New podcast – the Friends of Jackson Elias

I’ve added a new podcast to the roster on the right side of the page, with a name of particular interest to fans of Masks of Nyarlathotep CompanionThe Good Friends of Jackson Elias.  The three hosts – Scott Dorward, Paul Fricker (of CoC 7th Edition fame), and Matthew Sanderson cover (in their words):

“the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game, but we will also talk about other games, books, films and general inspiration. Each episode focuses on one or two topics, and we will try to stick to these, despite our natural tendencies to digress.”

They have released four episodes to date (all recorded in a potting shed) and are definitely worth a listen.  No word yet as to why they have not made it to the Chelsea Hotel yet…


Read any good PDFs lately?

I have been very busy of late, between the escape release of the Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion, work I owe [REDACTED], research and writing for [REDACTED], a visit from my family, and trying to get the Arkham Gazette’s preview issue ready for release.  Since time is at a premium and I keep falling asleep at the keyboard (and I’ve wasted far too much time on my Father’s Day gift; oh Fallout New Vegas, how many hours will you consume?!?) I’ve decided to at least catch up on things via a good old fashioned bullet point list.

  • The lads at the Miskatonic University Podcast have some kind words for the preview of the Gazette I shared with Keeper Chad in their latest episode.  I’m not sure why it sounds like someone is shooting at him.
  • A bunch of places have mentioned the Companion, but I’ve not seen any full reviews.  Perhaps it takes time to read 572 pages?
  • The contributors to the Companion collectively purchased me a nightmarish bust of Nyarlathotep (in his God of the Bloody Tongue form) which now terrifies all visitors to my home, lording over them from the mantle.
  • The Gaming Grunts have nearly wrapped up their playthrough of Realm of Shadows; it’s been a fun ride so far – they skipped so much! – and I cannot wait to see how it ends.
  • Sixtystone Press has announced that they’re releasing an expanded PDF/POD version of Cathulhu, a version of CoC in which you play a cat originally published in Worlds of Cthulhu magazine (issue 3 maybe?).  I’d link to it but I can only find a post to their Google plus thingie.  Hopefully we’ll see a print book from them soon?
  • Finally, I’m working on a separate blog for all things Arkham Gazette, including notes on submissions, topics for future issues, etc.  I’ll make that live when I finally get the preview issue done.  I should probably make up a name better than WinstonP-writes-a-magazinette-about-Lovecraft-Country-etc is a mouthful.

Graveyard visit: Old Burial Ground, Boylston

A couple days ago we had very nice weather, so I decided, as is my way, to visit a cemetery. In this case, it was the Old Burial Ground in Boylston, MA (1741). (Findagrave listing, Farber images; no MACRIS listing as Boylston is omitted from online files oddly).

I’ve been to this cemetery many times and decided that with the stone walls surrounding the grounds, I could safely unleash the homunculus whilst I took some photographs.  It’s a scenic spot with a convenient parking lot across the street and worth a visit if you are in the area.
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Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion: My favorite article

There is a lot to say about the Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion but I wanted to start by highlighting my absolutely favorite piece from the book: The Seven Cryptical Books of Hsan, written by Anthony Warren.

Anthony had previously written the monograph Kingdom of the Blind, which inspired me to contact him when the original writer who offered to work on our Keeper’s notes for London back in 2008.  Not only did he end up writing London, he took on Shanghai, the Raid on Grey Dragon Island, a history of the Order of the Bloated Woman,and this piece, a reinvention of the Seven Cryptical Books.  Let me quote a short section:

Unfortunately for readers despite some superficial similarities with traditional esoteric works, this is no mere catalog of star charts and mystic formulae. There is no apparent theme or structure. The densely packed symbols give no clue where to begin. Often multiple – even conflicting – meanings are possible depending on the direction the text is read. With time and study, however, it becomes apparent this is more of a puzzle than a text. By ignoring or adjusting rules of structure, and by picking apart twists of language and symbol, endless variations can be uncovered.

Anthony took what was a sort of second-rate Pnakotic Manuscript and turned it into a mind-shredding nightmare text worthy of being the center of the war between Jack Brady and Ho Fong.  I like the Companion, I love some of its parts, but I really, deeply love this re-imaging.  If you haven’t checked out the Companion yet, start on page 436.

Breaking News- The Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion is free*

I probably will never have Breaking News again but I wanted to post here that, at long last The Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion is available for your enjoyment.

See more HERE

I will have more to say soon. Until then enjoy the book.

