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.
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.
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.
I’m preparing for the second session of Blood Money, my Vampire the Requiem Chronicle. The first session went well, I feel. It gave me an opportunity to put forward a range of ‘essential ideas’ about the game world and play up the elements I wanted emphasise about playing a vampire:
- alienation from humanity – the strangeness of being a vampire, their control over and distance from mortals
- the overwhelming desire for blood — blood is smelt in a medical waste container in a hospital and it’s enticing. The victim of a crime, bleeding to death in a bath, is first identified as a warm, wasted blood…
- the predatory nature of a vampire — the character’s smell what’s in a room, what’s coming towards them, before they see it. Mortals occasionally shirk at their presence even though they don’t know what they are.
- the arcane and medieval nature of the vampire court and its practices — the wheeling and dealing, the politics, the titles. Deliberately flooding the players with arcane names, ancient grudges and esoteric titles. Continue reading
I was pleasantly surprised to recently discover Role-playing Games – Stack Exchange. It’s still Beta testing at the moment, but it’s a great use of Stack Exchange for roleplayers to seek advice from other roleplayers. This is their official description:
This is a free, community driven Q&A for gamemasters and players of tabletop, paper-and-pencil role-playing games. It was created through the open democratic process defined at Stack Exchange Area 51.
So why not check it out and contribute to the discussion.
(It gives awards merit badges and ratings which is a nifty little incentive to maintain a congenial, community atmosphere!)
There is a lot of advice online there on how to GM successfully. Some great examples include this, this and this. Of course, like anyone who’s spent a bit of time thinking about the hobby, I have my own take, my 5 key tips to being a good GM… Continue reading