Future’thulhu – Space travel


Excerpt from the “History of Stellar Exploration” by Anatoly Glushko.

FTL Travel, as Einstein predicted, has never truly been achieved. The developments in propulsion have meant that standard spacecraft are able to reach speeds approaching that of light itself. Light speed however has remained a barrier and that has meant that travel between all but the closest star systems was still impossible. The journey to the nearest inhabitable planet was still beyond being practical at around six hundred light years. However travel at above .75 LS meant that exploration of our solar system became much more achievable and realistic. Before long we were mining on Mars, collecting gasses from Venus and so on.
The real breakthrough in space travel came with the discovery of the true nature of dark matter, hinted at as early as the 21st century dark matter was known to make up the vast majority of space itself, yet we did not understand what it was and were perplexed by the apparent lack of something which seemingly composed the vast majority of what we understood as “space”.
A man by the name of Yuri Rutherford discovered that dark matter did not adhere to our perceived laws of physics, it appeared that dark matter existed as strings which could touch on different parts of space effectively joining them together, like attaching a string from one point on the inside of a balloon to another, but in all cases the length of the string in question was zero, this meant that dark matter could join two different parts of the universe rendering the space in between them immaterial. This in itself explained how the apparently significant lack of dark matter could make up the vast majority of space itself. It would still be many years before we were able to produce anything that could make use of Rutherford’s theory, any attempt to make contact with dark mater was effectively deflected as though it were light, it was famously described as something that you could “reach for but never touch”.

It was early in the 30th century that scientists Milton Johnson and Michael Cox proposed a mechanism to manipulate dark matter and were able to demonstrate that it could be moved and shaped. This rapidly led to the development of the Dark Matter Tunnelling (DMT) engine. This worked by shaping the dark matter around the engine allowing it to enter the space inside a bubble of dark matter and then to emerge from another side. In theory such a bubble of dark matter could be touching on ay number of parts of the universe simultaneously, the possibilities were incredible, the theory meant that near instantaneous travel between anywhere in the universe was conceptually possible. There were however limitations; in order to be able to shape the bubble so that you knew where you would emerge it was vital to have an understanding of where that was, otherwise despite the vastness of space the chance of emerging into a planet, star, black hole or other body was significant and so the first trips using DMT were into what was referred to as known space. More significantly in order to have any hope of returning to where you started it was vital to understand the relationship between the two points, their relative positions in space. By the 30th century however the amount of known space was vast and detailed star maps were quickly produced allowing the first successful manned DMT or “wormhole” journeys to be made. In the year 3212 a manned flight to our nearest inhabitable planet Kepplar 22b was made and the explorers Russell, Judd and Sharapovik made contact with the first extraterrestrial life, the huge aquatic Kepplar whales that swim in the planets oceans thriving on microbiological plant material. Humankind was finally not alone. But even since that first contact mankind has still not discovered anything more intelligent than a dolphin on over seventy habitable M Class planets.

Journeys using “wormhole” , “bubble” or the more correctly named DMT drives, are still not instantaneous. To ensure precision over the vast distances involved the further the distance to be travelled the larger the bubble created and therefore the further the distance to be travelled from edge to edge inside the bubble. As a rule of thumb, using a standard commercial DMT engine on a craft capable of sub light speeds of around .75LS, it will take approximately 10 days in order to travel 500 light years, that is an equivalent speed of 2.1 light years per hour (approximately 0.035 light years per minute). Company military vessels are believed to be able to achieve sub light speeds of .95LS and achieve precision within the bubble of almost double that of commercial craft, meaning that they can halve the distance to be travelled within the bubble and then cross that distance .2 times faster – therefore the same 500 light year journey could take as little as 4 days.

More Lovecraftian Horror?

Have you ever thought to yourself; “Do you know what, there just aren’t enough RPG rules for playing games of Lovecraftian Horror?”.  I’ve got to be honest and say no, it has never really crossed my mind.  I know that some people find the BRP mechanics behind Chaosiums’ classic Call of Cthulhu a bit too simplistic, but for those guys there is always Trail of Cthulhu with its Fate based system.  But of late there seems to have been a spate of new interest in the genre.  Two systems in particular have caught our eye here at miskatonic.co.uk

Macabre TalesFirsltly, back in March last year someone out there on the Twittersphere, mentioned Macabre Tales, a new RPG of Lovecraftian Horror from Spectrum Games.  Which according to designer, Cynthia Miller, strips out the “contributions” of later authors and focuses solely on what Lovecraft himself created.  It appealed to my inner roleplayer as it seem to have a rich story led focus, and even goes to far as to abandon dice (!), opting instead to employ the use of dominoes.

The game is really designed for a narrator and one player, which is even more in keeping with many of Lovecrafts tales, his characters didn’t tend to go round in groups like Scooby and the gang, (some exceptions I’ll grant you).  That said there are rules for more than one player – just make sure that they bring their own dominoes (two sets per player).

In writing Macabre Tales Cynthia Miller was concious that there isn’t a lot of real combat in Lovecraft’s tales and so this is reflected in the game.  However, this doesn’t mean that the game doesn’t have its fair share of dramatic action.  There is a great mechanic referred to as Tension Scenes, in which the player can gain and lose Momentum Points that determine how well/badly things are going for them, as the story progresses the Momentum Point goals get higher simulating the building tension and drama. There is also a reward mechanic which allows the narrator to give “genre points” for appropriate actions, these can then be spent to help them in future situations.  There is a great design essay from Cynthia Miller about the thoughts behind Macabre Tales posted on Flames Rising (here).  You can also download a Macabre Tales sneak peek from DriveThruRPG here.

