160: Making Call of Cthulhu scary

We’re back and we’re hiding under the bed. Maybe this dark, twisted shape that’s creeping around the house won’t find us here. The anticipation is making us quake in terror. Not knowing what the hell it is definitely doesn’t help. How did we end up in this state? And, more importantly, how can we make other people feel like this?

Main topic: Making Call of Cthulhu Scary

This episode is our look at what makes a game of Call of Cthulhu scary. We focus on Call of Cthulhu because that’s what we do, but the elements we discuss could apply to any horror game. Fear is a pretty universal thing.

When we say that fear is universal, we mean that there are some main strands of fear that run through us all. The specifics and triggers may be different, but there are many commonalities. Inspired by this article in Psychology Today, we go through some of these basic fears, looking at how they might come into play.

Not every attempt to be scary works.

Additionally, we offer some tips about the techniques we use and some insights into if and how we’ve been scared by games. Is scaring players possible or even desirable? Are there right ways and wrong ways to make people feel uncomfortable at the gaming table? Where does that line lie?

Links

Other things we mention in this episode include:

News

Necronomicon 2019

The Good Friends are gearing up to go to Necronomicon 2019 in Providence next month. We will be pretty busy while we’re there, but we hope to meet as many of you as possible. Please say hi if you spot us in the wild. At least two of us don’t bite. Those are pretty good odds.

The Blasphemous Tome 4.5

We have finished the writing and editing of the special interim edition of The Blasphemous Tome. Matt is poised to lay the issue out as soon as we have the last two pieces of artwork. At present, we expect to get the Tome to backers by the middle of this month (July 2019).

The Blasphemous Tome is the fanzine we produce exclusively for Patreon backers of The Good Friends of Jackson Elias. It is normally a print publication, but this special extra is a PDF. Everyone backing us by the end of July will receive a copy. See our recent post for more details.

Burning Luck Reviews

Good friend of the Good Friends, Max Mahaffa, has started up a review page on Facebook, titled Burning Luck Reviews. Check out his review of the Call of Cthulhu Starter Set, with more to follow.

Other Stuff

Songs

Few fears are more universal than those evoked by our singing. We have such a bout of terror to share with you this episode, offered in praise of a new Patreon backer. Any exhortation not to have nightmares would be pointless. Tremble away!

Merchandise

We keep forgetting to mention that we have some Good Friends merchandise available. If you would like a T-shirt that tells the world that you are a good friend of Jackson Elias or a mug that warns of the danger of Attract Fish, check out our Redbubble store!

Reviews

We share another lovely new review of the podcast this episode. Such kind words sustain us and, more importantly, help others find the podcast. We are profoundly grateful for every review we receive. If you write a review of your own on Apple Podcasts or wherever you download our episodes, we would be delighted to hear about it.

Issue 4.5 of The Blasphemous Tome is almost ready for distribution!

What is The Blasphemous Tome?

The Blasphemous Tome is the regular fanzine that we create for Patreon backers of The Good Friends of Jackson Elias podcast. It contains plenty of sanity-blasting content for the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game, along with original artwork, fiction, reviews and many other articles.

Unlike previous editions of the Tome, issue 4.5 is not a print publication. Instead, we are releasing it as a PDF. This is a special interim edition, sharing articles we couldn’t fit in issue 4, along with lots of new content.

Issue 5, due later this year, will be print-only as usual.

Everyone backing us via Patreon by the end of July will receive a digital copy of issue 4.5.

Contents

Featured in this issue is a new Call of Cthulhu scenario by our very own Paul Fricker, titled “Fall Out”.

Jonathan Weisner has taken hostages and is holed up at his country house in Massachusetts. Elements of the past are about to mix with the present, leaving the investigators to pick up the pieces.

The cover comes from John Sumrow, one of our favourite eldritch artists. There is plenty of interior artwork too, featuring pieces from Evan Dorkin, Lucy Fricker, Emily Fricker and more from John Sumrow.

