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Episode Forty Six

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Monstrous Agonies E46S02 Transcript

H.R. Owen

Hello, friends, Hero here. Just popping in to let you know that Monstrous Agonies is going to be taking a short break the week after next. There'll be an episode next week on the 18th, and then we'll be back with you on 2nd December. Thanks for listening and enjoy the episode!

[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz.]

H.R. Owen

Monstrous Agonies: Episode Forty Six.

[The music fades out, replaced by the sound of a radio being tuned. It scrolls through a voice saying “-opposing sides-”, electronic music, a voice saying “-a force-”, a voice laughing and saying “-you're right there-” and classical music before cutting off abruptly as it reaches the correct station.]

The Presenter

-surprise, surprise, they're bleeding again.

It's time for our advice segment. First tonight, a listener finding it hard to find time for their friends.

The Presenter (as First Letter Writer)

I've been into table-top role-playing games ever since I was a kid. My big brother used to play with his friends, all crowding round the kitchen table on a Saturday night, the smell of Lynx and off-brand cheese puffs filling the air.

He wouldn't let me join in though. No teenage boy wants his annoying little sister cramping his style, even if he is doing something as geeky as D&D.

Not that my brother and his friends played D&D specifically. Mum put her foot down. She said they could play in the house and she'd pay for the pizza and snacks and let them stay up late, but they weren't allowed to play anything where all the bad guys were creatures. She said we wouldn't like it if all the baddies in our games were Muslim, would we? This was back when Call of Duty was still set in World War Two...

Adil ran a couple of one-shots for me and my friends for my birthday when I was a teenager, but I didn't really start playing myself until uni. I joined the gaming society, one thing led to another and boom – obsessed!

I joined different group last year. I'd moved to a new city and wanted to make friends, and being a GM – that is, the one who runs the game for the other players – is a really good way to meet people. Good GMs are always in demand.

We're playing a new game, too. It's a really gritty, resource-based survival game set in the near-future. Lots of horrible old capitalists milking the honest Martian miners for all their worth. You know, that sort of thing.

The problem is, my new players are a bit more temporally fluid than I'm used to. I've played with plenty of friends in the community before, I'm used to making accommodations for different times of the month or alternative circadian rhythms. But this is taking it to a whole other level.

Our healer just got back from two weeks in the sixteenth century. And our tank was out of action for a month while he was hopping around the 1980s. That was actually pretty peaceful for the rest of us – he's a new player and can err on the side of Murder Hobo. But that's not the point! He's a member of the party and I want him to be there.

I'm really struggling to organise a time to play that all the other players can attend. Every player is experiencing time from a different direction, and a few don't really have much control over when they end up. Are we fighting a losing battle here? Is there any way we can all meet regularly enough to sustain a proper campaign?

The Presenter (as themselves)

A number of solutions occur to me, listener, though they all have their difficulties. Temporal fluidity has been a largely over-looked aspect of liminal life, with most people having little understanding or interest in what it means to experience time in a radically different fashion than the majority.

However, in recent years this awareness has been increasing, and with that awareness has come a wash of new products and services designed for those living in alternate timelines.

You might look into cross-temporal conferencing software. There are specific programmes available designed with the temporally fluid in mind, or you might prefer an extension for pre-existing software such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or, if you really insist, Skype.

These applications do all require a stable Internet connection, however. If your players are somewhen they can get online, that's not a problem. But if they're in the sixteenth century, you clearly need another solution.

Specialist devices such as temporally stabilised smartphones can provide such a connection, but these items are often extremely expensive. If your players already have them in their possession, all to the good. But I certainly don't recommend they buy one just to play role-playing games.

Portals are a far more cost-efficient solution, but please keep in mind they can be notoriously difficult to tune to a specific point. Do plenty of test-runs beforehand, keep some mother of pearl handy for a boost of clarity, and remember to focus the portal on your player's specific thaumaturgic footprint. Otherwise you risk getting the right time on the right day, but communicating with quite the wrong person.

Finally, I admit I-I don't know much about table-top role-playing games but might you be able to incorporate your players temporal flux into the game itself? I recognise this is a labour-intensive suggestion, but it could be... fun? Perhaps you can take this as a challenge to yourself to design a game that works when approached from different temporal axes.

I hope this response gives you some options, listener. I, um. [clears throat] Well, I-I hope it helps.

Uh, before we go on, I.. I just want to apologise if I seem a little distracted tonight. We have been somewhat inundated with letters of the same type I have already mentioned ad nauseam. Hundreds of them. The same white envelopes bearing the same corporate logo. And all of them delivered to me in the manner of my legitimate correspondence but without the compulsion to answer.

I keep throwing them out but they... they keep coming. I don't know why. It's making the studio somewhat less peaceful than I usually find it, and I... Well. I apologise.

We'll get to our second letter after this word from our sponsor.

[Background music begins: An acoustic guitar playing a blues riff]

The Presenter

Brought to you by Hoskin's Third Eye Blindfolds, who have sent one of their luxury line blindfolds to us for a product test. I'm wearing it now and can honestly say I have no insights to share. Hoskin's Third Eye Blindfolds. Proud sponsors of the Nightfolk Network.

