Some F.A.Q’s about the S.R.D.

Long time readers of the Cthulhu Reborn blog will probably be aware that one of the things we’ve written about occasionally is the notion of a “free” or “open source” game system for Lovecraftian Tabletop Roleplaying. In some of our previous posts we’ve pulled apart some embryonic efforts that have dipped their toes into this realm. We’ve also tried to work through some of the practical IP limitations that complicate the free release of a game whose source material is a mix of public domain and copyrighted stories.

Ruminations on the concept of a TTRPG rules engine as a kind of “operating system” for games (and the question of “what would an open source one look like?”) were foremost in our minds when we released the entire rules text for APOCTHULHU as an OGL System Reference Document (or SRD).

In the 12 months since we made that release, our SRD has been downloaded an enormous number of times. There have also been a steady trickle of questions and inquiries about just what someone can and cannot do with our text. I thought I’d take this opportunity, at the closing of a dismal year, to summarize some of the most commonly answered questions about the APOCTHULHU SRD … and make a first announcement about something cool we are ourselves planning to do with the ruleset (for the latter, scroll to the end of this post).

Dean modelling Apoco-Hoodie
The Future’s So Bright, We Gotta Wear Hoodies …

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: Can I do “X” using the rules you’ve released as open content in the APOCTHULHU SRD?

Regardless of what “X” is, the answer is pretty much the same. You can do anything you like with our material, with ONE proviso. Anything that you release, publish, or even distribute needs to be released under the same version of the (WotC) Open Gaming License that we have used in our SRD. What does that mean in practice? Well, it means that you need to attach the same OGL contract/license page somewhere in your new creation (“X”) … and you need to modify the list of copyrighted works (part of the contract) to show the “ancestors” of your work. Thus you’d take the list of works we have cited in our OGL contract as ancestors to the APOCTHULHU SRD and then add your own copyright below that. This basically keeps the lineage of your work (and, indeed, our work) explicitly part of the OGL text. But, that is ALL you need to do.

Q2: So … does that just mean I can do free supplements, or can I make commercial products too?

You can do either free or commercial releases — in fact the OGL pretty much empowers you to do any kind of release you want using whatever mechanism you’d prefer. Want to run a Kickstarter for a game fueled by our rules? … Go right ahead! Want to use these rules to make a best-selling Lovecraftian RPG campaign? … More power to you (although we might come and ask if you’ll hang with us after you’re mega famous, so we can bask in your glory 🙂 )

Q3: When you say people can “use the SRD material” do you mean they can be inspired by the rules … or can I just lift whole sections verbatim and dump them into my game?

Again, the OGL covers both of these scenarios (and many others). If you want to copy/paste our rules for Sanity or Resource Scarcity to be part of your manuscript, go right ahead. As long as you adhere to the OGL’s rules for attaching a contract and keeping the lineage of your work accurate, you should feel free to take literal text, be inspired, or publish material that leverages our rules to fuel your own scenario by implication.


Well, if you take a close look at the APOCTHULHU rulebook, you’ll notice that we were very careful to separate the rules engine parts from the bits that talk about specific Lovecraftian names, places, tomes, etc. The SRD is made up of the first of those — and none of the Mythos stuff (or sections of our published scenarios) are considered part of the Open Content covered by the SRD’s license. That was a conscious decision by us to avoid the horrible (partially manufactured) complexities that have grown up in recent years around using Mythos names in games.

It has been generally established, though, that sum total of creations that are purely the invention of Lovecraft are now in the Public Domain and thus available for your original creations if you so desire. If you want to see an exhaustively-researched list of things that are definitely safe, we re-published some of the work that the German Lovecraft Society undertook for their awesome German-Language RPG FHTAGN. You can read the full version of their work, in German, on their website.

Q5: Are you guys crazy? Why would you give away the rules engine for your game to anyone who wanted it … and ask for nothing in return?

