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.

Player Engagement

132: player engagement

We’re back and we’re dangling shiny things in front of our players, making encouraging noises and trying to direct their attention back to the game. This is our discussion of player engagement, specifically what engages us, the things we do to foster it and how we cope when players disengage.

Electric cattle prod to foster player engagement

Not all engagement problems can be solved with a cattle prod. Just most of them.

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In the discussion, we offer some personal insight into what draws us to play a game, which factors keep our enthusiasm fired and what turns us off a game. It’s too often easier to focus on the negative, but we do try to offer lots of positive examples. Our middle-aged inclination to grumble already gets enough outlets.

News

We were delighted to learn that The Two-Headed Serpent won the Judges’ Award for Best Role-Playing Adventure at UK Games Expo. Congratulations also to Paul Baldowski, whose Three Faces of the Wendigo for The Cthulhu Hack won the Popular Choice Award.

The Two-Headed Serpent

We mention that we have recently recorded an interview with Mike Mason and Lynne Hardy of Chaosium about the new edition of Masks of Nyarlathotep. The interview was substantial, so we have split it into two episodes. With the PDF of Masks due out on the 1st of July, we plan to release both of them next month. We hope the discussion will offer some unique insights, given that Paul and Scott worked on the revision with Mike and Lynne.

Masks of Nyarlathotep book covers

Paul shares some brief thoughts about the Lamentations of the Flame Princess supplement, A Red a Pleasant Land. He has been playing a short campaign of it at the Milton Keynes RPG club, run by our good friend, Oli Palmer. We plan to record an episode exploring the book in more detail later this year.

Other Stuff

We have had plenty of engagement on social media. There was some lively discussion on Google+ about our recent episode on cats. Happily, it was all playful and no one walked away with any scratches.

Patreon

And enjoy the peace while you can. There is no singing to new Patreon backers in this episode, but there shall be before the end of the month. The anticipation is often worse than the reality. Not always, however…

Subterranean spaces in Call of Cthulhu

We’re back and we’re strapping on our headlamps, checking our harnesses and spelunking like our lives depended upon it. This is our look into subterranean spaces in Call of Cthulhu and Lovecraft. From his work, Lovecraft seemed to be both drawn to and disturbed by deep, dark holes and the mysteries lurking within.

“Verrry interesting…”

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Many of Lovecraft’s stories involve the buried remains of alien cities, caverns best left unexplored or tunnels dug by things that should not be. It’s only natural that many Call of Cthulhu scenarios should build upon this. Or build under. We’re not quite sure how this works.

All right, maybe you can build over and under at the same time.

We try to get to the bottom of the appeal of subterranean spaces in Call of Cthulhu, but the deeper we dig, the more we find to explore. As well as archetypal dungeon-based scenario designs inherited from D&D, we find connections to mythology, symbolism and Hollow Earth theory. We could so easily get lost down here. Before struggling to the surface, however, we find time to offer a few scenario seeds involving sinister underworlds.

News

UK Games Expo is this weekend (1st-3rd of June). Matt and Scott will be there on Friday, running games in the Cthulhu Masters tournament, signing books and generally milling around. Please say hi if you spot us!

Paul attended another Scream Unseen presentation at the Milton Keynes Odeon and offers a very brief review of The Strangers: Prey at Night. This leads to a discussion of what we thought of the first film. Apparently, we don’t like anything. I blame being old and grumpy.

Speaking of ageing, on the 7th of June, The Good Friends of Jackson Elias turns 5. You could be excused for thinking we’re older, given all the grey hair. Back in those innocent days of 2013, we huddled around a shared microphone in Paul’s shed for the first time. 131 episodes and 8 specials later, it’s hard to imagine life without the podcast. Thank you to everyone who has joined us along the way!

Other Stuff

Down here in the darkness, robbed of daylight, hearing is crucial to survival. Every sound could mean the difference between life and death. Was that water dripping on limestone or claws snickering across the cavern floor? The intrusion of a bellowing cacophony could be fatal at a time like this. Mercifully, perhaps, none of the new Patreon backers we thank this month sponsored us at the $5 level, so you are spared our singing for now.

Although the acoustics down here could have birthed something special.

You might still hear snatches of conversation echoing around you, however. These are comments from our various social media presences. Stay very still and they won’t eat you. You can find most of the discussion of our recent episode about comedy in RPGs over on our Google+ Community, or carved on the walls of the lost city that lies buried deep beneath your cellar floor. Google+ might prove easier to access.

Cats in Call of Cthulhu and Lovecraft

We’re back and we’re chasing our tails, trying to lick our nether regions and hissing at anyone who looks at us funny. Meow. This is our look into the role of cats in Call of Cthulhu. Lovecraft was famously fond of cats. He kept them as pets throughout his life, and wrote about their exploits in his letters and stories. Inevitably, this means that cats have found their way into Call of Cthulhu. As any cat owner will tell you, cats can turn up in the most unexpected places. I regularly had to rescue one of mine from up the living room chimney.

Although most of them have had the decency to stay out of my skull.

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We kick off by looking at cats in Lovecraft’s work. Along with his fiction, we find inky pawprints in his poetry, essays and correspondence. The main works we discuss are:

When researching this episode, we were surprised to realise that the goddess Bast does not actually appear in Lovecraft’s fiction. He mentions the city of Bubastis in passing, but its patron deity is merely name-checked in Cats and Dogs. Her presence in the Call of Cthulhu rulebook seems to owe more to Robert Bloch than Lovecraft. Even then, Bloch’s version of Bast is a very different creature, especially in The Brood of Bubastis. We discuss these variations and how they might influence our games.

Chaos tries to influence my games, usually by lying on my arms as I’m trying to write them.

Of course, we also look at Cats in Call of Cthulhu and some other Lovecraftian RPGs. There are a surprising number of games in which you can play a cat and fight eldritch horrors. We mention a few of them.

We also offer a few ideas about how you might use cats in your games. Personally, we let our feline friends bat our dice around the table whenever we need to roll. Paul’s cat, Ginnie, takes payment for this by drinking our tea, which seems a fair exchange.

News

All three of us managed to make it to Concrete Cow this time around and we even ran some games. In case you haven’t heard us mention it before, Concrete Cow is Milton Keynes’ own gaming convention, held twice a year in March and September. If you fancy coming along and joining one of our games there, the next one is scheduled for the 15th of September.

Other Stuff

Most of us have suffered cats yowling outside our windows at night. Their screeches can pierce the very soul, driving sleep far away, leaving only frustration and pain. Taking inspiration from these midnight serenades, we offer two new songs in this episode. These are our caterwauling way of saying thank you to those generous people who back us at the $5 level on Patreon. We have almost caught up with our backlog of people to sing to, so if you are still waiting, your torment is closer than you think.