Thursday, January 18, 2018

Horror on the Orient Express: Zagreb Handouts

Here are some handouts I put together for the Zagreb chapter of the Horror on the Orient Experss campaign.

Feel free to use them for your games. pdf available on request.

Put behind a cut to allow players to ignore spoilers.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Professor Peabody's Last Lecture

From the Night Gallery. An ode to the mythos of HPL. Not in any way horiffic, especially to us steeped in the lore, but a fun 10 minutes.

Night Gallery - s02e08d - Professor Peabody's Last Lecture from Sceadugengan - Shadow Walkers on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Uninviting Players

I just had to go through a very uncomfortable and unpleasant experience. That of uninviting a player from my group.

This is an experience I wish on no-one, and mostly because I have experienced in from the other side of the table. Of course I write this from my point of view, but I can imagine how the other party feels.

We are social animals, and social exclusion is a very serious weapon if used the wrong way, and not something I would ever, ever do lightly.

I did turn to the web for advice on how best to manage this, and there is not much to be found, but I did find this blog entry on the subject. Though there really is no formula to use for this kind of thing, as each individual case is different.

Have any of you had experience of this from either side of the GM screen? If so, I'd love to hear about it.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Dragon Slayor (sic)

I don't post after game reports on my ongoing Horror on the Orient Express game, but since my player posted these all over his social media last night, I though it appropriate to share.

He was so proud.

The party took on the Anatolian Dragon, in the underground water system of Constantinople during the 4th Crusade, thereby saving the Frankish invaders from the beast, summoned to save the Greek populace.

Slaying a dragon in any RPG is a big deal. To do so in Call of Cthulhu requires extra kudos, don't you think?

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Solar Pons


That was my question, up until quite recently, but I have been schoolong myself in Pontine lore.

Pontine, what a great word! Though I must admit, I keep reading it as Poutine.

I have my collections of Mythos Tomes, by various authors (which is by no means complete), and of course my Sherlockian works, but I quite recently discovered the series of tales that could in some ways be seen as the original point of contact of these two universes, the Solar Pons stories.

Solar Pons was a character created by Lovecraft's friend, correspondant, and later publisher through his company Arkham House, August Derleth.

Derleth of course wrote his own, much maligned, mythos tales, but let's not go down that rabbit hole here. Derleth also wanted to write Holmes tales. Indeed he contacted Doyle, to ask if he could take oer the series aftr Doyle had finished with Holmes, but Doyle declined (no doubt Derleth was not the only young author to contact Doyle about this, so I'm not particularly surprised by Doyle's response). So, Derleth went on to create his own Homage to Holmes, Solar Pons.

Pons is very much post modern Holmesian characerture. There are many knowing winks to the audience, sometimes a little heavy handed, but fun none the less. There is the heavy suggestion that Pons was actually trained by Holmes, which the timeline backs up, as these tales are all set in the 1920s and 30s, but in the tales I have read, Homes is not actually named as Pons' teacher. There is much use of the iconography of the films, with deerstalker hats, and copious smoking of nasty pipe-tobacco, and some might say over-use of the word elementary. In one tale, Pons brazenly takes on the alias Proffessor Moriarty of Kings College London.

There is also the interesting crossover witht he Cthulhu Mythos, in that Pons has written a monograph on 'An Examination of the Cthulhu Cult and Others', and may not be quite so closed minded to the supernatural as Holmes was.

I mentioned previously, that I had picked up a copy of Derleth's The Reminiscences of Solar Pons. I had also found the story The Adventure of the Sussex Archers in an anthology I picked up second hand. As stories go, they are fun romps. Derleth captures the character well, and although the mysteries are not always up to Doyle's (mostly) high standard, they are fun. This may in some part be due to the telegraphing of Derleth, which may come from his Lovecraftian studies, as no-one can ever really say they are surprised at how Lovecraft's tales end, except perhaps the protagonists.

London is also well used, despite the fact that Derleth had never been there, although it may be that Derleth's 1920s London pays a little too much hommage to Doyles 1880s London, and may not be all that accurate.

There are also a bunch of Pons tales written by Basil Cooper, but I have yet to track any of these down, so canot comment on their quality.

There seems to be a lack of these tales in current print, possibly due to the lack of knowledge of the character, or maybe the fact he is seen as a pastiche or a rip-off of the original. There may even be copyright issues. Which is why I was surprised to see a Kickstarter for a new anthology of Solar Pons adventures. Of course, I backed it, and am intrigued to see how it compares to the original tales I have read. The fact that this is done in association with Arkham House backs up the copyright theory.

