Inspiration and Development

We’re back and we’re baring all. The most common thing people seem to ask writers is “Where do you get your ideas?” Apparently, “By eating the brains of more talented writers” isn’t as helpful an answer as we’d hoped. Maybe discussing our creative process in depth might prove more useful. Please forgive us if we enjoy a light snack first.

Human brain

If it’s fresh enough, you can almost taste the synapses firing across your tongue.

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We have discussed the craft of scenario writing before, all the way back in episode 25. Our discussion then was more abstract, however, covering general principles. This time, we thought we should talk in specifics, giving examples from our own work. Obviously, this means that we are going to spoil certain aspects of some published scenarios. In particular, we analyse:

To explain our creative processes, we talk about the initial inspirations for these scenarios, how we grew them, how they changed during playtesting and development, and what we think we might change about them now with the benefit of experience. We have tried to avoid talking about too many plot details, but spoilers are inevitable.

Put your hands over your ears if you want to block them out. This never fails.

Given that two of the scenarios we discuss come from our Nameless Horrors collection, we thought we should spread the eldritch love. Our good friends at Chaosium have generously provided us with five copies of the book to offer as competition prizes. If you share one of our social media posts about this episode (on Facebook, Twitter or Google+), we will add your name to a random draw. We will probably do this when we next meet to record, on the 24th of March. It is probably best to tell us when you’ve shared something, as automatic notifications can sometimes be flaky. The five winners will each win a copy of Nameless Horrors. We would be happy to sign, inscribe or otherwise deface these books in any way that pleases you.

News

Matt shares his thoughts on his visit to the wonderfully named Sandy Balls, where he attended the Contingency convention. Thrill to his tales of terrifying games, eldritch cocktails and life-threatening sleep deprivation!

Scott gives a brief update on his latest recordings with the How We Roll Podcast. He has just started running them through The Two-Headed Serpent, which should keep everyone involved busy for the next year. The first episodes will probably go live in April or May and we will post links here when they are available.

We also mention a recent chat on our shiny new Discord server where we talked about writing scenarios for Call of Cthulhu. We shall try to arrange another chat soon. Keep an eye on our server for more details.

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We also give a surprising amount of our creative energies over to the songs we record for our $5 Patreon backers. Don’t be fooled by our apparent lack of talent — we put blood, sweat and tears into these recordings. OK, not our own, but the point still stands. There are two such recordings in this episode, with a great many more to come. If you are still waiting for your moment of horror, please bear with us. It is simply not safe for us to release two songs into the world at the same time.

Folk Horror

We’re back and we’re hiding in the hedgerows, weaving twisted little corn dollies and performing unspeakable acts of Morris dancing. This episode is our discussion of the very British subgenre of folk horror. In particular, we’re looking into the Folk Horror Revival and how it ties into the childhood fears of those old enough to remember the 1970s.

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Mike Mason, line editor of Call of Cthulhu, joins us for this discussion. As a lifelong fan of folk horror, who is just the right age to have been shaped by its heyday, he offers a wealth of information and insights. And, as we have learned at great expense, we should always make acceptable offerings.

We’ll be seeing this chap again next episode.

We mention a number of works of and about folk horror in the episode. There are probably too many to link to without making these notes as long as the unexpurgated Golden Bough, but here are some highlights:

And just to wrap things up, have 26 minutes of childhood nightmares from the 1970s:

News

Good friend of the Good Friends, Cory Welch, has shared some goodies with us. When Cory ran Blackwater Creek for the Skype of Cthulhu crew last year, he asked us to record the handouts as audio files. A musician friend of his, who records under the name Walkathon (Facebook page), created some suitably creepy background tracks. You can now find all these files in our new Downloads section.

We recently set up a Discord server (a free text/voice chat service) and have started hosting the occasional discussion there. For example, last week we had a voice chat about structuring Call of Cthulhu scenarios. It’s all very informal and chaotic, so please drop in whenever you fancy.

If you check your podcast feed, you should find the special episode we recorded at MK LitFest 2017. Our main topic of conversation was the connections between literature and roleplaying games, which seemed appropriate for a literary festival.

Mike Mason updated us on a few new products from Chaosium. Reign of Terror, the French Revolution expansion for Horror on the Orient Express, is now out in hardback. The new collection of Sandy Petersen’s scenarios (written in collaboration with Mike), Petersen’s Abominations, is out in PDF, with the print edition to follow in the very near future. The revised, 7th edition version of the classic solo adventure, Alone Against the Dark, will be available in PDF soon.

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When we head out to the wheat fields to perform our ancient rites, clothed only in moonlight, we sing in ecstasy. More specifically, we chant the glorious names of those people who have backed us on Patreon. There are two such rites captured in this very episode. We still have a great many more people to sing to, but the mystic energies involved make it dangerous to perform more than two in a fortnight. There shall be more strange and unhallowed songs next episode.

Milton Keynes LitFest 2017 Seminar

We’re back with another special recording to tide you over during that long, bleak fortnight between regular episodes. This time, we’re coming to you from MK LitFest 2017, the first ever Milton Keynes literary festival. We recorded this last September, but have been waiting for the ideal time to put it out.

