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Carl T. Ford Interview

DAGON Magazine Editor

Carl T. Ford will be remembered by many as the owner and editor of DAGON, an early and influential British Call of Cthulhu/Lovecraftian fanzine. At its height DAGON ran to more than 1000 copies per issue, featuring articles and scenarios by the likes of Sandy Petersen, Mark Morrision, Marcus L. Rowland and Steve Hatherley along with the literature of Ramsey Campbell, Brian Lumley, Thomas Ligotti and Neil Gaiman - to name just a few. More than 10 years after its last publication Carl talks to Yog-Sothoth about his trials & tribulations as the power behind one of the most famous CoC 'zines.
YSDC: How were you introduced to Call of Cthulhu?

CTF: I had just started college and hooked up with a group of role-players who were mainly into D&D and Traveller. I used to visit the old Games Workshop site in Dalling Road, Hammersmith and it was ran by a big cheerful bloke called Tim, this was in the days before GW became BIG and Tim would stock lots of fanzines in the shop to encourage gamers and fans. I had always been keen on the horror genre and would collect magazines, books, films (video had just arrived), and anything gruesome I could lay my claws on. I had started reading Lovecraft and then Chaosium brought out that Call of Cthulhu box set. I bought that with cash given to me by my parents for Christmas and was hooked.

YSDC: Why do you think the game has been so successful?

CTF: Unlike the majority of RPGs, CoC is fantasy based game in a world we all know. There are crazy occultists out there and we often give thought to that dark realm of nightmare that might possibly exist. The game goes to many lengths to make the terrifying worlds of Cthulhu et. al. believable. RPCs mental stability is affected if encountering anything from the dark side; characters waving guns in public are likely to get arrested, etc. On top of this the game gives us a real insight into the background details of the era in which the adventures take place so it is valuable as an information source too. But, aside from this its the monsters that prove fascinating as they are drawn from the incredible imaginings of the world's greatest writers of horror fiction.

YSDC: Do you have any memorable moments from play?

CTF: Well it was always scary to play the game at night on a winter's evening with a thunderstorm outside. My fondest memory was particpating in a tournament at Reading University one year. I went there with a good pal called Del Boon and we both dressed up as a couple of 1920s gangster types. We got a few strange looks on the student campus as we ponced about looking like pimps.

YSDC: What is your favourite era (& why)?

CTF: The early 20th Century. At the time occult society was the "new thing" on the underground. All those 'sinful' activities which seem tame nowadays were afforded a shady touch of class; brothels, illegal drinking holes, gambling dens, drug taking.... Hollywood was about to get its first taste of censorship, and the Mafia were becoming big news. Somewhere amongst all that was a group of writers that became known as the Lovecraft circle, who sat at typewriters, in safe homes away from the sin-houses knocking out some incredible tales that related darker things than anything reality had to offer.

YSDC: Do you have a favourite CoC supplement/scenario?

CTF: I have enjoyed lots but I remember Masks of Nyarlathotep by Larry DiTillio and Lynn Willis as being particularly clever and ambitious with its global coverage, spanning New York, London, Cairo, Kenya, Shanghai and Australia. I'm a fan of the cultist character Carl Stanford too (I always wondered whether someone was having a laugh with me there - Add SAN (CoC's prime trait) to my name and you get CARL sTan FORD.... And I also love the scenarios of the Aussie writers Richard Watts and Penny Love, Tatterdemalion in the adventure pack Fatal Experiments (based on R. W. Chambers' The King in Yellow) is a particularly fine example of translating fictional themes to the game. Mark Morrison is yet another Aussie who writes subtle creepy scenarios and two he wrote for DAGON based on the tales of T.E.D. Klein Landscrapes (later reprinted in At Your Door) and In a City of Bells and Towers based on the writings of Thomas Ligotti are especially haunting.