Not A Very Happy Day For Those Who Were There

Today, some 235 years ago, the British flag was raised for the first time on the European settlement of New South Wales. It’s this moment that — at least for the past three decades or so — has been what’s celebrated as Australia Day, our national holiday.

One of the great things I have found about writing game content set in real history is that it makes you learn a lot more about how things really were in times long past. In co-writing Convicts & Cthulhu (with my excellent friend Geoff Gillan), I learned a LOT more about the circumstances of white settlement in Australia. The reasons behind it, the reality of what it was like in the early colonies, and the consequences (intended and otherwise) that arose from it.

One thing that strikes me is that almost NOBODY who was there as a part of the fateful January 26, 1788 proclamation was really happy about it — not the convicts who had just arrived in their new prison home, not the Indigenous Australians who were already starting to lose their land and safety. Even the soldiers (the infamous NSW Corps) were mostly reprobates who were forced into undesirable service. The only people who had cause to celebrate were the Colonial government (I guess), the few free settlers (I guess), and those back in Britain who ran the hideously over-crowded penal system.

Celebrating January 26 as Australia Day has become a problematic thing for some Australians. I would certainly never tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t celebrate … but for me, this is what I will be cracking open instead:

Chaosium’s Terror Australis, 2nd Edition


2022: The Year of Cthulhu Eternal

This year has been an amazing year for Cthulhu Reborn. We have released more content in 2022 than any previous year … and while some of the work happening behind the scenes has progressed the APOCTHULHU product line and other new offerings, the vast majority of our time has been spent launching and supporting Cthulhu Eternal, the free/open game system for Lovecraftian tabletop roleplaying.

While most readers will probably be familiar with at least some of the Cthulhu Eternal stuff that’s been released in 2022, we thought it would be fun … as this dark year limps to a close … to do a bit of a roundup.

Jan/Feb: Initial SRD releases (Jazz Age, Victorian, Modern)

Even though our work on the rules for Cthulhu Eternal started well before 2022, it was the release of our first batch of rulesets (in the form of System Reference Documents) that marked the public launch of the game.

These three rulesets each comprise a full-featured set of rules, tailored for a particular era of gameplay. Each weighs in at about 100 pages of text (no illustrations), and covers everything from game system mechanics, details about generating era-appropriate player characters (Protagonists, in CE parlance), combat, rules for sanity, tomes, rituals, etc. Each SRD gives you the basic tools to run a detailed roleplaying game or campaign.

But the best thing about our SRDs is that every single word in them is 100% open content — which means that ANYONE (not just us) can release content compatible with these rules, or lift particular text or mechanics, or remix the content to make an entire new game. All without paying us (or any other licensor) a cent.

Links:

Needless to say these free/open rulesets have proven to be incredibly popular — and actually constitute (easily) the most downloaded products we’ve ever released. At last counting, each had been nabbed by over 6,000 gamers, earning gold medals on DTRPG. We like to think that a decent chunk of those curious folks have given the system a spin, or written their own nifty adventures brought to life by our rules. We’ve certainly heard tales of some fantastic original (and converted) games that people have run.

The launch of a truly free/open game for Lovecraft Investigation also piqued the interest of a few podcasts who invited us on to talk about the potential of the “open source” rules engine. (Of course we are always open to talking to more folks about such things, so would happily drop by other gaming podcasts if the chance arose!)

Feb to May: Our First Cthulhu Eternal Scenario

Shortly after unleashing the CE game system on the world, we put out a pair of scenarios set in 1920s Arkham. These eventually became the first entries in our ongoing “Miskatonic Mysteries” line — which has swelled to 5 titles as the year has gone on.

The initial scenarios were called “To Touch The Untouchable” and “Help Wanted” and each offer an intriguing balance of investigation and action, in the classic Lovecraft tradition. Both scenarios are also chock filled with newspaper-based props. Because we love vintage newspaper props (do we need a better reason?)

Links:

Mar: Our Fourth Ruleset

People had quizzed us a lot about whether we had plans for releasing versions of Cthulhu Eternal for eras beyond the “traditional” time periods for Lovecraft stories. We’ve always found this kind of interesting — in truth we embarked upon this whole endeavor to create a platform to release entirely new types of game Mythos setting, prioritizing the Jazz/Victorian/Modern trio mostly because previous reader polls had suggested that is what most people were interested in.