[End background music]

The Presenter

Tonight's second letter asks what to do to about other people's negative perceptions.

The Presenter (as Second Letter Writer)

So, um. I'll guess I'll get right to it. [sighs] People don't like me. Apparently. Sorry if this gets a bit muddled, I just had this conversation with my friend-- I thought he was my friend. But apparently, yeah! P-People... People don't like me. They don't like having me around. Um. [sniffs]

I mean, when I was a kid I admit, I struggled to make friends. I had a bit of a temper and would lash out sometimes, say things I didn't mean to. I remember I read something once – uh, this was as an adult, I mean – but it was by C.S. Lewis, he was, he was writing about sin.

And I-I forget the details but he-he said something along the lines of, oh, we only think of children as innocent because they're too small and feeble to actually act on the malice in their hearts.

Well. Made me laugh. Still does, the idea of old Clive Staples looking at a baby thinking, "You don't fool me, mister! I know you'd kill me if you only had the upper body strength. Soon as you can hold your own head up, it's curtains for us!" [laughs]

Thing is though, I mean, obviously it's a weird take on babies but he's not so far off, I suppose. Most kids lash out, don't they, kicking and biting and so on. I don't think you can hold it against little me that my tantrums were a bit more... effective.

But people did hold it against me. Said I was dangerous. I ended up in a-- Well, they called it a boarding school. But I don't know many schools with armed guards. At least in Suffolk. I wouldn't put it past the Americans, I suppose.

Anyway, I learnt to control myself a little better. I only ever used the voice when I really needed it. Sometimes, yeah, I-I missed the deadline for an essay or something, and I'd tell the lecturer to mark it anyway. Or if I needed my housemates to do something for me and they were being difficult. And sometimes, I mean [scoffs] look, people just don't know what's good for them, do they? It's easier and better for everyone if I just tell them what to do.

But I never did anything bad, not really. I never even broke the law! [beat] I could have. I could have walked into a bank and told them to hand over everything in the safe. Or just told everyone to be nice to me. But I didn't.

And then I was out tonight with this... [sighing] friend. And he seemed, I don't know, he wasn't listening to me. And I got annoyed and asked him what was up. And he wouldn't tell me, which obviously just irritated me more, so I told him to be honest. And of course, he was.

[sighs] Nobody likes me. They're just scared of me. They're afraid that if they don't do what I want and act like they want to be my friend, that I might tell them to do something horrible. Which I never have, never, not since I was a kid.

It's really upset me. Tell me how to fix it.

The Presenter (as themselves)

What, uh... [sighing] What are you hoping I'll say here, listener? You want an easy fix, is that it? You want everyone to suddenly trust you because you said you were sorry? Which, by the way, you haven't.

You haven't apologised, you haven't taken any responsibility-- Do you-- Do you even realise what you've done? What you've been doing, habitually, for years? Or do you sincerely believe that everyone is just over-reacting?

I can't help you. I don't believe you'd take my help even if I could. You're so utterly enamoured with your own narrative. I mean, why even write in? You're-- You're not ready for the kind of work you need to do!

More to the point, why have you been selected over the hundreds of letters we receive every week from people in genuine need, people who are sincerely trying to improve their lives. Why are you the one who ends up on my desk? [increasingly angry] What in God's name is happening with these bloody letters?!


[sigh] I don't understand. I don't know why they're being forwarded to me. Unless they're being selected on purpose and it's some kind of message? I'm supposed to-- [laughs] To what? What do you want? Tell me and I'll do it. I will do my duty if you let me.

I can't stop them. I don't control the letters, I never have. It's not like I can just phone somebody in like a plumber or something. I mean, who would even know where to--

Where to start.

Oh, bugger.

[Background music begins: An acoustic guitar playing a blues riff]

The Presenter

131.3FM – the voice of liminal Britain.

[End background music]

The Presenter

[quickly] That's all we have time for tonight. Stay tuned for our next segment, where we ask whether the risks outweigh the benefits when it comes to moats...

[Speech fades into static as the radio is retuned. It scrolls through inaudible speech, someone singing along to cheerful music, a voice saying “-just the right mixture of magic and mystery-” and static before fading out.

Title music: slow, bluesy jazz. It plays throughout the closing credits.]

H.R. Owen

Episode Forty Six of Monstrous Agonies was written and performed by H.R. Owen.

Tonight's first letter was from a submission by Moth, and this week's advert came from Music Sheet Ghost. Thanks, friends! See the show-notes for how you can submit your own letters, suggestions and ads.

Hello and welcome to our latest supporter on Patreon, Ashfae! You can joined them at, or make a one-off donation at You can also support the show by sharing with your friends and familiars, and by following us on Tumblr, @MonstrousAgonies, and on Twitter, @Monstrous_Pod.

This podcast is distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. The theme tune is Dakota by Unheard Music Concepts.

Thanks for listening, and remember - the real monsters are the friends we made on the way.

[Fade to silence.]


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