Call of Cthulhu Ep.2 (Part 2) – REMASTERED

Another repeat! This the next in the ongoing campaign to remaster the files from the early GROGPODs. Some of the early ones are difficult to hear, so this has been equalised. It does result in some strange gaps and distortions, but nothing too distracting I hope. The roll of dice are missing from here because I got complaints about it hurting peoples’ heads.

I mention Improvised Radio Theatre with Dice, which is still going strong.


Behind the screen I have a table of Call of Cthulhu supplements. I’m joined by Judge Blythy who rolls the 1D100 to select 5 for detailed discussion.


Ed, The Armchair Adventurer’s Chief bargain-hunter provides an e-Bay price index for the supplements under discussion.


A selection from listener comments, including a fascinating look at The Lovecraft Variant – an early Cthulhu adaptation for Tunnels and Trolls.

The Lovecraft Variant is now a fully fledged game.

Follow me on Twitter @theGROGNARDfile

Call of Cthulhu Ep.2 (Part 1) – REMASTERED

The early episodes are steadily being remastered with an extra segment reflecting on the episode eight years on.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. This is a remastered version of episode 2 (part 1) with some additional edits and the levels balanced and an extra segment reflecting on the episode eight years later.

Open Box – reliving the memories of playing the game for the first time and the faltering start.

Judge Blythy Rules! – The Armchair Adventurers’ Resident Rules Lawyer discusses the finer points of the rules and style of play. We also speculate on what horrors have faced British Prime Ministers.

White Dwarf – @dailydwarf talks about his early experiences of playing Call of Cthulhu and selects his favourite item from the pages from the halcyon days of the UK’s best gaming magazine.

An invitation to listeners to contribute their stories of playing Call of Cthulhu in the early days.

Look out for a Micro Grog Pod coming soon featuring a list of our favourite CoC supplements and a current online pricing guide.

Episode 3 will feature TRAVELLER RPG

Review of 2022 (with Bud’s RPG Reviews) Ep 58

The Armchair Adventurers have had another incredible year of gaming. Dirk and Blythy roll out the red carpet to the GROGGIE awards. At the Book Club, Bud talks about Viral: A Modern Call of Cthulhu Scenario.

It has been another incredible year for The Armchair Adventurers. We review the experiences that we have had with games old and new and reflect upon the year in general. There may be some irrelevant Beatles chat too.

INTRO – A new review and a breakdown of what to expect in the latest issue (including a ‘less’ v ‘fewer’ subtext).

GROGGIES Part 1. (4.10) Find out more about Red Markets in our appearance on Orlanth Rexes Gaming Vexes.

Bookclub (31:00): We were joined in the Book Club by the You Tuber Bud from Bud’s RPG reviews to talk about Viral the Modern Day Call of Cthulhu scenario.

GROGGIES Part 2.(51:00) Banging on about The Beatles for the UNIT campaign and awarding GROGGIE of the year for an amazing experience.

Outro. The annual round up of the new podcasts that have been added to the roll call this year. Appearances on The Smart Party Podcast, twice on Frankenstein’s RPG and performing on Tale of the Manticore. Recommendations include Baz’s incredible RuneQuest Year Zero, Ludo and Joerge’s The God Learners, The Titterpigs RPG Podcast, Beatles Books, and The Video Archive.

Like what we do? Please support it on Patreon.

Full Fathom Five (with Paul Fricker) Book Club – Extra

“Moby Dick as a Slasher pic” Paul Fricker talks to The Great Library of RPGs Book Club about Full Fathom Five for Call of Cthulhu.

Art by John Sumrow

INTRO: Welcome to another Book Club Extra. We take break from the usual format to give you a little something extra. The Great Library of RPGs Book Club meets on the first Sunday of the month between 9:30 – 11:00. You can join at the Bookclub app if you are interested and follow developments on the discord server (contact me for an invite).

Full Fathom Five (2.30) – Paul Fricker talks to us about his scenario Full Fathom Five which is available at the Miskatonic Depository. He has recently contributed to the Story Telling Collective, giving guidance on writing Call of Cthulhu adventures. We look at some of the influences on Full Fathom Five including Moby Dick, the story of The Essex, and Master and Commander. Paul is one of the hosts of The Good Friends of Jackson Ellias (I appeared on there, talking about Gangsters and Gozu).

Actual Play (46.16) If you are a Patreon of the GROGNARD files, you can take part in the monthly one-shot club. This is a bit of sample play of Full Fathom Five. The rest will be released on The Patreon feed later in September.