The articles in this issue include:

  • Sounds Alarming
    • Scott offers troubling insights into the noises we make for the backer songs
  • Cocktail Corner
    • Another of Matt’s favourite cocktail recipes, along with a little history about the drink in question
  • “Fall Out”
    • A brand-new modern-day Call of Cthulhu scenario from Paul
  • “Diary of an Unnamed Corpse”
    • An eerie tale of black magic set in 1920s Vienna, by Joerg Sterner
  • The Sanderson Collection
    • Matt reveals another rarity from the dusty corners of his library
  • Secrets of Milton Keynes
    • Scott presents the first in a series of Call of Cthulhu scenario hooks set in the home town of the Good Friends
  • Possible Worlds and Realism
    • Grant Dowell offers some techniques for making our game worlds more realistic by using formal logic
  • The Forgotten
    • A macabre weird tale by Scott

How Do I Get a Copy?

If you would like to receive your copy of The Blasphemous Tome 4.5, all you have to do is back us on Patreon at any level before the end of July 2019.

Covers from bygone Tomes

Please note that we do not sell copies of The Blasphemous Tome. It is purely a reward for the wonderful people who back us via Patreon.

The Blasphemous Tome is licensed for the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game by Chaosium, inc.

We’re back with another live recording, this time coming to you from UK Games Expo in Birmingham. To be clear, the “we” in this case means “Paul”. Identity is a mutable concept amongst the Good Friends.

Paul joined our good friends Baz and Gaz from the Smart Party and Dirk the Dice from The Grognard Files for a chat about how to run games at conventions. At least one other attendee of this year’s Expo could have benefited from their wisdom. We’ve all had games go wrong at conventions, but none go so badly wrong that they made the national news!

And as a reminder, Paul and Dirk also recently joined Baz and Gaz for their 100th episode. If you haven’t listened to it yet, strap on your ears and do so at once!

Episode 157: The Carcosa Mythos in Media and Gaming

We’re back and we’re still blundering around in all this infernal mist. There is a sound of lapping water in the distance, but we’re more worried about the way these streets keep changing around us. You’d think someone would have compiled a street map of Carcosa, but no one even seems to be able to agree about what this place is. Let’s concentrate on getting our bearings and try to ignore that sound that’s not quite the laughter of children…

Main Topic: The Carcosa Mythos in Media and Gaming

We are continuing our in-depth look at The King in Yellow, the Carcosa Mythos and the horrors they have spawned. In previous episodes, we have discussed The King in Yellow and “The Yellow Sign”. This time, we’re focusing on how the Carcosa Mythos has been used by other writers, how it has been adapted for film and television, and what we can steal for our games.

Other Media

In the course of our discussion, we mention a number of books, stories, TV programmes and games:

As part of the discussion, we also pick a few favourite Carcosa Mythos stories.

  • Matt
    • “Broadalbin” by John Tynes, from Rehearsals for Oblivion
    • “Movie Night at Phil’s” by Don Webb, from A Season in Carcosa
    • “Beyond the Banks of the River Seine” by Simon Strantzas, from A Season in Carcosa
  • Scott
    • “River of Night’s Dreaming” by Karl Edward Wagner, from The Hastur Cycle
    • “More Light” by James Blish, from The Hastur Cycle
  • Paul
    • “Wishing Well” by Cody Goodfellow, from A Season in Carcosa
    • “Suicide Watch” by Arinn Dembo, from Delta Green: Dark Theaters

Games

We also discuss how we might use specific elements of the Carcosa Mythos in our games, as well as brainstorming a few scenario seeds.

The Yellow Sign badge from Sigh Co

News

UK Games Expo

If you are at UK Games Expo 2019 this weekend (31st of May to 2nd of June), do say hi to Matt and Paul. Both of them will be running games in the Cthulhu Masters tournament. Paul will also be joining our good friends from the Smart Party and Grognard Files podcasts for a seminar.

The Smart Party 100th episode

And speaking of the Smart Party… Paul recently joined Baz and Gaz for their 100th episode in which they offered a state-of-the-nation discussion about gaming.

