Monday, December 28, 2015

Lovecraft was a racist bastard

This is not news. Nor is this link to a recent article, but is is to an article well worth reading, as it hits all the salient points, without being apologist.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Accident in Westmount

Nothing at all to do with the Investigators getting into a brawl with some mythos being during the night. Nope, nuh-uh!

1912 Philbin Hardware Co, Westmount

This article seems like the perfect press release to cover-up Investigator activities, or more likely, their blunders!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Photo of the Day

Montréal 1917

A seasonally appropriate Photo of the Day. The Zamboni is an iconic Canadian vehicle, of course, ice had to be groomed before the invention of such an icon, and here we are with the way it was done back then.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Ghostbusting Lovecraft

An interesting article on Lovecraft in Ghostbusters, and how the film confirms the Lovecraftian world view, whilst also providing an antidote to it.

It being the 30th anniversary of the film, and with it coming out on Netflix, I re-watched it recently. There were many things that passed me by when watching it the first time round, one of which being Bill Murray's character, Venkman. One thing that struck me was how much of a sex-pest Venkman was. It was almost enough to spoil the film for me. My world view, and I hope that of films in general has moved on a lot since 1985, and what was acceptable then, and what I failed to think twice about now strikes me as just wrong. This is but one reason why I am so very glad that the remake of the film that is planned has gone for an all female cast.

Still, in many ways, Ghostbusters is a classic, and much as Lovecraft's racism now strikes readers but is not enough to stop them from enjoying the rest of his prose, Venkman's misogyny is hopefully ot enough in itself to stop the enjoyment of the rest of the film, as it truly still has may things to offer.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Cryptocurium Amulets

With a recent birthday, I found myself with a little extra cash, and the need to spend it solely on me. This I did. For a while now I have had my eye on a couple of prop artefacts made by Cryptocurium. One is an Amulet of the Bloody Tongue aspect of Nyarlathotep, and the second is the Totem of the Wind Walker.

Both amulets have now arrived, and I am very pleased with the quality of both of them.

Medallion of Ithaqua
The Amulet of the Wind walker really is delightful. I plan to use this as a replacement for the Medallion of Ithaqua that was released as part of the Horror on the Orient Express Kickstarter, that I foolishly did not buy. For a short while it was also available on the Chaosium Website, but again, I didn't buy one as I thought it was going to be there indefinitely, rather than a finite time.

Of course, this looks nothing like the Medallion shown in images in the game (seen on the right), but whatever,  like this one, and I have the real prop too!

Of course, this will be handy for any number of villains I have planned for and games based in Montreal too, which Ithaqua is likely to feature heavily in, as I do have a soft spot for his Northern Majesty.

The second purchase was the Amulet of the Bloody Tongue. Of course, there's no one here who will need reminding of who this guy is. The Bloody Tongue aspect of Nyarlathotep of course plays a central role in the Masks campaign. An amulet like this could be introduced in the very first chapter, as being on the cultists who kill of Jackson Elias, or it could be used to represent an artefact found in the African chapter of the same campaign.

Of the two, I think this is my favourite. While the Wind Walker amulet is understated, there's more work gone into this one in terms of finishing. The gold on the base is not really visible on the Etsy page selling it (and not really in the picture here either), and is really well done on the final prop. As is the blood effect.

Top work from the guys at Cryptocurium. If ever I'm in need of more props, for the price, you can't do better than here.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Photo of the Day

Dominion Square, Montreal. Winter 1926.

Winter is late in coming this year, but come it will, and it will look like this. No matter what else may change with progress, the seasons still come in order, and leave us to deal with the same problems and hardships.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Reframing the Racism in "The Call of Cthulhu"

Although I have yet to read it in full, it would be very remiss of me to let this go across my radar without linking to it here, on my Cthulu blog. HPL's racism is very much in the limelight in the current debates on his work. This essay, by gamer writer and thinker, Morgue, goes into details of the racist phrases and issues within HPLs great work, the Call of Cthulhu, and disects it, finally asking the question,
"can the racist elements of “The Call of Cthulhu” be challenged and reimagined without doing great violence to the text?"
 Well, can it? I'll avoid the spoilers and just link you to the whole essay on taleturn.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Montreal Homicides 2013

This is old news now, of course, but this great interactive map gives an insight into homicides in Montreal in the modern era. The CBC interactive map, with points for all the 28 homicides in Montreal for the year of 201. If you want to now more, each of the map pins has a link to the story of the death on the CBC website. 

