160: Making Call of Cthulhu scary

We’re back and we’re hiding under the bed. Maybe this dark, twisted shape that’s creeping around the house won’t find us here. The anticipation is making us quake in terror. Not knowing what the hell it is definitely doesn’t help. How did we end up in this state? And, more importantly, how can we make other people feel like this?

Main topic: Making Call of Cthulhu Scary

This episode is our look at what makes a game of Call of Cthulhu scary. We focus on Call of Cthulhu because that’s what we do, but the elements we discuss could apply to any horror game. Fear is a pretty universal thing.

When we say that fear is universal, we mean that there are some main strands of fear that run through us all. The specifics and triggers may be different, but there are many commonalities. Inspired by this article in Psychology Today, we go through some of these basic fears, looking at how they might come into play.

Not every attempt to be scary works.

Additionally, we offer some tips about the techniques we use and some insights into if and how we’ve been scared by games. Is scaring players possible or even desirable? Are there right ways and wrong ways to make people feel uncomfortable at the gaming table? Where does that line lie?

Links

Other things we mention in this episode include:

News

Necronomicon 2019

The Good Friends are gearing up to go to Necronomicon 2019 in Providence next month. We will be pretty busy while we’re there, but we hope to meet as many of you as possible. Please say hi if you spot us in the wild. At least two of us don’t bite. Those are pretty good odds.

The Blasphemous Tome 4.5

We have finished the writing and editing of the special interim edition of The Blasphemous Tome. Matt is poised to lay the issue out as soon as we have the last two pieces of artwork. At present, we expect to get the Tome to backers by the middle of this month (July 2019).

The Blasphemous Tome is the fanzine we produce exclusively for Patreon backers of The Good Friends of Jackson Elias. It is normally a print publication, but this special extra is a PDF. Everyone backing us by the end of July will receive a copy. See our recent post for more details.

Burning Luck Reviews

Good friend of the Good Friends, Max Mahaffa, has started up a review page on Facebook, titled Burning Luck Reviews. Check out his review of the Call of Cthulhu Starter Set, with more to follow.

Other Stuff

Songs

Few fears are more universal than those evoked by our singing. We have such a bout of terror to share with you this episode, offered in praise of a new Patreon backer. Any exhortation not to have nightmares would be pointless. Tremble away!

Merchandise

We keep forgetting to mention that we have some Good Friends merchandise available. If you would like a T-shirt that tells the world that you are a good friend of Jackson Elias or a mug that warns of the danger of Attract Fish, check out our Redbubble store!

Reviews

We share another lovely new review of the podcast this episode. Such kind words sustain us and, more importantly, help others find the podcast. We are profoundly grateful for every review we receive. If you write a review of your own on Apple Podcasts or wherever you download our episodes, we would be delighted to hear about it.

Issue 4.5 of The Blasphemous Tome is out!

The Blasphemous Tome is the regular fanzine that we create for Patreon backers of The Good Friends of Jackson Elias podcast. It contains plenty of sanity-blasting content for the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game, along with original artwork, fiction, reviews and many other articles.

Unlike previous Tomes, issue 4.5 is a PDF, not a print publication. This is a special interim edition, packed with articles we couldn’t fit in issue 4 and lots of new content.

Issue 5, due later this year, will be print-only as usual.

Everyone backing us via Patreon by the end of July will receive a digital copy of issue 4.5.

Contents

Featured in this issue is a brand-new Call of Cthulhu scenario by our very own Paul Fricker, titled “Fall Out”.

Jonathan Weisner has taken hostages and is holed up at his country house in Massachusetts. Elements of the past are about to mix with the present, leaving the investigators to pick up the pieces.

The cover comes from John Sumrow, one of our favourite eldritch artists. There is plenty of interior artwork too, featuring pieces from Evan Dorkin, Emily Fricker and more from John Sumrow.

The articles in this issue include:

  • Sounds Alarming
    • Scott offers troubling insights into the noises we make for our backer songs
  • Cocktail Corner
    • Another of Matt’s favourite cocktail recipes, along with a little history about the drink in question
  • “Fall Out”
    • A brand-new modern-day Call of Cthulhu scenario from Paul
  • “Diary of an Unnamed Corpse”
    • An eerie tale of black magic set in 1920s Vienna, by Joerg Sterner
  • The Sanderson Collection
    • Matt reveals another rarity from the dusty corners of his library
  • Secrets of Milton Keynes
    • Scott presents the first in a series of Call of Cthulhu scenario hooks set in the home town of the Good Friends
  • Possible Worlds and Realism
    • Grant Dowell offers techniques for making our game worlds more realistic by using formal logic
  • The Forgotten
    • A macabre weird tale by Scott

How Do I Get a Copy?

