MUP Episode 187 – Cultes des Fools

This episode, Chad, Jon and Murph each cults and come up with some ideas on how to refresh them in our games. This episode was recorded on November 26, 2019. 

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Campus Crier

HBO has released the “first look” trailer for their shows coming out in 2020. Included in this cornucopia of shows are some very brief snipits of Lovecraft Country, by Jordan Peele. A full trailer to advertise Lovecraft Country should be coming soon.

The 2019 Delta Green Shotgun Scenario Contest is afoot! It does wrap up soon, on December 7th, so jump in now. Entries must be set in the Delta Green-verse, and be 1500 words or less. You can submit as many Shotgun Scenarios as you want. To submit an entry, there is a link in the show notes. Go there first so you can see all the specifications, and you’ll see the email address to send them to. 

The folks at HPLHS have launched a new podcast, titled “Voluminous.” This is Andrew Lehman and Sean Branney’s endeavor, to read and discuss some of HP Lovecraft’s copious personal letters. The first few episodes have dropped, and cover Lovecraft letters to August Derleth, Robert H. Barlow, and…his mom. 

There’s a new zine on Kickstarter that would cover a lot of the MUP topic wheelhouse. It’s called TPK, and it’s billed as “a new zine dedicated to exploring and celebrating horror, dark fantasy and the Old School Revival movement of role playing games (OSR).” This is the work of Michael Francis of Canberra, Australia, a veteran zine publisher with titles such as the “Atomic Elbow Professional Wrestling Fanzine,” “Soda Killers” and the “Slash Dance” horror zine. 

It has been a while since Haunted West closed out, but just to follow up, it finished strong with 889 backers at just under $54,000. The backerkit survey went out a few days ago, and Chris has pledged monthly updates as it progresses through production. This is the stand-alone game we talked about a few episodes, that pieces together stories of forgotten people of the Old West who have been whitewashed by history.

Modiphius is at it again playing the licensing game this time with an Agatha Christie based card game called Death on the Cards. The game for 2-6 players can and last up to 20 – 40 minutes and features many of the characters from the fiction, Miss Marple, Poirot, etc. You can get the game at their website now for $19.33 US. We have a link in the show notes. 

Our own Keeper Dan sent us a link to some news that there is a Lovecraftian cinematic universe in the works. SpectreVision’s Elijah Wood and Daniel Noah are partnering with Color Out of Space director and writer Richard Stanley to create a cinematic universe based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Noah and Wood told ComingSoon that they’re working on an adaptation of The Dunwich Horror as a way to “build out a Lovecraft universe.” 

A big thanks to our own Keeper Murph for editing this episode!

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Card Catalog

This episode, Graham brings us a couple of links from Project Gutenberg that could be useful for Gaslight or an Old West horror game like Haunted West or Down Darker Trails. This is an 1870 history of gambling, lots of ways to induce Investigators to lose their shirts and who knows what else (They may end up wearing barrels…). “The Gaming Table: Its Votaries & Victims, In all Times & Countries, especially in England and in France by Andrew Steinmetz, Esq (1870)

And a related link: an interesting paper on the game that was played in the Old West more often than Poker, Faro. Get ready to ‘Buck the Tiger’… http://jgi.camh.net/index.php/jgi/article/view/3724/3684

Cultes des Fools

In Call of Cthulhu, cults often fall into old familiar tropes, with robe-wearing worshipers meeting in stone circles making ritual human sacrifices. Many of these tropes come from a parody of religion from the Lovecraft era, and are caricatures of groups like the Theosophists and the hysteria of a secret “witch cult” in Europe, which turned out to be bogus. While there’s plenty of room to be creative within those tropes, let’s look outside the box a bit.

Let’s look at other groups of people who show “cultish tendencies” that we could infuse with Mythos flavor and work into games.

A Word of Caution: We are using real-world groups for villains, we should just be mindful of “other-izing” real people and trying to punch up when possible instead of punching down at groups that are already “otherized” and marginalized. 

  • How might we look at cult-like behavior in groups that fall out of the traditional tropes, and use them for inspiration to make antagonists for games?  
  • What kinds of unconventional “cult” groups do we already see in Call of Cthulhu’s deep back catalog? Got a favorite?

Jon’s Cults

Fallstaff Academy Preparatory School for Boys

  • Some of the staff within an all boy’s prep school
  • Boys with a high enough GPA, but also with a history of disciplinary actions
  • Initial threat of expulsion is leverage used to fold the boys into the cult until they’re brainwashed enough to participate voluntarily
  • They worship Yog-Sothoth
  • The goal is to groom the boys to infiltrate the highest positions in industry and politics so they can eventually herald the coming of Yog-Sothoth

Patronage of the Bloodied Thumb

  • Patrons of a gifted contemporary artist
  • The artist “signs” artwork with a red thumbprint
  • Artist creates art after tapping into the Mythos through her dreams
  • Admirers of the artist’s work, if they seem sincere enough, are approached by the other patrons to join their “circle” of support for the artist
  • Artist is interpreting dreams from Cthulhu

Clockmakers Guild

  • Collection of mechanical and science-minded people
  • Worship the Tick-Tock Man, an avatar of Nyarlathotep
  • The cultists include clockmakers, watch makers, toy makers, and inventors – anyone who uses tiny jeweler-level tools to build, fix, and invent
  • These cultists network with each other, but are typically isolated individuals who prefer to work alone – except for their mechanical servants and assistants
  • Anyone wishing to join the cult must demonstrate a high level of mechanical mastery

Nursemaid Sisterhood

  • Group of nursemaids, doulas, and nannies
  • They are strong proponents of homeopathic and natural remedies
  • They worship Shub Niggurath
  • One of the tenets of the cult is to test newborns to see if he/she qualifies to be gifted to Shub Niggurath – then a changeling is brought in to replace the newborn as the real baby is gifted to their goddess
  • Each cult cell is led by a “Den Mother” – the bulk of the cultists are young women – the incredibly few men in the cult serve in a laborer or maintenance capacity

Chad’s Cults

  • Meme theory as a way to explore cultish groups, and multi-level marketing as a vector. 
    1. Imagine a race like the Mi-Go, but instead of biological experiments, they are conducting sociological experiments on groups of humans. 
    2. They launch a multi-level marketing experiment of cultish door-to-door salespeople, with separate groups competing in the same market, each one with different “meme” traits to test recruiting capability. 
  • Reality Shows 
    1. Stochastic terrorism. Just as the show runners manipulate the subculture of the show’s participants, a Mythos entity could also be pulling the strings behind the scenes.  
    2. Naked and Afraid, or Lost, or Abandoned, or this one that was cancelled (called Eden).
  • Satirical Groups
    1. Political Parties “frivolous political parties.” Inanimate Objects Party.
    2. Art experiments, like The Institute or the OWL Party.
  • Hobby/Interest group: Amateur electronics kit makers and radio operators in the 20s stumble upon a strange pirate radio broadcast and discover it’s coming from space

Murph’s Cults

Murph has a companion post that will be released to Patreon backers first, and then will be released to all listeners shortly thereafter.

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