Happy weekend everyone! Hope you're all staying fed and hydrated among all the video game releases of this past week. If you're just now taking a break from your questing, here's the lowdown on the Week in Geekdom.
The World Fantasy award trophy will no longer feature the likeness of H.P. Lovecraft.
Extra Life may have been last weekend, but the charitable gaming continues! Watch here for the live stream of Desert Bus for Hope!
On Thursday fans of The Binding of Issac found that the latest bit of DLC for their beloved game was also the jump off point for an insane ARG. If you missed out on all the gaming goodness, PC Gamer covered the entire thing.
Nintendo announced its release schedule for the first and second quarter of 2016. Among the new titles was the introduction of Linkle, who will feature in Hyrule Warriors Legends on the 3DS.
It has long been the stuff of myth, but the Nintendo Playstation is entirely real (and fully functional!).
The Walking Dead will have its Negan and he will be portrayed by Mr. Jeffrey Dean Morgan.
It seems contradictory, but the latest research from a joint venture between China's ASIPP and the United States' General Atomics revealed that lowering the distance between pre-fusion plasma and the walls of the chamber said matter is confined in actually increasing the stability of the potential energy-producing system.
What do you do when you accidentally launch two satellites into the wrong orbit? Why, you use them to test the predictions made by the Theory of Relativity, of course.
Canadian neurosurgeon Dr. Todd Mainprize has done what modern medicine has attempted to do for decades: penetrated the blood-brain barrier.
Computer scientist Laszlo Babai has allegedly developed an algorithm that allows the user to determine if two networks are the same, regardless of their respective complexity.
In the latest installation of What Can't 3D Printing Do is this art installation that features a printed ear derived from the DNA of Vincent Van Gogh. Extra eyebrow-raising is the fact that the ear can 'listen' to sound waves emitted into it.
The latest edition of Nature Communications contains this research from the Imperial College London that may introduce the world to a brand new, super efficient type of laser.
Poor Phobos. Mars' oft-overlooked moon is being slowly dismantled by its celestial anchor.
On the subject of gravitational dismantling, have you ever wondered if it's possible to see the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy? Here's how you could.
General Awesomeness/Feats of Nerdery
It's just a tad more luxurious than Vault 111. Welcome to the Oppidum, the world's largest 'billionaire bunker' for all your apocalypse-surviving needs.
Speaking of things that might be fun to own if you have all the monies, the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is being converted into luxury condos.
It took Ian Martin the better part of a year to complete, but he successfully crafted this fully functional holochess board from Star Wars.
And while we're talking about Star Wars superfans, here's the handiwork of one California dad who constructed a replica Death Star on the roof of his own house.
As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!
As the resident horror aficionado I feel it’s time to get into the Halloween spirit (pun intended).
To get into said spirit, I watched the 1970 filmThe Dunwich Horror. It’s an adaptation of the classic H.P. Lovecraft short story of the same nameand stars Sandra Dee (Nancy Wagner), Dean Stockwell (Wilbur Whateley), and Ed Begley (Dr. Henry Armitage). The film is currently abailable on Netflix streaming, though I warn you now of the 1 star rating (Rotten Tomatoes gave it an optimistic 20%).
Pretty sure Lovecraft would be spinning in his grave
I find it difficult to express just how terrible this movie is. To begin with, almost nothing happens, just lots of boredom. To make the synopsis more entertaining, here is my version of events (warning: spoilers): "Anti-social shut-in from the country has lots of family issues and can’t play well with others, particularly the townsfolk. He tries to check out a book in the library, then befriends an uptown girl and invites her over for tea. They bond over a lovely weekend of sketchy rape drugs and weird dream 'adult relations'. He reads her some Latin from the library book, bursts into flames, and then falls off a cliff.”
There’s a bit more happening towards the end of the movie, but most of it is just a slow dribble of boring. In a good horror movie, this down-time would be spent building up suspense and intrigue; it’s called a "slow burn" (which was masterfully achieved by Alien). It should give you an inkling of ‘there’s something not quite right’ and make you want to find out more.