These are only those related to deaths on the island of Montreal. I was a little surprised it was only 28. Not that I feel Montreal is a dangerous town, but that just doesn't seem like much. This is of course a good thing.

Another thing to note, in game terms, is that they are spread around the city, making no one borough more dangerous than any other.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Montreal Sourcebooks II: Montreal by Night

Way Back in 2012, I wrote a post that was intended to be one of a series. A short series, but a series none the less. That was on sourcebooks for various games that were describing Montreal in terms of the game setting. Montreal as a background for your game.

In an attempt to go through my own backlog of  drafts of posts, to get these posts out into the wild, I am reviving this series with the second instalment of Montreal Sourebooks.

This one came across my radar more than a few years ago now, back when the storyteller system was all the rage. Black Dog Games, the darker, more adult daughter company of White Wolf publishing, released "Montreal by Night: Litany of Blood". A  sourcebook for Vampire the Masquerade, based in the city of Montreal.
Welcome to Montreal, City of Black Miracles and unhallowed shrine of our most glorious Sabbat. Yes, we're so glad you came, n'est ce pas? Walk our catacombs in search of blasphemous knowledge, enjoy all manner of titillating diversions with our deliciously putrescent "Toy". And forget that language-barrier nonsense; we'd be delighted to hear you scream for mercy in English or French.
By all accounts, a good book, and a good example of the"By Night" series, which were not for the feint of heart, as they were released by the adult version of White Wolf, meaning they could go down all sorts of rabbit holes. I shall have to track myself down a copy. For research purposes, as I'll nopt likely be one to run or play Vampire an time soon.

Whilst we're on the subject of the World of Darkness (not something you will read about here often, as I am not really all that interested in their products) there is one other sourcebook that mentions the city. In "Nights of Prophecy", an adventure book, where the final chapter of the adventure is named "House of Lies," wherein a new fragment of the Book of Nod is discovered in Sabbat-controlled Montreal. A review of this book can be found on here.

Any WoD fans out there able to tell me anything more on these titles? I'd be interested to hear of you have read them.

Click on the images to buy on

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

L. Berson & Fils.

I read recently, with some sadness, of the closing, or moving of an establishment, that seems to me at least, to be as old as Montreal itself.

In a recent Gazette column, I read of the relocation of L. Berson & Fils off of the Main. To those from out of town, the Main is the name given by locals to Rue St Lauren, or St Lawrence Street (of all the names the street has, that last one is never used).

As the article states, the business was established on the Main in 1922, and it was indeed a landmark. I remember seeing it on my first visit to the city, and at the time, I did find it a bit of an eyesore, if at least one that clearly had history, it was what looked like a builder's yard in the middle of a busy main shopping street, but the sign hanging above it made it obvious it was just part of the fittings and fixtures of the town, and that it hearkened back to an earlier era.

It was this obvious recalling to an earlier age that meant when I came to running CoC here, and the investigators visited Montreal, the look and locale of the place became a direct inspiration on the company "Guerard et Fils", a warehouse an yard in town for a house moving and clearing company, who the Investigators came in contact with whilst searching for some artifacts, or books.

This was the second time they had visited the town, the first time being to run through the Horror's Heart scenario. Obviously, when they came back, things had changed, and much of it was to do with the fallout of their actions on their first visit. One of the cultists they had 'taken care of' on the previous visit had a library full of useful artifacts and books. However, they were not aware of this the first time round. When they came back, and had to track the items down, they found the house had been cleared by the aforementioned firm.

This led to an eventual visit to the yard, which in my minds eye was Berson & Fils, and I described it as such. If I had another game in town, I would endeavour to use these house clearers again, as I thought it was such a great way to let the investigators rummage around in old stuff. You never know what they'll find, even if it's not what they thought they were looking for!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Burnistoun - Lovecraftian Sketch

I have not seen previous episodes of what seems to be a current BBC Scotland comedy sketch show, going by the name Burnistoun, however, through an old school friend on facebook, I was made aware of this sketch. 

"There's an unnamable, unimaginable thing in my basement and I want it punted."

Take three minutes to watch it. It's chock full of references, delivered with particularly Scottish understatement.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Horror Express

With the sad and recent passing of Sir Christopher Lee, who led an amazingly full life, I post here a link to the full film Horror Express.

