Swedish Black Books and NecronomiCon Appearances

This announcement from Revelore Press appeared this morning:

Svartkonstböker: A Compendium of the Swedish Black Art Book Tradition

by Dr Tom K Johnson
Folk Necromancy in Transmission Volume 4

ISBN: 978-1-947544-22-2; Sept 2019; ~650pp.

Svartkonstböker is a fully revised edition of Dr Johnson’s 2010 PhD Thesis Tidebast och Vändelrot: Magical Representations in the Swedish Black Art Book Tradition, featuring a thorough, path-breaking study of the black arts book tradition in Sweden, as well as English translations of 35 Swedish black art books ranging from the 1690s to the 1940s, including over 1900 spells and a robust index.

The late Dr Johnson always wished that his work would see print publication in its entirety. Other publishers have offered to produce this work in two volumes, prioritizing the spells in the black art books over the scholarly apparatus that contextualizes them. Here Revelore presents the work in full, comprising over 650 pages of material. Minor errors from the PhD manuscript have been rectified, and archival images of the characters, sigils, and illustrations have been restored in high fidelity. This is the definitive source work for the Swedish magical corpus of black art books.

If this fulfills this mandate – and it should – it will be amazing. Both paperback and collector’s editions will be available. The paperback is priced at $50, but 650 pages makes it well worth it.

I will also be returning to NecronomiCon this year, and I’ll be on two panels. One is Delta Green based, Sunday at 9 AM. The other is a panel I’m moderating “On Gaming the Weird,” with Sandy Petersen, Kenneth Hite, Fiona Maeve Geist, Shane Ivey, and Badger McInnes. You can see the full schedule here.

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Published in: on August 5, 2019 at 10:28 am  Leave a Comment  

Miscellany

Many things are afoot!

  • I’ve been working on the next manuscript for Llewellyn. I’ve done a first pass, save for a few pages I need to re-shoot, and now I’m running a double check on the original before I modernize the language.
  • We have an Indiegogo campaign for a new edition of the grimoire The Red Dragon. The Italian publisher, Black Letter Press, has fulfilled one previous crowdfunding effort, in case you’re interested.
  • Stephen Murtagh has released an Authentication of “The Secret Grimoire of Turiel.” Feel free to read it. I have two brief points. First, it’s probably not a great practice to reproduce most of the illustrations out of a recently-published book, even for purposes of scholarship, when a few would do. Second, proving that Turiel has a pedigree back to Hockley is not the same as proving that it was acquired from a priest in the Canary Islands in 1927.
  • The Glencairn Museum is putting on an exhibition by our friend Patrick Donmoyer on barn stars. Not making it to eastern PA any time soon? You can download the exhibit catalog for free here!
  • Apparently the PSU book for which I wrote an chapter on the Necronomicon, Magic in the Modern World, was released in paperback in December. Halving the price should make it accessible for more readers.
  • I bought The Witcher 3. Jury’s out as to whether this was a mistake. Also, I romanced Triss without meaning to.
  • I’ll in Europe, generally speaking, in July.
Published in: on May 25, 2019 at 6:38 pm  Comments (3)  

On Leaving Lamentations of the Flame Princess

I’ve got a book proposal to work on, a foreword to write, a stack of great books dealing with grimoires and folk magic to read. So, there’s nothing to be done than write a post about silly elf games, right?

I’ve been running an old-school D&D game for over three years now (for those interested, Rules Cyclopedia with Moldvay insertions). This is not perfect, so for some rules I’ve ported in rules and scenarios from Lamentations of the Flame Princess, a newer game that began as a weird fiction D&D clone supported with a great range of products. I’ve enjoyed many of their products from DriveThru, and a highlight from my occasional trips to NYC is to stop at the Compleat Strategist to pick up the latest print releases. In fact, my next session was going to start our adventurers through Frostbitten and Mutilated, an award-winning supplement written by Zak S., who has been a staple in the Old School Revival community for quite some time.

And then his ex-partner Mandy Morbid, along with others, came forward with some extremely troubling and disturbing allegations of sexual abuse and assault.

Recent years have made us much more aware of the treacherous world women have to move through, and the importance that we hear and support those who have experienced traumatic events. At the same time, we sometimes hear voices raising concerns about false accusations, even though these are a minuscule fraction of the accounts that we’re hearing. In this particular case, Zak’s “defense” contained a confession that he non-consensually strangled one of the women in question, so if anyone wanted to start that debate, it’s over.

(No, I’m not linking to him.)

