RPPR Episode 114: Create A Cthulhu

silentlegionsNews: There’s a new benefit for RPPR Patreon backers. I’ll be at Comicpalooza from May 22 to 25 at booth 1912. I’ll also be running two demos of Base Raiders there. Boiling Point should be released in June.

Synopsis: Silent Legions is a new horror RPG that emphasizes creating your own mythos of evil gods, cultists, monsters, and artifacts. After all, we’re all fans of the Cthulhu mythos, but once you’ve seen one invisible blood sucking monster, you’ve seen all the star vampires. Caleb and I rolled up a bunch of random creations using Silent Legions and discuss how they would work in an actual game. We also discuss Silent Legions as a game. Plus there’s shout outs and anecdotes!

Shout Outs

  • Last Mechanical Monster: An Eisner nominated web comic about a mad scientist and his robot, based on a public domain Superman cartoon.
  • Witcher 3: Caleb has very important reasons for you to purchase this game.
  • Chroma Squad: It’s like Power Rangers, but in turn based RPG format.
  • DnB Radio: Drum and Bass music in streaming and podcast form!
  • Helldivers: A PS4 action game, where orbital drops give no fucks.
  • The Coldest War and Necessary Evil: The final two novels of the Milkweed trilogy.
  • Other Space: Hilarious sci-fi sitcom about an inept spaceship crew stranded in a parallel universe.

Music: Countach by Vitus von Degen

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  1. Ross, if you ever run your Mythos, you need to read a book called Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes. It is a history of climate change denial, which is really interesting, and could give you loads of interesting stuff for your cult.

  2. Biggles special air detective meets agatha Christie love it!

  3. Wow, this sounds like one hell of a resource.

  4. While I agree with Caleb that TW3 is a game you should get because it goes against most of the terrible business practices going on in the modern videogame industry, when Caleb mentioned sexism as a negative my eyes glazed over.

    Yes, The Witcher 3 will have boobs displayed onscreen, and yes, TW2 also had boobs. These guys are Polish devs, Europe doesn’t have the same stigma that puritan America has over these things, where a nipple slip means the end of the world.

    Furthermore, in TW2 whenever boobs were displayed onscreen it was either because of a mature romantic reason (Geralt the Witcher falling in love with the sorceress Triss) or because the player initiated it by their own volition for Geralt to have a one-night fling (again, something that is part of adult relationships). It is no worse than say, Game of Thrones or any other HBO series.Now of course I can’t say the same thing for TW3 as it hasn’t been released yet, but I don’t agree that the game is sexist for showing boobs.

    Furthermore the setting is based on a universe created by the Polish which is supposed to represent a fantasy version of the Pole’s history during the Middle Ages, and it IS a point in that world that women were treated unequally to men. Sexism an racism are a big part of the setting, but that does not mean that the game itself is sexist or racist, again looking at the Game of Thrones example. There are many strong female characters that manage to overcome these things and become powerful in their own right.

    Me, I can’t wait to play the game for myself and pour lots of hours into it. 😀

  5. I read the first Milkthistle novel on Caleb’s recommendation over on the Facebook group and was…not impressed. X-Men versus the Mythos is a weird theme, and I felt like the story all just played out in coincidences. there was pretty much no tradecraft at all–as far as I can tell, the only person who had any idea what she was doing was the seer chick, and she appears to have engineered the entire plot through her omniscience. I didn’t buy the guy’s relationship with his wife, didn’t like William’s yo-yoing, and peeve #1 in fantasy fiction is when an author insists on using a goofy word like “warlock” as the Only Proper Way to Refer to a Practitioner. I mean, couldn’t they have called them Negotiators or Diplomats or anything that didn’t sound quite so absurd? or, yknow, used multiple words to refer to them, the way we do most other things in language?

    that said, I’m gonna stick with it. the alternate history being presented in Coldest War is interesting, and I do like the little trickles of exposition on the Eidolons. “blood is a map” is actually something that also got said, oddly, in a Tim Powers book I was reading simultaneously. …don’t read The Stress of Her Regard. seriously. it’s abysmal. after the thrill of Last Call, it’s just such a let-down. but I guess it was one of his earlier books, so I won’t let it poison my opinion.

