Grimoire
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Ken
Grimoire

Episode 255: The Devil’s Condiment

August 18th, 2017 | Robin

The Gaming Hut goes inside the design process as Robin discovers he wants to make a humble sub-system a little less humble.

The Food Hut goes inside the casing as Ken waxes rhapsodic on the history and virtues of the Chicago hot dog.

Ask Ken and Robin goes inside the business as Patreon backer David Shaw drops a query about getting one’s game published.

Finally the Consulting Occultist goes inside, uh Posadism, as backer Stewart Robertson asks about Posadism.

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. Robin’s epic new GUMSHOE project, The Yellow King Roleplaying Game has concluded its Kickstarter run, but is now available for pre-order at the Pelgrane Store for those who missed it.

Do intervals between episodes plunge you into Hite withdrawal? Never fear! his brilliant pieces on parasitic gaming, alternate Newtons, Dacian werewolves and more now lurk among the sparkling bounty of The Best of FENIX Volumes 1-3, from returning sponsors Askfageln. Yes, it’s Sweden’s favorite RPG magazine, now beautifully collected. Warning: not in Swedish.

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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Episode 254: Snouted Meepers

August 11th, 2017 | Robin

We clatter our dice and thump our miniatures in the Gaming Hut, considering a Patreon backer Travis Johnson question about what to do when the players break the tone they asked you to instill.

With a Kickstarter and then a vacation, Robin hasn’t been paying attention to the news lately. So he meets Ken in the Tradecraft Hut on the off chance anything has happened on the espionage front his summer.

In the Cinema Hut, Patreon backer Nancy Feldman wants us to talk about our favorite pulp movies.

Finally Patreon backer Mike Marlow wants to know why Ken’s Time Machine was sighted near the great Boston molasses flood of 1919.

This week we have a special contest thanks to Petersen Games and its Kickstarter for Cthulhu Wars Onslaught 3. Patrons, head on over to the contest page and follow the instructions to enter a draw to win one of four rare, glow-in-the-dark Yellow King figures.

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. Robin’s epic new GUMSHOE project, The Yellow King Roleplaying Game has concluded its Kickstarter run, but is now available for pre-order at the Pelgrane Store for those who missed it. Do intervals between episodes plunge you into Hite withdrawal? Never fear! his brilliant pieces on parasitic gaming, alternate Newtons, Dacian werewolves and more now lurk among the sparkling bounty of The Best of FENIX Volumes 1-3, from returning sponsors Askfageln. Yes, it’s Sweden’s favorite RPG magazine, now beautifully collected. Warning: not in Swedish. 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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Count Your Hyenas or Declare Your Insufferability with New KARTAS Shirts

August 9th, 2017 | Robin

Ken and Robin are proud to announce the latest additions to their TeePublic merchandise store.

Wear these new designs as nature intended, or emblazon them on mugs, notebooks or phone cases.

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: A Blonde, Some Apes, and Boccaccio

August 8th, 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

Atomic Blonde (Film, US, David Leitch, 2017) Taking the neon gloss from Drive, the brutalist violence from Oldboy, the action tracking shot from Children of Men, the soundtrack from my mixtape circa 1988, and the plot from a random jar of jellybeans, Leitch’s first solo film makes a virtue of its amphigorous nature. Without Charlize Theron’s literally long-suffering performance, this would be shiny but forgettable; with her anchoring it, it leaves a deeper bruise. –KH

Detroit (Film, US, Kathryn Bigelow, 2017) A dozen characters’ lives cross at the Algiers Motel during the 1967 Detroit riots. The first three acts, filmed in verite Steadicam, build toward an intensely horrifying scenario that the more impressionistic finale doesn’t really pay off, but not every true story ends in catharsis … which is kind of the point. –KH