We’ve had statements from Wizards of the Coast, GenCon, Contessa, DriveThruRPG, and Kenneth Hite, all disassociating themselves from him.

That brings us to Lamentations and its publisher, James Raggi IV, who published his response on Facebook. The fact that he didn’t link to it elsewhere on social media or fora is indicative of how problematic it is. I’ve made comments there, and I want to supplement them here.

In terms of business matters, I’m sympathetic to James’ position. Small presses often operate in a precarious world. The illness or death of a family member, the departure of a partner, a delay at the printer, a book that doesn’t meet expectations – all of these can create situations that can doom or seriously damage a business. Certainly, having your top four selling books (at least on DriveThru) associated with a confessed assailant is going to be a serious problem.

It’s also worth remembering that publishers have many constraints on them – contractual obligations to creators and distributors, customers to satisfy, inventory to move, bills to pay. All of these might prevent a business from making a clean break with a problematic creator.

Thus, I understood the business portion of James’ piece. The personal one is a dumpster fire. It ignores the seriousness and credibility of the accusations to focus solely on the impact on James and Zak, and the fact that Internet trolls might be happy about this (but are they ever, really?). It also provides language that some will read as providing support and cover for this sort of behavior, although James has tried to walk back some of that.

Given that all these people have made their choices, what is mine? Here’s where I am, and I’m certainly open to responses.

  • I have dipped into Zak S.’s writing from time to time for my games, as much of it is good. At this point, it goes to a dark corner of the shelves.
  • It occurs to me that I’m actually in a book with Zak – the anthology Petty Gods from some years ago. I didn’t even know he was in there, to be honest. I’ll commit to not working on projects with him in the future – but I wasn’t planning to, so there’s that.
  • Zak also edited Veins of the Earth by Patrick Stuart. Zak’s financial stake in the book has ended, and Patrick has had his own history of problems with Zak, so I have no qualms about using it. Plus, it’s brilliant.
  • I’m keeping the rest of my Lamentations collection, and I’ll make a decision about using or not using it as I go forward.
  • I have some small elements of Lamentations in my game – the specialist, skill system, rules on financial investments, and a few spells. They’ll probably stay for the time being, and be re-evaluated as time goes on.
  • I will not buy further Lamentations products, regardless of author.  I will reconsider this if and when the publisher commits to anti-harassment policies and standards. Yes, it’s a small press that deals mainly with freelancers and that makes games that are run without their supervision, so there are limits to what they can do. But what can be done, should.
  • I’ve offered to run Lamentations at previous conventions. I will not do so in the future. This may be a moot point, because I think many cons already were reluctant to do so, and many more probably will be now. In fact, let’s face it – these last two bullets might be moot in a few months, for all I know.

These are not necessarily the right decisions, and certainly not the right decisions for everyone, and they are certainly up for discussion. Let me know what you think.

 

 

 

Published in: on March 19, 2019 at 9:49 pm  Comments (6)  

More Lecouteux Followups, Gaming in Averoigne and the Borderlands, and an Unwise Experiment

It’s a snow day here, so it’s an opportunity to catch up on some miscellaneous news.

…I’ve noticed a pattern in his books on Lapidaries and Talismans that aren’t quiet right, he doesn’t seem to understand how to construct these things nor attempted to ever do so, just translates random snippets and unfortunately some of his works get hyped as “complete”…

This is NOT to say that the works of Claude LeCouteux are worthless, but I find myself telling people over and over that his books on grimoires, talismans and amulets, and lapidaries should only be used as supplements for the fully translated materials that are already available, neo-grimoires, academic books & publications, as well as the occasional online lecture or course, and NEVER as newbie how-to books.

My only comment is that I hope RGF will take this knowledge and give it to us in some way. The world needs more quality works on magic.

  • You might notice that Lecouteux’s book A Lapidary of Sacred Stones, which is mentioned above, hasn’t rated a mention here. I got it in December and found it frustrating. It’s arranged alphabetically by the original, non-English names of the stones (and as we don’t know the translation, that’s fine) – and it lacks an index. Thus, no recommendation.
  • The D&D group has spent two sessions journeying through Clark Ashton Smith’s  Averoigne. I decided not to add too much new content, aside from a few random encounters, such as the one with the inquisitor who was told that a winged party member was the “spirit made flesh.” Now that they’ve achieved all of their goals, they’ve decided that they need to take out Bishop Azedarac. This should go well.
  • I also ran a group at a staff retreat through the Keep in the Borderlands. I had many newbies and a few players of Pathfinder and later editions. Somehow they managed to pick the Shrine of Evil Chaos as their random destination, killed all the evil priests, and outran a horde of undead with only two or three deaths in the group. Nicely done!
  • A journal has accepted one of my articles. Upon signing the agreement for publication, I realized that they retain the copyright – but I have the right to put up the final pre-publication edited version online after publication. I think it will be an interesting and accessible piece.
  •  I’ve been baffled by a reference in e Mus. 173 to a horrible substance called “assacasinus.” Based upon the name, I was wondering if this might be cassia fistula, a plant known in medieval times as “cassia” and used today to cleanse sinuses and as an insecticide.

