Special Episode: Conspiracy Theories and Cults with Bence Szlamka (part 1)

In our recent episodes about cults, we mentioned how social media has blurred the line between cults and conspiracy theories. Phenomena like QAnon display many cult-like attributes but lack formal leadership. We thought it would be interesting to dig into this a little more.

As none of us knows much about modern conspiracy theories, we turned to our good friend Bence Szlamka for help. Those of you on our Discord server will know Bence as TRNSHMN, one of the moderators there. While Bence is clear that he is not a scholar, he has spent a great deal of time studying conspiracy theories. Scott talked to Bence for a couple of hours, delving into the darker corners of QAnon, the anti-vaccination movement, flat-Earthers, and other cult-like conspiracy theories.

While we tried to keep the tone relatively light, some of these conspiracy theories revolve around unpleasant ideas. QAnon, especially, embraces various beliefs about the abuse, trafficking and sacrifice of children. We avoid going into too much detail, but be warned that we at least touch upon these subjects. In the end, however, this is an RPG podcast, and our focus is to find inspiration for our games.

This turned into quite a long discussion, so we have split it into two episodes. Join us in a fortnight for the conclusion, when Bence and Scott talk about some even stranger contemporary conspiracy theories.

Links

Things we mention in this episode include:

QAnon logo

We’re back with the second part of our discussion with parapsychologist, RPG author and raconteur, Christian Jensen Romer.

In the first part, CJ told us how he became involved with ghost hunting. In this episode, he delves more into the various studies of ghost phenomena and some possible explanations for ghost sightings.

In the process, CJ clarifies and corrects a number of points we made in our recent episodes about ghosts. We really should have talked to him before recording those!

Update: Some people have requested links to the various things we discuss in this episode. We’ve added some at the end of this post.

We’re back with something of an impromptu special. Scott recently joined our good friend Joe Trier of How We Roll for a chat about playing RPGs online. This seemed timely, with almost everyone we know going into self-quarantine due to COVID-19.

Our discussion covers tools and techniques, with an emphasis on how to get into online gaming for people who have never done so. While our main focus is on D&D and Call of Cthulhu, we do mention a few other suitable games.

If the format of this episode sounds different, this is because we recorded it for How We Roll. Joe has kindly agreed to let us release it on our feed. We have simply added our usual intro and outro to stop you getting too disorientated!

Links

Things we mention in this episode include:

Following our recent discussion of ghosts in Call of Cthulhu, we thought it might be useful to get an expert opinion. Luckily, our good friend Christian Jensen Romer (CJ to his friends) is a qualified parapsychologist. He is also a member of the Society for Psychical Research and a familiar face to viewers of TV shows like Most Haunted.

As if that weren’t enough, CJ has also written for Call of Cthulhu and other RPGs. In particular, listeners may know him as the author of The Parapsychologist’s Handbook. This was one of the first monographs that Chaosium published, back in 2008. Basically, he’s much better qualified to talk about this stuff than any of us.

Scott spent some time talking to CJ about his experiences and how parapsychology treats the subject of ghosts. In fact, we spent so long talking that we are going to have to split the discussion in two. This first part largely covers CJ’s personal experiences with ghosts. Part 2, scheduled for release on the 24th of March 2020, focuses more on general parapsychology.

We’re back and we’re discussing all the nifty Cthulhu-related stuff that happened at Gen Con 2018 (and one non-Cthulhu thing). Well, I say “we”, but this largely means Paul, as he’s the only one of us who went. To stop this being a monologue, however, he interviewed some of the people he met there.

Note: We recorded this episode before the allegations about Zak Smith’s abusive behaviour. While we have decided not to withdraw the episode, we have added a warning to the start. We do not plan to release any more content about Zak or his work.

Some of Paul’s 60,000 closest friends gather to say hi.

Main Topic: Gen Con 2018

Paul starts with news about the convention, including the Diana Jones Award, the Cool of Cthulhu panel (recorded by our good friends at the gold-ENnie-award-winning Miskatonic University Podcast) and the ENnie Awards

Now I think about it, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Chad without puppets, even if only of the finger variety.

He then tells Matt and Scott about all the interesting people he met. These include Chris Spivey of Darker Hue Studios (whose Harlem Unbound dominated the ENnies this year), Sam Riordan of MetaArcade (publishers of the Cthulhu Chronicles app), Bob Geis of You Too Can Cthulhu, and multi-award-winning writer and artist, Zak Smith. You can hear interviews with all of them in this episode.

Paul also mentions a number of listeners he met at the convention, including the hosts of the Dave and Gary podcast. Thank you to everyone who introduced yourselves!

As if Paul hadn’t worked hard enough to make Matt and Scott jealous, he also whipped out a box of goodies from the HP Lovecraft Historical Society that he had picked up at Gen Con. This was the Gamer Prop Set that accompanies the HPLHS’s upcoming Dark Adventure Radio Theatre presentation of Masks of Nyarlathotep. The box contains more authentic period handouts, props and eldritch marvels than you could shake a black sceptre at.

News

Paul and Scott will be joining Mike Mason at Tabletop Gaming Live 2018, at Alexandra Palace on the 29th of September. We will be giving a seminar at 12:00, titled Calling Cthulhu, as well as running some demo games.

Stygian Fox have released Fear’s Sharp Little Needles, their latest anthology of modern-day Call of Cthulhu scenarios. Matt and Scott have scenarios in the book, and Scott also has a short story in the accompanying fiction anthology, Puncture Wounds. Both of these publications are available as ebooks or print-on-demand hardcopies.

Scott also talks about his recent visit to the Grand Tribunal convention in Cheltenham. This friendly little get-together started out as an Ars Magica convention and has grown into something more general over the years. It takes place annually, with the next one due in August 2019. Highly recommended!

Other Stuff

If you miss Matt and Scott’s voices during the interviews, just hold on for a bit. Towards the end of the episode, we all sing our thanks to a Patreon backer. If you’re not sick of the sound of us after that, we have failed.

Speaking of Patreon rewards, we also remind you that we are busy preparing issue 4 of The Blasphemous Tome. This is the annual old-school fanzine we produce for backers of the podcast. If you would like to know how to secure your copy and what to expect, check out our recent post.

And in our segment on recent social media posts, we mention a lively thread about our episode on the role of insanity in Lovecraft’s fiction. Most of the feedback we get comes via our Google+ Community, but this time it was a post to the Call of Cthulhu Facebook group that blew up.