We’re back, and we’re doing unspeakable things to innocent villagers. It’s all right, though. Master told us to. And who are we to question Master? Generous Master feeds us only the best table scraps, sometimes before they go mouldy. Kindly Master keeps a roof over our heads and it hardly leaks on sunny days. Gentle Master only beats us when we deserve it. We seem to deserve it a lot. Master is wise and benevolent, or so he keeps telling us. We would never dare to contradict Master. We love Master.

All of this is our snivelling way of introducing our look at Paul Czege’s 2003 RPG, My Life with Master, published by his own Half Meme Press imprint. My Life with Master describes itself as “a roleplaying game of villainy, self-loathing and unrequited love”. In it, players take on the roles of minions (no, not the wacky Tic Tac type) who, driven by self-loathing, carry out the increasingly horrific commands of an abusive Master until they hit breaking point.

Don’t worry! My Life with Master is not as bleak as all this makes it sound. It is shot through with black humour, with plenty of comic relief to take the edge off the horror. More importantly, it follows the attempts of the minions to connect with other human beings, overcoming the self-loathing that makes them such perfect instruments of cruelty. These attempts finally give the minions strength to rise up against their Master, but only after much suffering and degradation.

Oh, and then they kill Master. Ungrateful wretches!

Speaking of being compelled to do horrible things by outside forces, we sing to some new Patreon backers in this episode. We have had a recent influx of new backers, and we still have a few more to sing to, but we are limiting ourselves to two songs per episode. This is partly to give Paul time to twist and compress our voices into the aural bezoars that squat deep in the stomach of an episode, but mostly to avoid overwhelming our listeners. Hearing more than two of our cacophonous soundscapes at once risks incurring dancing teeth, brain palpitations and explosive tinnitus.

And, in extreme cases, spontaneous bowties.

A large part of this surge in patrons is due to the imminence of issue 2 of The Blasphemous Tome, our backer-only print fanzine. We now have a cut-off date: the 10th of March. If you are a backer on this date, you will receive at least one copy of the ‘zine. See this article for more details.

In our introductory chat, we mention that Paul recently visited the Bodleian Library in Oxford, finding plenty of gaming inspiration but no copies of the Necronomicon, and that Scott was a recent guest on the Miskatonic University Podcast. We also get rather excited by our upcoming 100th episode, due out in a fortnight. We’re as surprised as you are that we made it this far!

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We’re back and we’re facing the inevitable. All good things must come to an end, and this includes our look at beginnings, middles and ends in roleplaying games. Our previous two episodes examined how to start a game session and what to do once it’s underway. Now, we’re wrapping up with an in-depth look at the end. Or ends, to be precise.

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No, not that way.

While a strong beginning is essential to get things moving and the middle takes up most of a game, the end tends to be what people remember. If your game has a dramatic, action-packed or emotional ending, your players will probably talk about it for years afterwards. If the end of the game is a damp squib, they are also likely to talk about it, just maybe in less glowing terms.

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“And then he spent ten minutes telling us everything our characters did wrong!”

We start our discussion by working out just when we should end a game, move on to techniques for building up to the end and then wrap things up with an examination of endings themselves. Oh, and then we talk about what to do after the end. Apparently, things aren’t always as final as they seem.

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“I spent hours designing my campaign villain and you killed her in two rounds. Of course she’s going to come back from the dead!”

In the intro, Paul makes mention of The Grogzine, the fanzine put out by our friends at The Grognard Files. Like our own publication, The Blasphemous Tome, this is a ‘zine created for those who back the podcast on Patreon. If you long for the days when White Dwarf published material for Runequest and Call of Cthulhu, this is the ‘zine for you.

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Free nostalgia with every issue.

There is more singing in this episode. If you have been lucky enough to escape our musical endeavours so far, I really should explain. When a generous and brave soul pledges at the $5 level on Patreon, we literally sing their praises. Well, it started out like that. Now we make strange sounds and Paul mixes them into an aural nightmare.

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Still, it might keep the horrors of the abyss at bay.

We are still accepting submissions for issue 2 of The Blasphemous Tome. As mentioned, we produce the fanzine exclusively for our backers, and everyone who donates money via Patreon receives at least one copy. Our original plan was to cut off submissions in mid-November. Predictably, we’re running late. If you have a piece of original artwork or a short article (under 500 words, ideally) that you would like to submit, please send it to us by the end of December. We are also interested in the most blood-curdling, sanity-blasting or toe-curling descriptions of monsters you can come up with. You can use the contact form on this very website or get in touch with us on Google+, Facebook or Twitter.

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None will be as sanity-blasting as this. Just ask Ginny the cat.

In case you’ve never noticed, Paul often sneaks little outtakes into the dead space beyond the end of an episode. Think of them as hidden tracks, but with more giggling. The outtake in this episode is longer than all the others put together. It also contains more swearing than an average episode of Deadwood. Why? Well, look above and below for a clue…

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1D10/1D100

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We’re back and we’re following up last episode’s discussion of Clark Ashton Smith with a look at one of his stories. The Seven Geases is part of Smith’s Hyperborean cycle, the series of his that most intersects with the Cthulhu Mythos. In fact, the The Seven Geases adds more entities to the Mythos than any other single Smith story, making it a fascinating read for Call of Cthulhu Keepers.

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As usual, we dig into aspects of the story that would make good gaming material. The Seven Geases is a little different than the types of stories we normally discuss. While many of its elements have found their way into Lovecraftian horror fiction and games, the story itself is a weird mix of sword-and-sorcery and black comedy. This disparity of genres has never stopped people incorporating elements from Smith’s stories into Call of Cthulhu games, however, and usually to great effect.

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Even with this in mind, however, Call of Cthulhu Keepers who read The Seven Geases for inspiration may find it a strange and jarring experience. While the story introduces major Mythos entities, such as Abhoth and Atlatch-Nacha, and reincorporates a number of others, the way in which they behave differs markedly from their use in Call of Cthulhu. Mythos deities are rarely as chatty as those encountered here.

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“Just pull up a corpse and sit down. Now, let’s have a nice little chat about blood sacrifices. Scone?”

If this episode inspires you to run a game set in Hyperborea, good friend of the Good Friends Stephanie McAlea has put together a rather lovely map of the lost continent. Stephanie has been the cartographer of most of the work we have written for Chaosium, and does excellent work. You can buy her map via DriveThruRPG, or download it directly if you back her on Patreon.

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As Bret Kramer, another good friend of the Good Friends, pointed out, we neglected to mention The Double Shadow podcast in our overview of Smith. This was a major oversight. If you have any interest in Smith and his work, you should definitely give it a listen. The hosts know their subject well and delve into each story and its context in loving detail.

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And still speaking of good friends of the Good Friends, we mention in the episode how Frank Delventhal amazed and alarmed us with his feats of strength during our recent chat with Patreon backers. Frank has made videos of some of these feats and placed them where lesser mortals may see them. One particularly terrifying example may be found below.

 

 

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Earlier this month, Paul and I joined Joe and Eoghan from the How We Roll podcast for a Call of Cthulhu one-shot. Unfortunately, Matt was unable to join us. Mike Mason GMed for the session, using Servants of the Lake, a scenario from the forthcoming Chaosium collection, Doors to Darkness.

We recorded the game, and Joe chopped it up into three episodes, along with a short postscript where we chatted about Call of Cthulhu. If you’ve listened to How We Roll before, you’ll know that Joe is a master of applying sound effects and background music, and this episode is no exception.

All the episodes are now available on Soundcloud. Alternatively, here is the episode downloads page on the How We Roll website, where you can select Servants of the Lake from the drop-down menu.