  6. Will have to get this on drivethrurpg as it sounds like a fun way to build worlds for Cthulhu games, Chill, Esoterrorists, Unknown Armies or even Feng Shui 2 if just for creating items like books beyond monstery things.

    Good to know about Witcher 3, the 2nd one is just lovely looking, the first one had a fun gambling tavern minigame & curious on the 3rd so will get it. Always want what’s in the Witcher series with potions to be in other fantasy games where you can kill over with enough potions drank.

    Also need to get the zombie killing expansion to Goat Simulator too 🙂

  7. Silent Legions is a great resource; the rules system provided isn’t bad, honestly. There is also plenty of pre-made material to use immediately, such as luchadores vs the mythos.

  8. Damn, 20 minutes in and you’ve already sold me on Silent Legions. Well done.

  9. Crawlkill: for Tim Powers, go with The Anubis Gates or Three Days ‘Til Never. That’s where it’s at.

  10. I bought a ps4 with the witcher 3.

    I haven’t read vad seeds etc but I do reccomend Tregellis Angel/noir book.

  11. Also, if you are looking for a random roll reference for superheroes, Icons is great. It offers random generation for heroes, powers, villains, adventures, etc., and because it uses Fate for its mechanics, everything you make is easily transferable to Base Raiders (and vice versa). One of my favorite one-shots of Base Raiders occurred when I rolled up a villain and “adventure” using the random rolls from Icons and had the players visit that location years later. Superhero games is also one of the few genres where random character generation actually works both in terms of mechanics and narrative.

  12. @Ethan C: unfortunately the Three Days Til Never audiobook is for some reason region locked to the UK. I did my digital tradecrafty best to sidestep the restriction, which has worked with ebooks in the past, but had no luck. damn regionalized publishing, anyway. I suppoooose I could read it with my eeeyes ugh like the ancients did. or…try to find a physical copy of the audiobook? somehow that’s even more terrifying a prospect. what does it even mean, to entomb a digital ghost in disks?

  13. One interesting thought I’ve been hearing a lot about DLC drift and pricing lately is that it’s basically how major companies are compensating for inflation. In the 80s and 90s, Video Games were pretty expensive, then got slightly less so. But games have remained pretty solidly fixed at $60 or less (with $60 being the standard launch price) since the previous generation of consoles launched. Which was a tooth-and-nail jump from 49.99. So instead of charging you say, 80 or 100 bucks up front, they get you with the standard price in, and catch you on the back end with 20-30 bucks of DLC, or more.

    I assume the logic here is that if they can hook you in and you like the game and want more, they can whittle a little more out of your wallet, as opposed to just ask for more straight up that people are less likely to go for. Unless we’re saying that an industry which usually tries to push as best it can a technology cycle from 2-3 years behind should be magically growing cheaper.

  14. Not sure that holds up Omega.

    You can make the games from 1990 on a home PC with one multiskilled games designer in their free time, over the a summer, only to become a millionaire selling it for a couple of dollars.

    The reduction in development cost of like for like products, is a daughter effects of Moore’s law, and that effect swallows the influence of inflation.

  15. I wonder if Ross or Caleb would consider running a game in any system with a setting based on these random rolls, would make a nice break from the known stuff and could lead to some great moments when the players are genuinely suprised.

    I’ve tried both TW1&2 and dropped both pretty quickly due to how bad I felt the comabt was. My favourite games include Bayonetta, Ninja Gaiden and the Souls Series which might not have the story depth of TW series but if you put comabt in your game, make sure it doesn’t want to make want to gouge my eyes out.

