Episode 148: The Dunwich Horror part 2

We’re back and we’re continuing our exploration of the hidden corners of Dunwich. The locals seem quite welcoming and some of them may even be described as undecayed. Those Whateleys are especially interesting, although we’re not quite sure why they’ve installed what sounds like a swimming pool in the top floor of their house. We’re sure there’s a perfectly innocent explanation.

Main Topic: The Dunwich Horror

This is the second installment in our ongoing look at Lovecraft’s foundational weird tale, The Dunwich Horror. Last episode, we looked at the opening of the story, exploring Dunwich itself. This time, we learn more of Wilbur Whateley’s ill-fated outing to Miskatonic University. Of course, this leads into discussions about how best to represent 4-dimensional geometry, why having eyes on your hips is only fairly weird, and whether an arrangement of tentacles could really be something unknown to our solar system.

News

Good friend of the Good Friends, Anthony Lee-Dudley, sent us a copy of Hypergraphia issue 1. This is a new Mythos gaming fanzine that explores the connection between eldritch horror and language. It is packed with strange and wonderful articles from familiar names. A most entertaining way to lower your SAN score.

We had a bit of good news that came in too late to make it into the episode. The members of EN World recently had a poll to determine their favourite RPG podcast. There were 99 podcasts nominated and over 9,000 votes. Somehow, we were voted the most popular in the talk category! This was entirely unexpected and utterly delightful! Thank you to everyone who voted for us! Congratulations also to our good friends at The Grognard Files, who came in second. “What Would the Smarty Party Do?” also made the top 5 and How We Roll was number 6 in the actual play category. This is a fantastic time for UK gaming podcasts! If you would like to hear the countdown of the top 20, check out the latest epsiode of Morrus’ Unofficial Tabletop RPG Talk.

We recently asked our Patreon backers whether there were any more rewards we might offer them. One suggestion was to share outtakes from our episodes. Well, we listened! If you are a backer, you should soon see a new RSS feed pop up in Patreon with rough cuts of new episodes as they come out. And when we say “rough”, we mean it — this is what it sounds like when we record, barring anything too slanderous to share. These recordings include flubbed takes, stuff we cut for length and, most terrifyingly, the unmixed sounds we emit for our songs. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

Other Stuff

In Dunwich, the song of the whippoorwill portends doom. Our songs may not prove quite as fatal, but they will still devour your soul. We have two new $5 Patreon backers, and so we have gathered outside their windows at dusk to sing our thanks to them.

From the look on his face, souls cause fearsome heartburn.

As a result of the recent release of issue 4 of The Blasphemous Tome, we have a lot of new backers to thank. Everyone who backed us at the $1 and $3 levels before the end of last year will receive their thanks in either this or the following episode. It will take us longer to get to everyone who backed us at the $5 level or higher, however. The dark forces we draw upon for our songs are not easily contained and we dast only summon them twice per episode. Please be patient with us as we work through our backlog.

Two of the backers we thank in this episode create things that our listeners would probably enjoy, so we promised to link to them. If you’ve received a copy of issue 4 of The Blasphemous Tome, you’ve already seen some of John Sumrow‘s marvellous art. He has been kind enough to share a number of his drawings with us, much to our delight. If you like the picture below, you can find many more on his portfolio site.

We also mention another new backer known as Lord Mordiggian (Lord Mordi to his friends), who is the singer of the Lovecraftian metal band, Crafteon. We end the episode with their song “From Beyond”. If you would like to hear more of their work, they are on Bandcamp, YouTube and Spotify.

We’re back and we’re examining these strange bite marks, boarding up the windows and trying to work out where that damnable smell is coming from. This is the start of our look at Lovecraft’s classic weird tale, The Dunwich Horror. Make yourself comfortable — this mystery is going to take us a few episodes to investigate.

Main Topic: The Dunwich Horror

As well as being one of the foundational works of the Cthulhu Mythos, The Dunwich Horror set the template for a thousand Call of Cthulhu scenarios. More than any other Lovecraft story, it presents the kind of actions we might expect to see investigators perform. All right, maybe The Lurking Fear is a better model for the Tommy guns and dynamite school of play, but the point stands.

In this first episode, we look at the setting of Dunwich as described by Lovecraft, digging into some of the history, geography and folklore that inspired it. We also experiment with including our suggestions about what might be used for gaming alongside the synopsis. Please let us know whether this new format works better for you.

News

Filled with enthusiasm for the wonders of the year ahead, we mention a few things that we are looking forward to in 2019. The two that we can link to are Necronomicon 2019 and Contingency, two major conventions that will see at least some of the Good Friends in attendance. Only Matt will be at Contingency, but all three of us are planning the pilgrimage to Providence for Necronomicon. After our wonderful experiences in 2017, all the elder signs in the world couldn’t keep us away.