That does not happen here. Much of the movie involved Wilbur making bedroom eyes at people. I believe this was supposed to be Presence from Vampire mythology: the ability to control the minds of others. But with the super bushy eyebrows, massive sideburns, and crumb-catcher mustache on Stockwell it just looks silly, despite his deep penetrating eyes... yes Wilbur, I will follow you...
Aside from being bored, another issue I had with this movie was the ‘stupid villain syndrome’. Wilbur’s master plan is to bring back the Great Old Ones to wipe humanity off Earth... except that he’s a human too. Well, he’s part human – but enough that the Old Ones would probably kill him too. He’s taking one hell of a gamble that they won't destroy him (or maybe he just doesn’t care?). Or maybe he read some part of theNecronomicon that we’re not privy to: "P.S. - If you have any Great Old One blood then we totally won't kill you, we promise! For realsies!"
Music and sound were two other complaints from the movie. The music set the wrong stage for a horror movie; it sounded right out of a daytime soap. I kept expecting the words "These are the Cthulhus of our lives" appear across the screen. Additionally, the sound quality was poor enough to be distracting.
The script needed help as well. With stars such as Sandra Dee and Dean Stockwell, the issue was not lackluster acting as much as it was the lines did not do the actors justice. A large portion of Sandra Dee’s screen time was spent writhing around and making sexual moans. Her character was supposed to be having horrible nightmares, but the dreams were just wonky and odd. I usually would be the last person to say this, but the satanical dream sex went on way too long. It was just spliced together bedroom eyes, flashing bare legs, and a nightmare-moan-writhing Nancy.
A lot of Stockwell’s screen time was spent on close-ups of his eyes (it’s Presence time!) or very slow, drawn out, unnecessary motions during the ritual scenes.
Other examples of poor writing:
A woman in labor at the beginning of the movie was thrashing, sweating, and making... sexual moans? This seemed to be a theme for any intense female acting in this movie: giving birth, being attacked by a monster, sleeping, etc. Sexy moans are always great, but thematic writing typically requires a range of emotion depending on the scene you’re portraying. I grant that some actors can get away with one look for all occasions, but these actors were neither Nicholas Cage nor Derek Zoolander.
A doctor gives a medical diagnosis for the aforementioned pregnancy to the effect of "Her insides were all torn up." Four years of medical school at their finest!
The Necronomicon is supposed to be a super rare book, but it just sat in an unlocked case without humidity and temperature control… or security systems of any kind…
The monster of the movie attacks people with long prehensile snake appendages and, in one case, strips the victim naked and plays with her well before killing her.
An old man feebly swings his staff to attack someone, but ends up hurling himself down a flight of stairs. In another fight scene, a security guard runs across the room, directly into an outstretched pole and impales himself. (NO. No movie, this is not how anyone anywhere fights. People don't do this!)
Finally, when the "good guys" are facing Wilbur one of them says, "He's not responsible for his actions!" Mister, he is trying to destroy all humans on Earth, I think he might be a little freaking responsible. I guess it is possible he’s being controlled by the Great Old Ones, but this is never mentioned.
At least this movie does one positive thing: it gives us much better insight as to why Admiral Calavicci decided to join Project Quantum Leap. Either he wanted to go back in time and change things so the final ritual worked, or he figured that leap technology would yield insight into how to bring the extra-dimensional entities to Earth. It also makes sense as to why Prof. Armitage's son ended up investigating creepy happenings in Transylvania.
He's so much happier here!
If you’re currently saying to yourself, “Self! What the hell is Elder Gias talking about?” let me introduce you to the "Gias Unified Movie Protagonist" theory. Similar to the Tommy Westphall Universe Hypothesis, all characters portrayed by an actor are either the same character wherever possible or ancestors/descendants of the character otherwise. I can go into it in more depth and analysis another time, but with it you get some weird things happening like Judge Doom founding DirecTV.
