Episode 164: Occult Horror

We’re back and we’re trying to keep all this blood from staining our carpets. Worse still, we can’t get the smell out goat out of our best robes. Everything will be ruined at this rate. When we decided to do an episode about occult horror, we didn’t think the real horror was going to be the cleaning bills. The sacrifices we make!

Main Topic: Occult Horror

After spending a couple of episodes discussing how Lovecraft and Call of Cthulhu relate to real occultism, we thought we’d get a little more lurid. This is our look at the genre of occult horror, which is something quite different than occultism. It is the blood-drenched, Satan-worshipping, virgin-sacrificing insanity that you would encounter in more disreputable sources, such as tabloids or Dennis Wheatley novels.

OK, still more believable than the Daily Mail.

We begin by trying to define the genre and mentioning some of its more famous proponents, at least in twentieth-century literature. Our terms established, we then break occult horror down into its main tropes and discuss how we might use these in our games. Call of Cthulhu may not precisely be an occult horror game, but it is suffused with the genre’s sulphurous influence.

Links

Some of the things we mention in this episode include:

News

Concrete Cow

Concrete Cow 19 1/2 is approaching faster than anything made out of concrete should be able to. This is the one-day RPG convention held twice per year in Milton Keynes. Full details can be found on the Concrete Cow website. At least some of us will be there, so please come along and say hi if you’re in the area.

Other Stuff

Songs

Writers of occult horror would have you believe that blood-fuelled, orgiastic rites take place behind innocuous doors in suburbia. Nothing about this episode’s songs would change their minds. Our frenzied celebrations of two new $5 Patreon backers must have summoned a demon or two.

We’re back and we’re wondering why all these robed figures around us are chanting the name of Cthulhu? Don’t they know that Lovecraft made him up? What do they expect to get out of this? Can they really call upon his power? And, if so, how can we get in on this sweet racket?

Main Topic: The Occult and Lovecraft

This is the second part of our look into the relationship between Lovecraft’s work and real occult practices. Last episode, we looked into how Lovecraft drew upon his superficial knowledge of the occult to add verisimilitude to his stories. This time, we’re exploring something far weirder: occultists who have incorporated Lovecraft’s work into their own practices.

That’s one weird-looking D20.

Once again, Mike Mason joins us on our journey into mystery. His knowledge as line editor for Call of Cthulhu comes in especially handy when we delve into the gaming aspects of our topic. Which Call of Cthulhu scenarios draw upon occult traditions? What is the difference between the Occult and Cthulhu Mythos skills? How might we use the occult in our own games? And why is Mike chanting and pulling out that obsidian dagger?

Links

Things we discuss in this episode include:

Cthulhu Mythos Occultism

The Occult in Call of Cthulhu

Other Stuff

Songs

We sing to our old friend Amelia Faulkner in this episode, thanking her for joining our legion of Patreon backers. Amelia is a gifted and prolific author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance. You can find more about her work on her website or Amazon page.

Reviews

We also share a lovely new Apple Podcasts review from listener Test Subject 86b1. If this inspires you to write a review of your own, whether on iTunes or anywhere else you might find podcasts, we would be delighted!

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.

We’re back and we’re hiding in the hedgerows, weaving twisted little corn dollies and performing unspeakable acts of Morris dancing. This episode is our discussion of the very British subgenre of folk horror. In particular, we’re looking into the Folk Horror Revival and how it ties into the childhood fears of those old enough to remember the 1970s.

Main Topic

Mike Mason, line editor of Call of Cthulhu, joins us for this discussion. As a lifelong fan of folk horror, who is just the right age to have been shaped by its heyday, he offers a wealth of information and insights. And, as we have learned at great expense, we should always make acceptable offerings.

We’ll be seeing this chap again next episode.