In reality, though, our approach to the Cthulhu Eternal rules was always designed to make it relatively easy to port them to a wide range of settings. In order to test this out we took a shot at releasing a version which targets mid-20th century settings, in particular those with a “cold war spy” kind of vibe. Predictably we called those free/open rules the Cthulhu Eternal Cold War SRD. Like the rest it’s about 100 pages and covers everything you need to run a seedy “spy v spy v Mythos” type of game. Or you can downplay the spy stuff and use it for more general purpose games set any time from the 50s to the 80s.

Link:

Apr: Starlight on the Gutter

This Victorian Era scenario is quite an extravagant affair, and also occasioned some fantastic game sessions when we ran it internally for playtesting. It brings together the Cthulhu Mythos and a very famous creation of Oscar Wilde and sets things up for a deadly and very theatrical climax.

Link:

The release of this scenario was also a bit of a milestone for us — with different versions of the same adventure having been kicking around our filing cabinets since about 2011. In reality the core of the scenario is far older … dating back to the mid 1990s!

May: Our First Lost Masterpiece

Over the years we have been fortunate enough to be able to speak with many of the most prolific authors of Lovecraftian RPG gaming material. One of the things that always surprises us when chatting with those luminaries is … just how many little unpublished tidbits they have sitting at the back of their dusty old filing cabinets.

We were fortunate to be able to secure permission from Kevin Ross — perhaps the most prolific and accomplished writers for Chaosium’s “Call of Cthulhu” in its golden age — to put out a few of his very earliest pieces. We grouped two mi-go themed adventures together as “Dark Visitations”.

Link:

Jun-Aug: More Miskatonic Madness

The first pair of 1920s Miskatonic Valley scenarios seemed to be quite popular, so we released another three entries in the series. The first two of them (Smoke Green and Spoiled Milk) are set mostly in the Arkham vicinity, but the third (Bottoms Up!) mostly takes place in Bolton, a little-used (fictional) neighboring town. It’s an industrial town mentioned in just one Lovecraft story (Herbert West of Reanimator fame lived there for a while) … but has so far not been depicted in gaming form. That meant we needed to create a whole new town map … that was a fun task (which thankfully was helped by input from Bret Kramer, renowned Lovecraft scholar and publisher of the excellent Arkham Gazette gaming mag).

Links:

  • Miskatonic Mysteries #3: Smoke Green
  • Miskatonic Mysteries #4: Spoiled Milk
  • Miskatonic Mysteries #5: Bottoms Up!

Aug: Our Fifth Ruleset

Not content with the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first century settings we’d covered in Cthulhu Eternal SRDs, we decided to make one tailored to stories from the mid 18th Century onwards. We toyed with a few candidate titles to capture the essence of this turbulent time, but eventually settled on the “Age of Revolutions”. This is kind of fitting since the time period encompasses both the French and American revolutions … and arguably a sizeable chunk of the industrial revolution as well.

While one of our main motivations for making this version of Cthulhu Eternal is to (eventually) reboot our much-loved “Convicts & Cthulhu” setting, numerous people have pointed out that it has a lot of potential for a broad range of intriguing game settings. In addition to all the notable historical upheavals mentioned above the ruleset could feasibly be used for things like the French and Indian Wars, or Napoleonic conflicts. All it needs is for motivated writers with a historical bent …

Link:

Oct: Cthulhu Eternal Added to Roll20

With a range of Cthulhu Eternal rulesets out in the wild, we decided it was time to build some support for playing our game on at least one of the major Virtual Table Top (VTT) sites. We’d love to support lots of these, but our resources are limited — so we concentrated on getting Cthulhu Eternal on to Roll20. Rather than putting a bunch of different character sheets on the site, we ended up created one mega-sheet that can be reconfigured to support any of the published SRDs … and a bunch of others that we would ultimately like to release in the fullness of time.

For those who use Roll20, the mega-sheet can be selected whenever you’re creating a new R20 game (look in the section “Sheets by Publisher” — it’s called “Cthulhu Eternal by Cthulhu Reborn Publishing”).

