Mythos Deities: Nyarlathotep

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

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.

As we mentioned in our latest episode, we have started work on issue 4 of The Blasphemous Tome. This is the old-school fanzine we put together for Patreon backers of The Good Friends of Jackson Elias. If you would like to know more, please check out our page about the Tome.

This issue will feature “The Hero Affirmed”, a brand new Call of Cthulhu scenario from our own Matt Sanderson!

Once again, we are aiming to release the Tome along with the Christmas cards we send to all our backers. If you are a backer between publication (late November) and the end of the year, we will send you at least one copy. Our page about the Tome has full details about who will receive what.

If you would like to submit a short article (up to 500 words) or some black-and-white artwork, we would love to hear from you! The Blasphemous Tome is licensed by Chaosium, so we are able to include stats and other game mechanics for Call of Cthulhu. The deadline for submissions is the end of October.

The current table of contents goes something like this:

  • The Ludomancers
    • Our favourite game sessions of the past year
  • Cocktail Corner
    • Matt shares another recipe that man was not meant to know
  • Mythos Fiction: The Sixties and Seventies
    • Scott’s series of story recommendations continues
  • The Hero Affirmed
    • A brand new, full-length Call of Cthulhu scenario from Matt Sanderson
  • Vinyl Corner
    • Paul discusses another musical artefact from the 1970s
  • The Sanderson Collection
    • Matt reveals another rarity from the dusty corners of his bookshelves
  • 2018: A Year in Horror Films
    • Scott talks about the films that impressed and disappointed him this year
  • Episodes of Insanity
    • Some background on our favourite episodes of 2018
  • Die, Die, Die!
    • Matt punishes another die that failed him
  • Plush of the Month
    • Matt makes Scott sad
  • Strange Eons
    • Scott offers an overview of Robert Bloch’s unjustly forgotten Mythos novel

We shall update this list as we receive more submissions.

In episode 137 we discussed Nathan Ballingrud‘s short story Wild Acre. A few days ago, Mr Ballingrud generously took some time to record an interview with us. We discuss Wild Acre and its themes of trauma, as well as the wider role of madness in horror, as well as where Nathan’s work is taking him these days. Given Nathan’s interest in RPGs, we also talk about Call of Cthulhu and how it relates to his work as a writer.

Nathan Ballingrud
Nathan Ballingrud

While we largely focus on North American Lake Monsters, Nathan shares some details about his upcoming book, The Atlas of Hell. He also mentions the film adaptation of his novella, The Visible Filth. This has been made by Babak Anvari, the director behind the wonderful Under the Shadow. The film, which is still awaiting a title, is due out in April of 2019.

The Visible Filth

The conversation also drifts into our mutual love of horror. Some of the answers Nathan offers could almost have come from our episode about the appeal of horror. He neatly sums up in a few minutes what it took us an entire episode to pin down!

We also make mention of Storium, which we then completely fail to explain. Storium is a website that bridges the gap between choose-your-own-adventure books and multiplayer RPGs. You can create your own games, writing content and walking players through your game world. Hell, maybe you can plot out the setting for your next novel there too!

137: Wild Acre

Episode 137: Wild Acre

We’re back and we’re checking the undergrowth for sinister shapes, getting ready to run for our lives and preparing to deal with the consequences. This episode is our discussion of Nathan Ballingrud’s short story, Wild Acre. While Wild Acre isn’t Lovecraftian horror, we thought it would make a good follow-up to our recent episode about insanity in Call of Cthulhu. It is an unusual story, raising questions about the portrayal of trauma in horror.

Main Topic

While the emotional impact of encounters with the impossible is a common theme in horror fiction, Wild Acre takes an unconventional approach. Most of the story explores the protagonist’s inability to cope with a traumatic event he experiences in its opening. The realistic and uncomfortable portrayal of PTSD provides a strong contrast to how the topic is usually handled in games. We use this to further explore some of the themes we have discussed over our past couple of episodes.

North American Lake Monsters

As well as writing some of the emotionally complex horror fiction of recent years, Ballingrud is also a long-time Call of Cthulhu Keeper. We had hoped to include an interview with him in this episode but scheduling problems got in the way. All being well, we shall record one soon and put it out as a bonus.

The Best of the Best Horror of the Year cover

Wild Acre can be found in Ballingrud’s excellent collection North American Lake Monsters, as well as The Best of the Best Horror of the Year.

News

Scott mentions his recent visit to The Haunted City: Modern Monsters and Urban Myths, a day of talks organised by the London Fortean Society. In particular, he discusses the presentation about Lovecraft and the occult given by good friend of The Good Friends, Justin Woodman.

Other Stuff

We have started putting together issue 4 of The Blasphemous Tome. This is the 1980s-style fanzine we create for those wonderful people who back us via Patreon. We plan to send the ‘zine out in early December, along with our Christmas cards. If you have a short (500-word maximum) piece of writing or some black-and-white artwork you’d like to submit, we would love to hear from you! The Blasphemous Tome is licensed by Chaosium, so we are able to include content developed for Call of Cthulhu.

Another way we “thank” some of our Patreon backers is to sing to them. It’s been a while since we had two new $5 backers to thank in this way, but we give you both barrels of song in this episode.

We also share a new iTunes review and some choice comments on our recent episode about player engagement. If you enjoy the podcast, we would love to hear from you on our Google+ Community and would be delighted if you posted a review on iTunes or wherever you find your podcasts.

Insanity in Lovecraft

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.