We’re back and we’re strapping some of our favourite RPGs to the dissection table and cutting deep into them to understand why they appeal so much. You always hurt the ones you love. And who knew that a gamebook could scream like that? Matt may be cruel to his dice sometimes but not even he goes this far.

Main Topic: Top 3 RPG Mechanics

It has been far too long since we last did a Top 3 episode. They were a mainstay of the podcast in our early days but the format slipped quietly out of use. It felt like time to dig it out of storage and check that it still fits.

Just like a favourite old coat…

We each choose three of our favourite individual game mechanics from some very different RPGs, explaining how they work and why they appeal to us so. There is a fair bit of variety, taking in games published between the early ’80s and the present day. Some may give you ideas for things you can borrow for your own games. RPG designers are always feeding on what has gone before like a pack of dice-wielding ghouls.

Our Choices

Look away now if you don’t want to know our choices before listening to the episode.

Paul

Scott

Matt

Other Links

Some other things we mention in the episode include:

News

The Blasphemous Tome 4 1/2

Issue 4 1/2 of The Blasphemous Tome is so close that we can taste it. Either that or the charnel booty we had for lunch is repeating. Once we get the final approval from our good friends at Chaosium, PDF copies will be winging their way across the electronic ghoul winds to all our backers.

In case you’ve missed our earlier announcements, The Blasphemous Tome is the fanzine we produce for our wonderful Patreon backers. Issue 4 1/2 is an experiment in producing an interim electronic issue between our normal print releases. It contains brand new gaming material for Call of Cthulhu, including a scenario from Paul, and a range of weird fiction, artwork and odd little articles to tickle your synapses. To ensure you receive your copy, simply back us by the end of July.

Other Stuff

Reviews

We share a lovely new review from Martin Gode on Apple Podcasts. If this awakens a desire to write a review of your own, we heartily encourage you to embrace this. Said review does not have to be on Apple Podcasts — in fact, we would love to see more reviews elsewhere. As long as your podcast source is accessible to human technology, it’s all good. And even then, we could do with some more mi-go listeners.

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.

Issue 4.5 of The Blasphemous Tome is out!

The Blasphemous Tome is the regular fanzine that we create for Patreon backers of The Good Friends of Jackson Elias podcast. It contains plenty of sanity-blasting content for the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game, along with original artwork, fiction, reviews and many other articles.

Unlike previous Tomes, issue 4.5 is a PDF, not a print publication. This is a special interim edition, packed with articles we couldn’t fit in issue 4 and lots of new content.

Issue 5, due later this year, will be print-only as usual.

Everyone backing us via Patreon by the end of July will receive a digital copy of issue 4.5.

Contents

Featured in this issue is a brand-new Call of Cthulhu scenario by our very own Paul Fricker, titled “Fall Out”.

Jonathan Weisner has taken hostages and is holed up at his country house in Massachusetts. Elements of the past are about to mix with the present, leaving the investigators to pick up the pieces.

The cover comes from John Sumrow, one of our favourite eldritch artists. There is plenty of interior artwork too, featuring pieces from Evan Dorkin, Emily Fricker and more from John Sumrow.

The articles in this issue include:

  • Sounds Alarming
    • Scott offers troubling insights into the noises we make for our backer songs
  • Cocktail Corner
    • Another of Matt’s favourite cocktail recipes, along with a little history about the drink in question
  • “Fall Out”
    • A brand-new modern-day Call of Cthulhu scenario from Paul
  • “Diary of an Unnamed Corpse”
    • An eerie tale of black magic set in 1920s Vienna, by Joerg Sterner
  • The Sanderson Collection
    • Matt reveals another rarity from the dusty corners of his library
  • Secrets of Milton Keynes
    • Scott presents the first in a series of Call of Cthulhu scenario hooks set in the home town of the Good Friends
  • Possible Worlds and Realism
    • Grant Dowell offers techniques for making our game worlds more realistic by using formal logic
  • The Forgotten
    • A macabre weird tale by Scott

How Do I Get a Copy?

If you would like to receive your copy of The Blasphemous Tome 4.5, all you have to do is back us on Patreon at any level before the end of July 2019.

Covers from bygone Tomes

Please note that we do not sell copies of The Blasphemous Tome. It is purely a reward for the wonderful people who back us via Patreon.

The Blasphemous Tome is licensed for the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game by Chaosium, inc.

Episode 159: Martyrs

We’re back and we’re putting ourselves through torments. Watching Pascal Laugier’s 2008 horror film Martyrs is not necessarily a pleasant experience. This is not to say that it is a bad film — quite the opposite. It is, however, a gruelling one. The unrelenting cruelty and torture it depicts make it highly divisive. Not only is Martyrs viscerally nasty but it is emotionally draining and potentially quite upsetting. This is not a film for everyone. Be warned.

Main Topic: Martyrs

From the build-up we’ve offered, you may wonder why anyone would want to watch a film like Martyrs. This is not a simple question. Some of us are drawn to the extremes and understanding why can be difficult. This is especially true in the case of Martyrs, which is not remotely titillating. We spend some time trying to understand its appeal, and a little more finding ways in which it can inform our gaming.

