220: The Tower of the Elephant

We’re back and we’re preparing to pillage. This weird, shining tower looks like it should contain treasures, or at least an interesting story to discuss. There’s rustling in the undergrowth surrounding it, but we’ll just ignore that for now. If it proves to be something dangerous, Matt can rip up one of his rare Magic: the Gathering cards and blow the remains at it. And once we’re inside, we must find out why they call it Tower of the Elephant. Maybe there’s a petting zoo.

Main Topic: The Tower of the Elephant

After spending a couple of episodes discussing Robert E Howard’s life and works, we’re now exploring one of his stories. “The Tower of the Elephant” was the third Conan tale published and arguably the first to really pin down his character. As well as discussing the story itself, looting it for gaming inspiration, we use it as a springboard to talk about Conan in general.

If you haven’t already done so, you may also want to check out our discussion of the sword and sorcery genre, of which “The Tower of the Elephant” is one of the earliest examples.

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40th Anniversary Edition

This Halloween sees the 40th birthday of Call of Cthulhu. Despite making us feel old, this is a cause for celebration! At Chaosium, the celebration is taking the form of a special 40th anniversary edition of the Call of Cthulhu rulebook. With its leather binding and sinister sigils, this looks like just the kind of tome we were warned would destroy us.

Issue 8 of The Blasphemous Tome

Issue 8 of The Blasphemous Tome is nearing completion. This is the semi-annual fanzine we produce for our Patreon backers, containing brand-new licensed material for the Call of Cthulhu RPG. The latest issue will contain a full-length, modern-day Call of Cthulhu scenario called “Night Bus”, by our own Scott Dorward.

Covers of Tomes of yore

Ain’t Slayed Nobody Halloween Game

Scott is running what seems to have become the annual Halloween game for Ain’t Slayed Nobody. Following the success of last year’s “The Green Pumpkin”, we are improvising another Call of Cthulhu scenario based on listener suggestions. The main theme this time is “Totally Not a Cult Gathering”, with cuppycup, Wes Davis, Rina Haenze, and Joe Trier from How We Roll as players.

The stream goes out on the ASN Twitch and YouTube channels on Wednesday, 27th of October, at 3-6 PM EDT/8-11 PM BST. It will be available on demand at the ASN YouTube channel afterwards, and will eventually appear as a podcast episode too.

We’re back and we’re hitting the books. That’s probably not fair, though. Just because they’re full of boxing tales doesn’t mean they can hit back. And two-fisted stories don’t actually seem to have any fists of their own. We’re beginning to suspect that this fiction stuff is all made up.

Main Topic: The Works of Robert E Howard

This episode is the conclusion of our two-part look into the life and works of Robert E Howard. Last time, we offered an overview of Howard’s life. This time, it’s the turn of his work.

As well as being the creator of Conan the Cimmerian, Solomon Kane, Kull of Atlantis, and the Pictish king, Bran Mak Morn, Howard initiated both the sword and sorcery and weird western genres. In his sadly short career, Howard wrote horror, boxing yarns, comedies, historical adventures, and action stories. With the encouragement of his friend H P Lovecraft, he penned tales of the Cthulhu Mythos. And that’s without mentioning his voluminous poetry output. He was as versatile as he was prolific. While we cover the broad strokes of his career, we would need dozens of episodes just to catalogue his work. As a result, this is an incomplete and highly idiosyncratic summary of Howard’s career and legacy.

Our next episode wraps up this series by exploring one of Howard’s most famous stories, “The Tower of the Elephant”.

Robert E Howard

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Lovecraft in Brooklyn

News

Issue 8 of The Blasphemous Tome

We have started work on issue 8 of The Blasphemous Tome. This is the semi-annual fanzine we produce for our Patreon backers. While the issue is filling up fast, there is still space if you would like to submit an article of 500 words or under, or any black-and-white artwork. You can contact us at submissions@blasphemoustomes.com.

This issue will include our usual year-end features, including “The Ludomancers” and “Episodes of Insanity”. We offer a few hints about what to expect in the news segment.

Covers of Tomes of yore

Owlbear and Wizard’s Staff

Paul recently attended the Owlbear and Wizard’s Staff convention in Leamington Spa, where he played Barbarians of Lemuria and ran Call of Cthulhu.

October Horror Movie Challenge 2021

Scott is deep into the October Horror Movie Challenge, watching a horror film every day and posting a full review to this very website. If you would like to take part too, please join the discussion on our Discord server or on Twitter.

OHMC 2021 logo
Episode 218: The Life of Robert E Howard

We’re back and we’re spoiling for a fight. Well, a boxing match at least. There’s this fellow we met down at the ice house who’s promised us a bout or two. We heard he’s some kind of writer, so his fists must be more used to hitting keys than jaws. Uh oh. Look at the size of him! Is it too late to change this to a different kind of competition, maybe something like writing a poem? What? He’s good at that too? Boy, it’s really not our day….