GROGGLEBOX (56:23) Blythy and Dirk talk about The Thing (1982)

Tale of the Manticore advert (1.32)

I’ll Get mi Coat 1.32 – The end of one campaign and the start of another.

Scarred for Life by RPGs (with Stephen Brotherstone) Ep. 54 (Part 2)

This is the second part of our exploration of Scarred for Life, the fantastic series of books about growing up in the dark decades of the seventies and eighties. Gen X-rated popular culture shaped our imaginations and informed our gaming.

Buy the books here.

Content warning for this one as we quote directly from a couple of controversial games from the 80s.

I’ve had a go at putting chapters on this one. In case they don’t pull through, here is the menu:

00:00 INTRO: The incredible ghost voices that appeared on the free flexi-disc from The Unexplained magazine.

03:53 The GAMESMASTER’s Screen. Ste Brotherstone give us insight from the forthcoming volume of Scarred for Life. Phoenix Command, Alma Mater, The Unexplained: Mysteries of Mind, Space, & Time, The Price of Freedom, and 2000ad. I also mention the wonderful Save for Half podcast who did a recent episode on East Texas University.

57:30 Library Use. Judge Blythy joins me in the Room of Role-Playing rambling to look at Unexplained magazine. I make a mistake – it didn’t last for 115 issues, it was 157!

1:33:0 Advert. Frankenstein’s RPG podcast – I appeared on a recent episode about Magic/ PSIonics and Investigation in SF role-playing games.

1:34:0 I’ll Get mi Coat. Closing time chatter about Agon, Delta Green and a brief mention of the UNIT campaign.

1:46:Outro. The Book Club is on the first Sunday of every month at 09:30 GMT for 90 minutes. Owl Bear and The Wizard’s Staff convention is scheduled to take place on the weekend 2nd September. I will be supporting an online version of the event. Watch this space for more details.

Support us on Patreon

King Arthur Pendragon RPG (with David Larkins) Ep.53 (Part 2)

One of the foundational films that shaped the games that we played is Excalibur (1981). In this episode we look back on the film and consider how it can continue to inspire our gaming.

To see some of the issues of Starburst that we refer to in this episode, you’ll find images over at Dirk Malcolm’s World of Film where I have written a couple of pieces about how the magazine covered the film.

Also in this episode, David Larkins, Line Editor of King Arthur Pendragon at Chaosium, talks about Berlin Wicked City, The Esoteric Order of Role-players and much more.

Sam Vail adds Robin of Sherwood to the Appendix G.

Please consider supporting the podcast at Patreon.

Miller’s Crossing (1990) MOBTOBER

I’m sure that I first saw this as a double-bill with Blood Simple (1984) at Manchester CornerHouse back in 1991. It was a new golden age of the American Gangster movie, thanks to the recent release of Goodfellas and ahem, The Godfather Part III. On first viewing, I was smitten by the knowingness of it all with its relentless homage to the films of the 40s, especially the film -noir classics such as The Glass Key (1942). My patience for such films has now worn a little thin. This is cinema about cinema that is sometimes difficult to connect to the characters and situations as they appear unreal representations, four times removed from reality. It’s imbued with everything that has gone before, including the obvious noir references, but there’s also Bertolucci and the Three Stooges in there too. This is a film that wears its references on its sleeve. It lacks a human-touch, but its genre emulation techniques are perfect fodder for gaming.


Leo, a crime boss of an unspecified American city at an unspecified time during Prohibition, has a meeting with Johnny Casper (a rival gangster), who urges him to kill Bernie Bernbaum, who has been skimming from the fights fixed by Casper. Bernie pays protection to Leo, he’s also the brother of his girlfriend Verna. Against the advice of his right-hand man Tom Reagan, Leo refuses to sanction the killing of Bernie. Leo doesn’t know that Tom is also in a romantic relationship with Verna, but he is suspicious of her and has her tailed by Rug Daniels. 

Rug is killed (and his wig nicked by a street urchin) and Leo immediately suspects Casper so uses his political influence to bare down on Casper’s rackets. Tom tries to persuade Verna to leave Leo. He’s visited by Bernie who tells him that he has the details of Casper’s next fixed fight, he’s been told by Mink, the boyfriend of Casper’s sardonic lieutenant Eddie Dane. 

Casper reaches out to Tom, offering to pay off his considerable gambling debts in exchange for Bernie. He refuses. He suggests to Verna that she or Bernie killed Rug. Verna says that she believes him to be jealous of her relationship with Leo. Later, Leo survives a spectacular attack on his home by Casper’s hoodlums. He’s enrage when Tom reveals his relationship with Verna, as he intends to marry her.