*Literally and figuratively

Farewell to Miskatonic River Press

Farewell MRP 😦

It has been announced via an interview on that Miskatonic River Press is going to shutter (possibly forever) as a publisher once they wrap up some of their current projects.  As someone who has written for MRP and worked with Tom Lynch (who will focus on his teaching career) I wanted to post my best wishes to Tom and express my sadness at the passing of this CoC licensee.  Tom cites lack of time, ever-growing cost of shipping (especially international), and poor sales (in large part due to shipping costs).  If you haven’t picked up Tales of the Sleepless City (or any other of MRP’s books) I recommend doing so now.  I do not know what the fate of Forgotten Corners of Lovecraft Country Vol. 1 (aka the Aylesbury Book), a book to which I have contributed, will be unfortunately.

I hope that the Arkham Gazette, which I hope to have the first issue of done soon, will carry on a small part of the MRP legacy.

(CoC) 7th Edition Blues

Disclaimer- What I say on my blog reflects my opinion only and does not necessarily represent any website I volunteer at or company I have worked for.

As I suspect everyone reading this blog is aware, Chaosium has embarked on the revamping of the Call of Cthulhu rules, with a rapidly ballooning Kickstarter raking in now over $200k.  There has been a lot of passionate debate about what to change or not change when it comes to the 7th edition… a debate that I can’t much interest in.

I’ve never had much interest in the nitty gritty of RPG rules.  My interests are in telling a story and having an entertaining time, not worrying about bell-curve distributions or challenge ratings or damage per second ratios.  Call of Cthulhu has always worked well for me because I rarely had to look at the rules.  I played a lot of different systems in my youth, when I had more time and knew more people who were gaming but CoC is the only system I really taught myself (save perhaps Red Box D&D but that is a different story).  In short, it is easy to use and does everything I need a rule system to do.

It seems like 7th edition will not be a wholesale overhaul of the CoC ruleset but it does sound like there will be mechanical and cosmetic changes.  Others have covered these details better than I can recap, but I wanted to comment generally on my, well, I guess you’d call it fatigue at the thought of a new edition.

I am not fundamentally opposed to adjustments to the rule set and I certainly acknowledge that the CoC ruleset is not perfect – the tome rules are kludgey, know one understands how dodge and parry work, etc.  Additionally most of the rule changes are treated as optional, so I suspect if there is something I truly hate, I don’t have to use it in my game.

Please allow me to indulge in a metaphor- CoC is a Toyota Corolla.  Reliable, dependable, easy to operate… high millage perhaps, but still running well.  The 7th edition seems like someone trying to sell me a new car.  You can talk up the features, but I’m reluctant to give up something that I know works for something that might blow a rod ten miles down the road.  I mean no disrespect to Paul Fricker and Mike Mason or to the playtesters involved in the process.  I’m just not sure that the car really need more than an oil change.

I’ve never been one for rule systems.  I understand the utility of having an agreed method of conflict resolution but I cannot understand the passions that ‘Edition Wars’ unleash.  I’ve had fun playing a lot of games that had less than optimal combat systems, unbalanced character creation rules, etc.  I don’t understand how people get quite so agitated over these things.

Finally, I also worry about Chaosium.  They’re the car dealer in this case, but not the manufacturer and it shows.  The Kickstarter for 7th Ed. has been rather… bumpy and I wonder how much direction they will provide to this change once the new edition is released.  I hope that their goal is to improve the game and not simply cash in on the likely profits from all those shiny new rulebooks (and reprints updating old books to the new rules.)

That is probably enough for now.  I hope to have another post soon.

Graveyard visit: Fairbank Cemetery, Sterling

I’ve been meaning to post for quite a while, with new podcasts, Kickstarters, and of course the Arkham Gazette all requiring some comment.  Unfortunately time is at a premium so I will have to confine myself just to posting some pictures and hope I finish playing catch up on other projects soon.

Today’s featured graveyard is the Fairbank Cemetery (sometimes listed as Fairbanks) aka Faribank Burial Ground or Fairbank(s) Family Plot, etc. in Sterling, Mass.  This is a family plot and a smallpox cemetery, meaning that the burials here are all from a single family and the burials were necessitated by the fact that the main burying ground in Sterling (Chocksett Cemetery) refused to take any remains from those who died from that rather contagious disease.  There are a goodly number of these in New England, some as small as a single grave.

The Fairbank Cemetery (Findagrave listing) is on Chase Hill Road in Sterling MA, conveniently close to Rota Spring Farm‘s delicious ice cream.  It isn’t a large yard (only a dozen stones) but has a few nice specimens.  Unfortunately at least one stone (Thomas’) has been vandalized in the past few years since when I saw it it was face down and broken at the base.  Click on the Findagrave listing above to see the intact stone.  There are a few James New stones (my best guess) and one winged skull.  Even the willow-and-urn stones are nicely made.