Call of Cthulhu: The Sense of the Sleight of Hand Man episode 5

gugThe quest of the dreamers takes them to the Underworld. Their earlier adventures pale to the nightmarish dangers that face them in the gloomy darkness of the endless caverns ahead. A strange guide offers to help, but only for a price he refuses to name. Even with the guide’s help, countless horrors lurk in the shadows. Their journey will take them to the city of the Gugs, a monstrous race of giants. Can the dreamers infiltrate such a Cyclopean stronghold?

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  1. that’s the second time podcasters have mistaken me for German. =P I speak the language and I lived there for a while, but I’m quite American. but yes, it is supes annoying when people refer to German as harsh. I’m convinced people only think that because they only ever hear it spoken in the context of Nazi movies. German poetry is ecstatic and fluid and soft. truly wonderful. don’t even get me started on the “in the public imagination Germany instantly = think of Nazis where Japan = think of anime and not horrific giggling mass slaughter of Korean and Chinese civilians the scale of which Hitler could only have dreamed of and most Westerners have never even heard of” thing. you hear a lot of bullshit as a German speaker, and it does get old.

    I often (well, as often as it comes up in life) wonder why a man whose only undeniable talent was making up terrifying names like Yog Sothoth and Azathoth and Nyarlathotep decided to call something a “gug.” even zoog beats out gug.

    I think maybe the problem with a long Dreamlands campaign is just that the setting is so ambiguous. at least in D&D there’s a sort of icky gross background fantasy trope fallback PCs can work with. there’s probably a blacksmith and a wizard and a cleric in town. in the Dreamlands I feel like players don’t have that kind of shared context, so it’s hard to act independently of the roads the GM sets out for them. kind of like if you tried playing Eclipse Phase with just a paragraph about the technology and general nature of the setting. you’d be paralyzed and unsure what kind of things it was even possible to do. I get what Detweiler’s trying to do, maybe partly because of that brief interview with him on the talk podcast, but Iii dunno. but I dislike fantasy generally, even of the low horrory kind, so I’m probably biased.

    it’s still fun to listen to, of course, just kinda short on, like…craftsmanship? this episode played out pretty much exactly like I thought it would, from having read the chapter in the campaign.

    also v disappointed Aaron wasn’t right on the boat, it would’ve been awesome if it were the Fisher of Men skating across the water toward them to smear them to death against the ceiling just like in the Hoovertown bathroom.

    whew that was long

  2. oh I did like the platonic Lucille lightning gun, though. I didn’t even realize he was the Bryson Springs (Mission Cleary, is that his name?) character until episode two or three. way quick on the uptake. goddamn time wizards

  3. Crawlkill, my wife is a German grad student, and she says the exact same thing. Contemporary German is a very soft and musical language. And in point of fact, Hitler’s German pronunciation was very unusual, even for its time. You could think of the difference between how FDR talked in his speeches and how an average American talks nowadays.

    As to this session: the insanity at the end turned things into a glorious clusterfuck. Very nice.

    And hooray for the magical shotgun. David: I’m happy to say that I got a chance to play Mr. Mitchum Cleary in Bryson Springs when Caleb ran it at Fear the Con 7. Me and Lucille did a number on that rapist bastard up at the ranch.

  4. New objective Ross & Caleb: Design a Dark Souls RPG

  5. @Tim

    We gotta love the Lady Lucille. To be honest, I think she’s a more effective party member than I’ve been; she’s got a good grasp on how to deal with things in the Dreamlands.

  6. T…Tim? XD

  7. Read and responded at midnight whilst reading GenCon group chat too. I can fix this…YOUR NAME IS TIM NOW!

  8. there is one who calls me

  9. I’ve got to agree with Crawl. With all respect to Detweiler’s the Dreamlands never really feels like an actual setting or a world. The players just feel like they move from one random disconnected set piece to another. There never really feels like there’s any real goal or player agency beyond move forward to the next scene and eventually the plot will sort itself out.

    The gang are vaguely being harassed by Nyarlathotep but it never really feels like there’s any actual antagonist in the game. In general this has been a game that i’ve been listening to for the character interaction inspite of what’s going on in the campaign.

  10. when I first picked up the book, I thought there’d be a whole huge chapter of “GM Only Secrets” like in the EP corebook that talked about what the tonal goal of the Dreamlands was and exactly what it was (inasmuch as we humans can understand) that was on Nyarlathotep’s mind. in EP, that GM secrets chapter really brings the game together conceptually for a gameworld-minded individual (or it did for me, anyway). I haven’t read the whole book cover to cover, but I don’t -think- there was any such “behind the scenes” chapter.

    the campaign plays like a series of undercontextualized vignettes. it’s very dreamlike, but I’m not sure that makes it very gamelike.