If you would like to receive your copy of The Blasphemous Tome 4.5, all you have to do is back us on Patreon at any level before the end of July 2019.

Covers from bygone Tomes

Please note that we do not sell copies of The Blasphemous Tome. It is purely a reward for the wonderful people who back us via Patreon.

The Blasphemous Tome is licensed for the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game by Chaosium, inc.

158: Mythos Deities: Hastur

We’re back and we’re taking a last look around Carcosa, wondering where all these tentacles came from. Robert W Chambers was more concerned with masks, moons and mists. Now there seem to be monsters everywhere and people are calling Hastur a god. Who is responsible for all this? Like everything relating to Carcosa, the answer is elusive and ambiguous.

Main Topic: Hastur

For the past few episodes, we’ve explored the Carcosa Mythos of Robert W Chambers. Its most famous elements — The King in Yellow, the Yellow Sign and Hastur — are usually seen as part of the Cthulhu Mythos, but we worked hard to keep these elements separate. Well, this is the episode in which we mash it all up again. Hail Hastur!

See? Tentacles! Tentacles everywhere!

We go on a deep dive into the Lake of Hali, trying to understand just what Hastur is. Bierce created him as a benign god of shepherds. Chambers took the name and made him a star (or maybe a place, or a person…) Lovecraft mentioned the name in passing but never defined anything. Derleth turned Hastur back into a god, or at least a Great Old One. Lin Carter added the Chambers back into Derleth’s work. Call of Cthulhu added new layers of complexity and John Tynes tore it all down and wrote a new mythology. So where does that leave Hastur? And how did the King in Yellow become his avatar when there is no mention of this in Chambers, Lovecraft or Derleth?

Hastur is an unusual deity, even by the standards of the Mythos. The Malleus Monstorum lists a number of avatars with no real thematic connection. He is associated with a variety of creatures, some of which seem like odd choices. Beyond his connection to The King in Yellow, it can be difficult to know what to do with him. We spend the latter half of the episode coming up with ways we might use Hastur in our games.

Links

Some of the specific works we mention in this episode include:

News

Masks of Nyarlathotep Nominated for Origins Award

The Origins Awards will be announced on Saturday the 15th of June, shortly after this episode goes out. Masks of Nyarlathotep is on the shortlist for Best Roleplaying Supplement. We shall keep you posted about how it fares.

The Blasphemous Tome 4b

Issue 4b of The Blasphemous Tome is slithering towards completion. This is our first attempt at a supplemental Tome, using some of the material we were unable to fit in issue 4. There will also be a bumper crop of specially written material, including a brand new Call of Cthulhu scenario from our very own Paul Fricker. You can also look forward to the mix of articles, fiction and art that you’ve come to expect from earlier Tomes. Unlike the previous editions, however, The Blasphemous Tome 4b will be a PDF-only publication. Anyone backing us at the time of release (probably early July) will receive a copy via Patreon.

Fictoplasm

If you would like to listen to a different take on The King in Yellow, Scott recently joined Ralph Lovegrove on his excellent podcast, Fictoplasm. They speculated about what the foundations of horror roleplaying might have been if Chambers rather than Lovecraft had been its main influence. This was just part of a longer series in which Ralph has explored novels in which fantastical works of fiction have proved more real than anticipated.

Other Stuff

Songs

Wise souls fear to speak the name of Hastur the Unmentionable. They know that the right words have the power to tear the world apart, letting madness rush in. Our songs have the same effect. We present two of them in this episode, offered in thanks to new Patreon backers.

We’re back and we’re checking the dark corners of the corpse fridge of R’lyeh for tasty eldritch horrors, hoping that they’re not past their sell-by date. There’s something that looks like calamari in the dark, non-Euclidean recesses. We just hope he’s supposed to smell like that.

Main Topic: Keeping Cthulhu Fresh


On second thoughts, the stench of death is the mildest affront he presents to our senses.

This episode is almost the opposite of our recent look at Cthulhu For Beginners. Between us, we’ve been playing Call of Cthulhu for something like 90 years. Not quite strange aeons, but still a pretty damn long time. How do we keep our games fresh? Are we happy playing the same kinds of scenarios and characters or do we prefer to shake things up? What keeps us coming back to fight the forces of the Mythos over and over? We offer some personal insights and tips for Keepers and players alike.

Here’s a first: one of our tips is not to set everything on fire.