This film is moving rapidly to the top of my play list for multiple reasons, Lee's recent passing is one, and my reading through of the Horror on the Orient Express campaign being another.

The lovecraftian themes are of course there, but we really need no further excuse than the actors whe are present in the film.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Sedefkar Simulacrum

Last year I noticed, too late, an Indigogo campaign by a French Artist to make a3D prop version of the Sedefkar Simulacrum, which is the artefact that the players collect as they trek round Europe as the Horror on the Orient Express campaign progresses. The campaign original ended without being funded. Fortunately for me, if not for my wallet, the campaign has been relaunched, now on Kickstarter.

The project has the official backing of Chaosium, and is such a licensed product. This is not, however, a Chaosuim Kickstarter, as we all know by now to keep those puppies at arms length!

This is also another chance to get a copy of the Eye of Light and Darkness prop for the Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign, as was made for Ben Patey's prop set Kickstarter, which I have backed, but not to the extent of getting the clay props, only the paper ones.

So, a twofer really on the props front. I am sorely sorely tempted to go for this one. I'll let you all know if I do.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Horror on the Orient Express finally gets into Montreal

I went along to the post office yesterday, to pick up a package that had been waiting for me since the day before. It was indeed the long awaited Horror on the Orient Express kickstarter.

There have been a great many unboxings of this package already online, so I won't bother with all that faff, but I may go through the contents in the near future and post what I have, as some of it is very pretty. So, I'll just leave you with this. A picture of the boxed set itself, which alone comes in at 3.9 kg! It's a beast!

There is of course a lot more nick-knacks to go with that too! Watch this space...

Thursday, April 2, 2015

True Love Match

I was recently notified of this little free to download RPG, that may be of interest to some of you:
True Love Match. To quote the author :
True Love Match is the game of romance and reality TV. You’ll need six people, a couple of rooms, and a few hours. It might mess you up a little.
 I have yet to read or play the game, but knowing of it's source, I can but recommend it.
True Love Match originated in my sheer fury at the cruelty of The Bachelor as an entertainment format, and a sudden insight that I could mash together Emily Care Boss’s Breaking the Ice and Gregor Hutton’s Best Friends into a Bachelor game. 
As someone who is also left completely baffled by the popularity of the bachelor, even within my own household, this certainly seems to be something I could connect with. So, what are you waiting for? It sounds like the perfect game to spend an evening playing!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

On this Day: 1930

I'm a day late with this post, as this post pertains to the happenings of the night of the 31st of March, but I only learned of it today, and it was too cool a story to pass on, or indeed wait another year.

Vintage Wings of Canada is an organisation that is involved in many aspects of vintage aviation, and they are funding the search for a lesser known part of Canadian history, the lost dirigible, the HMCD Samuel de Champlain.

In her purpose built hangar in Cape Breton
I'll not recount the whole story here, go read it for yourself. What I will do here is to expand upon the completely wonderful gaming opportunities for gaming the crew members of the RCNRAS (Royal Canadian Navy Rigid Airship Service), and the missions that they and they alone could accomplish, whether it is search and rescue missions in the Great White North, or on missions to destroy enemy submarines in North American shipping lanes. Both types of missions that will take the crew off the beaten track and into wilderness, where the mythos runs free. Exactly the type of place you want to get your Investigators. Isolated and beyond immediate aid, where you can scare them witless.

Over Montreal in 1929
The storm that brought down the Samuel de Champlain was clearly the work of local cultists of  Ithaqua, working their storm magic to cover their rituals, and ensure secrecy. Once you have the crew down, you have two options for the game you want to run, either you continue with the grounded crew, now stranded in the midst of what ever terrible mythos entity that put them there, either accidentally, or on purpose, and they have to use their wits and skills to triumph, or escape. The second option is to play the rescue mission. Searching for the remains of the Samuel de Champlain, this time through the use of more conventional aircraft and means, which I musty admit is less cool that being the crew of an airship, which is why the first option would be my preferred route.

