Holding pattern

Not much to report on the ‘Tomes’ front recently; waiting for my print copies of The Unspeakable Oath #21 to arrive, waiting for news from Chaoisum about the Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion (and watching their Kickstarter hit $75k), waiting for my copy of Bumps in the Night to arrive, waiting for any news from the various books I’ve had a hand in, waiting for Arc Dream to post audio from their Delta Green session at GenCon, waiting for my daughter to start sleeping regularly again (thanks teething!), waiting for any of my regular podcasts to release a new episode… lots of waiting.  I suppose we can blame August?

In the mean time, I have, very nicely, been gifted a copy of Cthulhu by Gaslight, which, 34 pages in, I am enjoying greatly.  I’m also doing research for some Lovecraft Country projects (when I’m not tinkering about their edges), added some content to my LC graveyards book (3000 words so far), and went to take better pictures at a local cemetery.  Unfortunately I forgot what time of day it was, leaving me with the sun in the wrong position relative the stones, so they were damned hard to photograph clearly.  Next time I won’t forget my mirror.

Hopefully I will stop waiting for something from the above list soon…

New Podcast link: Miskatonic University Podcast

Please excuse poor Hecubus, he’s having a nap.

While we continue to await the release of our long-demanded next episode of the the Unspeakable Oath podcast, I have taken to listening to other Lovecraftian productions, as time allows. Today I’m adding a link to the Miskatonic University podcast. In each episode (13 so far, how propitious!) the three Keepers/Hosts discuss various topics of interest to Lovecraftian gamers (Keepers in particular). In recent episodes they have added dedicated segments, such as the enjoyable M.U. history presentation, giving the show a more polished feel. I do wish they would do a tiny bit more research sometimes… their discussion of the Deep Ones in a recent episode totally neglected to mention Dennis Detwiller’s excellent ‘Black Cod Island’, from Delta Green: Targets of Opportunity, for example… And more importantly they were unaware of Escape from Innsmouth!!!  Good luck gents and ‘Go Pods’ (though again, minor quibble, the real M.U. mascot is the Badger, iirc).

Whisperer (and no park…ness?) and fun with Spambots

I had the good fortune to heading down to Providence over the weekend to catch a double-feature of The Call of Cthulhu and The Whisperer in Darkness at the Cable Car Theater.  Before I dive into my Lovecraftian cinematic adventure, I wanted to share the latest computer-generated poetry to grace my spam filter-

I’m also writing to let you be aware of of the great discovery my cousin’s princess experienced reading through your site. She discovered such a lot of things, which included what it’s like to possess a great teaching mindset to get the mediocre ones with no trouble learn selected tricky matters. You undoubtedly exceeded visitors’ expectations. I appreciate you for offering  these productive, trusted, educational and also cool guidance on the topic to Mary.

Huh? I wish my cousin had a princess…

Now, on to Lovecraftian fun!  First off, I should have remembered that weekends, May through October, Providence hosts ‘Waterfire‘ an outdoor arts festival along the Providence River.  The double-feature was scheduled to start at 10 and I’d not allowed much time for delays (i.e. I was running late) so when I discovered downtown Providence was full of laughing families, all of whom had filled every convenient parking space near the theater.  I suspect there are not a lot of people with serious heart ailments living in Providence since I had to make a CON check to descend the hilly streets to the cinema.  After convincing the lone employee that, despite being 1/2 an hour late that I did indeed wish to see the double feature.  A quick visit to the concessions stand (err, counter) and I was ready to watch the movies…

Having already seen The Call of Cthulhu several times (including once in Providence previously), I wasn’t unhappy to come in at the climax of the film, as the poor doomed sailors reaching the ‘tomb’ of Cthulhu.  After the sailors had been eaten, Cthulhu impaled on a freighter, and our narrator driven mad by his discoveries our next film began… which for five minutes was The Call of Cthulhu again.  Ooops.

(Speaking of TCoC… I noticed in the ‘Thanks’ section of the credits of the film was one Nick Offerman, which a quick check on ye olde Yternette confirmed that it is the very same gent who plays Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation.  Nifty!)

Now, after the break, my thoughts on The Whisperer in the Darkness

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Happy Birthday HPL

I thought I posted this earlier… but apparently I hit save draft instead.Anyway, let us all wish a happy 122 birthday for Howard Philips Lovecraft, gentleman of Providence.  Technically he could still be alive today if he, well, hadn’t died of cancer in 1937 and turned out to be the second oldest person in history… Still, neat to imagine.

