to secure your copy and what to expect, check out our recent post.

And in our segment on recent social media posts, we mention a lively thread about our episode on the role of insanity in Lovecraft’s fiction. Most of the feedback we get comes via our Google+ Community, but this time it was a post to the Call of Cthulhu Facebook group that blew up.

The Joy of Failure

We’re back and we’re tripping over our feet, dropping our only torch and entirely failing to save the day. This is our look at the role of failure in RPGs. Or at least that’s what it’s supposed to be. I’m sure we’ll find some way to bugger it all up.

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It’s easy to see failure as a bad thing in our games. Small missteps may be frustrating, making our characters seem incompetent or denying us the chance to do something cool. They could also be entertaining, leading to a bit of humour or raising the tension. Sometimes larger plans fall apart, but isn’t this the kind of thing drama thrives upon? And, yes, the heroes may fail to defeat the villain or prevent catastrophe. Such downbeat endings are an essential part of British storytelling. We love our heroic failures.

No, I said heroic failures…

This all suggests that failure can be a good thing in fiction and, by extension, in gaming. To explore this, we look at how to embrace different types of failure in RPGs. These range from stopping failed rolls being anticlimactic to how to handle an unexpectedly catastrophic end to a campaign.

Give them a good TPK and they’ll talk about it for decades afterwards.

News

Paul mentions some highlights of his visit to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. A Robinson Crusoe of the Soul is Andrew Strong‘s musical exploration of Arthur Machen’s life and work. Apparently, it is part of a larger operatic work called From Ages to Ages. We’re still not entirely sure if Paul saw Urban Death, from Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group. The whole thing sounds like a fever dream to me. The highlight, however, was Providence: The Shadow Over Lovecraft. This is a comedic play about Lovecraft and friends, written and performed by Dominic Allen and Simon Maeder. The production will return from the grave as part of the London Horror Festival at the end of October. Cthulhu willing, the three of us plan to catch it then.

Providence: The Shadow Over Lovecraft

Of course, the three of us shall be at Concrete Cow on the 15th of September. This is Milton Keynes’ own twice-yearly one-day RPG convention. We shall all be running games and hope to see some of you there!

And Scott offers a quick report about the recent charity event organised by the lovely people who run the Necronomicon Discord server. This was a live-stream of various Call of Cthulhu events, including a number of games and panels. Unfortunately, our summer recording schedule meant that we didn’t get a chance to promote this on the podcast ahead of time. We hope that Harry, Elliot and the rest of the team will do this again, in which case we shall let you all know.

Other Stuff

Some of the most entertaining kinds of failure come when someone proves disastrously incompetent at a task. Think of Laurel and Hardy moving a piano, Wile E Coyote strapping a rocket to his back or the three of us trying to sing. There is such an attempt in this episode, where we offer our thanks to another $5 Patreon backer. Be prepared.

On a more successful note, we share another wonderful review on iTunes. If you feel moved to write a review wherever you download your podcasts, you will earn our undying love and gratitude. And when we say “undying”, we mean it.

And don’t forget that there’s a new issue of The Blasphemous Tome on the way soon. If you would like to secure your copy, or to contribute some words or pictures, please see our recent post.

As we mentioned in our latest episode, we have started work on issue 4 of The Blasphemous Tome. This is the old-school fanzine we put together for Patreon backers of The Good Friends of Jackson Elias. If you would like to know more, please check out our page about the Tome.

This issue will feature “The Hero Affirmed”, a brand new Call of Cthulhu scenario from our own Matt Sanderson!

Once again, we are aiming to release the Tome along with the Christmas cards we send to all our backers. If you are a backer between publication (late November) and the end of the year, we will send you at least one copy. Our page about the Tome has full details about who will receive what.

If you would like to submit a short article (up to 500 words) or some black-and-white artwork, we would love to hear from you! The Blasphemous Tome is licensed by Chaosium, so we are able to include stats and other game mechanics for Call of Cthulhu. The deadline for submissions is the end of October.

The current table of contents goes something like this:

  • The Ludomancers
    • Our favourite game sessions of the past year
  • Cocktail Corner
    • Matt shares another recipe that man was not meant to know
  • Mythos Fiction: The Sixties and Seventies
    • Scott’s series of story recommendations continues
  • The Hero Affirmed
    • A brand new, full-length Call of Cthulhu scenario from Matt Sanderson
  • Vinyl Corner
    • Paul discusses another musical artefact from the 1970s
  • The Sanderson Collection
    • Matt reveals another rarity from the dusty corners of his bookshelves
  • 2018: A Year in Horror Films
    • Scott talks about the films that impressed and disappointed him this year
  • Episodes of Insanity
    • Some background on our favourite episodes of 2018
  • Die, Die, Die!
    • Matt punishes another die that failed him
  • Plush of the Month
    • Matt makes Scott sad
  • Strange Eons
    • Scott offers an overview of Robert Bloch’s unjustly forgotten Mythos novel

We shall update this list as we receive more submissions.

In episode 137 we discussed Nathan Ballingrud‘s short story Wild Acre. A few days ago, Mr Ballingrud generously took some time to record an interview with us. We discuss Wild Acre and its themes of trauma, as well as the wider role of madness in horror, as well as where Nathan’s work is taking him these days. Given Nathan’s interest in RPGs, we also talk about Call of Cthulhu and how it relates to his work as a writer.

Nathan Ballingrud
Nathan Ballingrud

While we largely focus on North American Lake Monsters, Nathan shares some details about his upcoming book, The Atlas of Hell. He also mentions the film adaptation of his novella, The Visible Filth. This has been made by Babak Anvari, the director behind the wonderful Under the Shadow. The film, which is still awaiting a title, is due out in April of 2019.

The Visible Filth

The conversation also drifts into our mutual love of horror. Some of the answers Nathan offers could almost have come from our episode about the appeal of horror. He neatly sums up in a few minutes what it took us an entire episode to pin down!

We also make mention of Storium, which we then completely fail to explain. Storium is a website that bridges the gap between choose-your-own-adventure books and multiplayer RPGs. You can create your own games, writing content and walking players through your game world. Hell, maybe you can plot out the setting for your next novel there too!

137: Wild Acre

Episode 137: Wild Acre

We’re back and we’re checking the undergrowth for sinister shapes, getting ready to run for our lives and preparing to deal with the consequences. This episode is our discussion of Nathan Ballingrud’s short story, Wild Acre. While Wild Acre isn’t Lovecraftian horror, we thought it would make a good follow-up to our recent episode about insanity in Call of Cthulhu. It is an unusual story, raising questions about the portrayal of trauma in horror.

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While the emotional impact of encounters with the impossible is a common theme in horror fiction, Wild Acre takes an unconventional approach. Most of the story explores the protagonist’s inability to cope with a traumatic event he experiences in its opening. The realistic and uncomfortable portrayal of PTSD provides a strong contrast to how the topic is usually handled in games. We use this to further explore some of the themes we have discussed over our past couple of episodes.

North American Lake Monsters

As well as writing some of the emotionally complex horror fiction of recent years, Ballingrud is also a long-time Call of Cthulhu Keeper. We had hoped to include an interview with him in this episode but scheduling problems got in the way. All being well, we shall record one soon and put it out as a bonus.

The Best of the Best Horror of the Year cover

Wild Acre can be found in Ballingrud’s excellent collection North American Lake Monsters, as well as The Best of the Best Horror of the Year.

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Scott mentions his recent visit to The Haunted City: Modern Monsters and Urban Myths, a day of talks organised by the London Fortean Society. In particular, he discusses the presentation about Lovecraft and the occult given by good friend of The Good Friends, Justin Woodman.

Other Stuff

We have started putting together issue 4 of The Blasphemous Tome. This is the 1980s-style fanzine we create for those wonderful people who back us via Patreon. We plan to send the ‘zine out in early December, along with our Christmas cards. If you have a short (500-word maximum) piece of writing or some black-and-white artwork you’d like to submit, we would love to hear from you! The Blasphemous Tome is licensed by Chaosium, so we are able to include content developed for Call of Cthulhu.

Another way we “thank” some of our Patreon backers is to sing to them. It’s been a while since we had two new $5 backers to thank in this way, but we give you both barrels of song in this episode.

We also share a new iTunes review and some choice comments on our recent episode about player engagement. If you enjoy the podcast, we would love to hear from you on our Google+ Community and would be delighted if you posted a review on iTunes or wherever you find your podcasts.