MU Podcast 042 - Eldritch Inklings

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MU Podcast 042 - Eldritch Inklings

Post by Keeper Dan » Sun Nov 03, 2013 9:29 pm

In Episode 42, we talk about sources of inspiration for scenarios, as well as how to keep your game fresh, and your players coming back for more. We also talk about when to use an existing skill versus when to create a new one. Due to another rich of vein of feedback and voice mails, we discuss reviving the Pickman's Art Institute segments, ways to handle pregame recaps in an ongoing adventure, period music sources, monster research, and good D&D modules to adapt for gaming in the Dreamlands. Plus two contest winners, and more!

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  • A couple of Dan's friends started their own podcast about Shadowrun. It’s called the Arcology Podcast, and you can find it by clicking this thing right here!
We’re getting tons of feedback now, and we love it!
One of the things that first caught my interest with your podcast was \"The Pickman institute\" as no other podcast takes any interest in the art side of the industry anymore. So I would love to hear more about the visual influence of art work on games for the keepers descriptions and the history of weird art. The weird art side has been around longer than weird fiction, just under other names. So anyway guys, Love the show, Stay groovy, -- Reuben "Sorrowking" Dodd.
Reuben is the artist behind Island of Ignorance: The Third Cthulhu Companion from Golden Goblin Press.

I wanted to ask you a question about keeping players up to date with regards to in-game events. In the past with different gaming groups and different RPGs I've used various methods to keep my players informed/reminded about events that have occurred in-game. I've used simple verbal recaps at the table, printed newsletters, emailed journals and MS Power Point presentations, or a combination of these. What's your preferred means of keeping your players up to date with your games' events? Maybe you don't do this at all and just let your players' notes be all that they have to go on in between sessions. My second question has to do with music resources. In my current game I'm planning to use a Power Point presentation as a means of recapping what's happened in previous sessions. My plan is to make it look and sound like a recap from something akin to an old Republic Pictures serial (ie: Dick Tracy or Captain Marvel). I'd really like to have some era appropriate adventuresome music accompanying the presentation and wanted to know if you had any suggestions. I think the music used for Dr. Gerard's History pieces is definitely along the lines of what I'm looking for. Can you tell me where you got it and if there any online sources for free music that you can recommend for my purposes as well as general game mood music. -- Todd, North Bay, Ontario

Voicemail- Doctor Bob

Voicemail- Trevelix

Voicemail- DM CoJo

The First Edition D&D modules that DM CoJo mentions are:
B4 The Lost City
X2 Castle Amber
Ex1 Dungeonland
EX2 The Land Behind the Magic Mirror
N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God

And Jon mentions this series-
Desert of Desolation (Series I3 - I5)

Card Catalog
Dan digs up the Weird Name Generator, and a Call of Cthulhu NPC Generator -- complete with stats as well!

Miskatonic Radio Pulp

Cryptocurium Discussion, on The Inner Sanctum

Side Topic
As keepers, when do you decide to make up new skills or just use a stat check or comparable skill? Specifically, at what line do you cross to decide that something needs its own category? -- Logar
Main Topic
I would love to hear you guys talk about sources of inspiration. It seems that I come up with a great idea for a scenario (to me at least), then I get to writing it and get discouraged part-way through. How do you guys stay inspired and where do you get ideas from? -- Trevlix
Jon mentions the phenomena known as The Hum. Here are a couple of links regarding it:
Keeper Dan of the Miskatonic University Podcast

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Re: MU Podcast 042 - Eldritch Inklings

Post by Zombieneighbours » Mon Nov 04, 2013 7:07 am

One of the most important oversight on the skills list is: Mathematics

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Re: MU Podcast 042 - Eldritch Inklings

Post by Dr. Gerard » Mon Nov 04, 2013 11:52 am

Absolutely agree. I usually use accounting in its place if needed, or an INT x 5, but both are flawed solutions.
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Re: MU Podcast 042 - Eldritch Inklings

Post by Zombieneighbours » Mon Nov 04, 2013 1:24 pm

We have non-euclidean geomatry, but no skill for dealing with it ;)

Personally, I just house rule it in. It comes up often enough in my games that its worth doing so.

I have traditionall had the base be 5%, but I am now thinking that with the arival of the new edition, I might have i be int/5

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Re: MU Podcast 042 - Eldritch Inklings

Post by fallingtower » Mon Nov 04, 2013 11:09 pm

Another brilliant episode. You guys are blowing all other Lovecraft gaming podcasts out of the water.

D'you know something I'd love to see available for purchase....A Professor and Jimmy T-shirt of some sort.
A Jimmy-centric shirt would be an awesome fundraiser idea. Maybe a joint MUPodcast and Crytocurium venture.
If religion were true, its followers would not try to bludgeon their young into an artificial conformity; but would merely insist on their unbending quest for truth, irrespective of artificial backgrounds or practical consequences.

