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!

We have something very special to announce! Over on eBay, we are hosting a charity auction for a one-of-a-kind sculpture of interest to fans of H. P. Lovecraft, the Cthulhu Mythos and Paddington Bear. That should cover most of our listenership.

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. We shudder to think what he’s doing with 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.

Pad’thulhu was sculpted in Super Sculpey firm with wooden spheres for eyes, dowel for toggles and lollypop sticks with plastic details for his suitcase. The sculpture is 10 cm tall (4 inches), including its wooden base. You can learn more about the creation process on David’s blog.

After hearing all this, you almost certainly wish that this eldritch moppet was yours, squatting atop your mantelpiece and filling your dreams with visions of blood and marmalade. Well, this is your chance!

We are auctioning David’s unique 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!

Please share this post with wild abandon!

We’re back and we’re heading off to Potters Lake in search of the secrets of creation. We hear good things about the apples there too. This is our look at the weird, evocative and highly overlooked RPG, Heaven & Earth.

Main Topic: Heaven & Earth

Heaven & Earth is a strange game, inspired by Twin Peaks, Christian theology, and, we assume, ridiculous quantities of hallucinogens. It is filled with weird Americana, eccentric characters and rich lore. While print editions are hard to obtain, you can pick up the PDFs of the core book and Paradise Lost supplement on DriveThruRPG. As we mention in the episode, there are also some free downloads available from the Abstract Nova website.

Matt is our subject matter expert on Heaven & Earth (as well as more infernal regions) so we get him to do most of the talking. In a stroke of divine retribution, however, he was struggling with a chest infection at the time of recording. If Matt’s voice sounds like it is rumbling up from the depths of the abyss, this is why. There is no other possible reason. Nope. None at all.

News

We have now entered the last week in which you can secure your copy of The Blasphemous Tome issue 4. Just in case you haven’t heard the good word, The Blasphemous Tome is the print-only fanzine we produce to thank our Patreon backers. This issue features a cover by Evan Dorkin, a new Call of Cthulhu scenario by Matt Sanderson and many other goodies. Please see our recent post for more details.

The Blasphemous Tome issue 4 cover

If you’re in the UK and fancy playing with Matt, he shall be attending Contingency next month. This is a residential convention, newly relocated to Hunstanton in Norfolk, running between the 23rd and 27th of January. Wear something warm.

Other Stuff

As the angels sing praises to the almighty, so do we sing praises to our Patreon backers. The angels have better voices, however, and their lips are less stained with blasphemies. There are two of our paeans in this episode, so be prepared. Not even divine intervention could make us sing in tune.

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: The Two-Headed Serpent

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.