We’re back, and we’re doing our homework. In particular, we’re looking at what kinds of research can help GMs and players give their games depth, possible sources of information and how not to lose your mind during the process. OK, we may not be the best people to help with that last item.
We’re joined for part of the episode by Bret Kramer, editor of the Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion and the Arkham Gazette. Bret’s detailed work on these projects and his background in academia allow him to offer somewhat more substantial tips and insights than our usual “spend five minutes on Wikipedia” approach.
We forgot to mention it last time, but we’ve introduced a new segment, named Lovecraftian Word of the Week. We select an unusual word found in Lovecraft’s work, define it, give examples from stories, and then fumblingly try to use it in a sentence. The results are often detestable, which, by a remarkable coincidence, is our word for this episode.
And we have new Patreon backers, including two who were brave enough to get us to sing their praises! Paul seems to have discovered some new effects to apply to our already eldritch voices. The final result may induce light-headedness, bleeding from orifices and a sickening realisation of the futility of human existence.
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One thing worth noting is the importance of not taking when doing research.
Yes, good point! I have dozens of notebooks full of research notes, scraps of ideas, work in progress and interesting nuggets of information I’ve stumbled across. I’d be lost without them.
These days I also use OneNote for such things, as it backs up my work as I go and replicates it to all my devices. I hear that EverNote does the same thing and is at least as good, although I’ve never done more than played with it briefly.
I am prone to getting bogged down in research that even I admit is excessive: it’s good to know how long a train trip across the USA in the 1930s takes and how often they run, but a full timetable is a bit much. (But then the PCs want to break their journey in Chicago, and suddenly it matters just how long the stopover is.)
I think that running a game is very much like writing fiction: you should know far more than you put on the page/in the session. Then when the players do something unexpected, you have a framework for resolving whatever they come up with. Writing a scenario for publication has room for more background information, though I don’t want to go the route of some modern special editions which have so much stuff that they make finding things in their own source material a research task in itself.
My most research-heavy game is a WWII-plus-hidden-magic campaign which has tended to include real people as well as the other things discussed here. Never mind when a gun came into service, what would Kim Philby or Maxwell Knight or Simo Häyhä do when confronted with this situation?
That was a very enjoyable scenario. Very weird and dreamlike.
Hi Steve – had to cast my mind back to remember what it was that you were referring to there – the wild west Cthulhu game a few years back that I mentioned in show 52 of course – yes, fun times!
RogerBW — Agreed. The exception, I suppose, would be when things take an unexpected turn. Maybe you didn’t expect your players to take that train and thought that they’d just phone a local contact. In cases like this I’m normally happy to gloss over such details or defer to the players’ expectations, especially if some of them know more than I do.
That’s an inspiring selection of NPCs! I find Philby fascinating, and even wrote him up as one of the sample trainers in the upcoming SOE Handbook.
Good episode, but I’m surprised not one of you mentioned Project Gutenberg, I’ve found it a good source for old travel/tourist guides.
You’re right, Graham! I’ve even been delving into some Gutenberg material recently, such as Cotton Mather’s deliriously insane Wonders of the Invisible World, so that was a serious oversight.
Great podcast! Thanks for the mention! I am always at hand to lend my Greek expertise!
Thanks, Elina! We will almost certainly take you up on that with some of the Cold War material!