I am very disappointed with the offerings of H.P. Lovecraft stories-turned-movies. The movie In The Mouth of Madness was slightly better despite being a very poor re-imagining of the amazing Lovecraft classic At the Mountains of Madness. If you have not read it, I highly suggest you do, though it is long for a short story. The Re-Animator is, in my opinion, probably the best Lovecraft movie adaptation.
This movie was so bad it wasn't even laughably bad. It would be like an MST3K movie without the witty comments (which is to say, terrible!). Please don't see it unless your goal is to see every movie ever made.
Recommendation: High! You should totally watch this classic masterpiece. Totally. You clearly don't need to read my above review to tell you anything else about this movie. Reviews are unimportant. All that matters is the TL;DR at the end, right? Seriously, go back and read the review or you will get what is coming to you from this TL;DR. "Iä!Iä!Cthulhu Fhtagn!"
Fortunately we're all likely more familiar with this Dunwich Horror
It's really Sunday again? Well ok then. The past couple of weeks have been pretty busy here on the blog and hopefully you guys feel that any recent changes have been reasonably good ones. Last week I mentioned that the medium-to-long term goal for all these shenanigans is to turn the Care and Feeding of Nerds into something a bit more sophisticated, or at least more robust, than just my occasional digitized mutterings. Part of getting to that goal will be publishing more content, so we're hoping to get to the point where there are at least 2-3 posts a week in addition to this weekend wrap-up. Obviously, if any of our new features isn't working out, let us know on any of these. The idea is to make the site better, so let us know if we've gone astray. Fingers crossed though that our internet mad sciencing produces some goodness. But enough administrative chat; let's get down to the week in geekdom.
In the bad-but-also-perhaps-good news category is this confirmation that a movie version of Y: The Last Man is officially dead.
It may have had its release date bumped back, but Jupiter Ascending is doing its best to prove that the delay is worthwhile with this new trailer.
Apparently live TV musicals are going to be a thing. After last year's live production of the Sound of Music, Peter Pan will be getting similar treatment. Bonus: Christopher Walken will be Captain Hook.
As if Pride and Prejudice and Zombies didn't merit enough nerdy anticipation, it has been confirmed that Lena Headley, Charles Dance, and Matt Smith will be joining the cast.
Bryan Singer will be directing the third installment of the new X-Men movie franchise: X-Men: Apocalypse.
William Shatner will have a special cameo in the still-untitled third volume of the rebooted Star Trek series.
After decades of squabbling, Marvel and the estate of Jack Kirby have reached a settlement concerning the intellectual properties of the comic book legend.
On Tuesday Blizzard announced that, after seven years of development, that they would be cancelling their next-generation MMO Titan. When asked for a reason as to the cancellation, Blizzard responded that they, "couldn't find the fun." Right.
The amusing retelling of live-action Oregon Trail.
Halo 5: Guardians as retold in Minecraft.
It's one of the most beloved features of the reading experience: a deep waft of book smell. But where does that storied smell come from? Here comes the science.
Researchers from Oxford University believe that the roasting process may be the culprit behind severe peanut allergies.
On Wednesday, Okayama University Hospital announced that it successfully completed a novel procedure that allowed a mother to donate segments of her lungs to her ailing son.
Wednesday also produced exciting new developments for India's space agency as their Mars Orbiter Mission (a.k.a. MOM) successfully entered the Red Planet's orbit.
Anthrax has a long-held reputation has a weaponizable bacterium. Now a group of MIT researchers hope to give the much-feared ailment a new, more positive role as a potential vector for chemotherapy drugs.
Robot butlers are not only becoming a reality, but may be available in a store near you in as little as one year's time.
It's only mere molecules in breadth, but a team from Penn State University believes that their research has produced in the strongest material in the world.
The latest edition of Physical Review Letters contains a description of what may be the closest we've come to producing significant amounts of energy from a fusion reaction.
The entire history of the universe in 10 run-on sentences.
However, there may be a challenge to that universal history. This alleged new theory posits that our universe may have been the offspring not of a Big Bang, but of a hyper-dimensional black hole.
