The Two-Headed Serpent

We’re back and we’re cocking our hats, lighting some torches and wondering where the hell all these snakes came from. Why did it have to be snakes? This is our look at how we developed The Two-Headed Serpent, the epic Pulp Cthulhu campaign published by Chaosium.

Main Topic

Appropriately enough, this episode serves two purposes. As well as offering insights into The Two-Headed Serpent, we also talk about how we put the whole thing together. A few listeners have asked us for advice on writing campaigns and we thought we’d use this episode to explain how we do so. We spell out our development process, from initial concept to editing. Obviously, not everyone who writes a campaign does so for publication, so we also offer some advice about less formal approaches.

Obviously, this discussion includes spoilers. We’ve tried to keep these to a minimum, however. You could potentially listen to this episode and still play The Two-Headed Serpent. We give away a few plot points, including one major reveal, but leave plenty of surprises that could bite unsuspecting pulp heroes.

If you need a refresher about what Pulp Cthulhu is and how it differs from Call of Cthulhu, you may find our episode on the subject useful. And if you’d like to hear what The Two-Headed Serpent is like in play, Scott is currently running it for the How We Roll podcast.

Rachael Tew’s rendering of our doomed brave heroes.

News

Our good friends at Torchlight Candles have sent us something unusual. Few things we receive in the post are quite so fragrant and most are decidedly less odd. The Insanity Candle is a uniquely pyrotechnic way to track Sanity in Call of Cthulhu. By planting a scented replica of your investigator’s brain in a wax head, you can track SAN loss by melting it. As a bonus, once your investigator has been reduced to a puddle of maddened goo, you will find a secret message hidden in their remains. This may be the strangest Call of Cthulhu product that Chaosium have licensed. 

As you may have heard us mention once or twice, issue 4 of The Blasphemous Tome is now out. We’ve released our first batch into the winds like so many playful nightgaunts. Many have found their targets, bringing glorious nightmares with them. It’s not too late to get your copy, however. All you have to do is back us via Patreon by the end of the year. Full details can be found in our recent post.

The Blasphemous Tome issue 4 cover

Other Stuff

Our good friends at Chaosium have generously provided us with a copy of The Two-Headed Serpent to give away to one lucky listener. We’ve decided to hold a slightly different competition than our usual lucky dip based on social media shares. Of course, if you’d still like to share this episode, we shan’t complain! Full details of the competition can be found towards the end of the episode.

Dragonmeet 2018 Seminar

We’re back and we’re once again locked in battle with our good friends Baz and Gaz from The Smart Party. For the first time since 2015, we managed to arrange a joint seminar at Dragonmeet. Once again, we chose to make it a debate. This time the topic was “Are all RPGs simply customised versions of D&D?” Obviously, the answer is “no”, but we still found ourselves invited to prove this.

Unfortunately, Scott fell ill shortly before Dragonmeet and was unable to attend. We tagged Mike Mason in as a substitute Dorward, and he took on the role of moderator. This freed Paul up to be partisan. As for how that went… well, you’ll just have to listen to find out.

Thank you to everyone who attended and who asked some great questions. And many thanks to Joerg Sterner for sharing his photograph of the panel.

Call of Cthulhu for Beginners

We’re back at the beginning, where we started our grim journeys many years ago. Looking at our grey hair and wizened features, it’s difficult to imagine that we were ever young. Yet here were are, trying to remember what it was like to start playing Call of Cthulhu. This would be so much easier if we were able to literally cast our minds back through time. Does anyone have a number for the Yithians?

Main Topic 

Call of Cthulhu‘s position as one of the most popular tabletop RPGs means that it may be many people’s first game. Even if you have played something like Dungeons & Dragons before, Call of Cthulhu is different enough to warrant an introduction. So, after almost 150 episodes, we thought it was time to help people get into thiCall of Cthulhu thing.

Goal number 1: don’t let this chap eat you.

We offer some tips on Call of Cthulhu for beginners, both players and Keepers of Arcane Lore. Hell, we even explain that “Keeper of Arcane Lore” is Call of Cthulhu‘s eccentric way of describing a game master or GM. We also suggest some books and other resources to help set you on your path into darkness.

Between us, we’ve been playing Call of Cthulhu for around 90 years. This makes it tricky to remember what it was like to be a beginner. Luckily, we had some help for this episode. Lucy Fricker, Paul’s wife, recently ran her first game, so we asked her how she prepared her move to the other side of the GM’s screen. 

Although, sadly, that does mean not being able to see the artwork on the front of the screen.