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Re: MU Podcast 042 - Eldritch Inklings

Post by fox01313 » Tue Nov 05, 2013 1:26 am

Great work guys & would like to share a few thoughts.

*Other great resource discussed slightly elsewhere on the forums here at MU is the use of the AD&D Raveloft boxed set for other things to import into CoC that can be either thrown into the dreamlands or better still the Ravenloft lands were all roughly islands in some haunted mists where one dread lord would be ruling all the land (but can make that rumor now but the time periods varies from fantasy to something more civilized in a vague Frankenstein setting) and the way you get to Ravenloft is that the players are walking through an eerie fog & then find themselves there in the land of the DM's choice. Not too out of place for the fog to act as a mystical gateway to some lost world.

*If stuck on writing a scenario I can offer some ideas used in fiction writing from English class or later that can work for some but easy to try out:
Mood music while writing-unless a pulp adventure where you could always grab the soundtracks for Indiana Jones, the Shadow, the Phantom & other recent movies that have a rather good pulp soundtrack. Listening to this might at least keep your mind in the right frame to keep going.

Two bands I find a lot of fun things to listen to are Midnight Syndicate & Nox Arcana. Both do music more fitting for a haunted house but also are great atmosphere which can work good in a loop. Midnight Syndicate does more traditional halloween stuff where Nox Arcana has some more specific stuff like an album called Necronomicon.

*Another thing is to try out the tarot cards, not in an occult way but a means of generating ideas (used a couple times here with writer's block). The cards have all kinds of good & bad things that can happen to someone so just draw a couple, then see how they might work together as some idea in writing. Example would be getting the Queen of staves & the Hermit, so you can have a headstrong woman who is either isolated for some reason or you have some mad hermit trying to capture this woman.

(most tarot decks aren't that expensive & if using it for this I'd just find one you like the art of & you can glance at the art if you can't find the book to figure out the card meaning, I use the Halloween tarot deck for this as the spooky art is fun to look at)

*Other things about getting stuck or finding inspiration, look at the general plot for episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the X-Files & my favorite: Friday the 13th the series (or Warehouse 13 if you like). After seeing a ton of these, they were all great for stand-alone shows at getting some gem of an idea and creating a monster or cursed item out of that. Examples are: the school swim team starts to win all of a sudden with some people disappearing too, really old growth trees are cut down with some million year old dormant bugs stuck in hibernation until some fool wakes them up ruining their sleep, kids in the neighborhood start disappearing except for one pair who just got a creepy playhouse, a police officer & criminal encounter an item that switches their minds which also happens the people after the item.

*If the scenario isn't working out then maybe you could try to delay things somewhat (as weeks went by in some of Lovecraft's stories where not much happened), maybe the main plot has to wait for something else to happen & put the players on a sub-plot of minor importance that could give them something useful for the main plot or just builds the tension of the main plot as they wait

Want to say that I saw something similar to this a while back either in one of the Vampire the Masquerade books or maybe it was Ravenloft but it's just a simple chart of small time consuming events that can happen (this is just a random list of things thought up just now but feel free to adapt it or come up with your own items) or just work as seeds for new scenarios

1-the stars are right for something else & some rumors popping up at one spot in town
2-an explosion happens nearby where someone got a fragment of an occult book that tried something which failed, maybe?
3-pick an investigator's profession (i.e. if there's a priest have someone come up to them in need of an exorcism as ghosts don't really exist, do they?) where something comes up or a member of the family knows the player does some work with strange things and calls them for help
4-continuing investigators might find occult rumors about them picking up where someone (as in another investigator, organization or cult) might start spying on them to recruit them, eliminate them or steal something
5-npc investigator shows up for some help from the player investigators with some research for an item with the intent of getting the item then going power crazy with it
6-new spell-the sleepwalker-where once a personal item of a person is acquired, they can be controlled while they sleep to walk around & anything the sleepwalker hears can be heard by the person casting the spell. what if the investigator's family has someone now sleepwalking?
7-some NPC delivers a cursed item to the investigator
8-better still, some NPC tries to deliver the cursed item but right before it gets to the investigator {insert noticeable spell effect here}
9-a cult sends someone to the town to start killing/collecting for some ritual but they get the town/timing wrong
10-Jimmy's relative in some cult is spared when the rest of the cult tries something really naughty, so Jimmy's relative shows up to one occult involved investigator for tips on starting a new cult and/or recruiting the investigator as they seem pretty smart about occult things & cults are cool

Sometimes if you can think of a good hook idea, you can backtrack the hook to try to figure out who might be on the other end of the hook from the investigators. If nothing else take a break as they suggested on the podcast & try to throw out some other ideas just to mentally play around with it to see if these puzzle pieces would fit or help spur some creative muse.
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Re: MU Podcast 042 - Eldritch Inklings

Post by trevlix » Tue Nov 05, 2013 1:36 am

Great episode!