The possibilities for Pulp gaming on an airship are of course too many to list. From Indiana Jones style fights and flights by airship, to of course, the other possible reason she was brought down over James Bay, night attack by byakhees!
Samuel de Champlain weathercocks magnificently from her mooring ship HMCS Joseph Mufferaw in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in July of 1929. The Royal Canadian Navy had invested millions of dollars in infrastructure (support ships and bases) to create the RCNRAS (Royal Canadian Navy Rigid Airship Service) as a weapon to both deter and counter submarine threats in the shipping lanes to North America. HMCD Samuel de Champlain along with a planned four more Los Angeles class dirigibles (HMCD Louis Cyr, HMCD Georges Vezina, HMCD Daniel McGrew and HMCD Laura Secord) would be based from two newly built facilities at HMCS North Forchu on Cape Breton Island and HMCS Toutlegang on Anticosti Island. After the loss of the airship, the RCNRAS was disbanded and the Joseph Mufferaw (Big Joe to her crew) was placed back in RCN service as an oil tanker. Ironically, ten years later she would be sunk by a German U-Boat on the Grand Banks Photo: RCNRAS Archives.

She even had her own Mooring ship. How wonderful it that? This opens up even greater possibilities for government funded expeditions on the scale of the Mountains of Madness campaign. This game just writes itself. I'm so inspired, I think I'm going to have to actually write this up as a scenario.

Disclaimer: Yes, I am fully aware of the date this story was published, and also that the date of the disappearance. I was initially taken in, but this so needs to have been a thing, and lets face it, who amongst us is going to let a little truth get in the way of a good story?

Monday, March 30, 2015

Photo of the Day

A simple, yet eye catching image, taken in the Montreal docks, in the 1930s. Straight from a film noir, and very evocative. I'm not sure what use it would be in game, other than setting the mood, but worth trying to find a place for it in game I feel.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Artefacts as Inspiration: Ivory Clappers

Inspirational Artefacts

artefact/ˈɑːtɪˌfækt/ noun: something made or given shape by man, such as a tool or a work of art, esp an object of archaeological interest.

At first glance, these don't initially strike the viewer as particularly mythos, but I had to include them once I read the description!

Egyptian, Amarna, New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty.
1353-36 BCE
These clappers are shaped like hands. They were used in magical practices to scare away evil spirits and ghosts. By clapping them together a noise is created that accompanies a ritual. source.
Of course, the influence of Egyptian archaeology on the mythos, and indeed on popular culture of the 1920s, is undeniable so these fit in very well with the setting. Furthermore, they are a bona fide magical artefact, not just an amulet of power, or a grimoire, and this alone sets them apart from a great many of the items in Call of Cthulhu gaming.

What I particularly love about these is the fact you have to interact with them physically to make the magic work. This elevates them from mythos McGuffin, to mythos tool, which is something I find very appealing, and something I look for in my games. It also brings the Investigators round to finding

Is the volume of the sound made by the clappers significant?


In a scenario where these items need to be used, by banging them together. Now in a great many instances of magical artefacts in Cthulhu, they are not easy to break. Mostly because the Investigators are actively trying to destroy them, to thereby remove their maleficent influence. However, after 2-3000 years, how strong are these two planks of carved ivory? Does the magic inherent in them protect them from harm, or are they but an ingredient in the magical ritual you are invoking? Will they break the first time they are used ? It is of course unlikely the first time, more likely they'll break when dramatically appropriate! If they do break, do their powers remain? Many of the answers to these questions shall be dictated by the needs of the keeper, and the best use of the artefact for dramatic resolution at the table. If they do break, will any old piece of ivory do to replace them, or is there a ritual in their making, not just the carving of the hands? Will normal wood, or other more modern materials do to replace the noise made?

Other Examples

A brief search online gave a few other examples of this kind of instrument, and a site that states they were also used as a musical instrument. Maybe indeed there were musical ones, and magical ones, with the differences being either in their use, or manufacture.

Of course, the link between music and religion is close in many cultures, ancient Egypt included, so there are no doubt many cultures across the globe that would have similar artefacts with a similar in game effect.

One such item is a Chumash 'wansak', which is another kind of clapper, which was played like a pair of wooden spoons. Indeed, to bring this back to the Montreal inspiration of this blog, both Quebecois and Arcadian folk music can and make heavy use of wooden spoons. To the extent, that even today, when you walk along St Catherine street, there's a man there playing and selling wooden spoons for this use, so it shouldn't be too hard for enterprising Investigators to get their hands on a wooden replacement for their ivory artefact, with possible comedic tones, by heading off to their folk music contacts for some wooden spoons. But again we are heading into the connection with folk music, and folk magic, something that links back to the original artefacts too.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Photo of the Day

I have found a wonderful Facebook page Montreal then and now, full of photos, images and other interesting links, that is an inspiration for Montreal of any era since the founding of the city, but there are frequently photos from the era pertinent to our interest, the 1920-30s.