  16. This is in reference to mainstream AAA titles. Indie games are cool but function on a different budget system. I’m sure if EA or even CDPR could make Witcher 3 with a guy in a basement, they would – but they don’t so obviously they can’t, at least not the same way. Or are we saying EA wouldn’t like to save money by employing less people to make more profit? And 1990 was 25 years ago. But of course, a proper genre retro-game can basically pay for itself on KS.

    The issue is that games aren’t like for like. Every new game has to try and push graphical or engine limits, or has a new engine or new models. They play with the NPC AI. And games are made on like a 2-3 year development cycle. Due to completely different chipsets in the consoles, anybody who’s making a game for XBONE or PS4 had to start fresh with engines for a lot of games. Despite what people jokingly complain about, I’m pretty sure most games don’t just reuse the same assets over and over again. But all this time, games remain affixed as $60 in price. I mean, if like-for-like works like that, why do I feel like movie theater tickets shot up in price a while back?

    I don’t necessarily agree with how most companies handle their DLC/paywall/subscription packaging – it’s kind of a shitty state of the industry and maybe some market pressure to move it around would be nice. But would you pay 80 or 100 dollars for a whole game, up front? If it came with all the promised content a season pass usually offers?

  17. Well, the $60 price is supposed to be a problem only if you are making the next multi-million multi-platform AAA game. I see too many problems in the current videogame industry with every company wanting to milk customers.

    Publishers are now starting to realize that it’s tougher than expected to be the next Call of Duty or World of Warcraft. Devs need to focus on a smaller game that works and manages to fulfill the needs of a specific niche. In an earlier podcast episode, Tom was talking about how Cities: Skylines is everything EA’s Sim City should have been, but wasn’t, even though it was made by a much smaller team with a much smaller budget.

    Another example is Nintendo, where most of their game are highly polished, innovative and fun, and they end up costing around $40 or $50 at release. Even though third party publishers have shunned the WiiU as a platform, there are MANY first-party games that makes the WIiU one of the better platforms out there if you just want to have fun.

    I remember the days when the community made cool mods and those were the people that were hired onto companies, because their cool and innovative ideas showed that they had what was needed to make a game. Things like Valve buying Counter-Strike and Team Fortress and hiring on their teams.

    In the future, I’m sure more publishers will be looking at funding smaller development studios. That’s how games like Devolver’s Hotline: Miami and Valve’s Portal took off. There will still be space for the triple A games that try to make the next big hit, but I’m pretty glad that publishers like EA and Ubisoft will have to finally take risks on new games instead of resorting to the franchise cow to milk.

  18. @Dom

    Well, that’s the deep dark sorcery of marketing, a field which I’m sure most of us agree seems like it hasn’t gotten real shaken up or advanced since 1990. EA and Ubisoft I think are the worst off publishers in terms of “shackled to their sales research and franchise management”, though Nintendo’s had a lot of IP stagnation and hit-or-miss releases (the key here though is that when Nintendo hits, they tend to hit big). But there is a lot of pressure to push out a game every year for a lot of big studios, and considering again, the dev cycle is a couple years long, this is how we get over-hype, underdeveloped disasters.

    My general logic on the pricing argument though is that since that jump to $60 like, 10 years ago, the pricing for games themselves has stayed pretty static and then depreciates from the launch cost – where as lots of other things seem more flexible or increasing. I would not be surprised if some major game titles want that 20 or 40 bucks on the tail end for Season Pass and Day One DLC and the like to pad out dev costs. I’m open to hard cost numbers though, if someone has them – this was just a theory I heard in response to growing popularity of season passes and rising DLC cost.

  19. hey, I accidentally sidestepped the region locking! apparently going through Amazon.com, even though it redirects to Audible, was enough to do it? really strange–Three Days doesn’t show up when I actually search their selection, but there it is in my library and comin down to my device. perseverance and random change conquer all!