The New French Extremity

Additionally, we touch upon the larger New French Extremity movement of which Martyrs was a part. This cinematic explosion of blood and terror — largely confined to the first decade of this century — explored uncomfortable subjects unflinchingly, depicting violence in a way that is both repellent and beautiful. We mention a few other highlights in passing:

Pascal Laugier

We also mention a few of Pascal Laugier’s other projects, as well as the 2015 American remake of Martyrs. None of us has seen the latter. From reviews and interviews, it seems to be another example of neutering a work of dark horror and turning it into something safe and palatable, wrapped up with a nice, happy ending. Have we learnt nothing from the remakes of The Wicker Man, The Haunting and The Vanishing?

The other Laugier films we touch on are:

You may have noticed that we have mentioned little about the actual plot of Martyrs. This is deliberate. Few other films we have seen benefit quite as much from going in cold. Martyrs is full of surprises, regularly shifting tone in ways that disorient and shock. If you are not completely put off by the idea of unglamorous violence and degradation, we recommend you read no more about the film before watching it.

News

The Blasphemous Tome 4b

Issue 4b of our fanzine, The Blasphemous Tome, is nearing completion. This is our first experiment with putting out an interim Tome between our normal releases. Longtime listeners will know that we send a printed fanzine to our Patreon backers every year. This time, we thought we’d release a PDF of the material we were unable to fit in the last Tome, along with a whole bunch of new content. The main feature is a brand new Call of Cthulhu scenario from our very own Paul Fricker and a fantastic cover by the wonderful John Sumrow. Issue 4b will go out in early July and we shall send a copy to everyone who is backing us on Patreon at the time of release.

Other Stuff

Songs

We have spared you any singing in this episode. After spending an hour talking about extreme torture and suffering, it seemed unfair to inflict any of our own. This is a short respite, however. We have new Patreon backers to thank and there will be song in the next episode.

We’re back and we’re facing harsh realities. How do we make RPGs feel “real” when we play them? And what do we even mean by “real”? More importantly, how can we ask such questions without passing a bong around?

Main Topic: Realism in RPG Mechanics

Any accusations that we may be hippies are completely overstated, man.

Surely we play RPGs to get away from reality. But even if this is the case, we still need to suspend our disbelief during the game; otherwise, it devolves into even more farce and arguments than usual. But what may feel real to one player might not to another. How do we create consensus and what part do game mechanics play in this?

First point of consensus: we are not bloody rolling to see how wide our anuses are.

In our discussion, we mention the late, lamented podcast, The Sons of Kryos. Judd Karlman and Jeff Lower were pioneers in RPG podcasting, offering sound advice to players and GMs alike. This is the podcast that inspired both Paul and Scott to become RPG podcasters. While their website and RSS feed are long gone, you can still find the complete run on archive.org.

Rules are not the only factor here. Next episode, we’ll explore what makes a game setting real to us. Or at least as close to real as we’re capable of getting. Making stuff up for a living can do strange things to one’s mind.

News

Pad’thulhu Auction

Anyone who has seen the cover of issue 4 of The Blasphemous Tome has already met Pad’thulhu. This most adorable of abominations was created by comics legend Evan Dorkin. Pad’thulhu has stolen our hearts. And then he ate them.

The Blasphemous Tome issue 4 cover

Good friend of the Good Friends, David Kirkby, was compelled to bring Pad’thulhu to life, rendering him in at least three dimensions. The resulting cuteness in clay perfectly captures every sanity-warping detail, drenching them in vivid colour.

You may be wishing that this eldritch moppet was perched upon your mantelpiece, filling your dreams with maddening visions of blood and marmalade. Well, this could happen!

We are auctioning David’s sculpture to raise money for Cancer Research UK. The auction will run until the 14th of March. We hope it will raise plenty of money for a cause that is important to so many of us. Look out for updates on social media. Thank you very much to David Kirkby for donating his sculpture and to Evan Dorkin for starting this whole thing off!

ConTingency

Matt takes a little time to tell us what he got up to on his winter holidays. Not many people would take a pleasure trip to England’s east coast in January. In this respect, as in so many others, Matt is not most people. He tells us all about the ConTingency convention, its new home in Hunstanton and all the wonderful games he played there.

Spotify

We are on Spotify! This means that you can now listen to The Good Friends of Jackson Elias pretty well everywhere podcasts are to be found. We might even be on Google Play, but as its podcast service is still unavailable in the UK, we’ll have to take that on faith. Take your time, Google. You can’t rush into these things.

Google+

Much like the British economy, Google+ has about a month to live. A number of members of our G+ Community have already moved over to our Discord server, Facebook page, Twitter stream and shiny new subreddit. If you haven’t done so yet, we would love to see you in as many of these places as you can face. You may also want to back up your data from G+ before it turns into so much digital chaff.

Other Stuff

Songs

The songs we assemble to thank our Patreon backers may undermine your sense of reality. And they certainly show no trace of real talent. They are, however, really heartfelt. There are two such displays of hideous gratitude in this episode. We are really sorry.

Reviews

Once again, we offer a new iTunes review from one of our wonderful listeners. We are ever so grateful to everyone who has taken the time to post a review, whether on iTunes or any other place you might find podcasts. These reviews improve our visibility, stoke our egos and help us draw more innocent minds into our world of depravity. All laudable goals, surely!