Rejected by Leo, Tom turns to Casper, who demand proof of his change of allegiance by shooting Bernie. Tom takes him to the forest and spares the whimpering Bernie, who goes into hiding. He reveals to Casper that it was Eddie Dane and Mink who was giving Bernie the details of the fixed fights. 

Bernie threatens to resurface if Tom doesn’t kill Casper. Dane suspects that Tom didn’t kill him, but his plan to kill him is set back when a body surfaces in the woods. The corpse is Mink, killed by Bernie. Tom calls Bernie’s bluff by threatening to tell Casper that he is still alive. Casper kills Dane after Tom informs him that his trusted right-hand man was double-crossing him with the details of the next fixed fight.  Tom tells Verna that Bernie is still living and sends Casper to a rendezvous with Mink.

Casper is killed by Bernie who ambushes him. After he has revealed that it was Mink that killed Rug, Tom kills Bernie. Tom uses Casper’s money to place a bet on the fixed fight to clear his debts.

At Bernie’s funeral, Verna ignores Tom, but Leo offers him the role as an advisor once again, forgiving him of his relationship with his finance. Tom rejects his offer. Leo walks away, framed by the trees. 


Leo, Irish American gang-leader, political mover and shaker

A mover and shaker in the town with influence with the politicians at the highest levels. Leo is a reflector, trying to work out the moves that he some times can’t understand:

Leo: You hear about Rug?

Tom: Yeah, RIP.

Leo: They took his hair, Tommy. Jesus, that’s strange, why would they do that?

Tom: Maybe it was injuns.

Description: Cigar smoker, his hair is slicked back and wears suits with an insouciance.

Roleplaying hook: He’s rich, powerful with great influence in town, but vulnerable, his relationship with Verna is his weakness.

Tom Reagan, Irish American, world-weary consigliere 

The smartest guy in the room. Tom has the ability to play different characters against each other. He’s got a high emotional intelligence and is always a couple of steps ahead of everyone else. He will offer his opinion and advice if you want it or not. Rarely smiles as he is carrying the weight of all of the tensions playing out in his head: gambling debts, an affair with his boss’ girl-friend.

Description: His accent is Irish rather than American. He’s got rugged appearance, smart, with a calm intelligence behind his eyes. 

Leo: I reckon I can still trade body-blows with any man in this town.

[Tom looks at him]

Leo: Except you Tom.

Tom: And Verna.

Roleplaying hook: His hat is his comfort and security. If he loses his hat, or if someone possesses his hat, he gets anxious and vulnerable. He’s a risk taker and his gambles don’t always come off. Drinks rum, lots of rum.

Johnny Caspar, Italian American gang-leader and fight-fixer

Description: Overweight with a comb-over and fat tongue. He’s a working-class street-mobster who has little time for the people in power.

Roleplaying hook: He loves his son. He’s smart and ruthless, but blinded by his impulses. If he wants something to happen, he wants it now. Offended when his requests are not met.

Caspar: You think that I’m some guinea, fresh off the boat, and you can kick me! But I’m too big for that now. I’m sick a’ takin the scrap from you, Leo. I’m a’ of marching into this goddamn office to kiss your Irish ass. And I’M SICK A’ THE HIGH HAT!

[Puts on his hat and coat] Youse fancy pants, all a youse

Bernie Bernbaum, Jewish American provocateur bookie 

Bernie’s power lies in his connections. He is pushing the limits by provoking Caspar, but he feels like he holds all the cards. 

Description: Pale, thin, vampiric appearance with slick-back black hair and black suit. Wild-eyed and simpering.

Roleplaying hook: He’s in above his head but he thinks his relationships with Mink, Dane and his sister put him in a powerful position. Who is the weakest link? Break the connection and his elaborate get rich quick schemes will fall down.


  • Perhaps the most celebrated scene is the one with Leo mowing down his would-be assailants with a Tommy gun to the tune of Danny Boy. Possibly the best use of a Tommy gun in any film ever? 
  • Excellent use of the autumnal colours of the forest to frame the incongruent image of the urban and urbane gangsters (cf The Pine Barrens episode of The Sopranos, season 3). 
  • The character who is the catalyst behind the action is Mink (Steve Buscemi). He appears briefly as Tom is passing through the speakeasy. With a ratta-tatt-tatt flow of dialogue and invective he provides exposition by way of implication.
  • Sam Rami (Evil Dead) has a cameo in the scene where the police shake-down the ‘Sons of Erin Social Club’ with bombs and a Gatling gun.


