I don’t listen to much in the way of fiction, either as podcasts or audio books. Primarily this is because I find it difficult to follow a continuing narrative unless I can give them 100% of my attention. I even struggle with Actual Plays if they have been highly edited or had sound effects added. So when I heard about the adaptation of the Lovecraft story The Case of Charles Dexter Ward that aired on BBC radio earlier this year I was apprehensive. Thankfully, they’d decided to frame the story through the lens of a fictional investigative podcast and the result was amazing. Brilliantly acted, addictive and atmospheric.
The second season of the show, inspired by the story The Whisperer in Darkness aired this month. I binge listened to the first season again in anticipation and then raced through the new episodes as dropped and was not disappointed. The show is, frankly, excellent. It is a masterclass in world building, taking the seeds planted in the first season and expanding it out to a bigger world with history, conspiracies and consequences all lurking under the surface.
I don’t want to say too much because of the potential for spoilers but suffice to say if you enjoy the Cthulhu mythos and cosmic horror you should listen to both seasons of the show. It’s seriously good.
All reviews are rated out of 10, with Natural 20s reserved for products that go above and beyond my expectations. The Whisperer in Darkness is available as a free download through BBC Sounds and most major podcast apps.
I don’t listen to many audio dramas, I find that compared to a typical discussion podcast they require me to give the audio my complete attention or I’ll lose track of what is going on. The same is true of Actual Play RPG podcasts, I shy away from highly produced shows towards ‘at the table’ shows that include out of character discussion and banter.
I made a recent exception to this when I heard that the BBC had released an adaptation of the H. P. Lovecraft story ‘The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.’ The adaptation was produced to follow the format of popular true crime podcasts such as Serial, with the story unfolding over 10, 20-30 minute long episodes. It took me a couple of episodes to get into it but once I did I was hooked. The resetting of the plot to the modern day was perfectly handled and while the story diverged somewhat it remained true to the intent and tone of the original. There was no doubting that this was Lovecraft, with its slow build and eventual slide towards despair as the truth was uncovered. I don’t know if the BBC have plans for any further adaptations but I hope that they do, there is such a wide library of inspiration to call upon that it would be a shame not to.
Cheating slightly with post number 2 in this series as I’m using the same image again but that the great thing about this sort of approach to campaign design, the same piece can provide many different sources of inspiration.
Genre: Military science fiction, lovecraftian horror
Themes: Survival, horror, aliens
Campaign elevator pitch: Returning from deployment on a far off world a group of marines, weary and hardened by war, awake from cryosleep docked at a remote station decades later than scheduled. The garrison, however, has been barricaded from the inside and the unit must work their way inside in order to resupply and discover what has occurred. Inside the garrison a sleeping evil awakes… and the marines learn of horrors no war could prepare them for.
The players would: be a detachment of marines trying to get home
The campaign would build towards: Escaping the horror that lurks within, only to discover that during their sleep Earth has already fallen victim to otherworldly horrors.