Letters to Arkham: The Letters of Ramsey Campbell and August Derleth 1961 to 1971 (Nonfiction, S.T. Joshi, ed., 2014) Painfully adolescent horror nerd Campbell writes to his hero’s publisher, and a strange friendship develops, ended only by Derleth’s death. You can almost taste Derleth’s seemingly instant decision to pay Lovecraft’s kindness to him forward, and his reward for his decency was the blossoming of the true successor to HPL that Derleth could never become. Poignant and revealing, with an affecting afterword by Campbell. –KH

The Little Hours (Film, US, Jeff Baena, 2017) In medieval Italy, a fugitive from his cuckolded master’s justice (Dave Franco) poses as a convent’s new deaf mute handyman, arousing the ardor of a trio of less than dedicated young nuns (Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza, Kate Micucci). Boccaccio adaptation uses contemporary dialogue and cadence to keep period fustiness at bay. John C. Reilly stands out among a strong comedy cast as a lax, befuddled priest.—RDL

War For the Planet of the Apes (Film, US, Matt Reeves, 2017) Ape leader Caesar (Andy Serkis) forsakes his people for a quest of personal vengeance against megalomaniacal human military commander (Woody Harrelson.) Although John Ford leads the pack as a reference point here, you could structure an entire undergrad course around this fantasy action thriller’s densely layered selection of historical, cinematic and biblical allusions.—RDL

Good

The Graveyard Apartment (Fiction, Mariko Koike, 1993) Supernatural manifestations slowly escalate after a Tokyo couple with a young daughter moves into an apartment in an oddly under-occupied new building overlooking a cemetery and crematorium. Follows the current fashion of undergirding the haunted house tale with real estate anxiety and the J-horror technique of mixing the horrifying with the mundane. Finds an array of novel ways for ghosts to torment the living.—RDL

The Trip to Spain (Film, UK, Michael Winterbottom, 2017) Somewhat fictionalized versions of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon again use a restaurant tour, this time of Spain, as an opportunity to riff, needle one another, and one-up each other’s impressions. The badinage never quite explodes into a comic set piece this time, leaving room for a heightened dose of the melancholy strain found in the series’ previous installments.—RDL

Quiet Please, Murder! (Film, US, John Larkin, 1942) While trying to tie off loose ends from a sale of a forged Shakespeare folio to a Nazi agent, a fence (Gail Patrick) gets trapped in a public library between her lover the forger (a super-oily George Sanders), the Nazis, and a private eye (Richard Denning). Weirdly zippy proto-noir rockets along on bottle drama and book-stack chases with the occasional languorous pause to discuss Freud and masochism. –KH

Okay

The Alexander Inheritance (Fiction, Eric Flint, Gorg Huff, and Paula Goodlett, 2017) A top-of-the-line cruise ship is somehow teleported back in time to the Mediterranean in 321 BC and gets involved in the wranglings of Alexander the Great’s successors. Flint’s collaborators haven’t got his bravura ability to bang out prose that keeps the pulse and pages racing, so the lack of real characters (aside perhaps from Queen Roxane) or dramatic payoff is much more noticeable here; the too-numerous points of view and the abrupt ending imply this is intended as the first in an endless 1632-style series. –KH

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Episode 253: That’s More of a Gloss on Aristotle

August 4th, 2017 | Robin

The Gaming Hut falls all over itself answering a question from Patreon backer Daniel Krauklis: “What does the choice to have fumbles in your rules that tell us about your game and the moral universe in which the characters operate?”

We fortify the Cartography Hut for a workshop on designing strategic locations into your world.

How to Write Good examines tragedy and anagnorisis.

And the Consulting Occultist gets all semiotic to reply to a query from Patreon backer Polydamas on what the Secret Masters were up to when they invented post-modernism.

