The Stone Tape

The Stone Tape

We’re back and we’re watching in helpless terror as echoes of the dead past haunt us, screaming endlessly. This is our look at the classic 1972 British horror film, The Stone Tape. Fittingly, the BBC originally broadcast it as a ghost story for Christmas. We may be a day late on that front, but the nights are still cold and dark, and the air filled with ancient menace.

And weird dancing lights, for some reason.

Main Topic

Although not explicitly Lovecraftian, The Stone Tape shares some themes with Lovecraft’s work, especially in its scientific investigation of the unknown. This is not too surprising, considering the script was written by Nigel Kneale of Quatermass fame _who we mentioned in episode 5). His work is always easy to mine for Call of Cthulhu inspiration, and we cheerfully do so in this episode.

“If you can write a stat block for the Colour Out of Space, you should be able to manage a bunch of spooky lights.”

News

At the time of posting, you only have around 24 hours to back the Idol of Cthulhu Kickstarter Campaign. This features a new scenario from our very own Matt Sanderson, adding new layers of horror to Lovecraft’s tale, The Call of Cthulhu.

And speaking of time-limited offers, you have less than a week to act if you would like a copy of issue 3 of The Blasphemous Tome, the 1980s-style fanzine we produce for our Patreon backers. This is the first issue to be licensed by Chaosium and features a brand-new, fully statted scenario for Pulp Cthulhu. If you would like a copy, simply back us at any pledge level by the end of 2017. The Tome will then find its way into your hands, as if by eldritch and unwholesome magic.

Our good friends over at Chaosium have announced an exciting new scheme. The Miskatonic Repository allows Call of Cthulhu fans to publish and sell their own material, subject to editorial approval. Chaosium have even provided templates and art packs to make the process easier. The first publications are already available, with many more in the pipeline.

And, in a Christmas miracle, Patreon have cancelled the changes to their fee structures. Backers will not be charged extra processing fees, and will continue to pay only the amount they pledge. Even so, we will continue to investigate alternative options for backers. Watch this space for updates.

Other Stuff

We are still working our way through a long list of people to sing our thanks to. This is our hideous way of praising those brave people who back us on Patreon at the $5 level. For reasons of basic human decency, we limit ourselves to two songs per episode. The recent surge of backers brought on by the new Blasphemous Tome means shall we be singing for many episodes to come.

 

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!

Hellraiser

We’re back and we have such sights to show you. Or tell you. Can you really tell a sight? You can tell of it, but does that really convey the same visceral impact? This is all getting rather tortuous, appropriately enough. Regardless of which orifices you use to receive us, we are here to tell you all about Clive Barker’s 1987 horror film, Hellraiser. We discussed two other Barker films — Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions — back in episode 68, but Hellraiser was where it all started. Sort of.

Or it might have started with a few drops of spilt blood.

Main Topic: Hellraiser

While Barker had made two short films — Salomé and The Forbidden — and written two largely forgettable features — Underworld and Rawhead RexHellraiser was his first major outing as a film director. On the back of Barker’s soaring reputation as a writer, Hellraiser was touted as the future of horror. While this is pretty standard hype, the film has remained an enduring favourite for 30 years. It also spawned an enduring franchise and established Pinhead as a horror icon.

Although if he agrees with Barker’s opinions on his name, calling him “Pinhead” will only make your torment worse.

Hellraiser has grown into an ever-expanding mythology, spanning 9 films, a comic series and several books. We focus on the first film, for now, pretending the rest of the canon doesn’t exist. That said, we make a few comparisons to the source novella, The Hellbound Heart, also written by Barker. There is a great deal to be said about the larger mythos of the Cenobites and their attendant horrors, but it is too much to fit in a single episode. If you would like us to do a follow-up, please let us know. You can use the Contact Us form or Social Media links on this site to do so.

Or if you solve the right puzzle box, we will come to you.

Of course, we also sink our analytical hooks into the film, tearing out great, bloody chunks of gaming meat. Hellraiser was one of the major inspirations for Kult, which we discussed way back in episode 31. Here, however, we focus more on what we can steal for our Call of Cthulhu games.

The Cenobites aren’t the only entities that wish to take you beyond the limits of human experience.

Necronomicon

We’re not long back from the Necronomicon convention, where we had a wonderful time. There is so much to say about it that we shall have to record a special episode. Keep an eye out in your feed for that as well as recordings of the seminars on which we appeared. You can already download our joint episode with our good friends at the Miskatonic University Podcast. We have also released some short videos of our visit to Providence, and Paul posted a whole bunch of photos to our Twitter feed.

We didn’t spend all our time in the pub, not that the photographic evidence supports this.

Speaking of Necronomicon, Paul asked a number of Lovecraftian luminaries to sign his convention programme. He has put it on eBay to raise funds for Cancer Research UK. Please take a look if you fancy snapping up something unique and giving money to a good cause! If you would like more information, Paul has posted further details of who the signatories are.

Other News

While we were in Providence, we heard the delightful news that Call of Cthulhu had done rather well at the ENnie Awards. A good number of projects we were involved with won gold awards, and we would like to thank everyone who voted for them! We just wish that Gen Con and Necronomicon hadn’t fallen on the same weekend so we could have been there in person. Congratulations to Chaosium and to Stygian Fox for their well-deserved success!

All three of us will be attending the Concrete Cow convention in Milton Keynes on Saturday the 16th of September. It’s walking distance for one of us, so it would be rude not to! Concrete Cow is a fun, friendly little one-day convention, and we would love to see you there. Doors open at 9 AM, with the first game starting at 10 AM. Admission is £5.