We mention a number of works of and about folk horror in the episode. There are probably too many to link to without making these notes as long as the unexpurgated Golden Bough, but here are some highlights:

And just to wrap things up, have 26 minutes of childhood nightmares from the 1970s:

News

Good friend of the Good Friends, Cory Welch, has shared some goodies with us. When Cory ran Blackwater Creek for the Skype of Cthulhu crew last year, he asked us to record the handouts as audio files. A musician friend of his, who records under the name Walkathon (Facebook page), created some suitably creepy background tracks. You can now find all these files in our new Downloads section.

We recently set up a Discord server (a free text/voice chat service) and have started hosting the occasional discussion there. For example, last week we had a voice chat about structuring Call of Cthulhu scenarios. It’s all very informal and chaotic, so please drop in whenever you fancy.

If you check your podcast feed, you should find the special episode we recorded at MK LitFest 2017. Our main topic of conversation was the connections between literature and roleplaying games, which seemed appropriate for a literary festival.

Mike Mason updated us on a few new products from Chaosium. Reign of Terror, the French Revolution expansion for Horror on the Orient Express, is now out in hardback. The new collection of Sandy Petersen’s scenarios (written in collaboration with Mike), Petersen’s Abominations, is out in PDF, with the print edition to follow in the very near future. The revised, 7th edition version of the classic solo adventure, Alone Against the Dark, will be available in PDF soon.

Other Stuff

When we head out to the wheat fields to perform our ancient rites, clothed only in moonlight, we sing in ecstasy. More specifically, we chant the glorious names of those people who have backed us on Patreon. There are two such rites captured in this very episode. We still have a great many more people to sing to, but the mystic energies involved make it dangerous to perform more than two in a fortnight. There shall be more strange and unhallowed songs next episode.

Main Topic

We’re back and we’re starting a cult. No, worse than that — we’re starting three of them! Last episode, we looked at how real religions and their practices might inform our depiction of Mythos sects in Call of Cthulhu. Now we’re taking things one step further. Building on what we’ve learnt, we try to picture what life might look like from within these sects. Then we create three Mythos sects of our own, trying to use our understanding of religion to give them more complex agendas and practices than the usual sacrifices and summonings. We also offer some context by talking about our own religious backgrounds and how they might have shaped our beliefs and prejudices.

We’re traditionalists, on the whole.

News

As Matt mentioned recently, on this very site, he has been asked by Delphes Desvoivres to write a Call of Cthulhu scenario as part of the Idol of Cthulhu Kickstarter campaign. This scenario will be a follow-up to Lovecraft’s story, The Call of Cthulhu, running approximately 20,000 words. It may grow to a more cyclopean stature, depending on stretch goals. The campaign ends on the 27th of December, so act quickly if you want your New Year to be filled with unhallowed idolatry.

You may have seen posts in your social media feeds expressing dissatisfaction with Patreon’s new charging scheme. Patreon have shifted their fees from content creators to patrons, increasing them in the process. While there seem to be some understandable reasons for this, they have handled the entire situation poorly. More importantly, it disproportionately hurts backers who make smaller pledges. As a result, we are currently investigating alternatives to run alongside Patreon, allowing greater choice for backers. We will keep you posted as this develops.

There will be a slight delay in getting issue 3 of The Blasphemous Tome fanzine to our Patreon backers. We received the first batch of the print run late last week, only to discover that it was missing four pages. Getting this resolved shouldn’t take too long and we still hope to get the Tome to most of you before the end of the year. Some backers will receive their Christmas cards ahead of the Tome, as we didn’t want to miss last posting dates. If your envelope is suspiciously Tomeless, don’t worry — our unspeakable blasphemies shall take to the ghoul winds and find their way to you soon.

Other Stuff

There will be a lot of singing over the next few months. Thanks to the imminent release of the third Blasphemous Tome, we have had a surge of new Patreon backers. Many of these people have been generous and brave enough to pledge at the $5 level. This means that we currently have a backlog of around 10 people to praise through song. Putting more than two songs in an episode risks our vocal cords, your sanity and the very fabric of the universe. It is only prudent for us to work our way through these thanks cautiously. With great cacophony comes great responsibility. If you are still waiting, please bear with us — your song will come soon. Enjoy the sense of creeping dread until then.