Thanks for answering all my questions! Lots of great suggestions that I'm digesting as I write this.

Also, thats awesome I won the soft cover of Sense of the Slight of Hand Man. Gonna need to find something to contribute back to you guys now.
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Re: MU Podcast 042 - Eldritch Inklings

Post by Nvision » Tue Nov 05, 2013 8:03 pm

Excellent show, as usual, guys!

I just wanted to add something regarding Trevlix's voicemail on researching entities for scenarios. I've found the most valuable resource for digging into any Mythos creature to be Dan Harms' "Encyclopaedia Chthuliana." It's got an expansive rundown on almost all entities in the Mythos, along with notes on previous publications containing them. The references extend to both fiction and scenarios.

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Re: MU Podcast 042 - Eldritch Inklings

Post by trevlix » Thu Nov 07, 2013 12:57 pm

So I realize that I should probably answer my own voicemail question (about researching).

Similar to what was said on the show, when I come across a new entity I want to use, I'll start with a minimal amount of research. Typically looking in Encyclopaedia Chthuliana, Malleus Monstrorum, and wikipedia. Surprisingly, Wikipedia has surprisingly decent articles that list out the Cthulhu Mythos GOOs and a reference to some of the stories they are mentioned in. (Good enough for my research purposes anyhow.)

If I don't find the information I want, or if that creature/GOO has intrigued me, I'll start to find the stories they are mentioned in to see what they say. For example, my recent article in Island of Ignorance is about Bugg-Shash. The MM has some good info on it, but I wanted more. Fortunately, my research found that there were only 2 stories that mentioned it, and were in the same anthology, so I got it and read the stories.

I'm also doing research into Yidhra for an idea I have for a campaign. MM has some really good info, and was tantalizing enough for me to dig deeper. This took me into discovering the works of Walter C. DeBill - the creator or Yidhra. I bought the only "in print" anthology of his I could find, and am working my way through it. Great stuff and I'll be posting a review here when I'm done reading.

My point is that if I get interested in something, I start researching it deeper to see how it is used by the original author. That doesn't mean I'll use it exactly as the original author did, but at least I have an idea. This has opened me up to new Cthulhu mythos fiction too, which is always a good thing.
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Re: MU Podcast 042 - Eldritch Inklings

Post by Eibon » Thu Nov 07, 2013 2:29 pm

Another fine show, with good forum replies, but I just want to comment. I think at least part of what trevlix was asking how to develop a seed into a full adventure, particularly how to get over blocks in developing the ieda. So, great post fox01313, but we need to go a bit further.

The phrase that keeps coming up throughout the discussion is "just push through". It's the key to getting creative work done. As Douglas Adams once put it: "Writing is easy. You only need to stare at a piece of blank paper until your forehead bleeds". You need to keep working to keep the story developing. I find it's always useful to ask the basic questions when you get stuck: who, what, where, why and how? These can lead you to solve most problems.

There is a story about Sax Rohmer, who had accepted a commission and was writing the book just ahead of the magazine serialisation, so half the novel had been published and he was writing the next part when he got completely stuck. With the deadline looming, in desperation he asked a friend for help. The friend read the book up to the sticking point and said, "If one of the characters is lying, you can get out of this." That solved the problem and Rohmer quickly finished the book. So sometiems looking at the problem from another angle can suggest ways forward.

Also, don't worry if what you end up with is not where you started. I've had ideas which the finished work is nothing like the plot germ. You can also try flipping the plot over on it's head -- that can suggest things too.

Role Playing is slightly different, because you have no absolute control over the protagonists, so you have to be a bit looser. You can pursaude them to do what you expect, but you can't force them.

I'll try and demonstrate this in action with one of fox01313's pot seeds: "2-an explosion happens nearby where someone got a fragment of an occult book that tried something which failed, maybe?"

First, lets choose a setting: I'll go for Gaslight Britain. I know Nobel and others were researching making nitroglycerine more stable around this time, so maybe that's connected with the explosion? Or there were bombings from Eastern European rovolutionaries (Conrad's "The Secret Agent") or Finnian Republicans. These could be used. Also, the villagers in Wells' "First Men in The Moon" believe Professor Cavor's house blew up when the space ship launched; could something like this have happened?