Given the setting, we decided to discuss the connections between fiction and RPGs. The theme for the evening was “Made in Milton Keynes”, so we also wove in some background about the development of Call of Cthulhu 7th edition. Paul may come from Buckingham, but he playtested the game at MK-RPG. Close enough!

Sadly, Matt was unable to take part. He had just returned from a business trip to Stuttgart, bringing a nasty chest infection back with him. Don’t worry — the rest of us didn’t miss out! He shared it prolifically, which is why we sound like Deep Ones on our recordings from late last year.

 

Mike Mason generously took some time out to join us. As line editor of Call of Cthulhu, he had plenty of insights to offer on both strands of the conversation. Also, as he reveals in this episode, he used to live in Milton Keynes, making this some kind of hideous homecoming for him. I’m sure Robert Olmstead would sympathise.

MK LitFest will return in 2018, between Friday the 21st and Monday the 24th of September.

System Matters

We’re back and we’re wondering just what it is we’ve been doing with all these dice. Inspired by our mention of Ron Edwards’ System Does Matter essay in our recent episode on Sorcerer, we give some thought to how mechanics shape play.

Having a mechanic lend you a spanner to strike another player can be most useful.

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As well as talking about theory, we also try to provide some concrete examples. Specifically, we take a simple scenario premise and discuss how running it with various game systems might create very different experiences.

Such as driving your players screaming from the table.

News

In the news segment, Matt and Paul briefly share their experiences of Dragonmeet 2017. They met a number of listeners there, so thank you to everyone who made themselves known and said hi. If you ever encounter us in the wild, we encourage you to do the same. We rarely bite.

Paul and Scott have been busy recording extra material for our Patreon backers. As we mention in the episode, we have just released the second of our series of Weird Whisperings. These are our recordings of some of the weird tales we’ve discussed on the podcast. The latest release is Paul’s reading of Lovecraft’s The Outsider. There is a short sample at the end of this episode. If you are a backer, please check your email or our Patreon page for details about how you can download your goodies.

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When we recorded our episode about Sorcerer a few months ago, we made a few mistakes. Specifically, we got some key details wrong about the origins of The Forge. Happily, Ron Edwards himself got in touch to correct us. He also provided a short history of the website. Anyone interested in the subject will find his comment illuminating. Simply scroll down to the bottom of the original post to read it.

Also on the subject of Sorcerer, the discussion thread for the episode on our Google+ Community was filled with great ideas. We pick out a few highlights in this episode, but it’s definitely worth reading the whole thing. If you are thinking of playing Sorcerer, you will find plenty of inspiration.

And, once again, we must warn you that there is singing in this episode. We have had a staggering number of $5 backers on Patreon recently and it is taking us a while to craft artisanal sonic nightmares for you all. Please bear with us if you haven’t been subjected to your song yet. Your time will come. Oh yes, it will come.

The Mythos as Religion (Part 2)

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We’re back and we’re starting a cult. No, worse than that — we’re starting three of them! Last episode, we looked at how real religions and their practices might inform our depiction of Mythos sects in Call of Cthulhu. Now we’re taking things one step further. Building on what we’ve learnt, we try to picture what life might look like from within these sects. Then we create three Mythos sects of our own, trying to use our understanding of religion to give them more complex agendas and practices than the usual sacrifices and summonings. We also offer some context by talking about our own religious backgrounds and how they might have shaped our beliefs and prejudices.

We’re traditionalists, on the whole.

News

As Matt mentioned recently, on this very site, he has been asked by Delphes Desvoivres to write a Call of Cthulhu scenario as part of the Idol of Cthulhu Kickstarter campaign. This scenario will be a follow-up to Lovecraft’s story, The Call of Cthulhu, running approximately 20,000 words. It may grow to a more cyclopean stature, depending on stretch goals. The campaign ends on the 27th of December, so act quickly if you want your New Year to be filled with unhallowed idolatry.

You may have seen posts in your social media feeds expressing dissatisfaction with Patreon’s new charging scheme. Patreon have shifted their fees from content creators to patrons, increasing them in the process. While there seem to be some understandable reasons for this, they have handled the entire situation poorly. More importantly, it disproportionately hurts backers who make smaller pledges. As a result, we are currently investigating alternatives to run alongside Patreon, allowing greater choice for backers. We will keep you posted as this develops.

There will be a slight delay in getting issue 3 of The Blasphemous Tome fanzine to our Patreon backers. We received the first batch of the print run late last week, only to discover that it was missing four pages. Getting this resolved shouldn’t take too long and we still hope to get the Tome to most of you before the end of the year. Some backers will receive their Christmas cards ahead of the Tome, as we didn’t want to miss last posting dates. If your envelope is suspiciously Tomeless, don’t worry — our unspeakable blasphemies shall take to the ghoul winds and find their way to you soon.

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There will be a lot of singing over the next few months. Thanks to the imminent release of the third Blasphemous Tome, we have had a surge of new Patreon backers. Many of these people have been generous and brave enough to pledge at the $5 level. This means that we currently have a backlog of around 10 people to praise through song. Putting more than two songs in an episode risks our vocal cords, your sanity and the very fabric of the universe. It is only prudent for us to work our way through these thanks cautiously. With great cacophony comes great responsibility. If you are still waiting, please bear with us — your song will come soon. Enjoy the sense of creeping dread until then.