Well, we have blown a few SAN checks in our many decades of playing Lovecraftian TTRPGs, but our decision to release our rules as free and open content is quite a rational one. We know that many other publishers jealously guard their core rulebook’s contents, since it’s by selling those titles that they make most of their profits. We think that’s a fine business model, and would never criticize any publisher for operating in this tried-and-true way. However, having rulesets locked away as proprietary items of IP can (in many cases) stifle community and independent creators who want to do their own experimental thing. Given that Lovecraft himself spent virtually his entire writing career trying to encourage new writers by supporting them finding their own creative voice, we strongly believe there is a place for a game system that supports community/independent creation of game content inspired by his works. If we can be a small pillar that supports that kind of community effort, we will have achieved what we set out to do.

Technically our logo is trademarked by us … but we are not against it being used or referred to in other people’s work, as long as they aren’t inherently offensive or illegal in some way. If you’re interested in doing something like that, I’d suggest getting in touch with us (use the contact form at the bottom of this post) and we can work something out.

Q7: I have this idea for a game … but it has nothing to do with Post-Apocalyptic modes of play. It seems like it might be hard to use your rules for something like that … is there something you have that would help me?

Hmm … well that sounds like a (not-at-all contrived) cue for me to make a small announcement. Here we go.

A Small Teaser/Announcement

Since January this year, we have been playing with the core mechanics that drive APOCTHULHU, trying to tease apart the pieces that are “Post-Apocalypse-y” and the parts that could equally well apply to a Lovecraftian game set in pretty much any historical or future era.

We released some initial ideas describing briefly how our mechanics might work for a (non-Apocalypse) game of Victorian Mythos horrors.

But while those brief notes demonstrate the basic feasibility of making more traditional games/settings, they still required a lot of work from someone to breathe them into life as a fully-playable game. We realized (over a good part of 2021) that to support a diverse range of different game settings, it would be far more helpful to have a family of different SRDs — each catering to a specific era or style of setting. These would each be their own “pick-up-and-play” set of rules, tailored to the types of gameplay that would befit a Lovecraft-inspired game in that era/setting. To manage the sheer complexity of having a whole family of different rulesets we envisaged the idea of having each era-specific game be a “localization” of an abstract set of rules — replacing and tailoring the parts which differ between settings, but leaving the rules that transcend settings identical across versions.

We call this family of SRDs “Cthulhu Eternal” … and it is our hope to unleash the first batch (perhaps 3 or 4 eras) in January or February. Like the APOCTHULHU SRD, they will be absolutely free and fully open — ready for someone to pick up and use as the backbone for a terrifying and original beast of a game.

If you are a game creator who believes they have a potential use for something like this — or who might like to collaborate on something using our rules engine, we would like to hear from you. Maybe you have some amazing creation out there already written for a different system but looking to translate it? Fill out the form below and we will keep you in the loop as we finalize the first era localisations of Cthulhu Eternal.

APOCTHULHU in Hungarian & An Unboxing

We recently signed the first deal to have APOCTHULHU translated and published in other languages. We couldn’t be more excited — we’ve had other Cthulhu Reborn titles republished before, but never have we seen our work in Hungarian!

APOCTHULHU Quickstart in Hungarian

Kaland Horizont, the company who is bringing our humble game to a Hungarian audience is already well advanced on translating the APOCTHULHU Quickstart … and is actually probably already hard at work on the core rulebook. If you are a Hungarian speaker, definitely check out their Facebook page for updates!

Terrible New Worlds Gets Unboxed

APOCTHULHU Terrible New Worlds has now been available in print for a month or so, long enough that we are starting to hear back from excited fans who have received their hardcover or softcover books.

Andy Miller (aka MaxWriter) is a long-time friend of Cthulhu Reborn. He recently posted a great video showing him unboxing his Terrible New Worlds hardcover and flipping through the entire book. If you’ve been curious to see what our latest tome of terror looks like in physical form … you could do a lot worse than checking out Andy’s 6 minute summation:

News: Terrible New Worlds Available in Print

Ever since we released our anthology book of scenarios (mini-campaigns really) for APOCTHULHU, we have been getting a steady stream of folks asking us when it would be available to buy in print.

Well … today we are absolutely delighted to announce that it is available for Print on Demand via DTRPG. Yes, you can get your very own one of these ↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓ right now!

