Episode 100 – The Good Friends ponder the appeal of Lovecraft

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The Appeal of Lovecraft

We’re back and we’ve made it to 100! There’s no sign of our telegram from the Queen yet, but it will surely be here any minute. We have spent countless hours sitting around in a drafty shed or clustering around a microphone perched on a teetering pile of books to get here. Much of that time was spent in helpless laughter or streams of virulent profanity, but Paul has done an excellent job of editing around this to leave you with something resembling a podcast. And now we have 100 episodes to show for it (or 102, if you count the specials, which we are choosing not to). We could scarcely be more excited!

Lovecraft smiling

This episode is so exciting that it almost made Howie grin.

To celebrate our centuried status, we thought we’d tackle a big topic. As Call of Cthulhu writers, it’s no exaggeration to say that Lovecraft plays a central role in our lives. He is a larger presence than many people we actually know in person and who aren’t dead. But why is this the case? What is it about the man and his work that exerts such a hold on us?

Lovecraft was a complex figure, and while this episode is largely a celebration of what we love about his work, we try not to shy away from his negative aspects, most notably his racism. We hope the result is a balanced, reasonable discussion.

The latter part of the episode is given over to an interview with Sandy Petersen, creator of Call of Cthulhu, in which he discusses the influence Lovecraft has had on his own life and work. Unsurprisingly, he has some deep and fascinating insights to share.

Clearly the smile of a man who has spent decades getting to the heart of Lovecraft.

And, once again, there is singing. We have a large number of Patreon backers to thank, including several at the $5 level. Regular listeners will know that this means that we create aural nightmares to thank these brave and generous people. We actually tried to sing this time instead of just making strange, gibbering noises. I’m not convinced the result is any less disturbing. Once again, to limit the damage done, we have restricted ourselves to two songs. This means that there are still several people waiting for us to sing our thanks to them, and we will share them over the next few episodes.

Posted in H.P. Lovecraft, Horror Stories, The Good Friends of Jackson Elias | Leave a comment

The Blasphemous Tome issue 2 goes to press

Issue 2 of the print-only fanzine The Blasphemous Tome will be sent to our Patreon backers in mid-March. Anyone who is a backer by Sunday the 12th of March will receive a copy.

This is the fanzine we produce exclusively for Patreon backers of The Good Friends of Jackson Elias podcast. We will send at least one copy to all backers.

  • Everyone pledging at the $1 level will receive one copy
  • Everyone pledging at the $3 level will receive one signed copy
  • Everyone pledging at the $5 level will receive two copies, one of which will be signed

The Blasphemous Tome only exists in printed form, like the fanzines of yore. Paul and Scott come from an age when ‘zines were our internet forums, connecting gamers across the world. In order to recapture the spirit of that time, Matt has worked hard to make the Tome look like an artefact from the 1980s. Issue 1 featured skewed columns, paste marks and liberal use of the Courier font. Matt regularly reminds Paul and Scott how much he hates us for making him do this.

This issue sees the return of several columns, as well as some new features. Highlights include:

  • A Peek Inside the Recording Studio
  • Cocktail Corner
  • The Ludomancers
  • Interview with a Listener
  • After Lovecraft
  • Vinyl Corner
  • 2016: A Year of Horrors
  • Episodes of Insanity
  • Plush of the Month
  • Cold Hand in Mine
  • Die, die, die!
  • Who is Jackson Elias?
  • How to Sing Like the Good Friends
  • Pet’s Corner

We have also collaborated on a new scenario for this issue. It involves three friends who create a blasphemous tome. Recursion holds no fear for us!

The excellent cover art comes from good friend of the Good Friends, Jonathan Wyke. You may recognise his work from Nameless Horrors and Pulp Cthulhu.

Issue 2 also features submissions from listeners. We have been sent a selection of monsters and would like you to judge them, picking out the most nightmarish. We also have also received some artwork and articles to inspire your games, and we are sure you will be as delighted with them as we are.

Posted in Site News, The Blasphemous Tome, The Good Friends of Jackson Elias | 1 Comment

Episode 99: The Good Friends grovel before My Life with Master

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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!

Posted in Other Podcasts, Roleplaying Games, The Blasphemous Tome, The Good Friends of Jackson Elias | Leave a comment

Episode 98: The Good Friends swear the oaths of Dagon

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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!

Posted in Call of Cthulhu, H.P. Lovecraft, Horror Films, Horror Stories, Inspiration, Roleplaying Games, The Good Friends of Jackson Elias | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Episode 97: The Good Friends go to extremes in gaming

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We’re back and we’re heading into uncomfortable territory. This is our discussion about extreme subject matter in games. As you might surmise, the conversation gets a little unpleasant at times. It is hard to talk about things that genuinely upset us without talking about things that, um, genuinely upset us. Inevitably, this leads us to discuss topics such as sexual violence, cruelty to children and animals, gore, necrophilia and cannibalism. If you are worried that we might bring up something you really don’t want to hear, it’s probably safest to assume that we do.

We start off by trying to define our terms, using examples from media — mainly horror films — that exemplify what we mean by “extreme”. We largely focus on the difficulties of portraying extreme content, whether this is repelling your audience, being so focused on transgression that you fail to do anything interesting or crossing the line into unintentional farce.

This episode isn’t just a catalogue of atrocities, however. We try to identify where our own boundaries lie, how to handle it when a game crosses the line and possible techniques to stop players becoming uncomfortable (in the wrong way) without neutering the game. This last topic in particular, tricky as it is, is one we care passionately about. All three of us run a lot of horror games at conventions or online, often for people we’ve never met before, and there is a world of difference between making someone’s skin crawl in a fun way and stirring up horrible emotions that will leave them upset afterwards. Finding that balance isn’t always easy and we’ve all made missteps.

This was one of the longest recording sessions we’ve had. We spent the best part of three hours dissecting these topics, trying to work out where our respective boundaries lie and why they are there. We were stopped only by sore feet and the encroachment of teatime. Paul has been fairly brutal in cutting down our rambling, removing redundant examples and circular arguments. We hope that we have left you with only the juiciest meat of the discussion.

Posted in Call of Cthulhu, Horror Films, Roleplaying Games, The Good Friends of Jackson Elias | 8 Comments