Episode 16 (Part 1) More Call of Cthulhu (with Mike Mason)

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INTRO 00.00.16

We are returning to one of our favourite games, Call of Cthulhu, to consider what has changed for the game over the past 2 years, since the last episode.

OPEN BOX (with Mike Mason) 06.00

At the time of recording, Mike had just returned from his trip to NECRONOMICON and was fresh with the news of the great success for Call of Cthulhu at GENCON.

Mike shares his experiences from his formative years of role-playing and how his fascination with horror, drew him towards Call of Cthulhu.


Ed is the first of us to hit 50 and his family have treated him to a brand-new metal shed. He talks us through his Fungi From Yuggoth scrapbook. You can get Mutable Deception from Drive Thru RPG.


We’re on a Jolly Boys outing – this is the player reflections on playing the Fungi … campaign.

OUTRO 01.33.00

We had many new Patreons joining us in September. Thanks to you all – sorry for mangling your names – we are very grateful for your contributions and look forward to making the ‘zine available in the next couple of months.

Author: Dirk

Host of The GROGNARD RPG Files podcast. Talking bobbins about Runequest, Traveller, Call of Cthulhu, T&T, AD&D and others from back in the day and today.

11 thoughts on “Episode 16 (Part 1) More Call of Cthulhu (with Mike Mason)”

  1. So here I am once more…

    A terrific episode lads! Sophisticated? My arse. Now then, enough ink has been spilled about Cthulhu that I won’t trouble you on that score. Instead, imagine my surprise and delight to hear about the d4 of musical genres, prog! There was a time when I genuinely believed, and told everyone in earshot, that there would never be a day where I didn’t roleplay, and listen to Marillion. Time has made a liar of me, but at least one of those promises still stands today. It’s not often I disagree with the Mighty Blythy but he’s wrong about Clutching at Straws marking the endpoint of Marillion proper – no! That honour goes to Fugazi as any proper prognard will tell you.
    Time for a prog retrospective? Let me know and I’ll dig out the 12” picture discs.

    Yours, overdosed on sentiment and pride, Baz out of that there Smart Party.

  2. Another great episode! Especially Dirk and Blythy exposing themselves in a pub. I need to dive into this game. I’ve got the book (not sure which edition) and I have the hankering. Anyone running an online game for newbies?

  3. I blathered about this on Twitter but I’ll put it here too as I have a little more space. I was interested in Dirk and Blythy’s different approaches to Call of Cthulhu. Dirk likes his games full of existential angst and a sense of impending doom. Blythy likes to be able to win! I think call of Cthulhu should be about a sense of humanity’s insignifigance in the face of the vast, unknowable, horrifying cosmos, but that should never be at the expense of player agency. Call of Cthulhu is a game after all, and whilst for many players madness and death are all part of the fun, scenarios should never be unwinnable. We wouldn’t accept railroading in any other RPG, so why this one?
    I think Call of Cthulhu can still have that sense of impending doom, that sense that you will inevitably, eventually lose the war, but in the short term players should be able to win the battles, even if it’s at great cost. Warhammer’s Old World is great for this. Surrounded by eldritch horror, the ‘good’ forces keep going knowing that one day Chaos will surely win but if they try really hard, they might be able to put it off for a little while.

    1. Hi Wayne, as I said on twitter, it’s not that I want cosmic terror all of the time. What makes CoC different is the mechanics that allow depletion of stability and the loss of agency. It’s a fine balance. Horror in Lovecraftian sense comes from an inability to cope with the terror. My complaint with Blythy is that he was not willing to give himself over to the horror and jumped quickly to ‘how do we beat them’. I like Pulp Cthulhu as it allows a campaign to be framed clearly so everyone knows what to expect. The old school campaigns tried to do a bit of everything: a bit Lovecraftian, a bit Hammer, a bit Pulpy and a bit Twilight Zone. It’s ok, but managing that shifts in tone can unbalance the game. There was an inconsistency in Fungi…

      I hope I’ve made my argument a bit more clear. I think I polarised it a bit too much in the pod.