So, have some ice cream, worry about the influx of foreigners, and dream of amethyst cities lit by braziers of ineffably scented incense.

ENnie winners, Kickstarter, again

A couple of items I wanted to note-

First off, I guess I have pretty good taste, as both Liber Fumo (aka the Occult Guide to London) and Shadows Over Scotland won gold at the annual ENnie awards presented at GenCon.  It was a good showing for Lovecraftian gaming overall, with this excellent pair joined by Kevin Ross’ outstanding revamp of Cthulhu by Gaslight and several PDF only products from Pelgrane.  Congratulations to all.

I also should mention there is yet another Kickstarter… really an avalanche, no?  This time it’s Chaosium, raising money to do an expanded box version of Horror on the Orient Express.  Of course, within about a day they have already raised in excess of their goal of $20,000, suggesting there is a wee bit of pent-up demanded.

MoN Companion – About Tomes

One topic I’ve been meaning to address for quite a while now is the peculiar approach I took to Mythos tomes in the Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion.  When I ran the campaign many moons ago, one of the problems I had arose when the players got a hold of a copy of the Pnakotic Manuscript and, quite understandably asked “What is it about?”  I had no idea.  The campaign doesn’t say and the rulebook (I had 4th edition) didn’t add much.  This was in the mid-1990s so, while I had some limited internet resources (hello Mosaic!), I certainly didn’t have an effective search engine.  Nor did I have Dan Harms excellent Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia (Plug! Now available as an eBook!)  So I fumbled and muttered something about nightmarish text of blasphemy and asked for Sanity rolls.  Later, as I was preparing for the next session, I mustered my limited resources and wrote up a short summary of the book as well as somewhat longer notes for once he finished reading it… in 46 weeks or so.  As the campaign progressed, I did the same thing for some of the other books they recovered.  Those notes, along with all my other material went into a binder, that went into a box, that then sat for quite a while, periodically moved by my girlfriend, then later my finance, then later my wife (I had a far away summer job you see and she was stuck moving us three times.  Sorry honey!)

When the idea for the Companion oozed into my mind, one of the things I wanted to include was expanded versions of my tome notes from my own campaign… now greatly supplemented by the sudden wealth of knowledge at my fingertips thanks to the internet, great books like Dan’s Encyclopedia and the previously praised Ex Libris Miskatonici, the two Keeper’s Companions, a much expanded CoC collection on my part, and the fevered brains of the members of Yog-Sothoth.com.

The entries for each book, which I dubbed ‘write-ups’ for some reason, are based on the CoC rule structure in large part- there is a discussion of the contents as understood by someone skimming the book and a fuller one for those who take the time to study it.  Additionally we provide what information investigators might learn when they try to research the tome, as well as often about its author or the publication history.  To pique player interest we also include an expanded physical description of the book, which I found particularly interesting to research and imagine, as it allowed me to construct a sort of biography for that particular tome… when was it published? Who owned it? How has it been treated? This adds a whole new layer of clues for canny investigators.  Finally, and most importantly, we tried to highlight the contents of each tome as they might connect to the Masks of Nyarlathotep Campaign itself.  Does the tome reveal some secret of the campaign, like Life as a God, or is it tangential to things, like True Magick.

I think that Mythos tomes should be far more than simply a collection of spells, Sanity costs, and skill point gains.  While it is impossible to fully replicate the sanity blasting power of Mythos tomes, I think that when richly described, tomes can be both useful props. setting mood and tone, as well as key sources of clues.  When you treat a tome with the same depth and degree of detail your might provide for a villain or a cult, you enrich the play experience for everyone.

After my work on the Companion I had the good fortune of being asked by Dan Harms (who I’d consulted with a few questions about the more obscure texts from the campaign) to create similar write-ups for some of the tomes in his (still in progress) campaign Fury of Yig.  Dan suggested we also include notes about the availability of the tome in question, which was a very good idea.  Hopefully some day we might see some of this work, both for the Companion and for Fury of Yig, in print?

In the mean time, you can see this approach in action in my Notes on the Turner Codex and in my article Saucer Attack 1928: The Dunwich ‘Horror’ in issue 21 of the Unspeakable Oath.

Next Time: More on Tomes?  This time, reading them!

Thank you Arc Dream

People in the RPG community often complain when publishers are late with (or even fail to make) payments.  Today in the mail I received payment from Arc Dream for my article in the latest issue of the Unspeakable Oath. Thanks Arc Dream!  I heartily recommend submitting material to the Oath; not only is there a chance to see your work in print, but you’ll be paid on time and in full.