I had through to make a larger post with a few of these images, but I think I'll spread them out, and maybe have a little post for each one, with some game uses for the image, a bit like the Inspirational Artefacts series of posts.

This is the first of these images.
Roman catholic nuns, Bleury St., Montreal, 1924
I can easily imagine these two getting the wrong idea about the motives of the Investigators, and following them around town, getting in the way of their investigations, and otherwise being a nuisance.

Otherwise, they could be a contact for the Investigators, within the Catholic church, who had a very strong presence in the city at that time, and may be working with the Investigators, maybe against their will) because their superiors have asked them to.

Thirdly, these guys would make an excellent Investigator pair. In fact, that would be my favoured option. Not all Investigators are movie stars after all.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Sir Terry Pratchett, 1948-2015

I think I was quite late along to the party, as I first picked up one of the Discworld novels when at University. "Faust Eric" was the first one I read I think, then I went back to the start and read all the Discworld novels, and continued to do so, as soon as a new one was available in paperback (hard back books take up so much space).

There are a lot of funny authors out there, but I can list on one finger the number who could so consistently make me snigger and laugh out loud when reading his books. He had such a great way of looking at the world, then mirroring it back to us in a way that made the mundane seems absurd. Add to this the fact that it was not unknown for me to shed a few tears when reading his work to, and we have the sign, IMHO, of a truly great author.

The fact that he was always a genre writer always worked against his credibility, especially at the start, but the sheer number of people who read his work, and the way in which he spoke on the subject did so much, more than any other author in my mind, to bring works of Fantasy and Science fiction to light in more serious literary circles. I contest the works of the gazillionaire J. K. Rowling would never have received the attention they did if Sir Terry hadn't already broken the ground for her.

I searched for a pithy quote to put here, but there are just so goddamn many of them out there that are so witty and perfect, it just goes to show what a sharp mind he was, which makes the manner of his passing all the more poignant.

I am happy to say there are a couple of his books I have yet to read, but I am extremely sad that when they are done, there will be no more. But to ask for more in some ways would be greedy, as he has left so much of such a high quality, it is just churlish to think otherwise.

All that is left now is to pass the books on to the girls, and hope they get as much pleasure from them as their mum and I have.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Interview

My second post on a subject that is without my normal sphere for this blog, Sherlock Holmes. However, I'll try to turn it back on topic by the end of the post. I was a little annoyed that my previous post on a new Sherlock Holmes story turned out to be nothing more than a heavy handed pastiche of Doyle's work, if at least a contemporary one.

The first half of the interview, Doyle talks about Sherlock Holmes, and within the details spoken, we really learn nothing new, excep that we hear of Holmes from the horses mouth as you will. The second half of the interview is taken up with, in Doyle's words, "the entirely more serious matter" of spiritualism.

He talks of the in-depth and varied research he has made on the subject. Again this is not news, but the attitude he takes to wards the psychical research could of course work well as a jumping off point for an investigator, or group of such researchers. Especially since his devotion to the subject after the Great War seemed to touch upon the zeitgeist, as people looked for reason and closure in the destruction and loss. So, as the recording was made in 1927, it seems very apt to post it here.

Also, it is good to be able to hear the man's voice, something not always available to us for many authors of the age.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Lost Sherlock Holmes Story: The Brig Bazaar

Holmes statue in Edinburgh.
I know this is outwith the normal bounds of my blog, but it is covered by the general mystery theme. There has been a new Sherlock Holmes Story discovered. I post the transcript here, as I'm pretty sure that the copyright on Holmes has long ago passed into the public domain. The story is less mystery, and more a peculiar little coversation between Holmes and Watson, clearly written to appeal to the guid-folks o' Selkirk.

Anyway without too many spoilers, here is the full transcript of 'Sherlock Holmes: Discovering the Border Burghs and, by deduction, the Brig Bazaar'. The story of how it was found can be read here:

'We've had enough of old romancists and the men of travel, said the Editor, as he blue-pencilled his copy, and made arrangements for the great Saturday edition of the Bazaar Book. 'We want something up-to-date. Why not have a word from "Sherlock Holmes"?'