Speaking of live events, Scott will be appearing at the PodUK convention with the How We Roll crew. We will be conducting a live playthrough of a short Call of Cthulhu scenario before an undoubtedly bemused audience. Dirk the Dice from The Grognard Files podcast will be joining us as a special guest player. The event will take place in Birmingham on the 2nd of February and tickets are still available.

Other Stuff

We spend some time thanking new Patreon backers, although, mercifully, there are no songs in this episode. Before you relax too much, there are songs coming soon. So many songs.

As usual, we share some hand-picked social media feedback and comment on it. Since the inception of the podcast, our main online home has been Google+. Unfortunately, in April, G+ is due to vanish in a puff of poor management. We have been exploring alternatives such as MeWe and Reddit, but we are very open to suggestions. If you know of a suitable platform for searchable, threaded discussions, we would love to hear from you.

That is not dead which eternal can… No, hang on. It’s dead.

We also share a new iTunes review. If you fancy writing one of your own, you will earn our undying gratitude. And when we say undying, we mean it. Our essential saltes shall praise you from their cramped little urns until the idiot chaos blows Earth’s dust away. We would be delighted with a review on any platform from which you might download podcasts, no matter how cryptical and esoteric. If you do post one somewhere obscure, please let us know in case we miss it. Our omniscience is failing with age.

We’re back at the beginning, where we started our grim journeys many years ago. Looking at our grey hair and wizened features, it’s difficult to imagine that we were ever young. Yet here were are, trying to remember what it was like to start playing Call of Cthulhu. This would be so much easier if we were able to literally cast our minds back through time. Does anyone have a number for the Yithians?

Main Topic: Call of Cthulhu for Beginners

Call of Cthulhu‘s position as one of the most popular tabletop RPGs means that it may be many people’s first game. Even if you have played something like Dungeons & Dragons before, Call of Cthulhu is different enough to warrant an introduction. So, after almost 150 episodes, we thought it was time to help people get into thiCall of Cthulhu thing.

Goal number 1: don’t let this chap eat you.

We offer some tips on Call of Cthulhu for beginners, both players and Keepers of Arcane Lore. Hell, we even explain that “Keeper of Arcane Lore” is Call of Cthulhu‘s eccentric way of describing a game master or GM. We also suggest some books and other resources to help set you on your path into darkness.

Between us, we’ve been playing Call of Cthulhu for around 90 years. This makes it tricky to remember what it was like to be a beginner. Luckily, we had some help for this episode. Lucy Fricker, Paul’s wife, recently ran her first game, so we asked her how she prepared her move to the other side of the GM’s screen. 

Although, sadly, that does mean not being able to see the artwork on the front of the screen.

And speaking of guests, we have a short interview with Mike Mason, line editor for Call of Cthulhu. Mike offers us some insight into the new Call of Cthulhu Starter Set. This is a new boxed set designed to ease fledgling Keepers into running the game.

News

All three of us plan to be at Dragonmeet in London this Saturday (the 1st of December). We shall spend most of the day in the podcast zone, talking to anyone who will let us. At 11 AM, we will take a break for a joint seminar with our good friends Baz and Gaz from the Smart Party. And at 2-3 PM, you can find Paul and Scott on the Chaosium stall, signing copies of Masks of Nyarlathotep alongside Mike Mason and Lynne Hardy. We can be talked into signing other things as well, within the bounds of decorum.

As you might have inferred from that last sentence, Masks of Nyarlathotep is now shipping worldwide. Our contributors’ copies turned up last week and they are massive! It’s going to be a toss-up whether this edition will be responsible for the deaths of more investigators or trees.

Paul also mentions his recent trip to Austria, where he met one of our listeners, Joerg Sterner. As Paul discovered, Joerg is the co-owner of Planet Harry, a games shop in Vienna. Paul completely failed to ask why it is called Planet Harry. We hope to rectify this when we see Joerg at Dragonmeet.

Other Stuff

Issue 4 of The Blasphemous Tome is now creeping across the globe, spreading madness and dismay. This is the print fanzine we create to thank all the lovely people who back us on Patreon. There is still time to snap up a copy for yourself. All you need to do is back us on Patreon by the end of the year.

350 little harbingers of madness safely tucked into envelopes.

The other thing we do for some of our Patreon backers is sing to them. This episode’s song is something rather special, however. A little while back, we had an iTunes review from Wilson MacGyver. He wrote about the small role listening to the podcast played in his wife’s cancer treatments. After reading this, we knew we’d need to set aside an entire segment to talk about their story. When Wilson backed us at the $5 level and made a special request for the song, we built the segment around that. Thank you again, Wilson, for sharing your and Priscilla Meredith’s experience with us all.  