We have chosen to make two editions of Terrible New Worlds, catering to the preferences of different folks (and also to provide bother cheaper and more deluxe versions). The two versions are:

The pictures below show the same pages from the two versions:

Colour Hardback
B&W Softcover

Both books are great presentations of these four mini-campaigns, highlighting the great original art we commissioned for the book. Best of all, we are super-happy to announce that because of investigations/changes we’ve made into print options at DTRPG (see below), we are able to offer both books at a competitive price — certainly much better than the painfully-high prices we were obliged to charge for APOCTHULHU Core after print costs rose abruptly in July. A full-colour hardback will set you back about USD 38.95 + shipping; the softcover B&W interior book is USD 24.95 + shipping. Purchasing either will also nab you the PDF plus associated digital resources for free.

Changes to Print Options

As mentioned above, one of the most disappointing developments for us in 2021 has been the big hike in the raw costs to print POD books via DTRPG. The problem seems to originate with some extortionate rises in print charges by Lightning Source (who are DTRPG’s print partner). The big price increases applied to so-called “Premium Color” books, making them super expensive to produce. At the same time “Standard Color” books remained largely untouched by those print increases. Previously we have always chosen the Premium option since the printers advertise that it is superior for books which have a lot of graphical content, which all of ours do.

But … we were curious about how much difference there is in quality between Premium and Standard, so we ordered some proof copies of our APOCTHULHU Core Rulebook (previously Premium) as Standard Color POD books. We were expecting them to be far inferior … but, guess what, they look extremely similar.

Comparing Premium POD (top) vs Standard Color POD (bottom)

We ran the two books past several unsuspecting folks here at Cthulhu Reborn Towers without telling them which book was which … and while most people did eventually pick the Premium book as having ever-so-slightly more vivid colors, everyone needed very close side-by-side comparisons of multiple pages to see it.

If the two printing technologies cost about the same, this would be no big deal … but the way the pricing works now, the cost difference is such that the Premium option costs us about TWICE the Standard Color option. That’s about a USD30 difference — for hardcover, we’ve been asking $72, but with the non-Premium we could ask $42 instead. For a very, VERY slight improvement in quality we don’t think that extra $30 is worth it. So we have now discontinued the Premium options for APOCTHULHU Core and enabled the Standard Color versions instead.

In addition to making the hardcover full-color book $30 cheaper … it similarly reduces the softcover (color-interior) option from $65 to $35. All prices exclude shipping, of course.

If this whets your appetite for a new print copy … they’re waiting for you!

Terrible New World: Life in the Post-Pandemic Carnival

Cover of “APOCTHULHU: Terrible New Worlds”

A week or so ago, we released the PDF version of our new APOCTHULHU supplement, “Terrible New Worlds”. So far we have been delighted with how well this has been selling — evidently a lot of people are eager to sink their teeth into some brand new settings and adventures with a Post-Apocalyptic Lovecraftian flavor.

We’ve already shared a bit of sneak peek here on the blog into one of the four mini-campaigns that are collected together in this book. Now let’s take a look at another. Christopher Smith Adair is a pretty well known name in the Lovecraftian RPG writing circle — he has written a great deal of amazing stuff for Chaosium and its Call of Cthulhu licensees. When we approached him back in late 2017 to pitch an adventure for APOCTHULHU, we were delighted to receive his highly-original, quirky, and thoroughly brilliant version of the Post-Apocalypse.

His adventure, titled “Hold the Flood” is set in a version of the late 21st century, in which the world is recovering from a terrible and deadly pandemic, 50 years past. Back in 2017 when we were first talking about this it seemed an intriguing hypothetical game setting. Obviously in more recent times real-world events have crept up on us, making this particular kind of “Apocalypse” seem strangely resonant — although, to be perfectly honest, that’s an unhappy accident than anything else. It’s a coincidence that created a minor headache as we put together the published version of the book: obviously Christopher’s world is a fictional construct, but we also don’t want to present a Pandemic-based Apocalypse in terms that current readers might find disrespectful of real-world circumstances (which we are all personally navigating still). We hope we’ve navigated these difficult waters.

Hold the Flood – Splash Page

The thing that sets Christopher’s vision of the post-Pandemic world apart from others isn’t really the common tropes of survival and fear of a resurgence of the “Gray Plague”. Yes, those are concerns … but the tone of the setting and the campaign revolves around something far more hopeful and quirky: A troupe of circus freaks who have taken on the task of travelling from survivor settlement to survivor settlement, bringing much needed entertainment.

