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.

Episode 159: Martyrs

We’re back and we’re putting ourselves through torments. Watching Pascal Laugier’s 2008 horror film Martyrs is not necessarily a pleasant experience. This is not to say that it is a bad film — quite the opposite. It is, however, a gruelling one. The unrelenting cruelty and torture it depicts make it highly divisive. Not only is Martyrs viscerally nasty but it is emotionally draining and potentially quite upsetting. This is not a film for everyone. Be warned.

Main Topic: Martyrs

From the build-up we’ve offered, you may wonder why anyone would want to watch a film like Martyrs. This is not a simple question. Some of us are drawn to the extremes and understanding why can be difficult. This is especially true in the case of Martyrs, which is not remotely titillating. We spend some time trying to understand its appeal, and a little more finding ways in which it can inform our gaming.

The New French Extremity

Additionally, we touch upon the larger New French Extremity movement of which Martyrs was a part. This cinematic explosion of blood and terror — largely confined to the first decade of this century — explored uncomfortable subjects unflinchingly, depicting violence in a way that is both repellent and beautiful. We mention a few other highlights in passing:

Pascal Laugier

We also mention a few of Pascal Laugier’s other projects, as well as the 2015 American remake of Martyrs. None of us has seen the latter. From reviews and interviews, it seems to be another example of neutering a work of dark horror and turning it into something safe and palatable, wrapped up with a nice, happy ending. Have we learnt nothing from the remakes of The Wicker Man, The Haunting and The Vanishing?

The other Laugier films we touch on are:

You may have noticed that we have mentioned little about the actual plot of Martyrs. This is deliberate. Few other films we have seen benefit quite as much from going in cold. Martyrs is full of surprises, regularly shifting tone in ways that disorient and shock. If you are not completely put off by the idea of unglamorous violence and degradation, we recommend you read no more about the film before watching it.

News

The Blasphemous Tome 4b

Issue 4b of our fanzine, The Blasphemous Tome, is nearing completion. This is our first experiment with putting out an interim Tome between our normal releases. Longtime listeners will know that we send a printed fanzine to our Patreon backers every year. This time, we thought we’d release a PDF of the material we were unable to fit in the last Tome, along with a whole bunch of new content. The main feature is a brand new Call of Cthulhu scenario from our very own Paul Fricker and a fantastic cover by the wonderful John Sumrow. Issue 4b will go out in early July and we shall send a copy to everyone who is backing us on Patreon at the time of release.

Other Stuff

Songs

We have spared you any singing in this episode. After spending an hour talking about extreme torture and suffering, it seemed unfair to inflict any of our own. This is a short respite, however. We have new Patreon backers to thank and there will be song in the next episode.

Episode 157: The Carcosa Mythos in Media and Gaming

We’re back and we’re still blundering around in all this infernal mist. There is a sound of lapping water in the distance, but we’re more worried about the way these streets keep changing around us. You’d think someone would have compiled a street map of Carcosa, but no one even seems to be able to agree about what this place is. Let’s concentrate on getting our bearings and try to ignore that sound that’s not quite the laughter of children…

Main Topic: The Carcosa Mythos in Media and Gaming

We are continuing our in-depth look at The King in Yellow, the Carcosa Mythos and the horrors they have spawned. In previous episodes, we have discussed The King in Yellow and “The Yellow Sign”. This time, we’re focusing on how the Carcosa Mythos has been used by other writers, how it has been adapted for film and television, and what we can steal for our games.

Other Media

In the course of our discussion, we mention a number of books, stories, TV programmes and games:

As part of the discussion, we also pick a few favourite Carcosa Mythos stories.

  • Matt
    • “Broadalbin” by John Tynes, from Rehearsals for Oblivion
    • “Movie Night at Phil’s” by Don Webb, from A Season in Carcosa
    • “Beyond the Banks of the River Seine” by Simon Strantzas, from A Season in Carcosa
  • Scott
    • “River of Night’s Dreaming” by Karl Edward Wagner, from The Hastur Cycle
    • “More Light” by James Blish, from The Hastur Cycle
  • Paul
    • “Wishing Well” by Cody Goodfellow, from A Season in Carcosa
    • “Suicide Watch” by Arinn Dembo, from Delta Green: Dark Theaters

Games

We also discuss how we might use specific elements of the Carcosa Mythos in our games, as well as brainstorming a few scenario seeds.