      1. I think the brilliance of Call of Cthulhu is that it can be any game you want it to be.
        The core mythos remains constant through whatever setting you want to build round it. Whether the scenario’s set among Conan types in some Hyperborean tundra, a Limehouse Opium Den in the 20s or on a decaying mining platform in some distant gas giant.
        Likewise the tone, as long as you don’t mess with the core i always think you can alter the slider between academic ritual gamble and pulp dynamite easily enough to suit your group and where they are in an investigation and/or ‘adventure’.
        Of course the number of players has a big impact on tone. Most of HP’s stories involved the mousy academic or distant relative confronting a whole lot of mythos alone, a group of investigators working together demands a less claustrophobic and more active tone.
        Also past career: rarely have i seen a party soley of professors, there’s usually valets, ex coppers, journalists, huntin and shootin lords, and certainly in the 20’s you’ve got a lot of demobbed soldiers among male characters, who will know what explosives and bullets can do.
        In the case of peaky blinders vs terrors from the abyss for instance, you can be sure they’d be reaching for a Lewis Gun rather than Nameless Cults.
        That pulpy element has to be there as a pressure outlet i think, a reward almost. There’s nothing worse than those games where everything’s always buttoned up and the Keeper will not let the players deviate into some gunplay or torching the odd house.
        Let the players hose down some minions with a tommy gun now and then, there’s always something further down the line that only a tattered scroll or bit of soapstone can turn away.
        For me though, the 20s is probably the ultimate setting. You have a lot of the technology of the modern age, yet not fully reliable or always portable, large areas of the globe still remain unexplored, and there are societies at all tech levels from stone age upwards. The folklore past of the countryside is still within reach in Britain, and obscure cults and religions exist undiscovered around the world. You can play it Victorian academic, or two fisted Pulp and back again.
        As for alien worlds, i think the key there is strangeness, as the aliens they interact with become more abstract, the PCs should have less idea of where it is they are or what is occurring there.
        Very much like a mouse in the kitchen has no idea of what is going on in there or what a kitchen is, but it can see exits and large shapes doing something, and has to hope that the thing it’s heading towards is not dangerous.
        Like when the monster is revealed in a film its often a disappointment, so too is familiarity in an alien setting, the less the players understand, the more they’ll assume, and the stranger it will seem.
        A great book which handled this brilliantly was Wolfsbane By Frederick Pohl and C.M.Kornbluth. It dealt with abstract aliens who come to earth and take over. I think they were vast shapes who simply wanted to shunt magnetic power around, and their motives were described accordingly. That there were humans around was of no interest, yet their actions had major effects. I think some humans got into one of their bases, or one of them? They found themselves in a vast incomprehensible environment. Worth checking out.

        Great podcast by the way. Cheers.

  4. Very excited about running the Two-Headed Serpent Pulp Cthulhu campaign! Do you want a Keeper in Australia?

  5. Only tracked the Grog-feed down a few weeks ago ago and have speed listened to all of the back episodes to bring me to the present day. Beautifully nostalgic and extremely erudite and witty (I almost had to get off the bus while listening to the Cliff Richard dragon piece because I was laughing so hard). Very inspired to get involved in some roleplaying after an almost complete 35 year sabbatical. Dug out my dusty GW 2nd edition CoC box from the loft and wondered whether this venerable version will cut the mustard with “da kids” of the 21st century. I did look at the newest one (7th) but it is eye-wateringly expensive. As an Oldham exile brought up to believe that every family shared a single tin of rice pudding for dessert, spending that kind of money is anathema. You can take the boy out of the north, but you can’t take the north out of the boy. Dirk/Blythy/Ed, do I junk the old one and invest the children’s inheritance in 7th edition, or do I keep the old skool faith?

    1. Thanks for the kind comments. As for the investment … well, you’ll just have to wait until the next part to get our opinion on that!

      1. Teaser! OK, I’ll start hunting down the back of the sofa for the extra money in case the answer is 7 and not 2.

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