The player characters in this campaign are all performers in this larger-than-life troupe of carnies — Professor Mysterioso’s carnival. They travel by colorful mule-drawn wagons, visiting communities for a few days at a time before moving on to the next on their circuit. Communities relish a visit from Professor Mysterioso’s … even if each settlement might only host the carnival for a few nights every year or two. Such is their legendary status.

But when the circus troupe suddenly all become mysteriously ill shortly after departing their most-recent stop — a township called Astor — people begin to worry. Has the terrible “Gray Plague” re-emerged? Was there something or someone in that community that was the origin for the outbreak? Perhaps someone there knows the secret to rapidly containing it?

As the few among the crew not to have succumbed to the disease, it falls to the Survivors to save the carnival.

Disease has a face. Art courtesy of the ever-amazing Anna Helena Szymborska

“Hold The Flood” is a fantastic campaign that will keep most gaming groups — especially those who can embrace its slightly surreal or expressionist flavor. It’s kind of like “Cabinet of Dr Caligari” meets “Terry Nation’s Survivors” … and if anybody out there can mentally fuse those cultural references, I will be impressed. Unlike many Post-Apocalyptic scenarios, this one has quite an investigative vibe — there is a mystery to be solved in the town of Astor, and the carnival folks must find answers to avoid the terrible plague outbreak which threatens their friends and colleagues. It’s a race against time … and one in which surprises abound which cast doubt on many things the survivors in this Post-Pandemic world thought they knew.

“Hold The Flood” is a 52-page setting and campaign available RIGHT NOW in PDF form as part of our “Terrible New Worlds” anthology — if it seems like the kind of thing that your gaming group might like, definitely check out the product page for more info!

More sneak previews of the mini-campaigns in “Terrible New Worlds” to follow …

Terrible New Worlds: Out in PDF

Today we are delighted to be able to announce that our latest APOCTHULHU book, Terrible New Worlds, has slithered into the world in PDF form. It is a supplement which brings together four chunky Lovecraftian Post-Apocalypse campaigns, each set in their own distinct near-future dystopia. We’ve had the pleasure of working with a great team of writers on this project, and we’re absolutely thrilled by the diverse and imaginative takes they have imagined for a Mythos-fuelled “end of the world.”

The PDF is available right now on DriveThruRPG. There’s also a lot more information about each of the four campaigns/settings over on the DTRPG product page.

APOCTHULHU: Terrible New Worlds is a 256-page book, but in addition to the core title we have included separate scenario resource packs for each of the four campaigns. These collect the handouts, maps, and other key reference material into a stand-alone PDF for easy use. The DTRPG bundle also includes a separate ZIP file which compiles the same resource material in isolated files — JPGs for the images, RTFs for text handouts — to make it easier to incorporate into a VTT game.

As well as all that bundled goodness, we have also made still more resource material available for these campaigns over on the APOCTHULHU Support Page, here on the CR blog. There you’ll find higher-resolution versions of resources plus fillable autocalc sheets for all pre-gens included with the campaigns.

We certainly plan to follow-up this PDF release with a print version of the book, but that will necessarily need to be later in the year. We’re looking into ways to make a POD release affordable for our customers, many of whom were dismayed (as were we!) by DTRPG’s huge price increases back in July. Watch this space for an announcement in the coming months!

Until then … we welcome your Survivors to venture forth into one of these Terrible New Worlds … if they dare!

Terrible New World: Shadow Apocalypse

We recently announced that the next title in our APOCTHULHU line is an anthology of four mini-campaigns, titled “Terrible New Worlds”. It is looking like it’ll be ready for an August release (fingers crossed).

The first of the mini-campaigns in the anthology is “A Small Price” by Dave Sokolowski. To whet your appetite for this nifty adventure, I’m happy to share some (spoiler free) notes about the unusual Post-Apocalyptic world that Dave has wrought.

This rather original “Shadow Apocalypse” was briefly sketched out in the APOCTHULHU core book, but is really brought to life in the mini-campaign.

Scenario Splash Page

“A Small Price” is an APOCTHULHU campaign set in a Post-Apocalyptic version of the United States where civilization has crumbled, and the world has become shrouded in an unearthly and impenetrable cloud. Day and night are now both tainted by a perpetual dull charcoal sky.