We’re back and we’re learning hideous secrets from Nyarlathotep, Messenger of the Outer Gods, signing his black book and hoping we recognise him next time we meet him. He can be difficult to pick out of a crowd, with the thousand masks and all. Given his reputation for mocking humour, this is all going to end in deadly embarrassment.

Main Topic: Mythos Deities: Nyarlathotep

Our discussion starts with an overview of Nyarlathotep’s role in Lovecraft’s fiction and his development by other writers. From there, we move on to his portrayal in the Call of Cthulhu RPG. Then we tie things up by brainstorming a few unusual ways we could use Nyarlathotep in our games.

When Nyarlathotep isn’t busy carrying messages for the Outer Gods, he’s a menace in the mosh pit.

In our discussion, we reference a few earlier episodes in which Nyarlathotep appeared. He gets everywhere!

News

For the past few months, Scott has been running the How We Roll podcast through The Two-Headed Serpent. This is the Pulp Cthulhu campaign we wrote for Chaosium and which was released last year. The first episodes are now available for download. Come, share in the heady mix of weirdness, madness and extreme violence that only How We Roll can offer!

Our Two-Headed Serpent heroes (and Keeper), courtesy of Rachael Tew.

Speaking of epic campaigns, we have now finished our initial playtest of A Poison Tree. This is the Trail of Cthulhu campaign that we have spent the last four years developing for Pelgrane Press. We are hard at work on writing it all up now and will keep you posted as things progress.

Other Stuff

In Lovecraft’s The Whisperer in Darkness, we learn of unspeakable rites performed in the Vermont woods, in which the mi-go chant the name of Nyarlathotep in twisted, buzzing voices. To hear such a thing would drive most mortals to madness. Alternatively, some might think, “Now there’s an idea!” and start singing their own unholy praises. We are very much in the latter camp. This episode contains two hideous incantations, crafted to please a pair of new Patreon backers.

And speaking of Patreon, we remind you that issue 4 of The Blasphemous Tome is currently assembling itself from essential saltes, protoplasm and lashings of blood. The paper cuts this thing inflicts can be murder. If you would like to ensure your copy, take a look at our page on the Tome for full details. Issue 4 features a brand-new, modern-day Call of Cthulhu scenario written by our own Matt Sanderson.

We’re back and we’re tackling a potentially contentious subject. If you spend much time on gaming forums or social media, you may have stumbled across debates about whether mental illness is a fit subject for gaming. Many horror games have a sanity mechanic of some description, an idea that began with Call of Cthulhu. Of course, Call of Cthulhu, in turn, picked this theme up from Lovecraft’s fiction. But is the portrayal of insanity in Lovecraft what we assume it is? If not, how might this inform our games?

135: Insanity in Lovecraft

Main Topic

We start by discussing Lovecraft’s family history and his own experiences with mental illness. These undoubtedly shaped his work, and we offer some thoughts on the matter. Then, we move on to a few examples of insanity from Lovecraft’s work, trying to determine whether it’s as major a theme as conventional wisdom holds. Finally, we try to understand what madness really means in Lovecraft’s work. All this forms the foundations for our upcoming discussion of the portrayal of mental illness and trauma in Call of Cthulhu.

If you’ve noticed that Lovecraft looks dour in most photographs, we offer some theories about this too.

News

Paul mentions Torchlight Candles and their unusual combustible wares, designed for gamers. The melting brains sound especially gruesome, although sadly they’re not currently listed on their website.

The smoke that rises from this candle is laced with maddening dreams. Or is that patchouli?

Matt then leads us into a discussion about Kickstarters. He can’t help himself. We briefly discuss the recent release of The Fall of Delta Green, the new 1960s setting from Pelgrane Press. Then, we move our focus to something far more sanity-blasting: a new line of plushes from the nightmarish entities behind C is for Cthulhu. I really don’t know why we encourage them.

Not pictured: the twisted visage of Lovecraft, screaming wordlessly from beyond the grave.

One of our listeners, Dominic Allen, got in touch to say that he and Simon Maeder are performing at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. Their play, Providence: The Shadow Over Lovecraft, will be on between the 2nd and 25th of August at the Assembly Rooms, starting at 5 PM. The trailer looks rather wonderful. Paul plans to go on the 15th, so please say hi if you spot him in the audience.

Other Stuff

We are legally compelled to warn you that this episode contains our first bout of singing for a while. In case you’ve forgotten, we offer thanks to $5 Patreon backers in the form of what we pretend is song. This one should cost you no more than 0/1D4 SAN. Honest.

We also spend a little time discussing the feedback we received about our episode on subterranean spaces in Call of Cthulhu. If you would like to descend deeper into the discussion, the bulk of it may be found on our Google+ Community, or in the hidden spaces beneath your home.