And speaking of upcoming events, we will also be taking part in the Milton Keynes Literary Festival later this month. All three of us, along with Mike Mason, will host a panel about the connection between roleplaying games and weird fiction. This will take place at 7 PM on Monday the 25th, at the Holiday Inn in Central Milton Keynes. Admission is free. We will offer some short demo games afterwards.

Scott will also be interviewing local fantasy author AFE Smith about the influence of real-world politics on her fiction. This will take place at the Holiday Inn at 7 PM on Saturday the 23rd. Admission is £5.

Other Stuff

In keeping with the theme of transcendental experiences that lie between torture and ecstasy, we sing again in this episode. Two new souls have called upon us by backing us at the $5 level on Patreon. We’ll tear their names apart.

There are a couple of recent backers we really should link to, as they produce interesting things that will appeal to our listeners. The Esoteric Order of Roleplayers is an actual-play podcast that covers a wide range of games and has a healthy back-catalogue. We were also backed recently by Daupo, who some of us met at Necronomicon. He creates wonderfully nightmarish artworks, many with Lovecraftian themes, which can be purchased from his website.

Daupo figurines

Some of Daupo’s eldritch creations.

 

 

The Call of Cthulhu part 2

We’re back and we’re still being haunted by those hellish dreams surfacing from lost R’yeh like bubbles of pure madness. This is the second part of our discussion of Lovecraft’s classic weird tale, The Call of Cthulhu. Last episode we talked about the first two acts of the story. This time, we wrap up the synopsis, discuss adaptations and influences, and look for gaming inspiration. There are a surprising number of elements of the story that have seen little examination in RPGs, despite its fame.

Including what kind of saving throw you would need to avoid contracting piles from spending strange aeons squatting on a cold stone plinth.

No discussion of The Call of Cthulhu would be complete without a look at the 2005 film by the HP Lovecraft Historical Society. This is the definitive adaptation, faithful to Lovecraft in a way few other films even attempt. Happily, Sean Branney and Andrew Leman of the HPLHS were able to join us for an extended interview. They offer their thoughts on the story and insights into how the film was made. They also share a few tantalising details of current and future projects. One of the most ambitious of these — an audiobook of Lovecraft’s complete fiction — is available for pre-order now.

Time and holidays have worked against us this episode. We were unable to meet to record our usual last-minute inserts. This means that the news segment is shorter than usual. We still managed to slip in a mention of the new Kickstarter campaign for Sandy Petersen’s Cthulhu Wars Onslaught 3. We were unsure of the launch date when we recorded, but the campaign has now started.

Enough new playing pieces to rupture the fabric of space/time itself.

The other result of our inability to meet was a further delay in thanking new backers. A number of generous people have pledged money via Patreon recently and we promise to thank them all next episode. Two of them (so far) have backed us at the $5 level, which means we shall sing to them. Expect a pair of sanity-blasting exultations of horror next time!

 

The Call of Cthulhu part 1

We’re back and we’re talking about one of Lovecraft’s best-known stories. The Call of Cthulhu probably boasts more name recognition than any other Lovecraft tale. This is largely due to the ubiquity of old squidhead himself. Between the term “Cthulhu Mythos” and Chaosium using the story’s name for their groundbreaking RPG, Cthulhu has found a prominent place in pop culture. Despite that, comparatively few people who have heard the name know much about the story he comes from.

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is enough gin to briefly wipe away memories of this abomination.

This is the first of two episodes about The Call of Cthulhu. This time we’re focusing on the story itself, or at least the first two-thirds of it. The next episode will cover the climax of the story, an overview of its various adaptations into other media and some ideas about how to use elements in your Call of Cthulhu games. That said, if you can’t work out how to incorporate The Call of Cthulhu into Call of Cthulhu, maybe it’s time to give up.

I mean, his name’s right there in the title and everything!

If you aren’t happy with merely hearing our insights, we have some added treats for you. Mike Mason, line editor of Call of Cthulhu, generously recorded some readings for us. Listen out for his eldritch tones throughout the episode. And none other than Sandy Petersen, creator of Call of Cthulhu (not The Call of Cthulhu — this could turn into an Abbott & Costello routine if we’re not careful) joins us for a short segment to discuss the influence of this particular story on his work. And speaking of his work, Sandy mentions a few future projects to look forward to. Chaosium is developing Tales of Sandy Petersen, a collection of Sandy’s Call of Cthulhu scenarios. There is also Sandy’s Cthulhu Mythos for Pathfinder book to look forward to. If you can’t wait for these goodies, however, fret not! The Kickstarter campaign for Cthulhu Wars Onslaught 3 has just launched.

In the news segment, we mention that a number of projects we worked on are up for ENnie Awards. If you would like to vote for any of them, they are: Pulp Cthulhu (Best Supplement), the Keeper Screen Pack (Best Aid/Accessory, Best Cartography), The Things We Leave Behind (Best Adventure, Best Electronic Book), the Call of Cthulhu Investigator Handbook (Best Cover) and the Call of Cthulhu — 7th Edition Slipcase Set (Best Production Values). Be quick! Voting ends on the 21st of July.

 

We also mention that we will be at Necronomicon in Providence, from the 17th to the 20th of August. While there, we will record a special episode with our good friends from the Miskatonic University podcast. We’re scheduled to appear on a few panels, run some games and spend a disgraceful amount of time in the bar. If you are at Necronomicon, please find us and say hi!

 

The second most merciful thing in the world, I think, is that there is no singing in this episode. While another brave soul has offered his name up to the dark gods of cacophony by pledging at the $5 level on Patreon, we still need to check some details before we can perform the appropriate rites. You shall have to wait until next episode for us to call down doom upon all who listen.