As if our tips weren’t enough, we also have some insights from Mike Mason, line editor for Call of Cthulhu. Paul had a short chat with him about the longevity of Call of Cthulhu, which you can find toward the end of the episode.

News

Masks of Nyarlathotep with How We Roll

A little while ago, Scott recorded an all-star Call of Cthulhu game with How We Roll. Joe and Eoghan were joined by Veronica from Cthulhu and Friends, Keeper Murph from the Miskatonic University Podcast and Seth Skorkowsky from the best damn gaming videos on the internet. Scott ran his introductory Peru scenario from the latest edition of Masks of Nyarlathotep. The game went out live on Chaosium’s Twitch channel, although technical problems stopped the video from being recorded. There is still an audio recording, however, which will appear in upcoming episodes of How We Roll. We shall alert you when Joe unleashes them upon the listening public.

Necronomicon and Gen Con

The Good Friends are heading off to Providence again! We have booked our flights and accommodation for Necronomicon in August and hope to see many of you there. Paul will also be attending Gen Con this year, offering you an additional opportunity to stalk him.

Other Stuff

Social Media

We’ve been mentioned on a couple of fine podcasts. Our good friend Lord Mordi asked the hosts of Pretending to be People to give us a shout out, and what a shout out it was! You can hear it in episode 12, although this shouldn’t be the only episode you listen to. Pretending to be People is an unusual mix of Delta Green and Pulp Cthulhu, with great production values, strong voice acting and lots of imagination.

And The Podcaster in Darkness listed us as one of his favourite horror podcasts in his inaugural episode. Thank you! You should check him out if you have any interest in horror (and if you don’t, we would love to know how you got here!)

Songs

More than merely fresh, our songs are timeless. That is, they exist outside the natural flow of time, waiting, ready to destroy the minds of those they encounter. There are two such horrors in this episode, bringing us nearer to clearing the backlog we owe to our Patreon backers. If you are still waiting for a song, please be patient — it will find you soon enough.

As terrifying as our songs are, there are worse out there. Some listeners have asked us about The Wurzels, who we riffed on in one of our Dunwich Horror episodes. Here are a few more of their songs, just to prove that we didn’t make them up. We may write horror, but even we have limits.

We’re back and we’re trying to maintain our grasp on reality. This is tenuous at the best of times, and all this conflation with imagination is doing it no favours. In this episode, when we say “reality”, we mean the reality of the game world we’re playing in. Is that even a reasonable term to use when talking about a setting filled with malevolent alien creatures from beyond space and time?

Main Topic: Realism in RPG Settings

You expect me to believe in a world populated by entities from forgotten times, willing to destroy entire nations for their own selfish ends? Pshaw!

This episode is our attempt to understand what makes a game setting feel real. We looked at the role of game mechanics last episode, but they are only one piece of the puzzle. In order for players to buy into a game, they generally have to find the setting plausible. How does this apply to RPGs set in worlds of fantasy, science fiction or weird horror? And what aspects of historical accuracy make or break a game?

News

Google+ Shutdown

In the news segment, we offer another reminder that our Google+ community is going away on the 2nd of April. To be fair, all of G+ is shutting down then, but we’re focusing on the important stuff. You can still find us on Discord, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Patreon and under your bed at night.


PodUK

Scott shares his experiences at PodUK, where he recorded a live episode with How We Roll and Dirk the Dice from The Grognard Files. We released the recording of our playthrough of Leigh Carr’s marvellous scenario “The Necropolis” as a special episode. There were a number of other fine podcasts there, including Orphans, Wooden Overcoats, Victoriocity, Death in Ice Valley and Flintlocks & Fireballs. Why not put some of them in your ears?

And we offer another reminder that we are working on issue 4 1/2 of The Blasphemous Tome. This is the digital sibling to our print-only fanzine, destined to travel across the digital ghoul winds to our Patreon backers this summer.

Other Stuff

Raw Episodes

We are still releasing the raw versions of new episodes on our Patreon RSS feed. Episode 152’s unedited version is especially long as it also includes our first attempt at talking about this topic. The two takes are very different, and while we were happier with the second, the first has some good stuff in it. You can also find our Weird Whisperings on the Patreon RSS feed. These are the occasional recordings we make of some of the weird tales we’ve discussed.

Songs

There are two songs in this episode. Suspending your disbelief won’t save you. These are, as ever, our hideous method of thanking new $5 Patreon backers. We still have a few more of you to thank, but only dare to record two songs per episode. I’m sure you can understand why. If your song has yet to find you, it will soon. Some things are shudderingly inevitable.