Lovecraftian Tales from the Table
By Paul Maclean
Published by Yog-Sothoth.com, $6.95
Reviewed by Matthew Pook
What if you played through two of the hobby’s most highly regarded campaigns and recorded every single session of both? This is exactly what Paul Maclean has done with Lovecraftian Tales from the Table, a DVD that collects the (almost) complete recordings of the classic campaigns The Complete Masks of Nyarlathotep and Horror on the Orient Express, as played by the Bradford Players. The end result is over a hundred hours of listening in MP3 format, which is fully supported with interviews with both the players involved and various gaming luminaries, documents and props galore, and PDFs of not just the Call of Cthulhu Quick Start Rules, but also the Freeport Trilogy campaign and Cults of Freeport, provided by the DVD’s primary sponsor, Green Ronin Publishing.
Originally available as podcasts via the website Yog-Sothoth.com, Lovecraftian Tales from the Table is an incredibly complete package. While audio recordings have served as handouts and introductions to role-playing before, these recordings do many new things well. They work as an introduction to the hobby in a way that the written word never can quite manage, showing us how the game is played. They turn roleplaying into a spectacle that can actually enjoyed by an audience—an audience of one, usually, but an audience nevertheless. They work as examples for the Keeper who wants to run either campaign. They allow the listener to roleplay vicariously when he has no game of his own. And they serve up a slice of gaming life, warts and all, while revealing that our hobby is fun, intelligent and skilful. Over time, not only do we get to know the investigators, but because of their “table talk” we also get to know the players.
Besides the MP3 files that make up the two campaigns, the DVD includes interviews with the authors plus photographs, handouts, and character sheets for the investigators. The bonus material is just as fulsome, including sample episodes from Yog-Sothoth.com’s regular podcast, Yog Radio; audio recordings of several H.P. Lovecraft tales; scenarios for Call of Cthulhu; audio and video interviews with such Lovecraftian luminaries as author Ramsey Campbell and Call of Cthulhu creator Sandy Petersen; and interviews with most of the Bradford Players involved in each campaign. The contents are very easy to access and the DVD also comes with an introductory eight-page, full-colour booklet put together by the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society.
Arguably though, what Lovecraftian Tales from the Table does more than any one RPG title published in this year, or any other year, is capture and represent what gaming is really like for the many of us, and that is why it deserves not just our appreciation and interest but our applause, too. The campaigns speak for themselves, but these recordings, together with the incredible extra content on this DVD, are worth hours of your time and nine phobias.
This review appeared in The Eye of Light and Darkness in The Unspeakable Oath 19.
Reviewed items are rated on a scale of one to ten phobias:
1-3: Not worth purchasing.
4-6: An average item with notable flaws; at 6 it’s worth buying.
7-10: Degrees of excellence.