Masks of Nyarlathotep part 2

Masks of Nyarlathotep part 2

Would you like a peek behind the new Masks of Nyarlathotep? After last episode‘s spoiler-free discussion of the classic campaign, this time we’re revealing all. Mike Mason and Lynne Hardy from Chaosium join Paul Fricker and Scott Dorward for an extended chat. This means we have the full team responsible for the revision offering insights into what to expect from the new Masks of Nyarlathotep.

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Unfortunately, Matt wasn’t able to join us for the main discussion. Sure, having a day job assures him a steady income and plenty of money to spend on plush abominations, but we freelancers get to talk about games during working hours. It seems like a fair trade-off. We managed to record some additional segments with him, however, in which he discusses his own experiences with the campaign.

Masks of Nyarlathotep cover


Appropriately enough, our good friends at the How We Roll Podcast are preparing to play the new Peru chapter of Masks of Nyarlathotep. They have asked Scott to run it for them, as he wrote it, and it would have been rude to say no. The recording should happen in August, with episodes appearing later in the year. Watch this space for more details.

How We Roll podcast

And speaking of How We Roll, they are currently releasing their recording of Scott’s scenario Bleak Prospect, from Nameless Horrors. This is a particularly gruesome game and the crew have done a great job of bringing it to skin-crawling life.

Since we recorded this episode, we have learnt that The Two-Headed Serpent has made the ENnie shortlist for Best Adventure. Paul has put together a short insert and slipped it into the news segment. ENnies voting opens on the 11th of July and closes at midnight EDT on the 21st of July. We would be delighted if you voted for our ophidian baby or any of the fine Call of Cthulhu products from our good friends at Chaosium.

Other Stuff

Wherever a cult of Nyarlathotep gathers, one expects to witness blasphemies. There will be blood sacrifices, orgiastic rites and, of course, chants in alien languages that make the air itself bleed. This episode is a little light on the first two, but we do sing some hellish praises. It’s been a while since we had a new $5 Patreon backer to thank, so maybe your nightmares have subsided. We only hope that the psychic wounds we inflict are suitable offerings to our dark master.


And it’s not only cults who lurk in the dark places of the world, discussing secrets that would break saner minds. We have a lively Google+ community where listeners have offered thoughts on our episode about subterranean spaces in Lovecraft and Call of Cthulhu. Please, come and join us down here in the dark. The echo isn’t too bad once you get used to it and, if you really try, you can ignore the nibbling on your ankle.

Masks of Nyarlathotep part 1

We’re back and we’re excavating ancient horrors, dragging them up into the light and revealing them to a trembling world. This is our spoiler-free discussion of the new edition of Masks of Nyarlathotep, with all four of the authors of the revision offering their inside views. Next episode, we shall remove the mask completely and take a good look at what lurks underneath. Get ready for that 1D10/1D100 SAN roll!

The Black Pharaoh

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The bulk of the episode is an extended chat with Mike Mason and Lynne Hardy of Chaosium. Paul and Scott worked with Mike and Lynne on the revised edition, which allows us to offer all manner of personal insights into the process and result. We talk in general terms about what to expect from the new edition, teasing some of the additions and alterations we made. This new Masks of Nyarlathotep is still the same campaign that everyone has loved for the past 33 years. We have, however, restructured it and fleshed it out, trying to make it as easy as possible for Keepers to absorb. We spend some time explaining what this means, from the additional background for each location to the options for Pulp Cthulhu. Oh, and the new opening chapter, of course.

The Carlyle Expedition

Mike and Lynne were only available during office hours, which unfortunately meant that Matt was unable to join the discussion. We balance this out by having a long chat with Matt about his own Masks experiences at the end of the episode. As with the main discussion, we keep this spoiler-free. Never fear — there will be plenty of spoilers next episode!


Obviously, the big news is that the new edition of Masks of Nyarlathotep will be available from the 1st of July. If you buy the 666-page PDF from Chaosium, you get a discount voucher equal to the full purchase price if you buy the print version. The two-volume slipcase edition is due out later this year.

Masks of Nyarlathotep covers

We also mention the HP Lovecraft Historical Society‘s new Dark Adventure Radio Theater production of Masks of Nyarlathotep. If you have ever heard any of the HPLHS’s other productions, you will know how exciting this news is. The three of us saw a live performance of their adaptation of Day of the Beast at Necronomicon. It captured the essence of the campaign in two short hours and turned it into an exciting theatrical event. What makes the Masks release even more exciting, however, is that the HPLHS are producing a special edition that contains a full set of their excellent handouts and props for the campaign and an even more special edition that includes a horrifying array of physical artefacts.

Masks of Nyarlathotep Gamer Prop Set


Other Stuff

Our investigations have also led us to an extensive discussion about our episode on survival horror. If you wish to join us, grab a machete and hack your way into our Google+ Community. You will find other survivors there, gathered around the campfire, telling each other of the horrors they have heard.