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. Robin’s epic new GUMSHOE project, The Yellow King Roleplaying Game has concluded its Kickstarter run, but is now available for pre-order at the Pelgrane Store for those who missed it. (You think you hear us say Backerkit in the ad in this episode, but that’s just a reality shattering manifestation caused by your exposure to the Yellow Sign. Please bear with us as we clear that up.) Do intervals between episodes plunge you into Hite withdrawal? Never fear! his brilliant pieces on parasitic gaming, alternate Newtons, Dacian werewolves and more now lurk among the sparkling bounty of The Best of FENIX Volumes 1-3, from returning sponsors Askfageln. Yes, it’s Sweden’s favorite RPG magazine, now beautifully collected. Warning: not in Swedish. 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: French Murder, American Bunco

August 1st, 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

Deadlier Than the Male (aka A Time for Murder) (Film, France, Jean Duvivier, 1956) Beloved chef (Jean Gabin) fails to suspect a grift when he welcomes his ex-wife’s daughter (Danièle Delorme) into his home. Gallic noir builds to some sharply lurid sequences while giving its femme fatale greater complexity than the archetype generally affords.—RDL

Denial (Film, UK, Mick Jackson, 2016) When holocaust denier David Irving (Timothy Spall) sues her for libel in a British court, American academic Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) finds it hard to trust her legal team’s buttoned-down strategy. David Hare’s script finds the throughline for this real-life legal procedural in the clash between passionate truth-telling and dispassionate pursuit of victory.—RDL

The Mark Inside: A Perfect Swindle, a Cunning Revenge, and a Small History of the Big Con (Nonfiction, Amy Reading, 2012) In the late teens and early 20s, Texas rancher J. Frank Norfleet, swindled by a team of confidence men in a classic big con, fills his holsters with guns and embarks on an epic quest to find them and put them all away. Reading separates truth from embellishment in this engaging historical account, which widens out as needed to tell the story of American swindling from Ben Franklin’s day to the opening decades of the 20th century.—RDL

Spider-Man: Homecoming (Film, US, Jon Watts, 2017) Peter Parker’s efforts to prove himself to newfound father figure Tony Stark get him in over his head with a crew of super-tech hijackers led by a disgruntled small businessman (Michael Keaton.) Have to admire a take on a mega-tentpole franchise that says, “You know what this property really needs? A smaller scale and lower stakes,” and then delivers on precisely that.—RDL

Things Fall Apart (Fiction, Chinua Achebe, 1958) Bullying Igbo patriarch’s determination to prove himself unlike his feckless father faces the ultimate obstacle when white men arrive to introduce their religion and impose their law. Complicates its narrative of cultural dissolution under colonialism by presenting it through the perspective of a profoundly flawed protagonist.—RDL

Good

Told After Supper (Fiction, Jerome K. Jerome, 1891) Short linked collection of comic ghost stories that mostly exist to subvert the stereotypical Victorian “Christmas ghost story” narrative. Jerome’s prose bounces along and it’s a rapid, short read, but I suspect most people haven’t read enough bad Victorian ghost tales to get much charge from his gentle parody. –KH

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (Film, France, Luc Besson, 2017) Based on a comic I haven’t read, Besson’s bright, optimistic SFstravaganza stars Cara Delevingne (surprisingly good in the role) and Dane DeHaan (thickly unappealing) as agents of the Human Federation drawn into a nefarious, and somewhat over-exposited, plot. Very much the successor of Besson’s zany and underrated Fifth Element, Valerian has much the same energy and momentum, though slightly less anarchic freedom. If you love Besson’s vision like I do, call it Recommended, but Dane DeHaan is sadly no Bruce Willis. –KH

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Episode 252: A Different, Less Pear-Like Shape

July 28th, 2017 | Robin

Are your modern investigators getting cocky? Join us in the Gaming Hut as we riff a rival team to toss some sand in their gears.

The Cartography Hut looks at the process of mapping fictional cities, like those invented by H. P. Lovecraft.

In Ask Ken and Robin, John Scheib wants to know about habits of mind to transition from OSR to narrative style gaming.

Then we stand in proximity to Ken’s Time Machine as we learn why our hero had to borrow the white doe of Sertorius.

