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Using Lovecraft’s Language in Cthulhu Sessions?

23 Feb

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.


Review: Stealing Cthulhu

4 Feb

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.

Video conferencing and roleplaying

11 Jan

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.

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Using music in Call of Cthulhu

19 Sep

I’ve talked before about how I am enjoy of using music during roleplaying sessions and how, as a game master, it can really help set the atmosphere while giving aural cues to the players. Recently, during one of my many web wanderings, I had the pleasure of stumbling across Musica Cthulhiana. These guys have produced three dark ambient soundtracks specidically for roleplaying games that, while largely intended for Call of Cthulhu, would work for a range of darker settings.

This prompted me to think of what album recommendations I would make to fellow Keepers to create  a suitable soundtrack to a Call of Cthulhu campaign.

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Story seed: Upstairs/downstairs Cthulhu in a manor house

9 Sep Mannor House

I recently finished watching the first season of Downton Abbey. It’s a fresh take on an upstairs/downstairs manor house drama revolving around the lives of a British  aristocratic family and their servants in the quarters below. I was also big fan of the film Gosford Park and the same writer, Julian Fellowes was the show runner for this production.

Of course anything even vaguely related to the 1920s gets me thinking about Call of Cthulhu. (Downton spans the 1912 to 1914, so we’re only 6 years shy in this series). The setting is ripe for use for one off sessions or even an on going campaign.

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More soon!

10 Mar

Well… I’ve been busy. This has to be the most common excuse for not updating a blog, and I’m sure that in almost all cases it’s true. In this instance, however, the business has also impacted on my availability to run sessions, play sessions, and generally think about sessions — which has lead to a hiatus of sorts from a Rolelplaying related blog.

However, things are about to change, damn it! Next weekend I return to Blood Money with it’s finale a fortnight after that. No doubt this will prompt further ruminations and materials that will surface on this blog.

For the time being, however, here’s a great article about importance of roleplaying for developing life skills.

What can a GM learn from being a player?

26 Nov

I was recently fortunate enough to get to play in two sessions with two different GMs. One a one-shot fantasy setting while a friend was over from Japan where we played philosopher assassins (who did a lot more philosophising than following the plot). The other was the first session of a globe-spanning Call of Cthulhu campaign that started at a symposium in Oxford. It will be  played sporadically when that GM is over in Australia on work from the UK. (It would seem that I have a lot of jet setting friends…) Continue reading

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