  11. How horrific would it be to just have Aaron’s old (and dead) character show up in the next game with everyone remembering that he was horribly murdered?

  12. In fairness to the adventure, I think that this dreamlands saga isn’t trying to be about beating a opposing viewpoint or maniacal mastermind. From what I have listened to I think that sense of the sleight of hand man is designed to highlight the character interactions.
    For these otherwise hopeless drug addicts a self reflecting journey is perhaps the more ripe story to delve into as opposed to the usual attempt to thwart some vast and evil conspiracy. I think that simply surviving and perhaps surpassing who they were is all you really need sometimes. The final antagonist here seems to be merely reality itself.
    In the dreamlands they’re just wanderers adapting to strange and hostile new conditions. The challenge of that quest alone is earning these previously lost souls new abilities and strengths which will in some way translate back to their lives on earth. How are they going to use what they have learned? Are they gonna seek to mettle out vengeance upon Tong? Will they put their experiences behind them or seek out the dreamlands again? It’s gonna be interesting to see how the characters answer. Anyhow that’s my late night take on it.

  13. I agree with Larken. Dreamlands, at least with this crew, is about the journey and less about an over-arcing plot. I find it’s dream-like in that I’ve had dreams that bizarre events that move along and merge with no rhythm or reason. Ross could play up the conflict between Nodons and ol’ Nyarlathotep but really its super entertaining listening to the antics the characters that have been presented.

  14. Seems like a fun time to me, listening to the AP and skimming through the book a bit.

    Hey! David found Lucille! She’s, ah.. a bit greedy. And clingy. And jelly.

  15. @Chados

    She is, but we can forgive her. Like Orpheus in the legends of old, Mitchum traveled through the Underworld to bring back his Lady Fair; we may see her as clingy, jealous, and greedy but HE sees her as the Bonnie to his Clyde and she’s flawless in his eyes.

    Granted, he’s more than a little insane. Doesn’t mean insane love can’t be true love.

  16. Think crawlkill nailed this one.

    Through no fault of the RPPR crew, the plot seems to lack cohesion and even an antagonist with enough menace to galvinize the players into a sense of urgency. There is no timeline of disaster they have to race against or no real stakes to lose if they fail to exit the dreamlands.

    The adventure should have addressed the question: If the main party members are opium addicts with shitty lives, why even bother returning to the real world?

    If each character who was shanghaied into the dreamlands also had a personal goal that would make their waking world’s life better that could only be attained in the Dreamlands, then there would be more of a sense of a plot.

    Iirc Lucille already exsists in the real world so reuniting with Lucille in the dreamlands is less dramatic than recovering something lost from the waking world and bringing it back into reality.

    Still though, Dan can roleplay a monomaniac with pathos and listening to his and the other players quests is very entertaining.

    The cigarette without a match was a nice touch.

  17. ^^^
    I ment David, not Dan!

  18. Gotta give props to Dan for playing his “guest” character nearly perfectly.

    I actually like the lack of cohesion and transient nature of this campaign. It certainly adds to the surreal nature of the Dreamlands, and it does give it a chaotic element to the journey. I think Detwiller was less concerned about world-building and more interested in the journeys and experiences of the characters, and there have certainly been a good number of entertaining and memorable experiences in this campaign.

  19. I think the campaign is coming into it’s own in the recent episodes with the weirdness ramping up, and this was probably my favourite so far. I especially liked the jealousy-twist on Lucille, and Dan was a great special guest star.

    Shame about Darlington coming back only to die. Would be nice if Mitchum had to suffer some guilt Sanity loss, since they were there for his gun.

    Also, is Tom playing the Frenchman from The KGB Files (Emile Fuchard?)? If so, awesome.

  20. @Levi

    “Darlin’ton ain’t dead, buddy. Any second now he’ll come walkin’ up those stairs; that guy’s like some kinda death-Houdini. Besides, Death’s had him on the installment plan, grabbin’ a piece here and there; that last chunk’s been on borrowed time since the monk-slappin’.”

  21. I love that, since Caleb has been the only player to be in every episode so far and avatars keep reappearing and disappearing that the idea its all his dream totally fits.

    I’ll be really disappointed if his avatar dies and the running joke goes with him. lol

  22. You are in danger of being eaten by a gug!!!!

  23. I always thought one way to handle the characters appearing and disappearing would be to say when character shows up “they have always been with you. Don’t you remember them fighting that gug last time?” or when they disappear “that character never existed. Who are you talking about?”

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