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.

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.

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.

Other Stuff

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.

The Mythos as Religion – part 1

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We’re back and we’re making offerings to twisted idols, praying in inhuman tongues and performing rites passed down through strange aeons. This is our look at the role religion plays in the Cthulhu Mythos. Specifically, we try to make sense of how worship of the Great Old Ones relates to more wholesome beliefs. To do so, we break down some of the common elements of world religions and see how they might map onto Mythos sects. We appreciate that this ventures into some sensitive areas and we try to remain respectful of the beliefs of others.

Mostly.

Our motivation is to try to make the cultists in our Call of Cthulhu games a little more three-dimensional. It’s easy to see a cultist as just a lunatic in a robe, waving a sacrificial dagger and trying to bring about the end of the world. Belief is a lot more complicated than that, however. Thinking about real religions can fill in some gaps in how we present these most common antagonists in our games. It’s very easy to dehumanise cultists, seeing them as little more than Call of Cthulhu‘s answer to orcs. By thinking about why they believe what they do and how they express these beliefs, we might be more inclined to interact with cultists in more interesting ways than just shooting them in the face.

Especially when there are so many other places you could shoot people.

This is the first of a two-part discussion. Next episode, we will build on what we have learned and think about how to make Mythos cults more interesting. We will also brainstorm a few original cults, armed with our new insights.

News

We are almost ready to go to press with issue 3 of The Blasphemous Tome. This is the annual fanzine we produce for those lovely people who back us on Patreon. And there is still time for you share in the horror! We will send copies to everyone who is a backer by the end of this year, although if you’re quick, you’ll also get one of our special Christmas cards in the same envelope. If you need any more encouragement, take a look at the gorgeous cover image that Jonathan Wyke has created for us.

And a quick reminder that at least some of us will be at Dragonmeet this weekend. Please track us down and say hello. We’ll leave a scent trail to assist you.

Oh, and we mention the great Fricker Halloween party of 2017. Unfortunately for us, Scott’s ill-advised dalliances with greasepaint and Paul’s unrecognisable octopus costume were captured by Mike Mason. Those of a sensitive disposition may wish to look away now.

We’ll be waiting for you in your nightmares.

Other Stuff

There are new songs in this episode, neither of which are ever likely to feature on Songs of Praise. We have had several new Patreon backers recently, possibly because of the imminent Blasphemous Tome. Once again, this means that we have built up a small backlog of people to sing to. Time constraints and common human decency mean that we limit ourselves to two songs per episode. If you are still waiting for your aural assault, it shouldn’t be too long now.

We’re back and we’re getting some of that old-time religion. When we say old-time, we mean pre-Christian. Or maybe we mean dating back to 1917. It can be so hard to tell sometimes. Our subject for this episode is the god Dagon, who had a long history before Lovecraft got ahold of him, so means different things to different people.

Part man, part fish, part wifi repeater.

Our discussion takes us from Dagon’s origins, through his appearances in the Old Testament, on to his rebirth in fiction as the god of the Deep Ones, and finally to his place in popular culture and gaming. While Dagon may not be the only real-world deity Lovecraft used, this reinvention is bolder and more iconic than that of Nodens, Bast or Hypnos.

Also, none of their priests got to wear fish on their heads.

This episode is not just a history lesson. We also talk about how we might use Dagon in our games, finding more interesting angles than “big stompy Deep One”.  The fact that Dagon is so sketchily defined in Call of Cthulhu and Lovecraftian fiction gives our imaginations plenty to space to run free.

And there are few spaces wider than the ocean depths.

If our look at Dagon proves popular, we plan to return to this format and examine other Mythos deities in future episodes. Our recent discussion of The Seven Geases reminded us how much some of these gods have changed between their first appearances in fiction and their entries in the Call of Cthulhu rules. By digging into their histories, we hope we can find new and interesting ways of using them in our games.

Although even we would struggle to make them this different.

The Deep Ones of Innsmouth croak out warbling, blasphemous hymns to their benefactors, and who are we to defy tradition? We have a number of new Patreon backers to sing to, possibly because of the rapidly approaching cut-off for issue 2 of the Blasphemous Tome. Only two of the songs are in this episode, however. You can have too much of a good thing, or whatever it is we do. There will be more song in episode 99.

“Now flap your gill slits and get some vibrato going…”

In the news segment, we make mention of Chaosium’s recent release of our Pulp Cthulhu campaign, The Two-Headed Serpent. This is a huge event for us. We spent three years putting this beast together and we are thrilled to unleash it upon the world.

We also mention the current Kickstarter campaign for Stygian Fox’s new Call of Cthulhu scenario anthology, Fear’s Sharp Little Needles. Matt and Scott both have scenarios in this book, and we have been delighted with the progress we’ve seen on the project as a whole. The Kickstarter has funded and is busy racking up stretch goals. The campaign will wrap up at the end of February, so act soon if you want to back it!