Grimoire
Cthulhu
Dracula
Abraham Lincoln
Ken
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Episode 247: So Fair It Shines as a Marketing Quote

June 23rd, 2017 | Robin

Stare! Stare my friends, into the most psychically destablizing hat of all. For this week Among My Many Hats has the Yellow Sign neatly embroidered upon it, and you know what that means: Robin’s new GUMSHOE project for Pelgrane Press, The Yellow King Roleplaying Game, is Kickstarting now. Ken hangs onto his last Composure point as he asks Robin all about it.

At the triple command of Patreon backer Rafael Pabst, the Book Hut takes a look at the mythic work of Robert Graves.

A simple yet elusive question confronts us in the Gaming Hut. Half-elves: what’s their deal?

Finally Patreon backer Tim Vert knows who he’s gonna call. He asks the Consulting Occultist to tell us all about Harry Houdini’s ghostbusters.

Want to pose a question to the show? Get your priority question asking access with your Support for the KARTAS Patreon!

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


In Unknown Armies, Atlas Games’ modern-day, occult roleplaying game, you play the heroically broken people who conspire to fix the world. That conspiracy just got easier, with the arrival of the game on store shelves near you!

The book has been written. The book has been read. Now it rewrites you.

Across time it spreads, creating dread new realities. And you’re in all of them.

Pelgrane Press is terrified to announce that Robin’s epic new GUMSHOE project, The Yellow King Roleplaying Game, is now live on Kickstarter.

Saddle up! Askfageln’s Western is now shooting it out at the Kickstarter corral! Play desperate desperadoes, merciless mercenaries, courageous native warriors and brimstone-tinged preachers in a time and place in need of heroes.

John Scott Tynes’ Puppetland is ready to knock the stuffing out of a game store near you in its gorgeous new full-color hardcover edition. Join the good folks at Arc Dream in battling the horrific forces of Punch the Maker-Killer!

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Special Dire Announcement: The Yellow King Roleplaying Game is Now on Kickstarter

June 22nd, 2017 | Robin

We interrupt the tranquility of your regular podcast subscription feed to riff briefly on some long anticipated yet terrifying news. The Yellow King Roleplaying Game, which Robin has been covertly promoting for many months, is now up for your decadent assessment on Kickstarter. We’ll be back in Friday to discuss it in detail, but we knew you would want to be woken from your febrile absinthe dreams to scoot on over to Kickstarter and claim those all-important firsties. And don’t worry–you can’t see the Yellow Sign in audio!

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: We Did Not Have To Coordinate to Make It Adrienne Mayor Week

June 20th, 2017 | Robin

Ken and Robin Consume Media is brought to you by the discriminating and good-looking backers of the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Patreon. Each week we provide capsule reviews of the books, movies, TV seasons and more we cram into our hyper-analytical sensoriums. Join the Patreon to help pick the items we’ll talk about in greater depth on our new podcast segment, Tell Me More.

Oh, and while we’re talking media consumption, you might be interested to hear that the Kickstarter for Robin’s The Yellow King Roleplaying Game launches tomorrow night, Wednesday June 21st, at 8 pm.

Recommended

Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World (Nonfiction, Adrienne Mayor, 2014) Combining classics, history, archaeology, and anthropology, Mayor advances on the Amazons across a broad front. Centering on the historical Scythian warrior women but reaching across the steppes both to modern eagle huntresses in Kazakhstan and to mythological armies besieging Athens, this should be anybody’s first (and almost anybody’s finest) resource on Wonder Woman’s iconic ancestresses. –KH

Beirut Noir (Fiction, ed Iman Humaydan, 2015) Character vignettes of trauma and yearning for escape predominate in short stories that paint a composite portrait of a city still devastated by war. Well-selected anthology of literary fiction culled from writers working in English, French, and Arabic. Gotta call BS on the misleading packaging though: this has nothing whatsoever to do with noir and only a couple of pieces that so much as nod to the crime genre.—RDL

Oh Hello on Broadway (Television, Netflix, Michael John Warren and Alex Timbers, 2017) Longtime NYC roommates and George St Geegland (John Mulaney) and Gil Faizon (Nick Kroll) put on a play loosely based on their own unearned grandiosity, plus tuna pranks. Mulaney and Kroll spin sketch characters into new stratospheres of eccentricity. Filmed live theater usually dies on screen but Warren shows how to do it right, by shooting it like a comedy special.—RDL

