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


Our main research sources for this episode are:

Other things we mention in this episode include:


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?


Things we mention in this episode include:


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?


Things we mention in this episode include:


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
Episode 213: Weird Science in Call of Cthulhu

We’re back and we’re playing God. It’s a demanding role but we have hubris to spare! In fact, no one has ever had as much hubris as we do. We shall use our hubris to remake the world in our image! Our hubris will shake the very pillars of the universe! Those fools at the institute told us that hubris would be our undoing, but what do such petty-minded idiots know? We’ll show them! We’ll show them all! But before then, have an episode about weird science in Call of Cthulhu.

Main Topic: Weird Science in Call of Cthulhu

This episode is our exploration of the role played by weird science in Call of Cthulhu. From Crawford Tillinghast and his resonator to Herbert West and his ill-fated experiments in reanimation, Lovecraftian horror is built upon the archetype of the mad scientist. Pulp Cthulhu has expanded this reach, drawing in elements of the weird science hero from the pulp magazines. But how does all this work at the gaming table? What can we steal from other media? And will anyone notice if we transplant our laboratory assistant’s brain into this handy gorilla? Listen to find out the answers to at least two of those questions.


Things we mention in this episode include:

Colin Clive as the archetypal mad scientist in Frankenstein (1931)
Colin Clive in Frankenstein (1931)
Rogue Moon cover
Petersen's Abominations, filled with weird science goodness


A Weekend With Good Friends returns

At the time of posting, we are a month away from the next Weekend With Good Friends, starting on the 20th of August 2021. This is the online gaming convention organised by our wonderful listeners and hosted on our Discord Server. If you would like to offer a game, GM sign-ups begin on the 31st of July. Player sign-ups begin a week later. Full details can be found on this very website.

A Weekend With Good Friends logo

Chase rules videos on Arkham Studios

Paul and Mike Mason chased Nathan from Arkham Audio all around the place and recorded it for posterity. The resulting videos now provide examples of play for the Call of Cthulhu chase rules.

Episode 212: Scenario Structures

We’re back and we’re seeking direction. While human lives are generally chaotic, we can at least bring order to our work. Pinning down good scenario structures can help us pretend that the world makes sense. Now if you’ll excuse us, we’re off to paint the streets with nice tessellating hexagons.

Main Topic: Scenario Structures

This episode is our examination of how we structure RPG scenarios. While scenario structures are mostly important when writing your adventure up to share with other GMs, they can affect every stage of the development process. In this episode, we try to identify different types of structure and go into their pros and cons, challenging some of our own preconceptions along the way.


Things we mention in this episode include:


Flotsam and Jetsam on How We Roll

Scott has just finished running “The Star Brothers”, Brian Courtemanche‘s opening chapter to the Flotsam and Jetsam campaign, for How We Roll. The first two episodes are now out, with several more following soon. The players include Joe and Eoghan from How We Roll, Veronica from Welcome to St Paxton, and Seth Skorkowsky, If you would like to run Flotsam and Jetsam yourself, simply join the Cult of Chaos.

Paul on Storytelling Collective

Paul has contributed a number of lessons to the Call of Cthulhu track for the Storytelling Collective‘s Write Your First Adventure course. Sign up to learn all his secrets! The programme encourages you to publish your new creation on the Miskatonic Repository.

Call of Cthulhu Classic – 40th Anniversary Kickstarter

Chaosium have recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for a reprint of the 2nd edition Call of Cthulhu boxed set. This includes all the original booklets, with tidied-up layout and typos corrected. Extras include a newly designed Keeper Screen, ruby-coloured dice, and reprints of the Cthulhu Companion, Fragments of Fear, Shadows of Yog-Sothoth, Trail of Tsathoggua, and The Asylum and Other Tales. Follow the campaign for more goodies as further stretch goals are unlocked.