We were very excited to receive three Origins Awards Nominations this year!
In the best RPG category: Primeval
In Best RPG Supplement: The Mythos Dossiers
In Best Traditional Card Game: The Doctor Who Card Game
In this short series of posts we'll shine a spotlight on each of them and talk to the creators behind the books and games. First up: The Mythos Dossiers.
In this interview we chatted with Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, Line Developer for The Laundry.
Hi Gareth, thanks for taking the time out of your doubtless busy schedule to chat with us. First up congratulations on the nominations for both Primeval and The Mythos Dossiers!
Many thanks. I'm very proud of the work done on both books by the respective teams.
So The Mythos Dossiers is a supplement for The Laundry rpg. Can we get the elevator pitch for The Laundry?
You're in a grimy, creaky elevator in an anonymous government building in London. There's a peeling poster saying 'loose pentacles emit tentacles' on the one wall. The elevator stops between floors, and opens onto a level that doesn't exist, filled with deranged computer scientists and sinister sorcerers. You get out and go to your day job - fighting the Cthulhu Mythos on behalf of the British government. At night, the elevator eats anyone who tries to use it without authorisation.
I'm misunderstanding the term "elevator pitch", aren't I?
The Laundry Files rpg is based on the novels by Charles Stross. It's a modern day take on the Cthulhu Mythos. Magic is based on mathematics - and that means its computable. You can summon up horrors from other dimensions with the right computer program. The Laundry is a secret branch of British Intelligence dedicated to occult intelligence and security. HP Lovecraft meets Dilbert and mistakes him for James Bond, basically.
What system does it use?
It uses a variant on the Call of Cthulhu rules, lovingly tweaked by Jason Durall (who wrote the recent Basic Roleplaying Rulebook for our friends at Chaosium). There are new subsystems for computational demonology, budgets and appropriations, going mad and getting eaten by tentacled horrors...
Let's dive into some basic details who comprised the list of writers that worked on the The Mythos Dossiers?
The concept of the Mythos Dossiers is that it's a grab-bag of documents from the Laundry archives, so we used lots of writers to give a wide range of voices. Let's see - we had John Snead, Graham Walmsley, WJ McGuffin, Andy Klosky, Jay Stratton, James Knevitt, Matthew Spaull, Paul L. Mathews, Brian Nisbet and myself. I pray to Cthulhu I'm not forgetting anyone.
Each writer got assigned one or more of the main topics of the book - Ghouls, Deep Ones, Shoggoths and the like - and wrote the main report on those creatures. Everyone else then contributed smaller, tangential pieces. The aim was to build up a picture of the horrors through hints, through indirect observations, through insinuation and deduction. For example, the Ghouls chapter has articles on everything from the effects of famine, to a discussion of burial practises, to a screenshot of a web forum about diet supplements, to a wonderfully creepy blog by a researcher whose trying to trigger the transformation into a ghoul.
What kind of things can we find inside the book?
The inspiration for the book is The Call of Cthulhu - the original story itself. There, the narrator pieces together the truth about what happened from a collection of seemingly disassocated documents. He connects the dreams of a Boston artist with the ravings of a cult in Louisiana with a tragedy at sea in the Pacific. The truth lurks behind the clues and documents.
The book covers all of the classic Mythos races - Deep Ones (or BLUE HADES in the Laundry nomenclature), Elder Things, Shoggoths, Mi-Go, Serpent Men, Ghouls, Cthonians, Flying Polyps, Byakhee, along with new creatures like minotaurs. Everything's written up as in-character documents and handouts, so the Gamemaster can just photocopy the appropriate pages, give them to the players and say "here's what your research in the Laundry archives turns up". Alternatively, you can use individual documents as plot hooks - no single document gives a full idea of what the characters are dealing with. They've got to investigate and draw connections.
The modular nature of the book means it's useful to Cthulhu games outside of the Laundry setting. While some of the documents refer to the Laundry, most are written by witnesses who had no idea of what they really encountered.
Whats your personal favourite?
It's hard to pick. I'm really happy with the take on minotaurs - I wanted to add a new monster type to the setting, but it was hard to find a concept that fit comfortably. Minotaurs, though, feel like something from the novels.
In terms of individual articles, there are some sections that I really love in the ghoul chapter, and the byakhee chapter... and the implications of GENOA FRACTAL are deliciously nasty. It's a great book to just dip into at random.
I also have to highlight the art. The whole book consists of in-character documents, so we illustrated it with sketches, photographs, tracings, cuttings from books and the like. I really love the 19th century newspaper cartoons, or the 'fish-man of the Thames' picture from an 18th century book of grotesques.
What's next in the pipeline for The Laundry?
We recently released GOD GAME BLACK, a sourcebook based on the most recent novel, the Apocalypse Codex. It's got the Black Chamber, the Laundry's deniable External Assets division, two new adventures, and revelations about the Sleeper in the Pyramid and the arrival of CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN - aka when the stars come right.
Next in the pipeline is CULTISTS UNDER THE BED, a book that reunites much of the talent from the MYTHOS DOSSIERS. Cultists Under The Bed is all about cults and conspiracies.
After that, we've got two more books in the early stages of development - a guide to the military in the Laundryverse, and an adventure anthology that builds on the success of the first Laundry supplement, BLACK BAG JOBS.
Thanks for chatting with us, Gareth, and good luck at the Awards!