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. Robin’s epic new GUMSHOE project, The Yellow King Roleplaying Game has concluded its Kickstarter run, but is now available for pre-order at the Pelgrane Store for those who missed it. (You think you hear us say Backerkit in the ad in this episode, but that’s just a reality shattering manifestation caused by your exposure to the Yellow Sign. Please bear with us as we clear that up.) Do intervals between episodes plunge you into Hite withdrawal? Never fear! his brilliant pieces on parasitic gaming, alternate Newtons, Dacian werewolves and more now lurk among the sparkling bounty of The Best of FENIX Volumes 1-3, from returning sponsors Askfageln. Yes, it’s Sweden’s favorite RPG magazine, now beautifully collected. Warning: not in Swedish. 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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Get on the Bus! Tour de Lovecraft: The Destinations Kickstarter Has Launched

July 26th, 2017 | KenH

As heard on this very podcast, I and Atomic Overmind Press are launching — nay, have already launched — the Kickstarter for my book Tour de Lovecraft: the Destinations, the sequel to my much beloved volume Tour de Lovecraft: the Tales. Drop by the Kickstarter and back us if you care to, and we would be ever so grateful if you shared the Kickstarter link wherever you find the media most sociable.

Gotta go, that bus isn’t going to drive itself!

NARRATOR: The bus is going to drive itself.

 

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: The Quatermass Evacuation

July 25th, 2017 | KenH

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

Dunkirk (Film, UK/US, Christopher Nolan, 2017) Expertly and constantly building tension for 100 minutes across three braided timelines moving at different speeds, Nolan uses minimal dialogue and Hans Zimmer’s overwhelming score to tell three men’s stories as synecdoche for the whole evacuation. Everything about the film is technically masterful, but I could single out Mark Rylance’s performance and the air combat scenes, starring a restored Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IA that Nolan loves like no man has ever loved an airplane. –KH

Recommended

Curry; A Global History (Nonfiction, Colleen Taylor Sen, 2012) Mouth-watering in its concision, this account shows how an infinitely adaptable meal concept, formed by conquest and propelled by diaspora diffused through most of the world. Of the foods mentioned here I was pleased to see that about the only one I can’t hunt down and eat here in Toronto would be the Africaner  variety.—RDL

The Eternal Champion (Fiction, Michael Moorcock, 1970) John Daker, the iteration of an eternally extant, thousand-faced hero who apprehends his true nature, is drawn to a war-ravaged earth to once more become Erekosë, a death-dealing champion who’s maybe a touch slow to recognize the genocidal intention of his royal summoner. This is the book in which Moorcock grapples most directly with the contradictions of his antinomian perspective and his interest in Campbellian heroism. All of us working in the fantasy genre could stand a refresher look at his ability to blend heightened language with storytelling concision.—RDL

I Blame Dennis Hopper: And Other Stories from a Life Lived In and Out of the Movies (Nonfiction, Ileana Douglas, 2015) Mentioning her personal life only to the extent necessary to make the stories work, the always-memorable character actress cues up her best anecdotes. Covers her bond with movie star grandfather Melvyn, numinous encounters with Peter Sellers, Lee Marvin and Roddy McDowall, and the professional side of her long relationship with Martin Scorsese.—RDL

Into the Unknown: The Fantastic Life of Nigel Kneale (Nonfiction, Andy Murray, rev ed 2017) A biography nearly worthy of its subject, perhaps the greatest TV writer of the 20th century. Murray provides as much insight into Kneale the man as he can, but focuses (as Kneale would not have) on the scripts that shaped two genres on small screens and large. Future biographers may be able to go deeper into the toxic bureaucracy of the BBC, but Murray gets extra points for lengthy summaries and discussion of now-lost masterpieces such as The Road and The Year of the Sex Olympics. –KH