The Poison King (Nonfiction, Adrienne Mayor, 2009) Historical biography of Mithradates, the alternately generous and brutal Anatolian monarch who waged multiple wars against the hated Romans and set up a toxicology lab to immunize himself from the number one cause of death among ancient royals. Scholarship and storytelling fight alongside one another like the comrades they ought to be in an account laden with enough brilliant detail to launch a dozen KARTAS segments.—RDL

Thirst For Love (Film, Japan, Koreyoshi Kurahara, 1967) High-strung widow carries on an affair with her late husband’s stern father while lusting after the family’s hot but lunkheaded young gardener. Cross  A Doll’s House with Lady Chatterly’s Lover and add experimental flourishes and a touch of arterial spray and you’ve got this icy melodrama. Kurahara withholds sympathy for the protagonist until the very last moments, but those moments pay it off, making this one of those films that works better in retrospect than when you’re watching it.—RDL

Good

The World Atlas of Pirates (Nonfiction, Angus Konstam, 2009) Indefatigable pirate-ologist Konstam returns with a sound, broad primer on the topic, ranging from the Sea Peoples to Somalia but with most of the attention of course on the 1560-1720 Caribbean. The sumptuous illustrations partially compensate for the relatively few and low-bandwidth maps, and even the most devoted student of the topic will find new nuggets of information while kvetching about the absence of their favorite obscure sea rovers. (There’s nothing on the Zambos Mosquitos of the 18th-century Nicaraguan coast, just saying.) –KH

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Episode 246: A Number of Anonymous Grand-Dukes

June 16th, 2017 | Robin

Uh-oh, looks like Robin wants to introduce another term of art into the RPG design lexicon. Ken joins him in the Gaming Hut to consider system humility.

Transfixed by the hypnotic gaze of Patreon backer Andrea Coletta, we shuffle into the History Hut to reveal all on the Rasputin phenomenon, as most recently echoed by a juicy South Korean political scandal.

In Ask Ken and Robin we imbibe a query from backer Wayne about PC and GMC intoxication in roleplaying games.

Then we stand in proximity to Ken’s Time Machine as backer Sam Harris wants the truth on Gregor MacGregor’s Poyais Scheme.

Want to pose a question to the show? Get your priority question asking access with your Support for the KARTAS Patreon!

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


In Unknown Armies, Atlas Games’ modern-day, occult roleplaying game, you play the heroically broken people who conspire to fix the world. That conspiracy just got easier, with the arrival of the game on store shelves near you! Want to plunge headlong into Lovecraftian mystery, but lack a gaming group? Want to introduce a friend or loved one to the roleplaying hobby? GUMSHOE One-2-One has come to your rescue! Find this new system by some guy named Robin D. Laws, in the line’s flagship title, Cthulhu Confidential. Now shipping at the Pelgrane Press store.

Saddle up! Askfageln’s Western is now shooting it out at the Kickstarter corral! Play desperate desperadoes, merciless mercenaries, courageous native warriors and brimstone-tinged preachers in a time and place in need of heroes.

John Scott Tynes’ Puppetland is ready to knock the stuffing out of a game store near you in its gorgeous new full-color hardcover edition. Join the good folks at Arc Dream in battling the horrific forces of Punch the Maker-Killer!

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A Starchy Yellow Sign and an Important Mnemonic Join the Ken and Robin Shirt Store

June 14th, 2017 | Robin

It has been written, and now it shall be unveiled: two more new designs join the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff merchandise store at TeePublic.

Grab them as erudite apparel, notebooks, phone or laptop cases, or even stickers.

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: In Which a Bold Claim Is Advanced Regarding the Furious Franchise

June 13th, 2017 | Robin

Ken and Robin Consume Media is brought to you by the discriminating and good-looking backers of the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Patreon. Each week we provide capsule reviews of the books, movies, TV seasons and more we cram into our hyper-analytical sensoriums. Join the Patreon to help pick the items we’ll talk about in greater depth on our new podcast segment, Tell Me More.

