I was recently flicking through a few old bookmarks on my browser and came across Cthulhu Chick’s compilation of Lovecraft’s Favourite Words. As she points out it’s hard to miss his tendency to use obscure and sometimes convoluted descriptives in Lovecraft’s prose. Personally, it’s one of the reasons I enjoy his work. You can’t simply skim over it, you must engage with the writing, which draws you deeper into the story.
All this got me thinking. Would deliberately using Lovecraft’s favourite words undermine or add to a Call of Cthulhu session?
On the one hand it would help position Lovecraft and the specific brand of horror that he evokes. It could also have a welcome nostalgic resonance for players and, if used sparingly, genuinely add to descriptions.
Issues might be that it distracts from the mood, forces a different style on the gamemaster and unnecessarily confuses matters (“What’s brachiate mean?”).
I’m a little ways off running a Call of Cthulhu session any time soon (Eclipse phase is up next on my horizon). But when I do, I’ll take a list of Lovecraftian words and try slipping them in to my descriptions and report back here.
I recently received my copy of Stealing Cthulhu by Graham Walmsley with annotations by Ken Hite, Gareth Harahan and Jason Morningstar.
I have to say that I am quite impressed with this tidy little hardcover. What it lacks in design (pretty much typset in a basic serif font with basic layout) it makes up for in fantastic content. As Walmsley puts it “Its central idea is: by stealing, adapting and combining Lovecraft’s ideas, you can create scenarios that seem new and horrific.”This might sound like a limited premise but the book really does thoroughly investigate the Lovecraft’s stories and provides alternatives and ways of reworking overused tropes into new and engaging scenarios.
Stealing Cthulhu does assume you’re familiar with a few (but not too many) of Lovecraft’s stories. Personally I found this commendable. I’ve often felt that too many players/gamesmasters rely on a second hand knowledge of the mythos to play games. Such a shame seeing how excellent Lovecraft’s work is and how much there is to gain by trying to stay true to his setting. It’s not all tentacles, cults and Gatling guns.
The book has got me thinking about new ways of coming at Cthulhu scenarios particularly steering away from the dreaded ‘thwart the ritual’ finale. I’ll put my ideas in a new post shortly. I would unreservedly recommend this book for anyone who is looking at refreshing their way of handling the mythos and keen to inject some new material into their campaigns.
A good friend of mine who lives in the UK and I had recently been discussing the feasibility of roleplaying online via video conferencing. Obviously it can be done, there’s ConstantCon for example that has been running pretty well as far as the session reports would indicate. But my real concern was over the quality of the sessions that could be achieved over video conferencing. Sure, they would never reach the heights of face-to-face roleplaying, but how close could they get?
Last night we played our second session of a weird fantasy session set in inhospitable jungles using Skype and I’m pleased to report that it works pretty well. Thoughts in more detail after the cut.
Despite best efforts to find the time to update Madness at Miskatonic, I have only just gotten around to this task. With this latest version there are a few continuity fixes and some more editorial/clarity changes. Thanks must go to Peter Cruise for his thorough eye and very helpful edits. The campaign notes are greatly improved because of his input. Thanks too to G. Roby picking up on some key timeline and linguistic issues. Both these fine individuals volunteered their time via the Yog-Sothoth forums and are fine examples of the collaborative community that resides there.
Without further ado:
Madness at Miskatonic: US Letter Version 3 (8.1MB)
Madness at Miskatonic with A4 cover Version 3 (8.3MB)
A few kind folks over at Yog Sothoth forums have pointed out some further issues/inconsistencies with Madness at Miskatonic. As a community of fellow Call of Cthulhu players, YSDC is great for this sort of thing. There are a few minor date issues, some German that needs fixing and one or two typos outstanding. I expect to have the update done within a week or so. All the existing links will be seamlessly updated once it’s done and the new version reposted on the home page.
In other exciting news the Madness at Miskatonic campaign PDF has been downloaded 283 times (just shy of 300 downloads). If only 10% of downloads actually end up being run that will still be around 30 roleplaying groups playing my campaign. Not too shabby at all :)
I haven’t forgotten about this project. At some point I do intend to finally get all my campaign notes up about this Vampire: The Requiem game I finished over six months ago now… One of the issues when faced with a political game with a number of non-player characters is providing the players with a useful way of keeping track of everyone they meet. Once the primary antagonists had been introduced (gradually over a few sessions) I knocked up this play aid to put all the character’s contacts and foes in the one place. I include it here as it a) took a hell of a long time to edit all the images until I was satisfied with them and b) because it will help act as a useful reference point when I start spelling out a few basics about each of these NPCs and how I used them in my Moscow game setting.
These images are drawn from a variety of sources, stock, screen caps, creative commons… I am asserting no ownership over them at all. In the unlikely event that an owner has a problem with my using them here for not for profit reasons, I’ll gladly take the image down.
blood_money_npcs (1.4 MB PDF)
The other night I had ran my first session of the transhuman roleplaying game Eclipse Phase. I was initially attracted me to its dark science fiction setting and the novel approach to player character life/death. A central conceit is that technology has advanced to a point where the human mind can be mapped and transferred into new genetically engineered bodies. This changes the entire dynamic of a game where ‘death’ is only ever temporary as long as a character has a back up of their mind. Continue reading