Quatermass and the Pit (Nonfiction, Kim Newman, 2014) In this volume of the BFI Film Classics series, Kim Newman provides his customary detailed and discursive attention to Roy Ward Baker’s 1967 triumph. After a thorough breakdown of the earlier incarnations of Nigel Kneale’s hero, Newman follows the film scene by scene, pointing out good work by director, actors, and Kneale’s script, reinforcing its position as the best of the Quatermass films, and perhaps the Professor’s best single outing. –KH

Saving Mr. Wu (Film, China, Ding Sheng, 2015) Beijing police scramble to locate and rescue a Hong Kong movie star (Andy Lau) from ruthless kidnappers. Fractured chronology and a visual style inspired by latter-day Michael Mann add layers to this police procedural thriller.  The role of stalwart police captain hunting the bad guys is played by the victim in the real case that inspired the film! —RDL

Good

Requiem at Rogano (Fiction, Stephen Knight, 1979) Conspiracy theorist Knight’s only novel is a murder mystery set in 1902. A retired Scotland Yard inspector and his historian nephew discover eerie links between the ongoing Deptford Strangler murders and a series of stranglings in Rogano, Italy in 1454. And then things get downright weird. Alternating between the hoariest of Edwardian detections and po-faced occultism shouldn’t work, and for patches it doesn’t, but it pulls together at last in a denouement that weirdly plays fair with the reader despite all the hugger-mugger. –KH

Under the Shadow (Film, UK/Qatar/Jordan/Iran, Babak Anvari, 2016) This psychological ghost (or technically, djinn) story mirrors the internal disintegration of frustrated mother Shideh (Narges Rashidi) with the external terror of wartime 1988 Tehran under the Ayatollah. Excellent sound design and cinematography only go so far, and the elongated ending dissipates much of the tension the naturalist first two acts builds up. –KH

Okay

Vir Das: Abroad Understanding (Stand-up, Netflix, 2017) Intercuts Indian comedian/actor Das performing the same act for a stadium in Delhi and a basement comedy club in New York: like much of Das’ material, better in concept than delivery. Occasional chuckles marble the earnestness; Das is best in his moments of wry irony. –KH

Not Recommended

Child 44 (Film, US/UK, Daniel Espinosa, 2015) Very loosely based on the Andrei Chikatilo murders, this sort-of detective sort-of thriller admirably drowns us in Stalinist murk but by about the 90-minute mark woolen aesthetics and ridiculous Russian accents smother what little life or momentum the film possesses. Tom Hardy mostly stares uncomprehendingly throughout, not a good look for a detective. –KH

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Episode 251: Where, As Opposed to What and AAAHH!

July 21st, 2017 | Robin


As one Kickstarter ends, another begins, specifically on Wednesday, July 26. In Among My Many Hats Ken tells us about his cool new book, Tour de Lovecraft: The Destinations, which is Kickstarting on Wednesday, July 26.

The Gaming Hut poses a GMing question: when is it best for us, as Game Masters, not to talk?

In Ask Ken and Robin, Patreon backer Jeff Kahrs asks Ken and Robin how to engage reluctant old-schoolers in narrative sharing.

Finally, it turns out that Chicagoans have been sighting a bat- or owl-winged humanoid since 2011 and for some reason it’s taken this long for us to rev up the Eliptony Hut for it. Hence, the scoop on the Chicago Phantom.

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—but only until 8 pm Eastern, tonight, Friday July 21. Snap up the best prices ever on Robin’s elegantly terrifying new project.Do intervals between episodes plunge you into Hite withdrawal? Never fear! his brilliant pieces on parasitic gaming, alternate Newtons, Dacian werewolves and more now lurk among the sparkling bounty of The Best of FENIX Volumes 1-3, from returning sponsors Askfageln. Yes, it’s Sweden’s favorite RPG magazine, now beautifully collected. Warning: not in Swedish. 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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Film Cannister
Cartoon Rocket
d8
Flying Clock
Robin
Film Cannister