Editors have only to speak and it is done, at least, they think so. 'Sherlock Holmes!' As well talk o finterviewing the Man in the Moon. But it does not do to tell Editors all that you think. I had no objections whatever, I assured the Editor, to buttonhole 'Sherlock Holmes,' but to do so I should have to go to London.

'London!' scornfully sniffed the Great Man. 'And you profess to be a journalist? Have you never heard of the telegraph, the telephone, or the phonograh? Go to London! And are you not aware that all journalists are supposed to be qualified members of the Institute of Fiction, and to be qualified to make use of the Faculty of Imagination? By the use of the latter men have been interviewed, who were hundreds of miles away; some have been "interviewed" without either knowledge or consent. See that you have a topical article ready for the press for Saturday. Good day'.'

I was dismissed and had to find copy by hook or by crook. Well, the Facuty of Imagination might be worth a trial.

The familiar house in Sloan Street met my bewildered gaze. The door was shut, the blinds drawn. I entered; doors are no barrier to one who uses the Faculty of Imagination. The soft light from an electric bulb flooded the room. 'Sherlock Holmes' sits by the side of the table; Dr Watson is on his feet about to leave for the night. Sherlock Holmes, as has lately been shown by a prominent journal, is a pronounced Free Trader. Dr Watson is a mild Protectionist, who would take his gruelling behind a Martello tower, as Lord Goschen wittily put it, but not 'lying down!' The twain had just finished a stiff argument on Fiscal policy. Holmes loq,-

'And when shall I see you again, Watson? The inquiry into the "Mysteries of the Secret Cabinet" will be continued in Edinburgh on Saturday. Do you mind a run down to Scotland? You would get some capital data which you might turn to good account later.'

'I am very sorry,' replied Dr Watson, 'I should have liked to have gone with you, but a prior engagement prevents me. I will, however, have the pleasure of being in kindly Scottish company that day. I also, amd going to Scotland.'

'Ah! Then you are going to the Border country at that time?'
'How do you know that?'
'My dear Watson, it's all a matter of deduction.'
'Will you explain?'

'Well, when a man becomes absorbed in a certain theme, the murder will out some day. In many discussions you and I have on the fiscal question from time to time I have not failed to notice that you have taken up an attitude antagonistic to a certain school of thought, and on several occasions you have commented on the passing of "so-called' reforms, as you describe them, which you say were not the result of a spontaneous movement from or by the people, but solely due to the pressure of the Manchester School of politicians appealing to the mob. One of these allusions you made a peculiar reference to "Huz an' Mainchester" who had "turned the world upside down." The word "Huz" stuck to me, but after consulting many authors without learning anything as to the source of the word, I one day in reading a provincial paper noticed the same expression, which the writer said was descriptive of the way Hawick people looked at the progress of Reform. "Huz an' Mainchester' led the way. So, thought I, Watson has a knowledge of Hawick. I was still further confirmed in this idea by hearing you in several absent moments crooning a weird song of the Norwegian God Thor. Again I made enquires, and writing to a friend in the South country I procured a copy of "Teribus." So, I reasoned, so - there's something in the air! What attraction has Hawick for Watson?'

'Wonderful,' Watson said, 'and...'

'Yes, and when you characterised the action of the German Government in seeking to hamper Canadian trade by raising her tariff wall against her, as a case of "Sour Plums," and again in a drawing room asked a mutual lady friend to sing you that fine old song, "Braw, braw lads," I was curious enough to look up the old ballad, and finding it had reference to a small town near to Hawick, I began to see a ray of daylight. Hawick had a place in your mind; likewise so had Galashiels - so much was apparent. The question to be decided was why?'

'So far so good. And... '

