We’re back and we’re nearing the end of our expedition. The tunnels below this ancient, pre-human city are full of penguin droppings but somehow these aren’t the foulest things down here. Something has been polishing these floors like a giant protoplasmic Roomba. We’re not sure what it is yet, but it does seem to have a lovely singing voice. Maybe it will be our friend.

It looks like it packs a mean cuddle.

Main Topic: At the Mountains of Madness part 4

This is the penultimate part of our discussion of Lovecraft’s epic, At the Mountains of Madness. We’re well into the action-packed part of the story, with monsters aplenty. Sure, some of these monsters are penguins, but they do look really creepy down here in the dark. Especially the ones without any eyes.

Links

Some of the things we mention in this episode include:

“Can you tell me how to get, how to get to…”

News

The Blasphemous Tome issue 5

We have finished laying out issue 5 of The Blasphemous Tome and it will soon be heading to press!

The Tome is the print-only fanzine we produce exclusively for our Patreon backers. This issue features a new scenario for Call of Cthulhu, called “Number 22”, written by very our own Matt Sanderson. You will also find plenty of other juicy articles, stories and artwork, including many contributions from our wonderful listeners! If you would like to secure your copy, simply back us on Patreon by the end of the year. Those who back us before we send out the first batch in late November will also receive one of our eldritch Christmas cards.

Dragonmeet 2019

Matt and Paul will be attending Dragonmeet next month. This one-day convention takes place at the Novotel in West London on the 30th of November. If you see them wandering around looking lost, please say hello and guide them to wherever they need to be.

Wandering Monsters on YouTube

Paul also offers a brief shout-out to Stephen Twining’s YouTube Channel, Wandering Monsters. While the channel mostly focuses on D&D, recent episodes have discussed Call of Cthulhu and Runequest as well.

Other Stuff

Reviews and Social Media

We share a marvellous new review from TomasDeTorque in Australia. If you feel inspired to write a review of your own — whether on Apple Podcasts or anywhere else you might find podcasts — we would be delighted!

As of episode 171, we shall be dropping the social media segment of the podcast. This is part of our grander plan to retool a few things to keep the podcast fresh.

Songs

As part of this retooling, we are also discontinuing the songs we sing to new Patreon backers. This is probably an act of mercy. While they’ve been fun to do, the joke is wearing thin. Thank you to everyone we’ve sung to and we hope the mental scars fade with time!

This episode sees (hears?) us singing to the fine folks behind Trebuchet Magazine. With recent issues about “Space and Time” and “The Human Body”, there is plenty of rich Call of Cthulhu inspiration to be found in its pages.

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 for Beginners

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.  

It is rare for us to show our true faces. While we freely insinuate ourselves into sound waves, creeping into your ears like hungry little spiders, we usually spare you from the stark horror of our hideous visages. Now, however, we are ready to expose ourselves. We wear no masks.

This is the video of our recent seminar, Calling Cthulhu, at the Tabletop Gaming Live 2018 event at Alexandra Palace. If you prefer to spare yourself the horror of our naked faces, we have also released the audio as a special episode.

141: Improvisation in RPGs

We’re back and we’re staring at the players with frightened eyes, peeling our tongues from the roofs of our mouths and drowning in flop sweat. This is our look at the role of improvisation in RPGs. Gulp.

Main Topic: Improvisation in RPGs 

Almost every new GM has felt that moment of panic when the players take the game in an unexpected direction. What should you do? Would it be fair to try to force them back towards what you have prepared? Are quick-witted enough to make stuff up instead? Why does this feel like one of those dreams where you’re back at school, sitting an exam you haven’t prepared for? And why the hell are you naked anyway?

Redacted
Nude pictures of the Good Friends are only available at the $100 Patreon tier.

We try to address some of these anxieties in our discussion. Improvisation is a natural part of any RPG and you already do a lot more of it than you might think. Every time a player character or an NPC speaks in a game, the players or GM are improvising. Unless you’re using read-aloud text, any narration is a stream of improvisation. (Don’t use read-aloud text. It makes you sound like a bored tour guide.) 

“On our left, we have a stone archway. Ahead, there’s another stone archway. Then, to the right of that stone archway, there’s a stone archway. Whoever built this place really loved stone archways. Anyway, roll for initiative”

With some confidence, it becomes simple enough to improvise more extensively, especially given some useful tools and techniques. Throughout the episode, we offer advice about how to prepare to improvise. This isn’t as much of an oxymoron as it sounds like. We also talk about techniques that will help you do so. One of our favourites is to steal ideas from other sources, usually films or books. In a recent video, Seth Skorokosky talks about stealing from published adventures — a technique we shall, in turn, steal for ourselves.

Probably the definitive work on improvisation in RPGs, which we mention in passing, is Graham Walmsley’s book Play Unsafe. It contains valuable advice for players and GMs alike, culled from improvisational theatre and comedy. It’s also short enough to read in a single sitting.

Play Unsafe cover

News

We offer a brief overview of what we got up to at Concrete Cow 18 1/2. Thank you to everyone who came along and played with us! We hope to see at least some of you in March for Concrete Cow 19.

Concrete Cow logo

We recorded this episode on Matt’s birthday, so you can listen as Paul gives Matt a present that he picked up at Gen Con. This little wooden contraption is apparently guaranteed to exorcise the demonic bad luck from dice. Should you suffer from a similar infestation, the Dice Devil’s Trap is available from Hrothgar’s Hoard.

Dice devil's trap
If your luck is as bad as Matt’s, inquire about their wholesale options.

This leads to a discussion about rubber chickens’ feet, because of course it does. See the video below for all the explanation we can offer.

Other Stuff

As we remind you in the episode, issue 4 of The Blasphemous Tome is bearing down on us like a hungry shoggoth. (If you want to argue about whether shoggoths get hungry, please find us on social media.) The Tome is the print-only fanzine we create for our Patreon backers. We recently offered up a sneak preview of the table of contents and of the cover, created by the amazing Evan Dorkin. If you would like to secure your copy or copies, simply back us on Patreon by the end of the year.

The Blasphemous Tome issue 4 cover

And in our social media catch-up, we share a new iTunes review. We are always delighted when someone writes a review of the podcast, whether on iTunes or elsewhere. They remind us that we are not just shouting into the void and, more importantly, they help new listeners find the podcast. Please help us crawl our way into more unsuspecting ears.

We also discuss a few comments on our recent episode about Nathan Ballingrud’s short story, “Wild Acre”. As usual, most of the discussion takes place on our Google+ Community. While we have heard the recent news that Google plans to shut down G+ next year, there is still plenty of time before they do so. For the time being, please join the discussion there. We shall find a new home soon.