In this latest episode, we discuss player-led games: in particular, we try to pin down what makes a game player-led, whether or not incorporating player input works with investigative games, how you can run a player-led game of Call of Cthulhu and just what the hell do we mean by “player-led” anyway.

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“I’ve got narrative control!” “No, I have!”

A lot of the ideas we discuss won’t be new to you if you’re used to playing indie games, and we shamelessly steal techniques from InSpectres, Dogs in the Vineyard and Hot War, amongst others. Even if you’re not much of a dirty hippie gamer, you may still find stuff you can use.

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Make love, not deprotagonisation!

If you’ve tried applying any such techniques to your Call of Cthulhu games, want us to elaborate on some of this stuff or simply want to mock us, we would love to hear from you. Our main social media presence is on Google+, but we’re also on Facebook and Twitter (although none of us really understand Twitter).

We’re back, a bit later than usual, and we’re finishing up our discussion of our favourite non-Lovecraftian roleplaying games. This time it’s Paul’s choice, and much to Matt’s disgust, he’s chosen Monsterhearts. Matt is unfazed by cosmic horror, bloodshed and psychological torture, but teen drama is just too much for him.

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I mean, look, she’s biting him right in the angst!

Monsterhearts, in case you haven’t encountered it, is Avery Mcdaldno’s game of teenage monsters and their messy lives. If this doesn’t sound like something that would interest you (and if you’re ever been exposed to Twilight, that is an entirely sensible reaction), you may find Paul’s impassioned enthusiasm for it changes your mind. Unless you’re Matt.

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And if you’re still not interested, he’ll just rip your heart out.

As mentioned, this episode took longer than usual to prepare. Most of this was editing incriminating comments made by Matt (as evidenced by all the beeps, clicks and weird noises). Paul has promised that he’s still left enough of them in for the show to be juicy.

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What the hell is he doing up there?

This latest episode sees us return to our discussion of our favourite non-Lovecraftian horror role-playing games, with Matt sharing his unwholesome love of all things Kult. Admittedly, it would be difficult to make anything related to Kult wholesome.

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Love takes many forms, some illegal in your jurisdiction

Kult, for those who haven’t encountered it, is a Swedish RPG first translated into English in the early 1990s. The setting is one of the richest and strangest in horror gaming, taking in Gnostic Christianity, splatterpunk and a sense of oppressive gloom that could only have come from a Nordic clime. The game has been through a number of English-language editions and publishers, but is currently out of print. We can only assume that Lictors are responsible. Lictors are always responsible.

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Go on, ask him to get Kult back into print. We’ll wait here.

Kult can be a controversial game, largely because of its religious, violent and sexual elements, and be warned that our discussion reflects this. Admittedly we spend more time complaining about the layout of some of the supplements than we do about, say, eating babies, but the point still stands.

This latest episode is the audio portion of last week’s interview with Malcolm Craig of Contested Ground Studios. The only differences are the addition of our theme music, some slight fiddling with sound balance, a few edits and the fact that you can’t see any of us. This latter point may be the most appealing, but can also be achieved by shutting your eyes while watching the video.

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Artist’s impression of the view from behind closed eyes.

Malcolm talks about his influences as a game designer, how being a professional historian influences his gaming, Lovecraft’s views on race and why Call of Cthulhu fails as an RPG. Some of his opinions may prove more controversial than others.

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“What do you mean that post-modernist analyses of history are pseudo-intellectual wank?”

We’ve since had a chat with Malcolm about the possibility of having him back on the podcast to elaborate on some of his opinions about Call of Cthulhu in more of a round table discussion. If this sounds like the kind of thing that would interest you, please let us know! We do check the comments here, but we also have a community for just such things over at Google+.

This latest episode isn’t quite what it was meant to be. We started out believing that each of us would talk for a while about our favourite non-Lovecraftian horror RPG, but then Scott went on for so long that he took up an entire episode.

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He has been dealt with appropriately

The upshot is that this is an entire episode about Hot War, the post-apocalyptic SF/horror RPG from Contested Ground Studios. As you’ll hear in more detail in the episode, Hot War is set in an alternate 1963 where the Cuban missile crisis went horribly wrong. Everything centres on a London that is facing the horrors of deprivation, widespread destruction, monsters that were once human and the rising spectre of fascism. You could also use 1980s Dundee as the setting with very few tweaks.

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Are you sure that’s not the Tay Bridge?

We recorded a second episode, discussing Matt’s choice, but that’s going to have to wait for a fortnight. In the meantime, you could always download the demonstration pack (which, in the interests of full disclosure, was written by Scott) and preview of Hot War if you want to see what we’ve been rambling on about.