And speaking of guests, we have a short interview with Mike Mason, line editor for Call of Cthulhu. Mike offers us some insight into the new Call of Cthulhu Starter Set. This is a new boxed set designed to ease fledgling Keepers into running the game.

News

All three of us plan to be at Dragonmeet in London this Saturday (the 1st of December). We shall spend most of the day in the podcast zone, talking to anyone who will let us. At 11 AM, we will take a break for a joint seminar with our good friends Baz and Gaz from the Smart Party. And at 2-3 PM, you can find Paul and Scott on the Chaosium stall, signing copies of Masks of Nyarlathotep alongside Mike Mason and Lynne Hardy. We can be talked into signing other things as well, within the bounds of decorum.

As you might have inferred from that last sentence, Masks of Nyarlathotep is now shipping worldwide. Our contributors’ copies turned up last week and they are massive! It’s going to be a toss-up whether this edition will be responsible for the deaths of more investigators or trees.

Paul also mentions his recent trip to Austria, where he met one of our listeners, Joerg Sterner. As Paul discovered, Joerg is the co-owner of Planet Harry, a games shop in Vienna. Paul completely failed to ask why it is called Planet Harry. We hope to rectify this when we see Joerg at Dragonmeet.

Other Stuff

Issue 4 of The Blasphemous Tome is now creeping across the globe, spreading madness and dismay. This is the print fanzine we create to thank all the lovely people who back us on Patreon. There is still time to snap up a copy for yourself. All you need to do is back us on Patreon by the end of the year.

350 little harbingers of madness safely tucked into envelopes.

The other thing we do for some of our Patreon backers is sing to them. This episode’s song is something rather special, however. A little while back, we had an iTunes review from Wilson MacGyver. He wrote about the small role listening to the podcast played in his wife’s cancer treatments. After reading this, we knew we’d need to set aside an entire segment to talk about their story. When Wilson backed us at the $5 level and made a special request for the song, we built the segment around that. Thank you again, Wilson, for sharing your and Priscilla Meredith’s experience with us all.  

Violence in Call of Cthulhu

We’re back and we’re loading our shotguns, lighting a bundle of dynamite and laying waste to everything we see. This is our look at the role of violence in Call of Cthulhu. Boom!

Main Topic

If you’ve spent any time discussing Call of Cthulhu online, you’ve probably had someone tell you that if your investigator so much as enters combat, you’ve lost. This is a game of careful investigation, putting pieces together and learning secrets man was not meant to know. If that’s the case, why do most of our games end up with everything in smithereens?

Careful investigation in progress.

This is not to say that violence in Call of Cthulhu is a bad thing. We’ve all played plenty of fun, action-packed games. It just seems like the easy option sometimes. In the real world, we (as individuals, not a species) usually sort out our conflicts non-violently. An average group of investigators, on the other hand, tends to resolve most scenarios with extreme prejudice. Why is this and what are the alternatives?

Can’t we all just get along?

Following our usual format for such discussions, we look at the portrayal of violence in Lovecraft’s fiction, the role it plays in Call of Cthulhu and how we might put together a scenario that doesn’t rely on a violent resolution. Then we punch each other in the face and burn Paul’s house down.

News

Dragonmeet is mere weeks away and we’re giddy with excitement. All three of us plan to be there and we would love to meet you. For most of the day, we can be found in the podcast zone, doing podcast-related things. Then, at some point, we shall appear on a seminar with our good friends Baz and Gaz from the Smart Party. We will debate whether all RPGs are pale imitations of D&D (spoiler: they’re not). If you can’t make it in person, we plan to record the seminar and release it as a special episode.

Other Stuff

Violence is only one of the unspeakable acts that people perpetrate upon each other. Our singing is another. We sing twice in this episode, thanking two new $5 Patreon backers. Being torn apart by a rampaging mob of investigators has nothing on this.

And speaking of Patreon, issue 4 of The Blasphemous Tome is almost ready to go to press. This is the print fanzine we produce to say thank you to our backers. Anyone backing us by the end of this year will receive at least one copy. See our recent post for more details.

The Blasphemous Tome issue 4 cover

The Thing

The Good Friends of Jackson Elias podcast takes a special look at John Carpenter’s horror/science fiction classic, The Thing. As well as discussing the film itself, we talk about how it might inspire our games of Call of Cthulhu and other tabletop RPGs.

If you are a horror film fan and this is your first visit to the Good Friends, you might be interested in some of the other similar episodes we’ve released:

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

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. 

#AOBS2018me on stage with the hot #waterbottle

Posted by Strongman Frank on Saturday, 20 October 2018

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.