  20. Sweet. Charlie Chaplin the Time Sorcerer awaits your enjoyment.

    But returning to the subject of the episode: The Last Mechanical Monster is really cool. It gave me a new facebook cover image. 🙂

  21. Silent Legions is a really good find Ross. This is another one I’ll have to pick up.

    I shouldn’t have been surprised that this was produced by the Stars Without Number guys because that is a creative game line I have been very impressed by.

    I have to recommend Dead Names as well. It is a book of tables, similar to Silent Legions, that focuses on creating transhumans, synthetics, extraterrestrials, and metadimensionals; and the ruins and artifacts these entities leave behind. http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/130967/Dead-Names-Lost-Races-and-Forgotten-Ruins?filters=0_40050_2700_31811

    In fact Dead Names might work well as a companion to Silent Legions as fodder for creating servitor races. Add Graham Walmsley’s Stealing Cthulhu and the instructions for setting up conspiracies from Nights Black Agents, and you have everything you need for a Lovecraft game without a single Lovecraft monster.

  22. Another good resource for creating your own Elder Gods is Earthbound (2003) by White Wolf for the Demon: The Fallen line.


    This book focuses on interesting drives/reasons for gathering a cult an alien god would have, a panoply of mutations for cultists that will surprise and dismay players, rules for setting up a local and international cult (including front companies) and a sample god that is a sentient evil garden.

  23. re: Earthbound: for those alongside me in the Cult of Stolze, the Demon: The Fallen trilogy of novels WW put out was written by Greg (and features an Earthbound and lobotomies in a way that will make you feel fragile). every WoD book I’ve ever liked was Greg’s doing, and in all cases I didn’t notice he was the author until after I’d read them, which makes it feel legit.

  24. Ross’s “alien jellyfish causing climate change to make the planet a better home for themselves” is way more likely and scientifically plausible than it seems. Climate change and pollution in general are, right here in the real world, leading to both more jellyfish and larger jellyfish. They don’t care about the lower amount oxygen in the oceans, while they thrive in the warmer, more acidic water conditions we’re creating.

    I could link you to lots of good scientific papers on this, but since we’re talking about horror-game aliens, I think I’ll go for the sensational one that uses “apocalypse” in the title and suggests jellyfish are causing global warming:

  25. Well I’m sold on Silent Leigons.

    Like Caleb I plan to suppose CDProject by buying Witcher 3 because they are probably my favorite company in modern gaming. And maybe if enough Witcher games sell they will finally translate the Witcher pen and paper RPG…

  26. After reading Stars Without Number and Spears of the Dawn, I compulsively checked DTRPG for weeks in anticipation of Silent Legions. Crawford does a fantastic job of explaining mechanics and providing examples (as pointed out in the latest GDW, the latter is severely neglected in RPGs). I cannot emphasize enough how important examples of play application and resolution are, both for people like me that agonize over rule usage and those newer to role-playing games.

    That being said, I was a little perplexed by the inclusion of classes and a level system. If ever there was a time to deviate from classes/exp/levels, it would be for the cosmic horror game. To be fair, I think Caleb misunderstood advancement; you actually don’t choose any feats, you just get more class features as you level – GUMSHOE-esque things like automatically winning an NPC’s trust or conveniently finding a clue.

    I am very happy you guys chose to review this game. Although I have been a faithful listener since The New World, Cosmicism only truly made sense (as much as an inherently nonsensical genre can make sense, and as no slight against you guys, my brain is weird) after reading Silent Legions, particularly the section on Lovecraftian mental illness versus real-world illness. Hopefully more people will grab this lovely compendium of random cosmic indifference.

  27. I have accepted some games will be sexist some games won’t be sexist. Getting upset at the details will just get me tired.

    What is important is making a good story and game.
    Also I love this random table it is great, it is an incredible aid for creating Lovecraft entities

  28. I never finished Chroma Squad

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