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.