The Yellow Sign badge from Sigh Co

News

UK Games Expo

If you are at UK Games Expo 2019 this weekend (31st of May to 2nd of June), do say hi to Matt and Paul. Both of them will be running games in the Cthulhu Masters tournament. Paul will also be joining our good friends from the Smart Party and Grognard Files podcasts for a seminar.

The Smart Party 100th episode

And speaking of the Smart Party… Paul recently joined Baz and Gaz for their 100th episode in which they offered a state-of-the-nation discussion about gaming.

Other Stuff

A Parcel of Goodies

A fantastically generous listener — Stephen Vandevander — sent us a parcel of goodies. You can hear us unwrap it in the backer segment, along with coos and expressions of heartfelt gratitude. The package included such goodies as The House of the Octopus by Jason Colavito and a spiffy Cthulhu idol from Pacific Giftware. This latter artefact is now watching over our recording studio, bringing fresh madness to every new episode. Thank you very much, Stephen!

As a bonus, you can see Paul’s new Carcosa-themed wallpaper and paint, as mentioned in the episode.

Songs

Those doomed souls lost forever in the mists of Carcosa cry piteously, their wails piercing the soul like daggers of ice. Our cries are more on the joyous side, but they still hurt the soul. We have captured them inside Paul’s computer and transformed them into praises of two new $5 Patreon backers. Soon, all shall despair as those damned souls do.

New iTunes Review

And finally, we were delighted to receive a new review from John Fiala, over on iTunes. These reviews sustain us emotionally and spiritually. If you feel moved to contribute to our wellbeing, or simply help others find our little corner of Carcosa, we would love it if you wrote a review wherever you download your podcasts.

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 eyeing each other suspiciously, freezing our bollocks off and watching in dismay as our blood sample runs screaming out the door. This is our look at John Carpenter’s 1982 science fiction/horror masterpiece, The Thing.

Main Topic: The Thing

After years of independent features, The Thing was John Carpenter’s first studio film. It had a decent budget, strong cast and ground-breaking visual effects. After 35 years, it remains an enduring cult favourite. So why was The Thing a critical and commercial failure at the box office when first released?

Let’s poke around inside and find out.

We cut into the entrails of the film, examining its background along with our synopsis. Then, as you might expect, we let it infect us, transforming our games. We offer a few ideas about how The Thing could reshape itself as a Call of Cthulhu scenario. Given the apparent influence of Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness, this isn’t too tricky.

Although surprisingly few Lovecraft stories contain the line, “You gotta be fucking kidding.”

In our discussion, we mention a few related works:

News

We recently released a special episode, recorded live at the first Tabletop Gaming Live event in London. You can hear Mike Mason, Paul and Scott answer questions about all things Cthulhu. Alternatively, if you can stomach our faces, you could watch the video instead. We’d prefer that you didn’t stomach our faces, however. Stomachs are full of acid and that stuff stings.

Stomached face for reference.

Other Stuff

It would be remiss not to remind you that issue 4 of The Blasphemous Tome is approaching fast. This is the print-only fanzine that we produce to thank our Patreon backers. Issue 4 features a new Call of Cthulhu scenario from Matt Sanderson and an amazing cover from the equally amazing Evan Dorkin. If you would like to learn more about what lurks within and how you can invite it into your home, please see our recent post.

The Blasphemous Tome issue 4 cover

In our social media section, we discuss some of the feedback we received on our recent episode about the joy of failure. In particular, we mention a post from Uncaring Cosmos which really must be read in its entirety. You can find it and the rest of the discussion in our Google+ Community. (Yes, we know that Google has announced the closure of G+. We are currently investigating alternatives.)

Artist’s impression of Google shutting down G+

And we make passing mention of good friend of the Good Friends Frank Delventhal’s terrifying ability to blow up hot water bottles like balloons. We promised a video, so here it is. 

https://www.facebook.com/StrongmanFrank/videos/298745394293869/

Please don’t try this at home. Try it in public so everyone can enjoy the sight of your lungs rupturing like two wet paper bags.