The cause for this terrible downfall stems from a great calamity five years ago. Hundreds of simultaneous explosions — occurring across every continent — spewed dirt up into the sky. But that was the least of their impacts. Those same explosions brought forth terrifying Shadow-wraith creatures, millions of them. When they arrived, these strange entities mostly lurked within normal shadows … but they also can seep into people’s bodies, possessing them utterly.

One of the scenario illustrations by the awesome Anna Helena Szymborska

The world that is left behind is a shattered ruin of its former self. But the Shadows are still here … in fact, each year they seem to multiply. Some believe that it is the Shadows’ destiny to finally exterminate humankind from the face of the planet. But for now, there are small pockets of humanity scattered throughout the world that have survived their ravages. Some form nomadic groups which try to stay one step ahead of the poisonous touch of the Shadow. Other groups have hidden themselves in secure shelters where they are protected from the entities. There they eke out a meagre living … living forever in fear, always watching closely the shadows around them.

The campaign revolves around one such sanctuary, where a small and highly insular community is working hard to try to understand — and maybe overcome — the threat posed by the Shadows. When the Survivors encounter this curious community, they discover that some of the biggest challenges to survival can be those created not through external horrors but from inter-personal rivalries and conflicts.

Cartography by Dean Engelhardt

“A Small Price” is designed for 3–6 players and offers a mixture of survival horror, research, and diplomacy. It takes inspiration from both Clark Ashton Smith and Ira Levin and requires cleverness and a strong survival instinct in order to navigate the myriad threats that lie around every corner.

More sneak previews of the mini-campaigns in “Terrible New Worlds” to come …

Terrible New Worlds: Coming Soon

A few people have been in touch with us to ask how things are going with our upcoming anthology book of APOCTHULHU “mini-campaigns”, titled “Terrible New Worlds.” We’ve posted a little bit of information about this book, but now that things are getting closer to its completion I am planning on sharing a bunch more. I’m sorry that updates about our projects are so sporadic — when you’re a small publisher it’s not uncommon to get so caught up in whatever piece of the creative process you’re knee-deep in right now, and forget that it’s been ages since sharing any news here on the blog.

“Terrible New Worlds” sees us publishing four brand new Post-Apocalyptic Lovecraftian “mini-campaigns”, each set in a new and horrible dystopian future. We’re using the term “mini-campaign” to describe these pieces, rather than simply calling them “scenarios” because in reality each of the four is a chunky piece of gaming that would occupy any group for many sessions of play.

The nightmare adventures contained within these pages range from 50 to 85 pages. All up the book of four mini-campaigns run to approximately 256 pages.

I aim to post a short (spoiler-free) thumbnail of each of the campaigns in coming days, but I can reveal titles and authors now. The four terrible new worlds are:

  • “Hold The Flood” by Christopher Smith Adair
  • “A Throne of Corpses” by Emily O’Neil
  • “A Small Price” by Dave Sokolowski
  • “… even death may die …” by Fred Behrendt

More details and some art previews to follow … Estimated release for the book (in PDF format) is early August.

And In Other APOCTHULHU News

We have been delighted to see that a group of awesome gamers has decided to run an APOCTHULHU game online as a “play by forum” thing over on The game is called “The Vulture Committee”. The GM of the game — friend of the blog Paul StJohn Mackintosh — has crafted an original and highly inventive Post-Apocalypse setting of his own. Here’s a link to the game’s thread.

In this setting, the end of the world was somehow brought about by mankind’s dabbling in Quantum Computing, brought to a head by the Cryptocurrency craze. When the mass use of parallel Quantum computers began in earnest, it opened gates — logic gates — and through them, SOMETHING slithered into our reality. Spreading like a digital plague, the non-human intelligence came to infect the world’s networks, mutating reality (and people) as it went. Fast forward several years and the world is now a fragmented place of desperate survivor groups, raiding parties, and other ne’er-do-wells, huddled together in communities to avoid the weird Unnatural manifestations that roam the wastelands.

Prior to the game starting off, Paul and a few other folks had some great discussions about how this unique setting might work. That thread is also a pretty good read.