Recommended

Fate of the Furious (Film, US, F. Gary Gray, 2017) After a terrific street race in Havana, a whirlwind of heel and face turns, and one horse-pill of a plot contrivance, we’re off on another manic spy adventure set in a world where street racers are America’s most strategic resource. Charlize Theron plays the best villain the series has had since Cole Hauser, and the Manhattan set piece manages to actually invent (and sell!) an original motif for car chases. –KH

Gotham Season 3 (TV, US, Fox, 2016-2017) Jim Gordon and young Bruce Wayne go down ever darker paths as the Penguin becomes mayor and a monster-making virus takes hold in the city. Third time’s the charm as the show’s pacing and structure finally catch up to the strength of its characterizations.—RDL

Historical Atlas of Central America (Nonfiction, Carolyn Hall and Hector Perez Brignolli, 2003) For scope and information presentation, this atlas probably can’t be beat. If you’re interested in the history of Central America, this is your atlas. If you’re not, admittedly, this may not do much to convince you otherwise. –KH

The Historical Atlas of the Vietnam War (Nonfiction, Harry G. Summers, 1995) With 100+ clear strategic and tactical maps (from the Mongol invasions to the Sino-Vietnamese War of 1979) bolstered by Summers’ (mildly revisionist and heatedly anti-McNamara) text, this fine atlas doubles as a brief military history of the war. Its only real flaw is having just one map on Laos, focusing on its fall in 1975 rather than the lengthy “Secret War” we fought there from 1962 to 1972. –KH

Tunnel (Film, Korea, Kim Seong-hun, 2016) Motorist (Ha Jung-woo) waits desperately for rescue after a shoddily constructed highway tunnel collapses onto his vehicle. That great theme of contemporary Korean cinema, endemic institutional incompetence, adds an extra level of nailbiting to this rescue suspenser. —RDL

Wonder Woman (Film, US, Patty Jenkins, 2017) Well whodathunkit, when you provide believable emotional beats in a superhero film, the usually tiresome last-act fight scene actually means something! Patty Jenkins inspires Gal Gadot (Diana) and Chris Pine (Steve Trevor) to the top of their acting range and rescues the DCEU film franchise with assists from fight choreographer Ryan Watson and an intermittently excellent score by Rupert Gregson-Williams. –KH

Good

Furious 7 (Film, US, Justin Lin, 2015) Playing more as a series of meticulous action set pieces than a fully realized story (likely as a result of star Paul Walker’s death mid-filming) Furious 7 nonetheless successfully shifts what is arguably the best overall* movie franchise** of all time from heist films to spy-fi, much as its fifth installment graduated a “killer B” street-racing series to the big leagues. Kurt Russell plays the crucial role of “guy you like watching so much you follow him into the entirely different movie without a qualm.” –KH

Okay

Funeral Parade of Roses (Film, Japan, Toshio Matsumoto, 1969) Hostess at drag bar carries on with its owner and aspires to displace her aging madam. Experimental, gender-bent retelling of Oedipus could do with more Fassbinder and less Godard, which would require it to have been made about three years later.—RDL


* All meat, no sawdust: no Phantom Menace, no Star Trek V, no Harry Potter 2, no Thor 2, no Thin Man Goes Home, no Skyfall.

** Multiple directors + more than a trilogy, so shut yer pie holes you lovable Buzz Lightyear/Sergio Leone/Mad Max scamps

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Episode 245: Floaty McBeercan

June 9th, 2017 | Robin

A guy in a hat was going to tell us what was in the Gaming Hut this week, but then one of your PCs just shot him with a crossbow. That leaves us to figure out what to do when the players kill off their information sources.

In the Book Hut, Patreon backer Andy Young asks us to name the essential reference books for any KARTAS listener’s library.

Backer Frank Turfler Jr. uses Ask Ken and Robin to seek the secrets of the prodigious Hitean memory. Can we all learn his tricks, or would that require overly expensive multiclassing?

Finally the Eliptony Hut goes to the cottage, dipping its toes off the dock into a lovely lake, loch or bay as backers Darin DuMez and Doc Cross team up to demand some lake monster sightings.

Want to pose a question to the show? Get your priority question asking access with your Support for the KARTAS Patreon!

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


In Unknown Armies, Atlas Games’ modern-day, occult roleplaying game, you play the heroically broken people who conspire to fix the world. That conspiracy just got easier, with the arrival of the game on store shelves near you! Want to plunge headlong into Lovecraftian mystery, but lack a gaming group? Want to introduce a friend or loved one to the roleplaying hobby? GUMSHOE One-2-One has come to your rescue! Find this new system by some guy named Robin D. Laws, in the line’s flagship title, Cthulhu Confidential. Now shipping at the Pelgrane Press store.