So, I ordered some the supplement online, and I put a small amount – about an eighth of a teaspoon – on a piece of charcoal. After vacating the room, I can say with confidence that it would be an appropriate substance for an early modern magician to put on a fire to torment a spirit – and, as is usual with such suffumigation, anyone else who is unfortunate enough to be nearby. I’m not sure that this is anywhere near rigorous enough to be definitive. I’m still open to other suggestions.

That’s all for now.  I’ve got some reviews coming up of the latest Enodia Press release, some samples of dojinshi, and the Hunter Clavis, so you can look forward to those.

 

Published in: on March 7, 2018 at 8:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

Brief Notes for January

A few things to enjoy and/or look forward to:

  • I’ve uploaded my article from the Journal for the Academic Study of Magic, “The Role of Grimoires in the Conjure Tradition,” to my Academia.edu account. It’s almost ten years old, but it might be of interest.
  • Scarlet Imprint has opened pre-orders for its latest book, Jinn Sorcery by Rain al-Alim, which includes translations of rituals to summon these creatures from a private collection.
  • I’ll be taping Roejen Razorwire’s Project Archivist podcast on Sunday.  Topics will be grimoires, including the Simon Necronomicon.
  • The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Cornwall is hosting a conference on ritual magic in May.  If you can get there, it might be worth checking out.
  • My classic D&D group has just arrived in Clark Ashton Smith’s Averoigne, one of the settings in a classic module not to be named here.  It’s funny to go to D&D forums and hear people lament the fact that they can’t get the articles on Averoigne that Richard Becker and I wrote for Worlds of Cthulhu.
  • Finishing up our Iron Heroes campaign. I like what the system was aiming to do, but I’m not fond of the execution.
  • My other group has been playing Shadow of the Demon Lord, which I’d describe as an apocalyptic fantasy game like a simplified 5th D&D, but adding complexity by assigning each character three roles as they progress through their careers. Some elements of it seem rough around the edges, but we’re already planning another campaign.
  • The snake is handling the snow and ice well, by simply avoiding them.

 

Published in: on January 19, 2018 at 7:45 pm  Comments (1)  

Festooned with Fairies

I’ve been accepted as a presenter at the Scientiae: Disciplines of Knowing in the Early Modern conference at Oxford in July.  My presentation will be an expansion of my talk at the Esoteric Book Conference, just with the scholarship being more overt, and covering more ground.

When I say “more ground,” I mean comprehensively surveying as many of the known manuscripts dealing with fairy magic as possible.  There are brief references in various scholarly works, so I’ve been striving to follow up on as many as possible.  Fortunately, acquiring digital copies of books is quite easy; the staff at the British Library and Oxford’s Bodleian have been most helpful, as has Joe Peterson.  In case you’re wondering, scans of the microfilm are usually under $100, although you still have to deal with Latin passages, early modern script, and messy handwriting.  After all this, I have retrieved over a dozen magical manuscripts to which I’ve found references.

So far, I can say the following:

First, my hypothesis stated at the Esoteric Book Conference – that magic that involves fairies, or similar spirits, has some traits different from the calls to demons or other spirits – seems to be borne out so far.  Crudely put, the magician’s approach seems to assume more equality, whether through words or ritual actions that mime those between humans, than the exorcist conjurations of demons via divine dominance, and more likely to incorporate aspects of the landscape as important elements.  I hope my language above indicates that this is more of a continuum than a division; many rites, especially those devoted to Oberion, are much closer to the exorcistic model, for instance.  I’m still transcribing, so I hope there’s more interesting material to come.

Second, by sheer luck the selection of The Book of Oberon for publication has made the largest discovered collection of early modern rituals aimed to invoke the Fair Folk available.  This does not mean that is comprehensive, as I’m finding many other examples, but it’s turned out to be a great source.