I have previously bought another publication by this publisher, A Study In Terror. I thought I had already reviewed this book here, but it seems not. As a collection of Doyles horror tales, it is a great republishing, but the analysis and other essays were a little amateur. Still, I am slightly annoyed I did not buy the second volume while it was still in print. Maybe there will be a reissue.

This publisher also seems to have a great deal of modern Holmes tales and scholarship available too. If the Pons book is any good, maybe I'll delve into that next.

Either way, once I read through this anthology, I'll be sure to let you, my dear readers, know all about it.

With that, I think that's all I have to pass on for Pons right now, so I will leave you with these other Pontine links of interest:

Solar Pons and Cthulhu, an Essay

Solar Pons

Almost Holmes A blog on Pons, Holmes and other books of interest in the same genre.

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Dare

Just backed another Kickstarter.
Draft of cover by Ian MacLean
"Children will always be afraid of the dark." - H.P. Lovecraft
Do you remember what it was like to be a kid?  When in every shadow there might lurk a monster?  When a nightmare might be escaped from by diving under your blankets?  When the morning light brought escape from all your fears... for a little while?
In The Dare, players take the role of a group of average kids who are forced by their neighborhood bully to spend the night in the dreadful (and haunted!) Barnaker house.  This being Call of Cthulhu, there are actually things in the house far more dangerous than even the most terrified child might imagine.  The kids must then work together to explore the nightmarish old Barnaker house and investigate its mysteries if they hope to survive until the morning.
This has a few things going for it that made it a no brainer. A one shot adventure, written by Kevin Ross, based in the 1980s (so getting in on that retro Stranger Things vibe). It's a 10 day Kickstarter, with the pdf being released as soon as the kickstarter ends, thereby meaning it'll be available to play for Halloween (with the physical book being slated for POD in November). Finally, it's just $15. That's like what, 3 coffees? What are you waiting for. Don't think, just click!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Necronomicon Dissection: Part 7, Tours and Town Houses

Please excuse the delay between the rest of the NecronomiCon posts and this one. There is no good reason for it other than life getting in the way. These were taken whilst wandering round the town on various days, either as part of the bus tour, or just walking. Unfortunately I did not make it onto the walking tour. Maybe next time.

The image above is a view of the two main hotels of the Con. On the Right, the Omni, where Kris and I were staying, and on the left, the Biltmore, where the bulk of the literature talks were, as well as the gaming room on the 18th floor. The Biltmore is supposedly haunted, by quite a number of ghosts, but we didn't run into any. Inside the Biltmore, are some ver old elevators, including one in the central lobby with the sign opposite attached. Yes that's right, it is an unused glass elevator, to be used for time travel only. No I don't know what they mean (please excuse the fuzzy picure).
The bus tour I took, went around some of the more less central areas related to Lovecraft. These included the site of his Grandfather Whipple Phillips mansion, where Lovecraft was raised. The house is no longer standing, but a plaque has been placed on the spot.

Ladd Observatory, and the Observatory 'Library'. There were conflicting stories as to how HPL managed to access the observatory. The bus tour driver/guide stated that the head astronomer, Professor Winslow Upton, gave a young HPL a key, whereas the caretaker of the observatory said that back then as now, there was always a caretaker on site, so even though he probably let young HPL in whenever, the current caretaker didn't think it likely that HPL had a physical key. I know who I think I believe, but I also know which makes for a better story.

Phillips family plot in the Swan Point Cemetery. Just round the corner from the Butler Hospital where both his parent's perished.

When HPL was interred, there was no headstone placed for him, so his name was inscribed on the Phillips Pillar pictured on the left. Later funds were raised, and headstones placed for HPL, as well as his father and mother.

Above here on the left we have the Fleur de Lys building. This building was immortalised in the story 'The Call of Cthulhu' where HPL described it thus:
"a hideous Victorian imitation of seventeenth-century Breton architecture which flaunts its stuccoed front amidst the lovely colonial houses on the ancient hill, and under the very shadow of the finest Georgian steeple in America." 
Not mincing his words there! On the right, we have aforementioned 'Finest Georgia steeple in America'. The steeple of the First Baptist Church. So named, as it is in fact the first Baptist church to have been built in America.  

Finally, I have a couple of other pictures taken around town on the Sunday morning, as I took a final stroll on College Hill.
Plaque placed in the grounds of the John Hay Library on the centennial of HPL's birth.

John Hay Library at Brown University, where HPL's papers were donated after his death. Unfortunately closed on Sunday's, when we had the free time to go look, so I didn't get in to have a look around.

Providence Athanaeum, private library frequented by HPL, and Poe, amongst others. Also unfortunately closed on Sundays. This was really on my wish list of places to go, and is the only place I am sad not to have got to see the inside of.