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.

Main Topic

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…”

Main Topic

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.