I’ve also been reading up on the scholarly literature on fairies.  I’m enjoying Diane Purkiss’ At the Bottom of the Garden (apparently out of print, but also available under the title Troublesome Things) and using it to track back other contemporary references to fairies.  There are a great deal of pamphlets in Early English Books Online that speak to the sixteenth and seventeenth-century interest in these creatures.  Nonetheless, there are huge gaps in what we know about them, simply because the elite and learned did not write much about them until later.  If it hadn’t been for Kirk’s Secret Commonwealth, I think a great deal of lore would have been lost – even if, I hasten to add, Kirk was writing from a particular perspective in a particular place and time.

On my own, I’m also chugging away on collecting material on a few different topics – the table ritual, witch bottles, and wax images in particular.  All of these already appear in published or soon-to-be-published places, but I want to have all the material in place so I can one day rewrite them to be even more impressive.  I can dream, right?

No RPG writing is going on right now.  This summer will pick up, I think, with some work on the Delta Green supplement Falling Towers.  Right now, I’m simply enjoying running a game or two (D&D Rules Cyclopedia) and playing in two (D&D 5th edition, Star Wars: Edge of the Empire).

And the snake seems more healthy, even if she does seem to be going through a mid-winter fast – if this long bout of high temperatures constitutes a winter in upstate New York.

Published in: on March 15, 2016 at 8:20 pm  Comments (8)  

Delta Green Kickstarter Final Days

We’re coming to the end of the Delta Green Kickstarter, with only 38 hours remaining.  For those who are wondering what they get, here’s a breakdown:

  • For $1, you get the free PDFs that come to all backers, including pieces on the King in Yellow, Atlach-Nacha’s minions, and body disposal, plus the CONTROL GROUP introductory campaign.
  • For a $20 pledge, you can get the Agent’s Handbook (player’s guide) in PDF, along with a bunch of PDFs, including at least one complete book of scenarios.
  • For a $150 pledge, you get the player’s guide in print, along with PDFs of the GM’s guide, the GM’s screen, Kenneth Hite’s Trail of Cthulhu campaign set in Vietnam, a King in Yellow campaign (with my writing), the CONTROL GROUP campaign, a Majestic-12 sourcebook, and (we’re about $400 away) a sourcebook on the British paranormal organization PISCES, plus a whole bunch of backer PDFs.
  • For $300, you can get all of the above in print, save the backer PDFs (still PDFs).  That’s 7 books and a GM screen, which is not bad for a bunch of gaming books these days, with a lot of bonus scenarios and other material.

Yet… if we could get another $40K, this would unlock:

A while back Dennis Detwiller, the creator of the Fate, told Scott and me that he figured that at some point after 9/11, Stephen Alzis vanished. There was no fanfare, no coup, no maneuvering. He just stopped showing up. And naturally all his followers started taking each other down, each of them wanting to be top boss.

So, Scott and I at Gen Con were talking about that. We started laughing at the thought of Delta Green agents in New York realizing what had happened, and how rabid they would be to jump in the middle of all that and take another shot at the Fate.

The more we imagined it, the more it sounded like a pretty bad-ass campaign to play.

That’s Delta Green: Falling Towers. 

If this runaway project hits $340K, we’ll publish it.

Falling Towers will be two things. First, a series of scenarios where Delta Green agents in the 2000s turn every available resource toward rooting out the fractious Network and destroying it. Second, a sourcebook for the mysteries and threats Delta Green faces in New York today. You can run a Fate-hunting campaign in the 2000s and use that as a launch point for an ongoing New York campaign today. The primary writers will be me, Daniel Harms, and Dennis Detwiller. Dennis will illustrate it.

So, if you’re on the fence , that might appeal to you.

Published in: on October 27, 2015 at 8:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

Delta Green Announcements

A couple of items just came up relating to Delta Green, the setting of espionage and covert battles against the Mythos.

First, I’ve just had my short story “Dark” published in the anthology Delta Green:  Extraordinary Renditions.  For the low price of $9.99, you can get a book with that story and a number of others by Kenneth Hite, John Tynes, Adam Scott, Glancy, James Lowder, Cody Goodfellow, and others.

Delta Green itself is getting its own tabletop game, and the Kickstarter has already funded to the tune of $130K.  US folks can get a print copy of the new corebook, with a PDF and a bunch of other free PDF releases, for $70.  When the Kickstarter reaches $180K, I’ll be helping out on Dennis Detwiller’s Impossible Landscapes, an entire campaign based upon the King in Yellow and Carcosa.  If you’re interested, please head over to the Kickstarter page and help out.

Published in: on October 5, 2015 at 7:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

What’s Going On

I’ve got a few posts in the works, but I also wanted to talk about what’s going on at this end.

Right now, I’m doing some intensive work on Frederick Hockley’s associate George Graham (1784-1867), in preparation for a book that’s a few years down the road at least.  Graham is probably the best-known of the people in Hockley’s circle, but that’s because he and his wife were amateur balloonists who made a career out of flying up into the air and having disastrous adventures.

I’d love to see more evidence for Graham as an alchemist or astrologer or ritual magician – there’s a bit out there, such as his ownership for a short time of the Book of Oberon.  Still, there’s scads more on him as an aeronaut, especially newspaper stories from the Times of London and other sources.   It’s quite compelling, although it is quite distracting from blogging, answering comments and emails, etc.

I also did a small local workshop on witch bottles, based upon my upcoming article on the topic in my publication of Liverpool cunning man William Dawson Bellhouse’s manual.  While prepping, I found a good number of other articles that I’d have loved to have found about two years ago.  I’m documenting them and writing them up for my compendia of notes that I keep for a large number of published projects, in case I ever decide to return and expand them.

I haven’t written much for Call of Cthulhu lately, although I’ve got a good amount of material still waiting to come out.  I can give a few reasons for this:

1)  My reluctance to continue to engage what has become a Kickstarter-obsessed culture among gamers and companies.  KS can give those who work with established companies or names great opportunities to finance projects.  Nonetheless, it also trades excitement and drama for predictable results, and it makes it more difficult to publish small-scale material that isn’t a huge spectacular campaign.

2)  My ambivalence about 7th edition.  This is a shame, because there are many aspects of the new game that I like.  Most of it comes down to my seething hatred of the new stat block.  From what I’ve read, this was adopted simply to allow easier comparisons between stats and skills – in short, situations that very rarely rear their heads in any game that I’ve run or scenario that I’ve read.  And I’ve read most of the non-monograph output from the game’s creation until very recently.

Some will say, “All you have to do is multiply the old numbers by five!”  There’s a lot of people who can’t do math in their head, and that creates a barrier to people using the older books.  That’s especially true as it creates situations where some numbers have to be multiplied by five and then divided by five.   I can do that, but I still find it annoying.

Also, it makes life more difficult for me and other authors.  Huge amounts of material, written by me and other people who have genuine love for the game, is now going to need to go through a great deal of work before it can ever be published so that someone can occasionally compare – what?  Strength and Martial Arts?  Spot Hidden and Dexterity?

It’s also problematic for editors.  I spent five minutes a few months ago trying to figure out the implications of an item that added 10 POW to a character’s stats.  Once I recognized that this would be 2 POW in the old system, things clicked into place, but I was bothered that I actually had to figure it out.

On top of all of this, there’s a reluctance to put in the time and effort to master a 400+ page system in all of its intricacies.  For players and Keepers, that’s not so bad, because you can just keep the parts you want and ignore the rest.  When you’re writing for the game, you don’t have that option.  I’ll probably do it eventually, but I won’t be happy about it.

3)  A general malaise regarding the Mythos and its use.  Example:  I picked up a recent product (which shall remain nameless), and I immediately encountered one of those cults that’s apparently been playing cards in a back room somewhere while languages changed, empires fell, and major faiths arose, doing nothing but awaiting the day when someone could steal an artifact and they could come forth to slay infidels in a white-hot rage.

After so many excellent scenarios with plausible, well-written villains, some authors still see cultists as simply being fanatical murderers.  It’s even sadder when you realize that these writers are only getting away with this because those cultists are people of color from Third World countries.  No one would believe that crowds of people from Islington or Sheboygan would run headlong at gun-toting investigators while waving knives, but plenty of readers accept it if those people are from Africa or India.   Those are the parts of Lovecraft’s legacy that we’re supposed to be ashamed of, remember?

I’m also feeling less of a desire to be a consultant on Mythos projects.  Keeping up with the gaming material alone is hundreds of dollars and dozens of hours each year, let alone fiction.  When you’re got enthusiasm, it’s fine, but it starts to become a chore otherwise.   After comparing that with the amount I usually get offered for consulting ($0), I’ve concluded that it’s much more fun reading newspaper articles about 19th century balloonists and writing something I hope to be paid for.

(Edit:  to be fair, I don’t ask for a fee for doing such work, but I also think a fair fee would be hardly enough to purchase any CoC materials.  I’d rather do something I really want to do at this stage.)