'Later still the plot deepened. Why, when I was retailing to you the steps that led up to the arrest of the Norwood builder by the impression of his thumb, I found a very great surprise that you were not listening at all to my reasoning, but were lilting a very sweet - a very sweet tune, Watson - "The Flowers of the Forest;" then I in turn consulted an authority on the subject, and found that that lovely if tragic song had a special reference to Selkirk. And you remember, Watson, how very enthusiastic you grew all of a sudden on the subject of Common-Ridings, and how much you studied the history of James IV., with special reference to Flodden Field. All these things speak, Watson, to the orderly brain of a thinker. Hawick, Galashiels, and Selkirk. What did the combination mean? I felt I must solve the problem, Watson; so that night when you left me, after we had discussed the "Tragedy of a Divided House," I ordered in a ton of tobacco, wrapped my cloak about me, and spent the night in thought. When you came round in the morning the problem was solved. I could not on the accumulative evidence but come to the conclusion that you contemplated another Parliamentary contest. Watson, you have the Border Burghs in your eye!'
'In my heart, Holmes,' said Watson.
'And where do you travel to on Saturday, Watson?'
'I am going to Selkirk; I have an engagement there to open a Bazaar.'
'Is it in aide of a Bridge, Watson?'
'Yes,' replied Watson in surprise; 'but how do you know? I have never mentioned the matter to you.'
'By word, no; but by your action you have revealed the bent of your mind.'
'Let me explain. A week ago you came round to my rooms and asked for a look at "Macaulay's Lays of Ancient Rome." (You know I admire Macaulay's works, and have a full set.) That volume, after a casual look at, you took with you. When you returned it a day or two later I noticed it was marked with a slip of paper at the "Lay of Horatius," and I detected a faint pencil mark on the slip noting that the closing stanza was very appropriate. As you know, Watson, the lay is all descriptive of the keeping of a bridge. Let me remind you how nicely you would perorate -

When the goodman mends his armour
And trims his helmet's plume,
When the goodwife's shuttle merrily
Goes flashing through the loom,
With weeping and with laughter.
Still the story told -
How well Horatius kept the bridge,
In the brave days of old.

Could I, being mortal, help thinking you were bent on some such exploit yourself?'
'Very true!'
'Well, goodbye, Watson; shall be glad of your company after Saturday. Remember Horatius' words when you go to Border Burghs :- "How can man die better than facing fearful odds." But there, these words are only illustrations. Safe journey, and success to the Brig!'


Read Sherlock Holmes on, or buy for the Kindle.

Edit: Scholars of Holmes cast doubt on the authorship of the story.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion Kickstarter

I have previously posted on the Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign companion, as written by the good people over at Well, it seems the pdf of that companion is no longer available through the site directly. This is not the bad news it first seems however, as the reason it has been taken down is so that the book can be published through funding raised on this Kickstarter project, with the very generous support of Sixtystone Press.

As of this post, there are 19 days left to go on the campaign, and the project has been easily funded (within 3 hours of launch), and marched through all but one of its (rather unadventurous) stretch goals. I have yet to place my support, but I will do, very shortly. One good thing about the lack of stretch goals is that the deadlines given for the project should be relatively easy to keep to, which is a good thing. If I were in charge though, I would change the artwork on the cover page. Not that it's bad, I just feel it's not great either.

One worthy thing to note about this project is that they list exactly how they will use the money in a very handy pie chart, and it seems that the majority of the money will be going to help fund the website, which is a very noble cause. Once the kickstarter books are printed and sent out, the book will be available from

If you don't manage to get it though, I'm sure the pdf version will be around in some form again afterwards.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Montreal office site may be Iroquois burial ground

Sir William Dawson 1884
My eye was drawn to this article as it passed my facebook feed the other day, as one that certainly requires more study, and fits well within the remit for this blog, so lets have a look at it then!

Of course, the title of this article suggests a burial ground, but the reality is both more mundane, and, in other ways more exciting than that. This story is about the Dawson Site. Found in 1860, the Dawson site, so named due to the work there by John William Dawson; it was an Iroquoian village and thousands of artefacts were found there, as listed in the link above for the site, most of which were concurrent with a village. Yes, 25 burials were also found, with a possibility of over 100 still in place. 

Hochelaga, circa 1535
I heard an interview with a local  archaeologist on the radio yesterday evening, (so no source to link to, but it was likely the same one quoted in the above article) that suggested that, yes, there was the possibility of human remains, but the main thing was, that since this plot  had not been developed in the same way as the surrounding plots, that there was the slim possibility that there would be some archaeology remaining, never mind any of the possible burial sites. He wasn't hopeful, however, since the Dawson site is the only known Iroquoian site where iron has been found, i.e. the only known post-contact archaeological site, then it was the strongest contender to be part of the site of the mysterious Hochelaga.

The artefacts from the Dawson dig are now lodged at the McCord Museum, which is just round the corner from the site itself. Both of which are marked by stars in the map below.

