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…”

Main Topic

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.

Mythos Deities: Yog-Sothoth

We’re back, standing atop Sentinel Hill, chill wind whipping under our robes, shrieking until our lungs hurt. Damn, that wind’s cold! This is our discussion of Yog-Sothoth, the All-in-One, the Gate, the Key, the Lurker at the Threshold and any number of other names. You can tell Yog-Sothoth is an important deity: he has almost as many monikers as Nyarlathotep has avatars. And while his personal appearances are mercifully few, his presence in Lovecraftian fiction and gaming is strong enough to warp space and time themselves.

Main Topic

This is our latest dissection of a Lovecraftian deity. We examined Dagon in episode 98 and Shub-Niggurath in 115. Our overview of Lovecraftian gods in episode 67 and of religion in the Mythos in episodes 118 and 119 also relate. Following our usual format, we look at the origins of Yog-Sothoth, how he developed through fiction, how he appears in Call of Cthulhu, and what we might do with him in our games. Well, other than run screaming.

Or adding some tasty meatballs.

News

All three of us will be at the Concrete Cow convention in Milton Keynes on Saturday the 17th of March. We’re running a few Call of Cthulhu games between us, and it would be lovely to find some of you at our tables. Otherwise, please look for us between games –we’d be delighted to have a chat. It’s a small con and we’re slow-moving targets.

The Lovecraft Tapes actual play podcast is currently making their way through Scott’s scenario Hell in Texas, from The Things We Leave Behind. They take a more comedic approach than most Call of Cthulhu actual plays, with quick-fire quips and running gags aplenty. Despite this, they still take the investigation itself seriously, embracing the horror. Add some great characterisation and the result is compelling. Hell in Texas starts at episode 32, although it is well worth starting from the beginning to understand the larger continuity (and also because it’s damn good fun).

Time is running out for the competition we announced in episode 124 to win a copy of Nameless Horrors. It’s not too late to enter, however. If you’d like to do so, simply share any of our social media announcements about the last episode and let us know. We shall perform the draw on the 24th of March and announce the 5 lucky winners shortly afterwards.

Also on the 24th of March, we shall be holding a voice chat with our Patreon backers using our shiny new Discord server. If you are a patron, you should already have access to the backer-only channel there. Please let us know ahead of time if this doesn’t seem to be the case. We shall start the talk at 6 PM GMT (1 PM EST, 10 AM PST, 7 PM CET) and run for about an hour. We shall send out email reminders via Patreon beforehand, along with a link to the server.

And we have been nominated for a Golden Geek Award in the category of Best RPG Podcast. If you would like more details, including how to vote, please see our recent post. We would be ever so grateful if you voted for us!

Other Stuff

As Wilbur Whateley cries his blasphemous praises to the leering stars above, so do we. While his chants are designed to tear reality asunder, bringing about the end of humanity, ours merely praise our new $5 Patreon backers. Any destruction of humanity is purely coincidental. There are two such minor apocalypses in this episode. We still have a few more people to sing to, but those waiting should not grow complacent. Your time shall come soon.

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.

Main Topic

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.

Other Stuff

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.

The Shunned House

Episode 116: The Shunned House

Main Topic

We’re back and we’re digging into another Lovecraft story, looking for the horrors that lie beneath. The Shunned House is one of the more minor of Lovecraft’s major stories, if that makes any sense. It is a lengthy, substantial piece that certainly shares thematic elements with his Mythos tales, if not any explicit continuity. Whether or not this makes it an interesting or worthwhile tale is debatable, and debate this we do!

The shunned house of the story is a real place, located on the delightfully scenic Benefit Street in Providence. While attending Necronomicon this summer, we took the opportunity to make an unhallowed pilgrimage. It is someone’s home, however, so we did no more than lurk outside like a gaggle of creepy cultists. I imagine the owners are used to this by now. Despite the house’s evil reputation, we escaped with our flesh undissolved and no more than the usual thirst for human blood.

Paul shuns the Shunned House by the simple economy of turning his back on it.

As ever, we also look at the influences that shaped The Shunned House, its handful of adaptations and some ideas about what we can steal for gaming. Most of these ideas seem to involve flamethrowers.

To be fair, many of our Call of Cthulhu sessions end up this way.

In the context of gaming, we also mention Marcus Rowland’s excellent Forgotten Futures RPG. Rowland has used this as a vehicle for adapting many Victorian and Edwardian fiction settings to gaming. Of specific relevance to this episode is The Carnacki Cylinders, which draws upon William Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki the Ghost Finder. Listeners who like the scientific approach to monster hunting in The Shunned House will find much of interest here. The shadow of Carnacki (possibly cast by his electrical pentacle) lies large over The Shunned House.

We also make passing reference to the ongoing Lovecraft Reread column on Tor.com. Along with the HP Lovecraft Literary Podcast, this is one of our favourite resources for gaining insights into Lovecraft’s work.

News

The first episode of How We Roll‘s recording of Blackwater Creek is now out. Scott, who wrote the scenario, takes on the role of Keeper and tries his damnedest to creep out the players. There should be another 7 episodes after this one, with the horror building steadily throughout.

We mention in the episode that we recorded the seminar that Paul, Scott and Mike Mason presented at the Milton Keynes Literary Festival. The topic was the relationship between RPGs and fiction, with a special emphasis on Call of Cthulhu. It went rather well, or so we believe, with a good turnout and some lively questions from the audience. Our plan was to release it by now, but it’s not quite ready yet. Keep an eye on your RSS feed and it should be there in the not-too-distant future.

Also, we have invited listeners to submit articles and artwork for issue 3 of The Blasphemous Tome. This is the annual fanzine we create and send to all our Patreon backers. If you have a short article (300-1,000 words) or some black-and-white artwork, please send it our way. The deadline is the 20th of November.

Other Stuff

Once again, there is singing in this episode. As regular listeners know to their cost, we sing the praises of those who back us on Patreon at the $5 level. Both subjects of this episode’s songs presented unique challenges, but I think we had the ambition and hubris to tackle them. The refusal to acknowledge one’s limitations will take you further than talent and hard work. Well, that’s what we keep telling ourselves.

One of the recipients of our merciless song is the actual play podcast, The Esoteric Order of Roleplayers. We promised to link to them in the show, so here we go. Enjoy!