Episode 243: Morality in the Cthulhu Mythos

We’re back and we’re in a moral quandary. It’s fair to say that the gods and monsters of the Mythos are beyond human comprehension. The problem is that we are human (or at least that’s our story) but we still need to find ways to write and talk about morality in the Cthulhu Mythos. Is our only option to talk about the ineffable from a human perspective? Or do we get meta and accept that the Mythos is a human invention and any moral opacity is of our own creation? Ultimately, we’ll probably just argue a lot and go off on tangents. That’s served us well enough for the last nine years.

Main Topic: Morality in the Cthulhu Mythos

We’re continuing last episode’s discussion of morality. This time, we’re looking at the role of morality in the Cthulhu Mythos. Do the entities of the Mythos follow any kind of morality we can comprehend? How do we best use antagonists who exist outside our concepts of good and evil? And do they always have to be antagonists anyway?

Things we mention in this episode include:

News

Mazes and Monsters 40th Anniversary

Plumeria Pictures are releasing a special 40th anniversary edition of the legendary Mazes and Monsters, starring a shockingly young Tom Hanks. Those of you with long memories (or access to Google) may know this weird piece of RPG history, very loosely and inaccurately inspired by the tragic story of Dallas Egbert. The film has become notorious as part of the Satanic panic of the 1980s, but it doesn’t really fit into that camp. It’s something far stranger and quite unique.

If you need more of a reason to pick up this release, it comes with a special commentary track recorded by Seth Skorkowsky, Veronica from Cthulhu and Friends, Joe & Eoghan from How We Roll, and our very own Scott Dorward. We spend the film’s runtime marvelling at its strangeness, talking a bit about the history that inspired it, and becoming increasingly confused by all the hats.

A Weekend With Good Friends

The next Weekend With Good Friends is approaching fast. This is the online RPG convention organised by our lovely listeners and hosted on our Discord server. We have a web page with important details and links, which we will update as things progress.

The important dates are:

  • 30th September-13th October 2022 – GM signups
  • 21st October–27th October – Player signups
  • 28th October – Lottery results are announced
  • 4th–6th November – A Weekend With Good Friends
a weekend with good friends logo small

We’re back and we’re sitting in judgement. Unfortunately, it turns out that judgement doesn’t make a very good seat. Next time, we’re bringing cushions. The topic of morality in RPGs shouldn’t be a comfortable one, but that doesn’t mean we want to end up with piles.

Main Topic: Morality in RPGs

This episode is our exploration of the role of morality in RPGs. From the weirdness of D&D‘s alignment system to the more challenging approach of games like Dogs in the Vineyard, RPGs have always explored questions of morality. But should games try to enforce moral codes through mechanics? When they do, does it work better to use a carrot or a stick? And what makes the exploration of morality interesting in a game?

The original AD&D alignment chart

Things we mention in this episode include:

News

Paul at Owlbear and Wizard’s Staff

Paul is heading off to another convention. This time, he’s attending the latest Owlbear and Wizard’s Staff in Leamington Spa, over the weekend of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th of September. Do say hi if you spot him there.

Night Bus on Ain’t Slayed Nobody

Scott recently ran his scenario “Night Bus” from issue 8 of The Blasphemous Tome for our good friends at Ain’t Slayed Nobody. All three parts of the recording are now available on the main ASN feed. Find a free seat, if you can, and join us as we journey into terror, via Penge.

Episode 241: Strange NPCs - Louis Wain

We’re back and we’re trying our hands at cat breeding. According to these instructions we received from Louis Wain, the secret is electricity. The cats don’t seem to happy about this, even if it does produce interesting patterns in their fur. At least they are all pointing towards magnetic north now, however. And isn’t that what cats are supposed to do?

Louis Wain and friend

Main Topic: Strange NPCs – Louis Wain

This episode is is the latest in our Strange NPCs of History series, in which we look at notable people who might inspire games of Call of Cthulhu. This time, we’re discussing Louis Wain, the eccentric English artist whose cartoons and paintings of cats caught the world’s imagination in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Despite this fame, however, Wain was mainly remembered for his psychotic illness for many years, with both medical professionals and critics pondering what effect it had on his work. Partly because of this, Wain has remained a cult figure in popular culture in the decades since his death. The last year has seen renewed interest in his work, following the 2021 biopic, The Electrical Life of Louis Wain.

Our special guest for this episode is cuppycup of the Gold-ENnie-Award-winning Ain’t Slayed Nobody podcast. Regular listeners will know that we’re all fans of the Old West arc, “Y’all of Cthulhu”, that has been running for the last couple of years. They have also done a number of side projects with Scott, including a playthrough of his scenario “Catland”, which features Louis Wain as an NPC.