The Dawson Site in Game

The Dawson site has many possible plot hooks, at various eras throughout history. The first, is of course as Hochelaga itself, however, the mysteries of the placement of this village, and its disappearance between the visits of visits of Cartier in 1535, and Champlain in 1611 is something of a multifaceted story, and one I plan to come back to in a future post, so lets leave that aside for now to come back to later

The next era where we can visit the site is of course during the Gaslight era, where Sir Dawson himself leads the dig into this site. From all accounts, a great many items were found. There are
mention of metal artefacts, but there is some question as to whether they match the kinds of items and metals that Cartier records as being given to the locals. If they are not from his expedition, then that opens the doors to other, more intriguing sources for these items. The first to spring to mind are star metals, or Migo artefacts.

In the Classic era, this is obviously the centre of downtown Montreal, however, throughout that time, part of the site remains relatively undisturbed, just under the surface (I hear just 30 cm down). One classic Montreal establishment, which was just round the corner, and was started in 1908 was Ben's, although it was originally situated elsewhere and moved there in 1949 (it was a little further up the same street since 1929), but who's to let a little thing like the truth get in the way of a good story? Bens was a 24 hr diner, frequented by the rich and famous, and by everyone else too. It was a busy place, and could easily be used as a place for the Investigators to meet with their contacts. If you want to link the diner, or another local establishment to the plot, then we have the obvious, but worn thin by repeated use on Scooby doo plot of the haunting from the Indian burial ground underneath the house. Possibly a little tired and best avoided. If need be, the basement to any of the local buildings could give access to the remains of Hochelaga, and local cultists may even be using these sites for their own purposes.

In the modern era, we are back to archaeology. When Investigators are setting out on an archaeological expedition in CoC, we usually send them off to the back of beyond, maybe into the Arctic circle, or the deserts of Northern Africa, where they are searching for the remains of some lost city or other. Here we have the lost city that is actually underneath the modern city. That twist in itself could be enough to set off a great adventure. Of course, when they are in town, they do have a lot more back up at hand, with local police forces etc, but they can also act as a hindrance to what Investigators might have planned (sticking on the right side of the law is not usually high in players priorities). There is also the threat that what may be unleashed by the dig could be set loose in an area of high population, which of course raises the horror stakes that little bit higher. That little twist on the regular CoC plot opens up so many options by itself. Maybe the Investigators are the archaeological consultancy firm like the one mentioned in the original article, brought in to go over the site and give a report to the city of Montreal, and to the construction company as to the value of the site and what may be found there. I like that story...

Monday, February 16, 2015

Canada's Flag is 50.

The Canadian maple leaf flag (or l'unifolié apparently) is 50 years old (well, it was yesterday, but really, who's counting). Famous for being carried proudly around the world by Canadian backpackers (and Americans claiming to be Canadians, to avoid getting shit).

I find it completely weird that the maple leaf flag is only 50 years old. I guess it's just one of those things you take for granted in Europe, that your flag's history is pretty old. I mean, 50 years isn't that much older than me, at least in flag years! Take, for example, the Scottish Saltire. That thing has been around in Scotland in various official ways since 1180s, with the Union Flag being a modern addition to the flag world, being introduced in it's current form in 1801.

So, for all those running a game based in Canada, during non-modern eras, beware of anachronistic flag usage. Make note of the flag that would be used during the time you base your game.

Out of interest, the flag in use in Canada during Classic era Call of Cthulhu, would be this one:

See a striking similarity to the Red Ensign? That's because, officially during this time, the Canadian flag on land was the Union flag, with this being the Canadian Red Ensign for shipping use, however, unofficially, this flag was used to be the Canadian flag. This flag was not accepted for official use on Canadian government buildings in Canada till 1945.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Frost Quakes

The weather here over the last week has been atrocious. First a heavy snow fall, followed by a thaw, freezing rain, then the temperature plummeted to -24oC. Yesterday, everything was frozen solid, then today, we're having another couple of feet of beautiful powder, which is great for the skiers amongst us, but loathsome to the drivers.

One thing to come out of this, was my learning of this wonderfully strange phenomenon, frost quakes, or cryoseisms, or as I now rename it, Ithaqua's footprints. Or maybe even ice shoggoths on the move.

Ice shoggoths, now there's an idea...

Saturday, January 3, 2015

La Bolduc, Les Américains

A Quebec folk song by La Bolduc written during the prohibition-era of the 1920`s and 30`s.

From my new best source of Montreal History, The Montreal Then and Now Facebook group. Otherwise, I know nothing of the singer, or the song, however, there are a few videos by the same artist available to listen to on Youtube. Great for some contemporary background music.