We’re thrilled the read the adventure as it unfolds …

Print Pricing for APOCTHULHU

I want to provide a quick “Public Service Announcement” about looming big price hikes in all POD-printed colour books from DTRPG. Publishers (like us) who sell hardcover or softcover versions of  colour-interior books have been advised that from July 1 the cost for printing each book (via Lightning Source / Ingram) is increasing.

A lot. Like +25-30%ish.

For our APOCTHULHU Core book — which is available as either soft or hardcover colour-interior — I’ve crunched the numbers provided by DTRPG and it looks like both of them will get $15 more expensive on July 1. That is not really good for purchasers, and it’s not really good for us.

The only saving grace is that DTRPG have hastily organized a sale from now until June 29, where affected print books are being sold up to 25% off their *current* price. We have signed up to that sale for both our APOCTHULHU Core and APOCTHULHU Quickstart books. If you have any interest in perhaps picking either up as colour-interior print books, we’d urge you to consider doing it during this sale.

We currently also offer B&W interior versions of these books via LULU, and none of this change affects those versions.

It’s worth noting that Cthulhu Reborn is far from being the only publisher who is affected by this change in DTRPG/LS pricing — so if there are other things you’ve been considering buying in print from DTRPG, I’d definitely suggest looking at the listings this week to see if they too are part of this big sale. Chances are most publishers are like us, lamenting the fact that customers are about to get slugged …

Finally, it’s also worth pointing out that this change doesn’t affect the print cost of Convicts & Cthulhu on DTRPG — because that book is B&W interior only.

It’s Virtually the End of the World

There is no denying that the events of the past year have changed the way many people play roleplaying games, shifting many people’s gaming from face-to-face to online. This has definitely been true for APOCTHULHU games that we have run or participated in — those have 100% been “virtual”.

Lots of people seem to be gravitating towards different Virtual Table Top (VTT) platforms to add a little bit of extra collaboration to their voice-only games on Discord or Skype. We’ve done a bit of gaming on Roll20, and even developed an APOCTHULHU character sheet for that tabletop.

Recently, we’ve dipped our toe into the realm of Roll20 “modules” with the release of the R20 VTT version of “Amber Waves”, the introductory scenario that is in the back of the APOCTHULHU Quickstart (still a free download from DriveThruRPG).

The Roll20 Marketplace pretty much obliges us to charge a minimum price of US $4.99 for this module. BUT because we are so indebted to our loyal blog readers that we will happily send a free gift copy to anyone who contacts us via email to vtt [at] … make sure to include your Roll20 ID (that is, the email address you use to log into Roll20).

Of course if you would PREFER to pay for the module, you can buy it direct from Roll20.

If you don’t know what goes into a Roll20 Module … they basically combine:

  • the full text of the scenario (hyperlinked for convenient reference),
  • the scenario handouts,
  • scene graphics you can show to players are key moments,
  • maps for all significant locations (we added some new ones for “Amber Waves”), and
  • pre-filled character sheets for all pre-gens, NPCs, and critters.

So, they’re kind of like online game configs that are pretty much ready to run. You can just find some friends, fire up a new instance of the module, allocate each player a pre-generated character, and start to play. Since the character sheets automate some of the dice rolling conventions of APOCTHULHU (e.g., remembering that matching digits means crit or fumble), it can be a slightly easier way to learn a new game system.

We hope that the added convenience of having a pre-made Roll20 VTT version of “Amber Waves” encourages a few more folks to give the scenario a run … it’s a very fun little introduction to APOCTHULHU. I was lucky enough to play in an early Roll20 version of the scenario run by Chad Bowser (who wrote the scenario). It’s a perfect mix of creepy exploration, mystery solving, and pulse-pounding terror. With lots of green killer plants and creepy flying things 🙂

While we’re talking about online APOCTHULHU, it’s probably worth mentioning that we are always interested in hearing about any “actual play” recordings of our games that you decide to share online. In the past we’ve been thrilled to see these, and have sent some nice rewards (print books and merch from our Redbubble store) to the generous folks who have got in touch. If you’ve similarly shared the word about your APOCTHULHU games, we’d be happy to extend the same generosity to you! Get in touch via the same email mentioned above.

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