The Coen Brothers are known for their twist and tuning plots and Miller’s Crossing is no exception. Fortunes of the characters bounce up and down in a matter of moments. Their approach inspired FIASCO (Bully Pulpit Games, 2009) a story telling game designed by Jason Morningstar, which won a Diana Jones Award for its innovative approach to story-telling game-play. It aims to emulate Coen movies “inspired by the cinematic tales of small time capers gone disastrously wrong”.

It’s not a game that I’ve played, but I think it offers an interesting prospect as the game is motivated by relationships and objects and work through a Three Act Structure where every character has four scenes. A tilt table is used to manage the beats of success and failure in a scene. Sometimes the tilt elements generated by the dice may not appear until later in the game.

Plot twists and turns are probably more associated with the film-noir crime genre rather than gangster films in particular. The crossing and double crossing may emerge from play, but unless there are specific mechanics (like those described in FIASCO) it may not be a feature of a prepared scenario. The twists need to be player led and unless there are mechanics to compel them towards doing it, they’re unlikely to emulate the rapid twists and turns apparent in the cinematic experience. 

Why would you want to any way? Games are not cinema.

For my games, I’m more interested in the use of set-pieces. The Coen-Brothers set up situations very carefully, the inter-dependences between the NPCs and the PCs are woven together with relationships and connections. Reactions have a consequences depending on their feelings towards each other.

However, the most important element I want to take away is what @dailydwarf refers to as its unique vernacular. “What’s the rumpus”, “Always put one in the brain”, “take your flunky and dangle” and, of course, “the high-hat”. I’d like to bring that to my GangBusters game. It would be good to introduce the Dying Earth RPG/Skullduggery  mechanic of quote cards. If the player is unable to come up with some clever word-play then they can use a card with a relevant and cutting quote to get a bonus.

Next: Gotti (1996)

Episode 49 – Marcus L. Rowland (with Thunder Phase!)

This is the 80th GROGPOD and there is a sense of celebration in the air. We are delighted to have Marcus L Rowland as our guest. He was a stalwart of Whit Dwarf during its hey day. Cthulhu Now! Green Horizon, To Live and Die in Mega City One and the Fear of Flying, his contribution to our gaming imagination back in the day is inestimable.

@DailyDwarf provides a retrospective of his work in White Dwarf.

The first ever Patreon of The GROGNARD Files was Sam Vail and he reveals the first game he played, the last game he played and the game that means everything to him in a lifetime of gaming.

Blythy joins me in the Room of Role Playing Rambling to answer listener questions in the Thunder Phase!

Check out Bud’s RPG Review.

You can support the GROGNARD files on Patreon.

Episode 48 (Part 2) Return to Call of Cthulhu (with Lynne Hardy)

Please note that ‘Download’ is now part of the Player

The GROGNARD files returns with the Return of Call of Cthulhu with the return of Lynne Hardy. This time she faces the Keeper’s Screen to reveal her Arcane secrets. She talks about her contribution to the Dying Earth Role-Playing Game, Cogs, Cakes and Swordsticks, the game she designed, and more news about upcoming Chaosium releases that we can look forward to in the coming months.

In the introduction, I refer to it as Episode 47, it’s not, but what are numbers. I have never understood our bizarre numbering system. This show note counts as Errata. We delve into Different Worlds Issue 19 which was a Call of Cthulhu special and features errata, essays by Sandy Petersen and Lyn Willis and more.

The Post Bag returns with comments from listeners. If you are interested in hearing more from The God Learners podcast, you’ll find it where you get your podcasts.

We share a hoary old story about a trip to Morecambe, where nothing really happened, but it was character forming.

This episode features an advert for Tale of the Manticore.

Please invest in The GROGNARD Files at Patreon.

Episode 48 (Part 1) Return to Call of Cthulhu (with Lynne Hardy)

The Armchair Adventurers keep coming back to Call of Cthulhu and we are about to begin Children of Fear, written by our guest Lynne Hardy.

In this episode we discuss Lynne’s formative years in role-playing and how she started work with Chaosium with a pitch for this richly detailed and horrific campaign.

Tristan Narbrough is a GROGSQUAD member who currently lives in Japan, he tells us about his first, last and everything.

Blythy is back from the wilderness and in fine form talking about different Cthulhu mythos settings that we have experienced.

You can support the podcast by backing us on Patreon.