Things we mention in this episode include:

Tommy Catkins by Louis Wain
The series of pictures supposedly depicting the effects of Wain’s psychosis on his art
Forest Edge by Louis Wain
The Fire of the Mind Agitates the Atmosphere – Louis Wain

News

Paul at Necronomicon

After last year’s cancellation, Necronomicon Providence is returning for 2022. Paul is on his way as this episode goes out and hopes to see some of you there. Unfortunately, neither Matt nor Scott can make it this time. Maybe in 2024!

We’re back and we’re catching up with our reading. Until recently, we thought we’d seen the most sanity-blasting fanfic the internet could offer. Between terrible prose, wooden characters, and unacceptable levels of horniness, bad fanfic can eat your brain quicker than a hungry ghoul. But this twelfth volume of The Revelations of Gla’aki is in a league of its own. We’re used to Mary-Sue protagonists taking over the narrative, but this Y’golonac character keeps threatening to take over the reader. It’s irritating, but probably not worth losing our heads over.

Main Topic: Y’golonac and The Revelations of Gla’aki

This episode is our latest exploration of the deities of the Cthulhu Mythos. We have devoted previous episodes to Dagon, Shub-Niggurath, Yog-Sothoth, Nyarlathotep, Hastur, Azathoth, Nodens, Ubbo-Sathla and Mordiggian, Ithaqua, and Cthulhu. This time, we’re returning to Ramsey Campbell, following our earlier discussions of his creations, Daoloth and Eihort, and Gla’aki.

Specifically, it’s the turn of everyone’s favourite headless monstrosity — Y’golonac! As disturbing as Y’golonac’s appearance is, his recruitment techniques are far worse. We spend some time discussing how we might use Y’golonac in our games and how we might avoid crossing any personal lines in doing so.

At the same time, this is also a follow-up to last episode’s exploration of Gla’aki, perusing the tome which connects him to Y’golonac — The Revelations of Gla’aki. This unusual book is almost a character in its own right, stretching the definition of a living document.

And do hang around after the credits for a bonus from our good friends at the HP Lovecraft Historical Society.

Y’golonac

Things we mention in this episode include:

Cold Print cover

News

Scott on Blood Moon Rising

Scott recently made a guest appearance on the Vampire: the Masquerade chronicle, Blood Moon Rising, run by our good friend Rina Haenze for The Old Ways Podcast. This is the first of a handful of appearances, with Scott giving voice to William Mallet, a scheming Camarilla elder sent to bring order to San Francisco. Expect bastardry.

William “The Hammer” Mallet

Scott on Pretending to be People

And if that weren’t enough, Scott has also been playing an NPC on Pretending to be People. Our good friends Joe and Zach decided that Scott was the natural choice to play Beck Wilder’s mother, Kim. So he did. Kim’s first appearance is in the season two episode, “Printing Press”.

Pretending to be People

We’re back and we’re making stuff up. Sure, it’s a bit disjointed, filled with inconsistent characterisation, narrative dead ends, and terrible jokes, but it sort of feels like a story. What do you expect when a bunch of people create it on the fly, all pulling in different directions? Any story there owes more to cheap beer and bad dice rolls than careful planning. If we read this tosh in a book, we’d ask for our money back. Yet, somehow, we’re all happy with it. And anyway, it’s still better than a Dan Brown novel…

Main Topic: Creating Stories at the Table

This episode is a lively discussion of what it means to create stories at the gaming table. Just talking about RPGs in terms of stories is likely to start an argument, and this episode is no exception. What do people mean when they talk about stories in the context of an RPG? Is an RPG scenario constructed anything like a story? And whose responsibility is it to create a story at the table anyway?

We’ve paused our discussion of The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath for a few episodes as Matt has been seriously ill. During his absence, we have called upon some of our good friends in the podcasting world to stand in as guest hosts.

This time, we are joined by Gaz Bowerbank, co-host of the What Would the Smart Party Do? podcast. Gaz’s co-host, Baz Stevens, joined us a few episodes ago for our “Everything is Horror” discussion, so we thought it was time to complete the set.

Things we mention in this episode include:

News

Update on Matt

As we mentioned, Matt has been seriously ill recently. He is well on the road to recovery, however, and we hope to have him back with us next episode.

The Blasphemous Tome issue 9

We are busy finishing the text of issue 9 of The Blasphemous Tome. This issue’s Call of Cthulhu scenario comes from our own Paul Fricker. “Step Into My Parlour” is a sinister tale of street gangs and weird drugs, set in 1880s New York City. Everyone backing us on Patreon at the time of release in late June will receive a PDF or print copy.

Covers of Tomes of yore

Scott on You Awaken in a Strange Place

Scott recently appeared with Dave and Eoghan from How We Roll on You Awaken in a Strange Place, a new RPG podcast from Light and Tragic. This was an improvised game that ended up following the misadventures of a team of megafauna wranglers and a strange alien world.