Macabre Tales is something different, by avoiding all of the tales that came after Lovecraft and sticking to his canon for inspiration this is a very focussed game.  The mechanics make it stand apart from others, and in truth I find that I really like them and could see other genres using the domino mechanics nicely.  The game is really nice and I’m sure many of you will really enjoy it if you are willing to give it a go.

Cthulhu DarkThe Second offering was a more recent discovery, again an RPG based on Lovecraftian horror.  When this one came across my desk it caught my eye simply because it was only four pages long, and when I say four pages that’s actually four columns that will print on two sides of one sheet of paper, oh and by the way one of those columns is the title page.  Now if you have been reading my blog/website/ramblings for any period of time you will know that I am a huge fan of the simple RPG, something that you can teach  novice in minutes, that you can pick up and play in an impromptu fashion between beers at a convention….

Cthulhu Dark from Graham Walmsley certainly, for me anyway, fits this bill.  Cthulhu Dark is a rule system, simple and elegant, written with playing Lovecraftian horror games in mind (although you could use it for many/any genre if you wanted).  Now I think this really does fill a good gap in the genre the simple, rules light, beer and pretzel games system.  You can buy it from DriveThruRPG here for $3, although as Graham says you can also download it for free from his website, I’m not going to provide a link directly to the free game because I think he deserves your $3 for the effort he has put in, but if you are determined to find it 30 seconds with Google will do the trick.


Ia! F’tagn!



Happy New Year – 2012

H.P LovecraftHappy New Year to all our visitors. We pretty much took a month of from posting anything at Miskatonic.co.uk through December, but for the New Year we have lots planned.

We intend to continue our Publisher Spotlight series. We hope to finally be posting our “Furure’thulhu” scenario “Landfall” and will be updating some of our more popular material including the popular “Working With Monsters” scenarios, with plans afoot for a third in that series this year. Work is already under way on our first pod-cast, showcasing one of my favourite Clark Ashton Smith tales. All that as well as the usual news, reviews, gossip and general RPG banter.

And of course 2012 is the 75th anniversary of the passing of H.P. Lovecraft, so I’m sure we will do something to commemorate the great man in March.

Keep an eye on us – we are worth watching, and don’t forget, Have a Happy New Year.

Ia! F’tagn!


Black Friday Sales

There are as always plenty of Black Friday sales that the pocket concious roleplayer could take advantage of, but here are some that have caught the eye of the miskatonic minions as they clutch their precious, shiny coins.

3EGThird Eye Games

3EG is having its very own Black Friday Sale, running all the way through to Cyber Monday, November 28. All 3EG products are 25% off. Take this opportunity to check out the awesome settings, Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. (modern horror espionage), Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade (martial arts and ninjas) and Part-Time Gods (modern day divinity). Check out all that they have to offer on their publisher page at DriveThruRPG.

Rite PublishingRite Publishing

Again for this once a year special sale Rite Publishing have pulled out the stops and almost all of their products are 30% off from now until the 30th November.  In addition three special PDF products are on sale for nearly 80% off the cover price (making them a laughable $1.99 each).

The Gift (first Kaidan adventure for PFRPG) normally $9.99, Book of Monster Templates (PFRPG) normally $12.99, A Witch’s Choice (Monte Cook’s Arcana Evolved) normally $9.99, all three are now only $1.99 each.  Check out all that they have to offer on their publisher page at DriveThruRPG.

Fat Dragon GamesFat Dragon Games

Finally one for the tabletop wargamers and model makers amongst us.  I have made several of the Fat Dragon products and I can’t recommend them high enough  – especially the “Ultimate GM Screen II” – The quality of the graphics is superb and they really do assemble nicely.  Like the publishers above the sale runs all the way through Monday and Fat dragon have slashed their prices by anything between 10% and 50%.  Check out all that they have to offer on their publisher page at DriveThruRPG.



Ia! F’tagn!


Ah Pook The Destroyer: The Silver Key

Listen to Ah Pook The Destroyer: The Silver KeyWell this is a first for miskatonic.co.uk, we present for your consideration a musical interpretation of of a classic Lovcraftian tale. Ah Pook The Destroyer is the collaboration between Matthew Broyles of The Matthew Show and Paul Shapera of Mocha Lab and the Silver Key is their first album.

Those of our readers who are familiar with Lovecraft’s short stories will know that the Silver Key is more of a weird tale than a piece of horror, it straddles the borders of fantasy and this musical imagining is equally enigmatic.

As Matthew Broyles says “When people think of H.P.Lovecraft, the first mental impression tends to arise from the dark depths of the Cthulhu mythos. But Lovecraft was also a philosopher, a true iconoclast untempered by the literary zeitgeist of his age. One of the clearest expressions of this aspect is the short story The Silver Key. Ostensibly belonging to his dream-tale canon, upon further examination this is actually in many ways a manifesto, an accounting of one man’s attempt to understand the society into which he was born, and the judgment that it is found lacking.”

The Album is ten extremely varied tracks, and whilst we have no qualified musical critics amongst the minions here at miskatonic.co.uk we can honestly say that we thoroughly enjoyed listening to the album.  To date we have inflicted it upon numerous friends and family, some of whom have no knowledge of Lovecrafts tales and in every case the response has been generally positive and enthusiastic.  At a simplistic level you have a musical interpretation of the tale, but this isn’t a simple linear story telling – this is something more, a re-imagining, an expression through music.  The tracks, as mentioned before, are extremely varied with different styles of music.  Overall the work is atmospheric, expressive and works well.

You can listen to it here, and it can be purchased online from Amazon.com (not unfortunately through amazon.co.uk), CDBaby, iTunes and Bandcamp.

If we were the kind of website that gave stars out of five this would get a full set.  Take the time to chill out and listen to Ah Pook The Destroyers interpretation of this classic Lovecraftian wierd tale, you’ll be glad you did.

Ia! F’tagn!