Conversely, a physics professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has produced this research indicating that it is mathematically impossible for black holes to come into existence. Make up your minds people!
In 2006 the International Astronomical Union handed down one of the most controversial verdicts of our time: that Pluto was no longer a planet. Eight years later, the debate over Pluto's Fate has new life and may result in reclassification for the 'dwarf planet'.
Poor unloved Pluto
The latest edition of Science features this research from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy that indicates the discovery of complex organic molecules in deep inter-stellar space.
What do the current crew of the International Space Station and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy have in common? The number 42.
Have you ever wanted to go to space? Perhaps pioneer the celestial bodies beyond our exosphere? Cyanide and Happiness has just the video for you!
If you're convinced that staying on Earth might be a good idea, then a team of chemists from the University of Pennsylvania have good news for you. The researchers claim that they have been able to observe and study the chemical reaction that keeps our atmosphere clean.
A new DARPA program called Electrical Prescriptions, or ElectRx, aims to give participants in the program highly advanced healing abilities via microscopic implants. There's been no word on the construction of implants that will provide the bearer with adamantium claws.
General Awesomesness/Feats of Nerdery
Members of the US Fox Valley Composite Squadron have captured the Guiness World Record for Highest Paper Airplane Flight (from a High Altitude Balloon). The paperboard aircraft bore a 14" (35.56 cm) wingspan and was able to cover a distance of 82 miles (131.97 km) after being released from a weather balloon.
This is what happens when the good people behind Cirque de Soleil get their hands on some drones
Crowdfundables for Your Consideration
Woot for new feature! As the name suggests, every week we're going to provide brief descriptions for a handful of fun, innovative projects that are in the active crowdfunding phase and the corresponding links for you to find more information and/or offer your support. If you have a project that you'd like to bring to our attention, let us know.
First up is an unorthodox-looking game from the trio of minds behind Big Potato. Their project, Bucket of Doom, is a fast-paced, think-on-your-feet party game for terrible people in the vein of Cards Against Humanity. It aims to merge the absurdity of Cards with the storytelling aspects of other excellent party games like Snake Oil. There are only 9 days left on the Kickstarter, so don't delay if you want in on this fun!
That Which Sleeps has already surpassed its crowdfunding goal, but you may want to give this project a look anyhow. This offering by King Dinosaur Games bills itself as a re-imagining of the Black and White style god game. Players take on the role of a Cthulhu-esque Old One and wreak havoc on an unsuspecting populace all which avoiding being forcibly returned to their demonic slumber. The game will be available on all operating systems (yes, including Linux) and aims to be distributed through both Steam and the Humble Bundle Store. Check out their Kickstarter page for more details or vote here to get the game greenlighted on Steam.
As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!
Maybe it’s just how the timing of Gen Con worked out this year or perhaps it’s just lingering con-happy, but these past couple of weeks have been such an all-around excellent unofficial end to the summer. Don’t get me wrong, making all the costumes was definitely fun, but after putting together four of them this year, it’s nice to just be able to tinker around without a deadline looming in the periphery.
Another benefit of this post-con hush is having the time to go back over the heap of notes I’d scribbled down at one point or another and trying to parse through them. In the corner of one notebook I’d jotted, “Why do we constantly try to one-up each other?” There was no surrounding context, but that single line caused whatever other investigation I’d been doing to grind to a halt.
Defensiveness set in almost immediately. We don’t constantly try to do that. Other social groups probably engage in one-upsmanship with the same frequency… And then the memories and the stereotypes poured in. Well, maybe that’s just my perception of a behavior. I'm clearly too close to the source material here. To the scholarly journals!
This impromptu and highly unscientific data rustling still managed to yield some basic facts for us to work with (largely due to the fact that highly competitive behavior has been studied extensively as it pertains to group dynamics and various emotional disorders ). Competition as it is expressed between two or more parties as direct social contests is often related to low or fragile self-esteem, narcissism, and/or the cumulative impact of being in a competitive environment for a prolonged period. Additionally, individuals behave more competitively towards one another when the number of competing parties is small. Both of these sets of phenomena feed directly into another related behavior called social comparison. The name pretty much encompasses the entirety of the mechanism: it’s that semi-conscious thing nearly all humans do when they stack themselves up against features and accomplishments of another human. And it literally is nearly everyone that does this, even when the act of comparing would yield no useful information to the person doing the comparing.
So given all this we can begin to extrapolate a bit into the roles social comparison and direct social contests play into our games of nerdy one-upsmanship. Let’s start with the first of the major characteristics from the above paragraph: low or fragile self-esteem.
It’s no secret that many of us had a difficult time interacting with our peers during our formative years and that we often carry the resulting scars for quite some time. That shared experience of shame, bullying, and isolation lies like a bitter foundation beneath our subculture. It’s one of the myriad reasons why some of us react with hostility when we encounter newcomers as those would-be neophytes are assumed (correctly or not) to have grown up having avoided our widely held childhood fate. Correspondingly, many of us have constructed a large portion of our sense of self from the body of knowledge we’ve built up in the pastimes that sustained us through this turbulence. These hobbies sustained us, at least in the figurative sense, and we often respond to that by giving ourselves over entirely. Any subsequent challenge (or anything that is perceived as a challenge) to that body of knowledge is translated as a threat to the identity we’ve constructed for ourselves. Since the challenge is in an arena that we’re deeply experienced in, the fight-or-flight response often ends up with the ‘target’ nerd selecting the former of those two options.
That’s usually how one-upsmanship comes to pass in the context of standard self-esteem. However, a growing body of research suggests that there is a wide variety of self-esteems or, probably more accurately, states in which self-esteem exists. People with fragile or otherwise unstable visions of self-worth often tie their self-esteem directly to their last accomplishment or whom they are able to impress. “When these individuals are doing well, they feel great or even superior to others, whereas when they encounter setbacks, they tend to feel shame and self-doubt.” So, in a community rife with individuals with low self-esteem AND who characterize themselves upon the level of knowledge held on a variety of shared, lauded topics, one-upsmanship seems like an almost natural reaction. We can’t all know the most about Star Wars or Marvel or Lovecraftian lore. The closest we come to détente is compartmentalization within our respective circles of immediate friends. There’s a wordless understanding of, “Person X is our D&D expert and Person Y is our go-to for physics.” Everyone gets to be a specialist in something and thus everyone can feel confident in their personal body of knowledge. This model functions so long as membership in the friend circle is stable and tends to degrade if a new member is added or the circle encounters another circle. Then it becomes, “Well all my friends know I’m the biggest Trekkie there is and you, rival Trekkie, will have to be put in your place. There’s only room for one of us.”
That last set of statements is what professional psychologists call the Scarce Resources Model. I like to call it the High Noon Saloon Model: there’s only room in this here saloon for one of us. Under this schema we feel jealous and/or threatened when another nerd exhibits more knowledge or skill because we (erroneously) believe that There Can Be Only One. The only way to prove that we are the best or most knowledgeable is to publicly prove how superior the functionality of our cerebral matter is OR instill doubt in the other geek’s purported skill. Hence one-upsmanship.
Sometimes the response we just talked about isn’t derived from insecurity or poor self-worth, but rather from the polar opposite. Narcissistic or highly self-centered nerds, “…do not see others as separate human beings, but more as an extension of themselves, a source of admiration for their accomplishments, a potential threat to their own success, or as an object to use or manipulate in order to meet their own needs.” In this case the one-upsmanship is rooted in the notion of There Can Be Only One, but the key differential is the motivation behind that model. Narcissists believe that they are inherently the best and thus are the natural or even rightful deserving One. Aggressive intrapersonal competition in this case is often a combination of adverse reaction to reality being different than what the narcissist holds to be true followed by a desire to bring the opposing ‘combatant’ low via one-upsmanship as an attempt to restore what the narcissist believes to be the natural order of things. While I’ve separated these motivations for one-upsmanship into separate categories I have a feeling that they’re not binary and instead likely exist on a sort of self-esteem spectrum, but that’s just a semi-educated guess based on personal experience.
So we have one-upsmanship derived from poor/fragile/inflated self-esteem. We, as a subculture, also routinely arrange ourselves in groupings that, as mentioned earlier, foster the most intense degree of competition (instances with small numbers of competitors). Lastly, we tend to do one other thing that may help explain why we sometimes act the way we do: we regularly put ourselves in situations rife with competition. Though cooperative board games make up a considerable and arguably growing portion of their respective market and most tabletop RPGs are inherently co-op, the vast majority of both board and video games are competitive in nature. The aggressive feelings that are conjured up in gamers during the course of the game have been shown to dissipate following the game’s conclusion, but there is a growing academic consensus that repeated exposure to the sometimes severe spikes in aggression may have consequences for our social skills later down the line. Having our competitive switches flick to 'on' at the drop of a hat after a lifetime spent playing against one another seems like a probable contributor to our sometimes aggressive behavior.
Oh man, I do, like, all of this stuff. Ok, maybe not all of it, but enough that I'm concerned. What do I do about it?
Like many of our other less savory behaviors, a good solid dose of self-reflection is a great place to start. If you think you've engaged in this sort of one-upsmanship, maybe ask yourself why you've done that. If you feel it's become an unwanted habit amongst your circle of friends, perhaps bring them in your thoughts and brainstorm ways to take some of the sting out of these exchanges. One of the most effective things to do with a person who feels they always need to be the smartest/craftiest/best is to provide gentle reminders that they're among friends. A simple, "hey, we're all friends here and we know who to turn to about [subject Z]," can go a long way.
None of this is to say that competition is a bad thing. Far from it. The difference lies in the intent behind the behavior. There's a world of difference between a good, healthy show of skills and compulsive one-upmanship rooted in how we value ourselves. Let's aim for more of the former and exponentially less of the latter.
 Greenberg, M. (2011). “How to Keep Your Cool with Competitive People.” Psychology Today. Accessed 3 September 2014 from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201109/how-keep-your-cool-competitive-people.
 Vandegrift, D and Brian Holaday. (2012). “Competitive Behavior: Tests of the N-Effect and Proximity to a Standard.” Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Economics, Vol 5(3), August 2012, pgs. 182-192.
 Corcoran, K., Crusius, J., and Mussweiler, T. (2011). “Social Comparison: Motives, Standards, and Mechanisms.” In D. Chandee (Ed.), Theories in Social Psychology (pgs. 119-129). Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.
 Corcoran, K., Crusius, J., and Mussweiler, T. (2011).
 Anderson, C. and M. Morrow. (1995). “Competitive Aggression Without Interaction: Effects of Competitive Versus Cooperative Instructions on Aggressive Behavior in Video Games.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Issue 21: pgs. 1020-1030. DOI: 10.1177/01461672952110003
Sorry for the hiccup between posts guys. 'Tis that point in the year wherein I take arms against the workish Elder Hydra and said battle absconds with most of my free time. It's been a bumpy go of things so far but, hopefully, there'll be some stabilization next week at some point, after which I'll be free of such struggles until 2014!
So adorable you may go insane
In the meantime, since we're on the subject of protracted conflicts with unholy beasts, I wanted to bring an innovative new RPG to your attention. Just looking at the cover art for Call of Catthulhu is likely to conjure the thought of: Cats and Lovecraft? Of course! As you can imagine, the game tries to blend these two great loves of Nerdkind into a cohesive roleplaying experience. The result is that odd hybrid of weirdness and whimsy that many of us seem to adore.
The Earth is threatened by all manner of unspeakable horrors from dimensions we are incapable of even detecting, nonetheless comprehending. A mere glimpse of the countenance of one of these extrastellar beings would render even the most stalwart human into a gibbering mass of semi-vegetative flesh. Fortunately, those impressionable two-legged mammals have the help of their ancient guardians: Felis catus. Turns out the ancient Egyptians were on to something when they revered domestic cats as sacred for, as Call of Catthulhu has us believe, these diminutive animals are one of the planet's few lines of defense against the occasional encounter with a malicious Elder god. The game centers around the notion of taking up the persona of one of these heroic felines and banding with your furry brethren against the arcane powers.
Players can select from one of five distinct roles: the rough-and-tumble Scapper, the prim Pussyfoot, the dexterous Catcrobat, the pragmatic Twofootologist, and the haunted Tiger Dreamer. The roles chosen translate directly into options that will be available to PCs when they attempt to resolve a conflict or navigate a challenge in the adventure laid out for them by their Cat Herder (the GM). If a certain skill is available to the group because a given role is being played, then the PC possessing said ability may make a case that he or she would be the appropriate kitty for the job at hand. In-game obstacles that would require this sort of case-building are resolved by rolling one or more six-sided dice. Rolling a 1 or 2 spells failure, any other result is an instant success. The sole complexity of the game's core mechanic lies in determining how many 6-siders players will roll. However, it should be noted that simplicity here does not automatically infer that the game is easy, as it is no mean feat to navigate the world beset by horrors while being only a foot tall (apx. 30cm) and lacking opposable thumbs. Players must work together to overcome these physiological limits and influence their surroundings to address the challenges handed down by the Cat Herder.
With minimal rules and a maximum capacity of five players, Call of Catthulhu is the kind of streamlined roleplaying experience that most people will enjoy, but is ideally suited for a few distinct types of gamers. Those individuals who relish the role-playing portion of RPGs will likely enjoy the unique challenge of playing a character that is not only non-humanoid, but also wholly mundane. The heroes of this tale are run-of-the-mill cats, which can be a refreshing change of pace from the standard retinue of rogues, clerics, rangers, and fighters. That's not to say that those gamers who prefer such timeless classes will be disappointed by Call of Catthulhu, but if you're one who lives for a dungeon crawl, constant combat, or highly nuanced rules then you may be better served by another system.
Call of Catthulhu is both highly flexible in terms of the types of adventures that can be undertaken as well as light on the accessories required to play. All players need are a pool of 4-5 six-sided dice, a copy of the rules (themselves a scant 28 pages cover-to-cover), some writing utensils, and their imaginations. An innate love of cats certainly helps, but the system can be easily modified to allow PCs to make non-feline characters. Ostensibly, an appreciation for Lovecraft also adds a level of enjoyment to the experience.
The majority of the second half of the rulebook is filled with easy-to-follow examples and foundations on which to build multi-faceted stories. The combination of high portability and facility with which the rules can be learned makes the title a viable party game if your friends are open to the idea, since adventures can be run in a single sitting. The lack of detailed correspondence charts and 300-page rulebooks also make Call of Catthulhu a perfect way to introduce newcomers to the world of RPGs.
Creator Joel Sparks clearly crafted Call of Catthulhu with love for the subject matter; just reading through the rulebook is a pleasure in itself. While parallels to RPGs that touch on each half of the core game, namely CAT and Call of Cthulhu, are certainly evident, Call of Catthulhu nestles itself snugly between the two systems. It is quite a bit broader and grittier than the former while not being quite so dark and despairing as the latter, which appears to be precisely Sparks' intent.
It's a unique and very interesting concept that dares to go beyond the confines of what has become standard to roleplaying games. Furthermore, it lends itself easily to influences from other games if the players or Cat Herder are at a loss for ideas. I toyed with integrating story lines and adversaries from titles like Arkham Horror and Elder Sign by taking narrative/creature cards and modifying them to make new adventures for Call of Catthulhu. Of course, there's always inspiration to be drawn from Lovecraft himself (because, at less than $3 USD for the digital omnibus, there are few excuses not to own his complete works).
Call of Catthulhu is available via Faster Monkey Games (only $4 USD for the pdf download!) and keep an eye out later this month for the Kickstarter of the Deluxe Edition of the game!