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.

News

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.

Patreon

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.

News

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!

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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.

Cats in Call of Cthulhu and Lovecraft

We’re back and we’re chasing our tails, trying to lick our nether regions and hissing at anyone who looks at us funny. Meow. This is our look into the role of cats in Call of Cthulhu. Lovecraft was famously fond of cats. He kept them as pets throughout his life, and wrote about their exploits in his letters and stories. Inevitably, this means that cats have found their way into Call of Cthulhu. As any cat owner will tell you, cats can turn up in the most unexpected places. I regularly had to rescue one of mine from up the living room chimney.

Although most of them have had the decency to stay out of my skull.

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We kick off by looking at cats in Lovecraft’s work. Along with his fiction, we find inky pawprints in his poetry, essays and correspondence. The main works we discuss are:

When researching this episode, we were surprised to realise that the goddess Bast does not actually appear in Lovecraft’s fiction. He mentions the city of Bubastis in passing, but its patron deity is merely name-checked in Cats and Dogs. Her presence in the Call of Cthulhu rulebook seems to owe more to Robert Bloch than Lovecraft. Even then, Bloch’s version of Bast is a very different creature, especially in The Brood of Bubastis. We discuss these variations and how they might influence our games.

Chaos tries to influence my games, usually by lying on my arms as I’m trying to write them.

Of course, we also look at Cats in Call of Cthulhu and some other Lovecraftian RPGs. There are a surprising number of games in which you can play a cat and fight eldritch horrors. We mention a few of them.

We also offer a few ideas about how you might use cats in your games. Personally, we let our feline friends bat our dice around the table whenever we need to roll. Paul’s cat, Ginnie, takes payment for this by drinking our tea, which seems a fair exchange.

News

All three of us managed to make it to Concrete Cow this time around and we even ran some games. In case you haven’t heard us mention it before, Concrete Cow is Milton Keynes’ own gaming convention, held twice a year in March and September. If you fancy coming along and joining one of our games there, the next one is scheduled for the 15th of September.

Other Stuff

Most of us have suffered cats yowling outside our windows at night. Their screeches can pierce the very soul, driving sleep far away, leaving only frustration and pain. Taking inspiration from these midnight serenades, we offer two new songs in this episode. These are our caterwauling way of saying thank you to those generous people who back us at the $5 level on Patreon. We have almost caught up with our backlog of people to sing to, so if you are still waiting, your torment is closer than you think.

Comedy in RPGs

Episode 127: Comedy in RPGs

We’re back and we’re splitting our sides, busting a gut and otherwise rupturing ourselves in the pursuit of comedy. It’s rare to find a gaming table where no one is laughing, even if the subject of the game is grim or horrible. Whether we like it or not, humour is a big part of RPGs. We may play Call of Cthulhu to scare ourselves, but more often than not, we dispel that fear with laughter. Sadly, the converse is rarely true, otherwise, games of Toon would end in glorious, screaming terror.

Toon cover

Or even more so, in Matt’s case.

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It may seem odd for a horror podcast to discuss comedy in RPGs, but as we’ve mentioned in other episodes, humour and horror often go hand-in-hand. Both rely on build-ups of tension, released by an unexpected, absurd or extreme revelation. And, obviously, both involve clowns.

Unsettling clown

Mr Tickles wants to play a game with you.

We talk about the role humour plays in our games, what it is that makes a game funny and how this can all go wrong. Sometimes we really don’t want a game to be comedic, and while we can never cut out those moments of release, we offer some ideas about how to encourage a more serious tone. There are also types of humour we might not want in our games, and we talk a little about how to address this when it comes up.

News

Matt recently received his long-awaited copy of the Temple Edition of Call of Cthulhu 7th edition. This might be the most expensive RPG book ever produced, and Matt talks a little about what makes it so special. He has also written a detailed article about his new precious, accompanied by plenty of photographs.

Covers of the Temple Edition

Possibly the most expensive RPG book in the world.

As we mentioned recently, The Lovecraft Tapes podcast has been running through Scott’s scenario Hell in Texas, from The Things We Leave Behind. Gabe from The Lovecraft Tapes interviewed Scott about the scenario, Call of Cthulhu and some other, rather strange things. Be warned that this interview contains mild spoilers for Hell in Texas.

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Laughter can be musical, like the chimes of delicate bells cascading in delight. Sometimes, however, it is nasal, braying or discordant, grating upon the nerves, leading the listener to imagine smothering the person laughing, or ripping out their vocal cords. The same is true of singing. We leave it to you to determine which applies to our latest efforts. Once again, we have two new $5 Patreon backers to thank in our own exuberant manner. We certainly laughed during the recording session, although maybe not in an entirely wholesome manner.