Main Topic: The Life of Robert E Howard

Following our recent discussion of sword and sorcery, this episode is the first of a two-part look into the life and work of Robert E Howard. A close friend of Lovecraft (although the two men never actually met), Howard was a cornerstone of the success of Weird Tales. He not only added to the Cthulhu Mythos but created, arguably, two enduring subgenres of fantastic fiction: sword and sorcery and the weird western. Like Lovecraft, most of his success came posthumously, his books selling millions of copies. His creations have appeared in films, comics, video game and even the odd RPG. But who was Robert E Howard?

We examine the man himself, looking at how his life might have shaped his writing. For someone who died so young and spent most of his short life in one town, Howard lived a fascinating life. The era of Texan history in which he grew up was a turbulent one, dealing with the fallout of recent conflicts and the shock of the oil boom. These unique circumstances, as well as the oddness of the Howard family, were fertile creative ground for the young writer’s imagination. We offer a brief overview of the key events of his life and some thoughts of our own.

As a general content warning, this episode includes some brief discussion of Howard’s suicide.

Our next episode builds upon this discussion, looking at Howard’s writing career and his most famous creation, Conan the Cimmerian.

Robert E Howard

Links

Our main research sources for this episode are:

Other things we mention in this episode include:

News

October Horror Movie Challenge 2021

It is that time of year again. Scott is preparing to embark on the October Horror Movie Challenge, watching a horror film every day and posting a full review to this very website. If you would like to take part too, please join the discussion on our Discord server or on Twitter.

OHMC 2021 logo

Issue 8 of The Blasphemous Tome

We have started work on issue 8 of The Blasphemous Tome. This is the semi-annual fanzine we produce for our Patreon backers. While the issue is filling up fast, there is still space if you would like to submit an article of 500 words or under, or any black-and-white artwork. You can contact us at submissions@blasphemoustomes.com.

This latest issue will feature “Night Bus”, a brand new scenario from our own Scott Dorward. Prepare to enter the horrors of late-night public transport in Greater London. Things are going to get weird!

Covers of Tomes of yore

We’re back and we’re ransacking forbidden ruins, crumbling temples, and the shelves of this abandoned video store in search of a sword and sorcery film worth watching. Our quest has has been a perilous one. So often, what appears to be a gem reveals a heart as rotten as any sorcerer’s. The 1980s were truly a dark age. Maybe we’ll have more luck with these ancient scrolls inscribed with RPGs of high adventure…

Main Topic: Sword and Sorcery in Films and Gaming

This episode is the conclusion our exploration of sword and sorcery. In our first instalment, we looked into the origins of the genre in the pulps. This time, we’re delving into films and games, seeing how they compare to their source material. While the 1980s were a boom time for sword and sorcery films, were any of them actually any good? We pick apart a few of the more notable films of the time, offering our usual range of conflicting opinions.

In the second half of the episode, we do much the same with games. There have been any number of sword and sorcery RPGs published over the past 50 years, but which ones are worth looking into? And how do different games approach the genre, focusing more on swords, sorcery, or that atmosphere of sensual dreaminess that pervades some of the stranger tales?

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Scott in Trebuchet Magazine

Issue 10 of Trebuchet Magazine (Materials II) includes an article from our very own Scott Dorward. It explores the sometimes uneasy relationship between canon and creative freedom in long-running genre franchises. Does this offer a framework for writers to build upon or a straightjacket that constrains them?

A Weekend With Good Friends Begins!

A Weekend With Good Friends starts on the 20th of August! While signups for scheduled games are now closed, there will be pickup games running throughout the weekend. Come and join the fun!

This is the online gaming convention organised by our wonderful listeners and hosted on our Discord Server. Full details can be found on this very website.

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Episode 214: Sword and Sorcery part 1

We’re back and we’re puzzling over the riddle of steel. Is it an enigma? Maybe some clever bit of wordplay? It’s probably safer if we stick to swordplay, especially with all these sorcerers around. They seem to be allergic to steel. It brings them out in stab wounds. There’s a reason why they call it “sword and sorcery” and not “word and sorcery”.

Main Topic: Sword and Sorcery

This episode is the first of our two-part examination of the genre of sword and sorcery. You can find part two here. “But why are you doing this on a Call of Cthulhu podcast?” we hear an imaginary listener ask. While we hope the episode more than answers this, it’s probably worth explaining here too.

Sword and sorcery and the Cthulhu Mythos were birthed from the same otherworldy womb and bear more than a passing familial resemblance. Not only were the first tales of each published alongside each other in Weird Tales, but they often sprang from the same pens. Some of the best-known entities of the Mythos slithered out of sword and sorcery tales, and other such stories borrowed from the Mythos in turn.

But it’s not just the content of the stories we get into here. The structure, pace and sheer bloody weirdness can also inform our games. A good sword and sorcery story is quick and brutal. How can we bring that to the gaming table, short of punching our players in the face?

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A Weekend With Good Friends GM sign-ups open

GM sign-ups for the next Weekend With Good Friends are open until the 5th of August 2021. Player sign-ups begin on the 6th of August, and the convention itself starts on the 20th of August.

A Weekend With Good Friends is the online gaming convention organised by our wonderful listeners and hosted on our Discord Server. Full details can be found on this very website.

A Weekend With Good Friends logo