Let's go with the Professor and hammer out a quick plot:

The Professor buys an Occult book. Reading it he discovers how to open gates and realises that these can be used to make an effcient transport system around the Empire. He starts experimenting, but realises that he is not the only creature in the dimension between the gates and that as he can travel in, so they can travel out, into England. Realising the threat he blows up the gate, destroying himself and the Occult book, but leaving a diary account. But the gate was destroyed while something was still on our side... -- this would could be written up as a story, but for a role playing game this is the background narrative -- this is the narrative the players will uncover to get a satisfying session.

So now we need to construct the adventure proper:

Obvious leads in are relatives inheriting the Professor's property. As our plot is already a bit cliched, I don't want this one. So, the death of local pets, and the sighting of a beast, attract investigators (either hired or on their own initiative).

So, a local paper carried the story of a retired Colonel, once stationed in Borneo, who sighted what he claims to be an Ourang-outang in the Home Counties. There are also stories of dead cats and dogs being found. This attracts the players.

Clue points:
The dead pets are drained rather than gnawed on.
Events started around the time "that mad professor blew himself up".
The Colonel confirms an ape-like creature, but says it was black in colour (A Dimensional Shambler).
Professor's house or workshop.
Site of the exposion.
Fragments of the book.
Last clue (which gives away most of the background narrative), the Professor's diary -- it should be hidden, not just under his pillow in his house.

What's the Shambler up to? At the moment the Shambler is hiding in the woods. It is slightly confused by Earth (remember, it's not bound, so it has no instructions); its been testing out the local wildlife (the pets, maybe also a deer or badger). He will, during the course of the adventure, meet Eddie the local poacher. He will either kill him or scare him half-mad (kill if players need to feel there is a greater threat, mad if the players need additional hints). Once the Shambler has the measure of Man, he will attempt to draw other Shamblers to Earth, maybe by recreating the gate? If not stopped, the plan then would be to feed on all life here. The Shambler has not so far met anything which is a danger to it, so it will stick to the plan unless the Army are brought in. It will, however, avoid drawing attention to itself while it is alone.

Personally, I would also plot out the movements of the Shambler, so if he needs to go to the Professor's workshop to pick up the metorite stone needed for the gate, then I'd decide he did that on day four, then if the players are there, they might encounter the Shamber, or if the visit on day five, they might see the aftermath of the break-in.

Final showdown with Shambler: hopefully armed with a plan the players need to kill/dismiss the Shambler before it can open a gate on this side. They can either hunt down the Shambler (not easy), or locaate the gate site and lie in ambush. If all else fails, they know an explosion will destroy the gate, but they will need to get the Shambler too to stop the threat.

What we'll need to do to make a playable adventure:

NPC Characters: Eddie, Colonel, village policeman, local vet, local landlord? Publican, Professor's charlady, other villagers.
Maps: Village, explosion site, Professors house/workshop, Shambler lair/gate site.
Handouts for most clue points: diary, book fragments, newspaper cuttings. Report on pets? Police report on Poressor's death.

Characters might also seek out Occultists to advise on the book fragmenst and the Shambler; and the might want to talk to academics who knew the Professor.

There are lots of other things we can ask questions about to fill in details: how long ago did the professor die? Where did he get the Occult book from? Where was the other side of his gate? Is anyone else pursuing his idea? What level of knowledge did the villagers have about him? Can an unsummoned Shambler be dismissed by magic? Are there other copies of the Occult book? What about the Professor's family/hier? Are the players the only people hunting for the Ourang-outang?

Also consider red herrings: the Ourang-outang might have escaped from a circus? Are there Pagan practices in the village? Was a foreign power interested in the Professor?

I'm going to stop there, but hopefully you can see that by questioning the plot, turning it to veiw it from a different angle, and by just pushing through any blocks, you can turn almost any idea which grabs you into a full adventure. It is work to do, but its the only way.

In terms of inspiration, that can come from anywhere. I often have a single scene from which I'll build backwards. I also borrow from non-Mythos sources (Eddie the poacher, above, popped into by head from Doctor Who, particularly "The Pyramids of Mars", but also Mr Ollis, the game warden from "The Three Doctors"). Obviously, or Cthulhu the Mythos is a rich source, but don't feel completely bound by what has gone before, after all, some cultist might have been lying, or didn't understand what they saw and rationalised it.

A couple of points Encyclopaedia Chthuliana is very good, but it is still just one person's view of the Mythos. There are a couple of entries I'd dispute. And with my pedant hat on: Bugg-Shash has been mentioned more often than in just "Demoniacal" and "The Kiss of Bugg-Shash" (I name check him as a possible menace in one of the "Epistles of Eibon"), but I accept that other uses are consistent with these two, so don't add anything useful. The Mlandoth Myth Cycle is one of the most interesting additions to the Mythos. Glad you are enjoying them so far.

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