Call of Cthulhu: Lifting the Veil

I’ve been hearing rumors that Call of Cthulhu was due out sometime late in 2017, but I wasn’t able to find any actual links or announcements from the studio itself.  It was like IGN just went to bed with a terrible headache, and when it woke up, it just knew that CoC was “due for release 4th quarter 2017

The strangeness has been increasing as we come closer and closer to that time – it was rumored that half the production team had to be institutionalized due to “the maddening whispers of sussurating voices late at night where no words should be” but also, following a playtest session at their Charleston studio, the nearby wildlife became … tainted

Furthermore, a mysterious silence has fallen over The Sinking City, the other Lovecraftian game that was due out in 2017.  Shoggoths?  Perhaps.

But at long last, archaeologists working in forbidden corners of the Internet have unearthed an ancient and heretofore unknown interview with the game designers, along with some gameplay review.  Needless to say, all that follows is unspeakable, not to mention eldritch:


Also, that guy really needs to be in a Star Wars movie, along with this guy:


although apparently in Call of Cthulhu you are not able to whip out a lightsaber and bring the lasery death.  Or actually, apparently defend yourself in any way.

One of the fun things about playing Layers of Fear after Skyrim was going from an undead-slaying demigod to an insane painter who walks with a leg brace.  It really felt like missing a step on a stair to reach for your trusty mace only to realize you left it in your other game.  Although by that point, the ghost was usually eating your face.

Same thing applies in Call of Cthulhu, where your primary weapon is “knowin’ stuff.”  I’m happy they’re keeping the RPG dynamic that “knowin’ stuff” about the Mythos also costs you valuable marble space in your head, and that you gradually go crazy as the true horror of the universe unfolds itself.  It will hopefully make a nice tradeoff where you spend the entire game uncertain of how much you can know before going off the deep end, always wanting to turn the next page but afraid of going too far.

Which kind of describes learning physics, actually.  I knew HPL was onto something.

The story starts with a mysterious fire –

I knew it.  When you absolutely, positively have to kill every eldritch abomination in the room, always go for fire.  It’s primal.  It’s cleansing.  It never actually seems to work, but it does give you some nice treacherous architecture to impale yourself on.

…. a mysterious fire on a foreboding New England island.  No, not that one!  Probably!

… a mysterious fire that no one seems to want to talk about, until you are hired to determine what, ultimately, happened on that fateful night.

It’s probably safe to assume things go downhill from there.

So don’t make any plans for Autumn, and in the meantime, keep you eyes on the heavens.  Watch out for planetary alignments, comet sightings, and most especially orange alligators.

Fhtaghn, cultists.








Old School D&D: Grampa’s Gettin’ His Geek On

Once again, I find myself thinking about old school Dungeons & Dragons (mostly because Facebook threw a Blackmoor movie page up as a sponsored post).

I have some inchoate thoughts, and since I am trying to turn this blog into something a real writer might call a “daybook,” I thought I would share them with you.  You’re welcome.  Whether you like it or not.

I don’t think I’m actually qualified to talk about “old school,” because apparently the “Golden Age of D&D” actually occurred when I was around 2 years old.  I’ve been told I was a precocious child, but even as a toddler, I don’t think I was thinking too much about THAC0; I was probably more concerned with giving up the bottle.  (Still having trouble with that one, but now it’s alcohol.  Hell, I was 2.  Maybe it was alcohol back then.  That would … explain a lot, actually.)

Ain’t that always how Golden Ages work?  You should have seen it when … there’s a poem there somewhere, and hopefully after wrapping this up, I can go write it.  But I don’t wanna get too sidetracked … D&D.

For me, there are a series of images or impressions that come to mind, but I can’t put my finger on what, exactly, those images are or represent.  Computers are definitely a part of it; while I might have missed gaming’s Golden Age, growing up in Silicon Valley in the 70’s, I was definitely at the epicenter of the personal computer revolution.

That’s one angle of it: the unformed nature of both gaming and computers.  There were no boxed sets (or at least, us neophytes hadn’t heard of them) or Internet.  Copyright protection for games usually consisted of a book or pamphlet with commands you had to type, or answers to puzzles; they called them “feelies.”  It was a strange, primitive form of multimedia, and it was confusing as hell.

No, awesome, I meant to say awesome.  OK, it was both of those things.  It seems like the 70’s were full of little pamphlets – Watchtower magazines, feelies, copies of album lyrics, D&D modules … there was so much more paper, back then.

As you can tell from how disjointed this is, I’m still not zeroing in on what I want.  Paper … no hyperlinks.  No depth.  No, at the touch of a button, having access to more information than you can possibly process.  Because paper cost money, details were limited; there was always some unanswered question.  Maybe that’s the “unformed” aspect of it.  Like Zelazny’s worlds, they’re only painted in enough detail to leave you wanting more.

But more than that: they hadn’t been codified.  There was no particular reason, back then, that gaming defaulted to the vaguely Northern European feudal landscape that it did.  If anything, the primary images are Middle Eastern: Dunsany and the Arabian Nights, Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser in some fantastic desert in a magical analog of Afghanistan.

That’s all a piece of it.  There is also a powerful sense of the “dungeon,” not the least of which is because when you’re 10, giant worldscaping political adventures aren’t as gripping as kicking down the temple door, killing everyone, and taking their stuff.  What I imagine, what I always keep coming back to, is a room underground – and most powerfully, the lack of windows.  Maybe because I worked 911 so long, that “boxy” aspect has a powerful resonance for me.

The museum I worked for had the same quality: rooms with rooms, a nested box from which there was no escape.  Here’s a picture:



that doesn’t really show anything.  Kinda creepy, though, isn’t it?  You don’t know what’s there, but whatever it is, it won’t have a stat block, or a name, or a definable power.  It will be the embodiment of the unknown, and that is the frightening and appealing part about it, the mythic power that gets lost when you have to translate “medium sized humanoid” to a STR modifier.  Here’s another one:


From the heart of the temple … museum, sorry.  I meant to say museum.

The question is, for me: what started this fascination with buried rooms?  I can’t actually recall being on any dungeon crawls.  Maybe the old Compuserve fantasy MUDs, the ones that were so primitive the graphics were printed in ASCII characters?  Perhaps.  I know I read about enough dungeon crawls; back then, I spent many more hours reading the old school D&D picks than I did actually playing.

Ugh.  This is rambling on and on.  It’s 10 on a Friday night, and since I have no actual life to speak off, I should probably crawl into bed and finish watching that documentary about chickens.

I plan on coming back to this, though, because it’s going to drive me crazy if I can’t eventually connect these images, and then hopefully get a poem out of it.

And if you’ve played, tell me in the comments when you started, and what your first impressions were.

In the meantime, here’s some more old school art for your viewing pleasure: