The Mythos Dossiers is a pet project of ours - it's a book of cryptic handouts, reports and in-character artefacts for the Laundry Files roleplaying game. We assigned a lead writer to each monster, and then brought more writers to give their own oblique takes on that monster. Everyone built and riffed on the material, bringing classic Cthulhu creatures in unexpected new directions. We talked to one of the writers, the illustrious John Snead, about his contributions to the Dossiers.
You've been involved with the Laundry Files rpg from the start, and designed the magic system. Tell us a bit about that system, and why you decided not to use the traditional Call of Cthulhu magic rules.
The Call of Cthulhu magic system is excellent for portraying the sort of magic eccentric half-mad sorcerers find in dusty old tomes, but that's not really what Laundry sorcery is like. Also, the first two books of the Laundry Files series gave readers a clear and detailed description of what Computational Demonology was like, and so I decided to see if I could model that system in the RPG. I'm very pleased with the result and think that it can do pretty much everything we've seen Bob and his colleagues manage.
On the Mythos Dossiers, you were the primary writer on ANNING BLACK and ANNING BLUE SKULL, or (Shoggoths and Elder Things for those without codeword clearance). What drew you to those particular Eldritch Horrors?
At the Mountains of Madness has always been my favorite Lovecraft story. It sits right on the borderline of SF & horror and so I jumped at the chance to write up the creatures from it, especially in a game that also stands on the borderline of SF & horror. I love how alien the Elder Things are and to me the Shoggoths are some of the creepiest creatures I've ever encountered in fiction. The story does an excellent job of imparting the wonder and the disturbing nature of dealing with histories and creatures that are literally hundreds of millions of years old. I also like the fact that the Elder Things seemed both deeply alien and somewhat sympathetic, while their creations are dangerous alien monsters and examples of technological hubris.
Any tips for using your Mythos Dossiers documents in games?
I think ANNING BLUE SKULL (aka Elder Things) are most interesting if encountered in concert with their ruins or technologies. Alternately, simply finding their technologies alone can be fascinatingly dangerous and a wonderful way to see exactly how far in advance of humanity they actually were.
In contrast, ANNING BLACK are excellently dangerous monsters that work well either in ancient ruins, or even more appropriately, in the laboratories of overly ambitious scientists and engineers who hope to learn to control them, and end up their victims.
What other Cthulhu-related projects are you working on at the moment?
Eldritch Skies, a game of space-traveling SF in the mythos universe, which uses the Cinematic Unisystem rules, is coming out from Battlefield Press this April. Later this year the magic book I wrote for Call of Cthulhu should be out. If you're more liberal in what you consider Cthulhu-related, I'm also continuing to write for Eclipse Phase, a game of transhumanist horror.
John Snead has been gaming since he was 18 and has been a full- time game designer for the past 15 years. He has bachelor's degrees in both mathematics and history and an MA in cultural anthropology. He lives in Portland Oregon with his two partners and three cats. In addition to having created the upcoming RPG Eldritch Skies, John has written over a dozen separate magic systems and worked on Exalted, both the old and new World of Darkness, Eclipse Phase, the Mistborn RPG, and many others.
The Mythos Dossiers is available for pre-order at http://shop.cubicle7store.com/epages/es113347.sf/en_GB/?ObjectPath=/Shops/es113347_shop/Products/CB71204