4)  The overall feeling that I want to be doing something different.   Don’t ask me what that means.  I just know I want to write creatively on topics other than the Mythos, but that relies on that blend of folklore and history and otherworldliness that Lovecraft carried off so well.  I’ve been exploring the genre of folk horror, and I’m finding much that appeals to me there, although at its worst it tends to recreate patterns similar to those I just discussed regarding marginalized peoples.

Wow.  I feel better now.

I hope you’re all having a great day.  If you have any opinions on the above, please leave them in the comments.

 

 

Published in: on August 2, 2015 at 3:21 pm  Comments (9)  

Call of Cthulhu: Where We Went Wrong, Part 2

Given that the first post on this topic was well-received, I thought I might try another.  Despite putting this in as Part 2, it actually goes back to the original publication of the rules, and it represents my own interpretation of how they were supposed to work.

To begin, I’d like to quote from Sandy Petersen’s description of the evolution of Call of Cthulhu:

Now, Chaosium didn’t fully respect Lovecraft, and wasn’t interested in his work as horror fiction, but it really liked the idea of making a period piece RPG. Lovecraft was writing in the 1920s and 1930s, which for him was modern day, but the folks at Chaosium decided that the Twenties vibe was cool, and it kept Chaosium interested during the editing process. It also meant Chaosium could put out period supplements, which it really liked! Chaosium wanted to write about what was going on in the cities, the social structure, that was what Chaosium found interesting. The horror wasn’t as important!

Of course, I wasn’t there to witness any of this, but if this is the case, it signifies a fundamental break in how the game rules were structured.  Let’s take a look under the hood.

If we look at the character creation chapter of early editions of Call of Cthulhu, the occupation list looks something like this:

Author
Doctor
Historian / AntiquarianJournalist
Lawyer
Parapsychologist
Dilettante
Professor
Private Eye

Nonetheless, if we go to the “Sourcebook for the 1920s,” we find the following list.

Anarchist
Professional Athlete
Farmer
Gangster
Hobo
Policeman
Missionary
Politician
Soldier

Take another look at that initial list.  What they hold in common is that they are all characters who are investigating the mysterious events in Lovecraft’s stories.  They are typically highly-educated, often have academic specialties, and usually have Read/Write Other Language or a similar skill on their list.  With such a group composition, it makes sense to have a large number of academic skills, to base those skills on Education, and to give base amounts for non-academic skills that make it somewhat possible, if generally unlikely, to succeed.  (After all, why start with a Physics of 0% and a Jump of 25%?)

So this group goes out to investigate, and what do they find, aside from blasphemous horror?  Tomes, written in a number of different languages.  Sandy Petersen once noted on the Yog-Sothoth forums (I can’t track down the exact quote, sorry) that tomes were built in as the game’s reward structure.  Given the skills of the group, it is likely that someone will be able to read these, thereby accumulating Cthulhu Mythos skill.  And, as I pointed out in my previous post, Cthulhu Mythos was intended to be helpful to determine the scope of the threat against the investigators, and as such had a clear and definite purpose.  Given the low amounts gained through insanity, reading tomes was the most clear method to accumulate this necessary ability.

Now, scroll up to that second list of occupations.  Although some of these do appear in HPL’s stories, they are rarely the investigators themselves.  The intent here is not to model a literary genre, but a time period.  If you are doing that, then providing ways to make characters of a broad swath of occupations in order to model those that were available at the time.  This has become the usual trend throughout Cthulhu, and the scenarios have been written to accommodate it.

Still, this explanation does answer a good number of questions that have come up over the years from players and designers alike:  “Why are my lounge singer’s capabilities to entertain tied to her formal education?”  “Further, why would my lounge singer work with a gangster, a sailor, and a professor?  That sounds like a bad sitcom premise.” “Why do we have all these academic/medical skills that no one has points in?”  “Should we combine some of these skills?”  “What are we supposed to do with this tome?  Nobody speaks the language.” (followed by) “Should we just burn it?”  “What’s with all of these different categories for monsters?”   “Everyone’s Cthulhu Mythos is so low.  Why even bother rolling it, or including it in a scenario?”

In making the above points, I am not trying to say Call of Cthulhu is not a vastly entertaining game.  Instead, many of the questions we have been asking for years about it are the result of a decision made early on in the design process:  to repurpose a game that simulated Lovecraftian investigation to one that simulated Twenties society.  That legacy is still with us today.

Published in: on April 4, 2015 at 3:12 pm  Comments (5)  
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