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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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Eclipse Phase: first play thoughts

2 Nov

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

Quick thoughts on Mansions of Madness Boardgame

20 Oct

The other night, I had the opportunity to play Mansions of Madness, Fantasy Flight Games’ Call of Cthulhu-style boardgame. Being both a boardgamer and roleplayer I was keen to see what this hybrid game was like. With a boardgame’s miniatures, sight-lines, cards and tokens and an RPG-like gamemaster (actually called a ‘Keeper’ ), narrative and player characters possessing customisable skills it clearly has a foot in each camp. Ultimately this central premise is also its central flaw. It tries to live in both worlds and ultimately fails at both.

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