Saddle up! Askfageln’s Western is now shooting it out at the Kickstarter corral! Play desperate desperadoes, merciless mercenaries, courageous native warriors and brimstone-tinged preachers in a time and place in need of heroes.

John Scott Tynes’ Puppetland is ready to knock the stuffing out of a game store near you in its gorgeous new full-color hardcover edition. Join the good folks at Arc Dream in battling the horrific forces of Punch the Maker-Killer!

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Wonder Woman, Alien, Pirates and Way Way More

June 6th, 2017 | Robin

Ken and Robin Consume Media is brought to you by the discriminating and good-looking backers of the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Patreon. Each week we provide capsule reviews of the books, movies, TV seasons and more we cram into our hyper-analytical sensoriums. Join the Patreon to help pick the items we’ll talk about in greater depth on our new podcast segment, Tell Me More.

The Pinnacle

The Girl With All the Gifts (Film, UK, Colm McCarthy, 2016) Preteen girl (Sennia Nanua) whose version of the fungal infection that has triggered a zombie apocalypse flees the base where she was about to be vivisected along with a sympathetic teacher (Gemma Arterton), gruff sergeant (Paddy Considine) and the single-minded researcher who still regards her as a vital biological sample (Glenn Close.) Would be worth a recommend strictly for its well-extrapolated fungal undead rules; the emotional journey of its unique protagonist makes it an instant add to the zombie canon.—RDL

Recommended

The Americans Season 5 (TV, FX, 2016-2017) The best show on television takes an inward turn this season, focusing on the human costs of — and the surprising potential for trust within — the spy careers of KGB sleeper agents Philip and Elizabeth Jennings (Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell, whose tremendous acting gets even stronger). Because it drives me absolutely bananas when people say things like “you really need to have watched the first four seasons to get how truly great this one was” I just docked it a level for slackening its narrative momentum, but if you watched the first four seasons you likely know why I put it on my personal Pinnacle. –KH

Headshot (Film, Indonesia, Timo Tjahjanto and Kimo Stamboel, 2016) Bullet fragment lodged in the brain of a battle-scarred hospital patient (Iko Uwais) prevent him from remembering that he was raised to be one of several super-henchmen serving a legendary gangster—but his former allies haven’t forgotten. Stylish, ultra-hard martial arts extravaganza will revise whatever mental image you currently associate with paper-cutters.—RDL. Seen at TIFF ‘16; now on Netflix.

Nazi Agent (Film, US, Jules Dassin, 1942) German emigre bookseller (Conrad Veidt), fiercely loyal to his new American home, discovers to his horror that the head of the Reich’s spy network in the US is his estranged twin (also Veidt.) Rousing little gem from Hollywood’s propatainment era,  anchored by a subtle, affecting performance from Veidt.—RDL

The Real Spy World (Nonfiction, Miles Copeland, 1978) Only slightly changed from its 1974 incarnation Beyond Cloak and Dagger, CIA agent Copeland’s wry, engaging description of the espionage and intelligence business may still remain the best in its breed. Like Copeland’s own career it focuses on case officer and analyst work more than straight tradecraft, but provides a few pointers in such things as home cryptography and how to recognize spies in a club (they’re on tight expense accounts so they stick to beer instead of fancy cocktails). –KH

Secrets of the French Police (Film, US, A. Edward Sutherland, 1932) Sûreté inspector (Frank Morgan) employs forensics, disguise and an alliance with a witty jewel thief to investigate a murder case involving hypnotism and the Princess Anastasia. Packed with pulpy flourishes and begging to be ported into your next Trail of Cthulhu scenario.—RDL

Wonder Woman (Film, US, Patty Jenkins, 2017) Last child of the Amazons (Gal Gadot) grows up to rescue a downed pilot (Chris Pine) and follow him into WWI so she can find and slay the war god Ares. With its tight throughline, classic take on an iconic character, clear and rousing action choreography, and a star-making performance from Gadot, Wonder Woman shield-leaps over most pitfalls of the modern superhero flick.–RDL

Good

Lovecraft Country (Fiction, Matt Ruff, 2016) A secret heritage pulls a family living in Chicago’s south side into a weird struggle within a network of sorcerous lodges. Short stories linked by a story arc view classic horror and SF tropes through the lens of the mid-century black experience in America. I hope that in its upcoming HBO adaptation the story editor prunes out its many verbal anachronisms.–RDL