Player Engagement

132: player engagement

We’re back and we’re dangling shiny things in front of our players, making encouraging noises and trying to direct their attention back to the game. This is our discussion of player engagement, specifically what engages us, the things we do to foster it and how we cope when players disengage.

Electric cattle prod to foster player engagement

Not all engagement problems can be solved with a cattle prod. Just most of them.

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In the discussion, we offer some personal insight into what draws us to play a game, which factors keep our enthusiasm fired and what turns us off a game. It’s too often easier to focus on the negative, but we do try to offer lots of positive examples. Our middle-aged inclination to grumble already gets enough outlets.


We were delighted to learn that The Two-Headed Serpent won the Judges’ Award for Best Role-Playing Adventure at UK Games Expo. Congratulations also to Paul Baldowski, whose Three Faces of the Wendigo for The Cthulhu Hack won the Popular Choice Award.

The Two-Headed Serpent

We mention that we have recently recorded an interview with Mike Mason and Lynne Hardy of Chaosium about the new edition of Masks of Nyarlathotep. The interview was substantial, so we have split it into two episodes. With the PDF of Masks due out on the 1st of July, we plan to release both of them next month. We hope the discussion will offer some unique insights, given that Paul and Scott worked on the revision with Mike and Lynne.

Masks of Nyarlathotep book covers

Paul shares some brief thoughts about the Lamentations of the Flame Princess supplement, A Red a Pleasant Land. He has been playing a short campaign of it at the Milton Keynes RPG club, run by our good friend, Oli Palmer. We plan to record an episode exploring the book in more detail later this year.

Other Stuff

We have had plenty of engagement on social media. There was some lively discussion on Google+ about our recent episode on cats. Happily, it was all playful and no one walked away with any scratches.


And enjoy the peace while you can. There is no singing to new Patreon backers in this episode, but there shall be before the end of the month. The anticipation is often worse than the reality. Not always, however…

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…”

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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.


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.

Survival Horror

We’re back and we’re counting our shells, holding our breath and searching for somewhere to hide until dawn. This is our look at the subgenre of survival horror. While we might normally associate survival horror with video games, it certainly has a role in Call of Cthulhu. Sometimes you go looking for secrets man was not meant to know, and sometimes they come looking for you.

“He’s behind you!”

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We start out by trying to define what survival horror is, using examples from media. It’s a surprisingly hard thing to pin down. What are the common factors that define the genre and only the genre? Where do slasher movies end and survival horror begin? Who ate the last protein bar, probably condemning the rest of us to death? From there, we talk about how (and if) we would run a survival horror game. Finally, we wrap up the discussion by brainstorming a few survival horror plot hooks.

Some hooks are grabbier than others.


We have started playtesting the final chapter of A Poison Tree. This is the massive multi-generational campaign we are writing for Trail of Cthulhu. The first playtest started over 3 1/2 years ago, so this has been a long, strange trip. Given that the campaign takes place over the span of 350 years, this may not be unreasonable. It will still take us a while to finish writing this beast up, so don’t expect to see it before next year at the earliest. We shall keep you posted.

Speaking of epic campaigns we developed, Seth Skorkosky has released the first of a series of video reviews of The Two-Headed Serpent. His first episode covers the opening chapter, set in Bolivia. These reviews are aimed at potential Keepers, offering tips based on Seth’s experience of running the campaign. Unsurprisingly, spoilers abound.

Paul will be joining Mike Mason on the RPG Design subreddit for an AMA (Ask Me Anything — Reddit-speak for a Q&A session) from the 6th of May. Join them there if you have any questions about game design or would simply like to know if Paul would rather fight 100 duck-sized horses or 1 horse-sized duck.

If you hold on until the end of this episode, you will also find an interview with Susan O’Brien of Chaosium. She talks to Paul about the ongoing Kickstarter campaign for their new board game, Miskatonic University: The Restricted Collection. The campaign has been chewing through stretch goals like a hungry bookworm, so there are plenty of sanity-blasting goodies on offer. At the time of posting, you have just 7 days left to back the project. Best be quick!

Other Stuff

In our social media catch-up, we pick out a few choice posts from the Google+ thread about our Yog-Sothoth episode. Our discussion of Linus Larsson’s comments sent us off on tangents, namely Flatland and Flat Stanley. To keep things to time, we only pick out a few choice snippets from these threads. If you are interested in the topic, we highly recommend checking out the full discussion on our G+ Community.

Survival horror is all about struggling through situations that would destroy lesser people. The same can be said of any episode in which we sing, such as this one. This assault on your senses and moral fibre is our way of thanking those special people who back us at the $5 tier on Patreon. Just hold tight and wait for dawn.