Other Stuff

A Parcel of Goodies

A fantastically generous listener — Stephen Vandevander — sent us a parcel of goodies. You can hear us unwrap it in the backer segment, along with coos and expressions of heartfelt gratitude. The package included such goodies as The House of the Octopus by Jason Colavito and a spiffy Cthulhu idol from Pacific Giftware. This latter artefact is now watching over our recording studio, bringing fresh madness to every new episode. Thank you very much, Stephen!

As a bonus, you can see Paul’s new Carcosa-themed wallpaper and paint, as mentioned in the episode.

Songs

Those doomed souls lost forever in the mists of Carcosa cry piteously, their wails piercing the soul like daggers of ice. Our cries are more on the joyous side, but they still hurt the soul. We have captured them inside Paul’s computer and transformed them into praises of two new $5 Patreon backers. Soon, all shall despair as those damned souls do.

New iTunes Review

And finally, we were delighted to receive a new review from John Fiala, over on iTunes. These reviews sustain us emotionally and spiritually. If you feel moved to contribute to our wellbeing, or simply help others find our little corner of Carcosa, we would love it if you wrote a review wherever you download your podcasts.

We’re back and we’re checking the dark corners of the corpse fridge of R’lyeh for tasty eldritch horrors, hoping that they’re not past their sell-by date. There’s something that looks like calamari in the dark, non-Euclidean recesses. We just hope he’s supposed to smell like that.

Main Topic: Keeping Cthulhu Fresh


On second thoughts, the stench of death is the mildest affront he presents to our senses.

This episode is almost the opposite of our recent look at Cthulhu For Beginners. Between us, we’ve been playing Call of Cthulhu for something like 90 years. Not quite strange aeons, but still a pretty damn long time. How do we keep our games fresh? Are we happy playing the same kinds of scenarios and characters or do we prefer to shake things up? What keeps us coming back to fight the forces of the Mythos over and over? We offer some personal insights and tips for Keepers and players alike.

Here’s a first: one of our tips is not to set everything on fire.

As if our tips weren’t enough, we also have some insights from Mike Mason, line editor for Call of Cthulhu. Paul had a short chat with him about the longevity of Call of Cthulhu, which you can find toward the end of the episode.

News

Masks of Nyarlathotep with How We Roll

A little while ago, Scott recorded an all-star Call of Cthulhu game with How We Roll. Joe and Eoghan were joined by Veronica from Cthulhu and Friends, Keeper Murph from the Miskatonic University Podcast and Seth Skorkowsky from the best damn gaming videos on the internet. Scott ran his introductory Peru scenario from the latest edition of Masks of Nyarlathotep. The game went out live on Chaosium’s Twitch channel, although technical problems stopped the video from being recorded. There is still an audio recording, however, which will appear in upcoming episodes of How We Roll. We shall alert you when Joe unleashes them upon the listening public.

Necronomicon and Gen Con

The Good Friends are heading off to Providence again! We have booked our flights and accommodation for Necronomicon in August and hope to see many of you there. Paul will also be attending Gen Con this year, offering you an additional opportunity to stalk him.

Other Stuff

Social Media

We’ve been mentioned on a couple of fine podcasts. Our good friend Lord Mordi asked the hosts of Pretending to be People to give us a shout out, and what a shout out it was! You can hear it in episode 12, although this shouldn’t be the only episode you listen to. Pretending to be People is an unusual mix of Delta Green and Pulp Cthulhu, with great production values, strong voice acting and lots of imagination.

And The Podcaster in Darkness listed us as one of his favourite horror podcasts in his inaugural episode. Thank you! You should check him out if you have any interest in horror (and if you don’t, we would love to know how you got here!)

Songs

More than merely fresh, our songs are timeless. That is, they exist outside the natural flow of time, waiting, ready to destroy the minds of those they encounter. There are two such horrors in this episode, bringing us nearer to clearing the backlog we owe to our Patreon backers. If you are still waiting for a song, please be patient — it will find you soon enough.

As terrifying as our songs are, there are worse out there. Some listeners have asked us about The Wurzels, who we riffed on in one of our Dunwich Horror episodes. Here are a few more of their songs, just to prove that we didn’t make them up. We may write horror, but even we have limits.