Norm MacDonald: Hitler’s Dog, Gossip & Trickery (Stand-up, Netflix, 2017) MacDonald’s ultimate gift is delivery, which means any hour of material from him will land better than it reasonably should. This routine covers some familiar ground (getting old, things these days) and some less familiar (auto-erotic asphyxiation). Very little of it ascends to the epic, manic level of the moth joke but very little of it is unfunny. –KH

Okay

The Berlin Project (Fiction, Gregory Benford, 2017) In this alternate history, chemist Karl Cohen (Benford’s father-in-law, as it happens) pushes centrifuge diffusion into the mainstream of the Manhattan Project, so the A-bomb is ready for D-Day. Benford’s prose is workmanlike, but his speculative energies balk and shy once we leave the lab for the battle front. The editing is spotty, missing errors of fact and consistency, and allowing lots of repetition; all disappointing, as only Benford (who knew most of the Project scientists personally) could have written this novel at all and he could have written a much better one. –KH

Not Recommended

Alien: Covenant (Film, US, Ridley Scott, 2017) Weyland-Yutani has changed their crew mix to about 70-30 twitchy-idiotic in this sequel to Prometheus that leans further into the previous Alien films, complete with a Ripleyesque hairdo for xenomorph-killer Daniels (Katherine Waterston). (The Alien-phile I’m married to thought it was Okay.) Scott frames some jaw-droppingly gorgeous shots and intermittently attempts a newly overt Frankenstein theme with a dash of Milton. Sadly, the script takes an endless time killing characters we don’t care about and then hammers suspense flat in the last act. –KH

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (Film, US, Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, 2017) Apparently I am under a pirate curse of some kind forcing me to see these. Shiploads of daddy issues collide in murky, unchoreographed battle scenes that waste Javier Bardem and some cool zombie sharks. Golshifteh Farahani’s witch Shansa likewise belongs in a better film, and given the lack of setup or payoff her character receives, may well have teleported in from one. –KH

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Episode 244: You Have to Sit in the Jar

June 2nd, 2017 | Robin

We knew you were going to join us in the Gaming Hut, where we answer Patreon backer Bret Kramer’s question on running omniscient GMCs as allies or enemies of the player characters.

In the Food Hut we look at cocktails, subject of a recently concluded quest by Robin.

The Tradecraft Hut goes Gallic with the 101 on French intelligence services.

Finally the Consulting Occultist looks at the arcane geography of 1930s Los Angeles times as manipulated by L.A. Times publisher Harry Chandler and revealed in the pages of Cthulhu Confidential.

Want to pose a question to the show? Get your priority question asking access with your Support for the KARTAS Patreon!

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


In Unknown Armies, Atlas Games’ modern-day, occult roleplaying game, you play the heroically broken people who conspire to fix the world. That conspiracy just got easier, with the arrival of the game on store shelves near you! Want to plunge headlong into Lovecraftian mystery, but lack a gaming group? Want to introduce a friend or loved one to the roleplaying hobby? GUMSHOE One-2-One has come to your rescue! Find this new system by some guy named Robin D. Laws, in the line’s flagship title, Cthulhu Confidential. Now shipping at the Pelgrane Press store.

Saddle up! Askfageln’s Western is now shooting it out at the Kickstarter corral! Play desperate desperadoes, merciless mercenaries, courageous native warriors and brimstone-tinged preachers in a time and place in need of heroes.

John Scott Tynes’ Puppetland is ready to knock the stuffing out of a game store near you in its gorgeous new full-color hardcover edition. Join the good folks at Arc Dream in battling the horrific forces of Punch the Maker-Killer!

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Ken and Robin Have New Shirts For You

May 30th, 2017 | Robin

Just in time* for displaying enigmatic erudition on boardwalks and beaches, the first of our themed T-shirt designs have now arrived at our TeePublic merchandise storefront.

Wear them in a variety of styles, or emblazon these words to live by on mugs, phone covers, laptop covers or stickers.

Go straight to your design of choice:

Metaphor Drift! Metaphor Drift!

You Need Canapes to Have a Secret Society

We’ll be rolling out more wearable in-jokes in the weeks and months ahead…


*Weather observation void in southern hemisphere.

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Film Cannister
Cartoon Rocket
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Flying Clock
Robin
Film Cannister