Dec: The “Re-Animated By Cthulhu Eternal” Logo License

With five full rulesets out in general circulation, it seems that a small grass-roots community of “Open Source” Lovecraft RPG hackers has sprung up. We’re aware of several intriguing projects that have already begun. One thing that emerged as a common question was “if I publish my own scenario or game, can I put the Cthulhu Eternal logo on the cover, or claim compatibility with the Cthulhu Eternal system?”

We obviously want to make it as easy as possible to do all those things, and to clarify the whole legal situation about using our logo we created a special license which says basically you are free to use a compatibility logo (below) on pretty much any (legal) publication you might care to release. There is no charge for this, and you don’t need to get prior approval by us for using the logo.

Note that this license only governs usage of logos etc … using the text of the Cthulhu Eternal SRDs is controlled by the (WotC) Open Gaming License 1.0a.

And That’s Our Year

A year is a long time in gaming … but this year (maybe for the first time) I can look back and think yep, we sure did release a lot of stuff in 2022. Five full rulebooks, five Miskatonic Mysteries, and two other major scenarios. The only thing we didn’t do is release any physical print books (all the things mentioned above are PDF-only at present). We’re hoping to rectify that in the future, perhaps grouping together some of our scenarios into a print anthology. But that is, as they say, a future project.

So … what’s next for Cthulhu Eternal, you might ask. Well we are keeping quite a lot of stuff under wraps for now … but I will just leave this image below as a teaser for something that is currently being worked on by the illustrious Chad Bowser (famous for inventing the latest CoC Dark Ages, and the original Cthulhu Invictus). We hope to share more …. when the stars come right.


Wanna Be Re-Animated (By Cthulhu Eternal)?

Ever since we released the first Cthulhu Eternal SRDs, people have been asking us how they can publish their own CE-compatible stuff with the distinctive CE logo on the front. We definitely want to make it easy for anyone to release cool games/scenarios/whatever that proudly declare their relationship with our free/open ruleset, so we created a version of our logo called the “Re-Animated By Cthulhu Eternal” logo, which anyone can use for free, without asking for our permission. You can see it at the top of this post!

There is a page on the Cthulhu Eternal website that describes the licensing arrangements: https://cthulhueternal.com/re-animated-by-cthulhu-eternal-logo/

But in essence: anyone can use this logo on published works, for free, without any prior permission from us. The only proviso is that in the (extremely unlikely) event that a published work is actually illegal (e.g., fraudulent, a copyright violation, etc) we might ask that the logo be removed. We can’t imagine a situation arising where that would ever happen, though, but it’s the only condition in the license.

We are also excited to mention that the first product bearing this logo has already been released (and it is kind of awesome, a nifty modern-day scenario): Sasquatch by Pnakotus Press. It’s Pay-What-You-Want on DTRPG, but we definitely think it’s worth throwing a couple of bucks down to support a great scenario!


Cthulhu Eternal: This is how we Roll20

Lots of folks have been asking for ages that we make it easier for people to play Cthulhu Eternal using online Virtual Table Tops. Today, we have made virtual games of Cthulhu Eternal much easier … if you’re a user of the popular Roll20 environment.

When you create a new game on Roll20, you can now select “Cthulhu Eternal by Cthulhu Reborn Publishing” from the super-long list of character sheets available.

The same character sheet will let you play games using ANY of the five eras for which we have already released SRDs (Modern, Cold War, Jazz Age, Victorian, Age of Revolutions). All you need to do is select the era from the pulldown menu at the top right of the sheet. When you do, the sheet reconfigures to show a look & feel appropriate to the era as well as the correct skills list for protagonists in that era.

To future-proof things, we have also gone ahead and built sheets for a bunch of eras we haven’t yet released SRDs for … but would really like to one day.

So, the full list of Cthulhu Eternal games that you can run on R20 looks more like this:

Happy gaming online! And if you do anything cool with these character sheets — especially the eras we haven’t yet written — we would love to hear about it. Cthulhu Eternal is a 100% community effort, so if you have some amazing ideas we would definitely like to consider incorporating them in those things we hope one day to bring into the world!


An Update: Our Hater Stan

We posted a couple of days ago about the steady stream of negative DTRPG ratings we see attached to our products, all sourced from the same two accounts (clearly working in tandem, probably controlled by the same person).

Well … it seems like the individual in question has spotted our posting, if today’s review spree is anything to go by. A snapshot from my inbox:

Yes, that is a total of 24 not-so-great star rating reviews in the space of 2 minutes. From the same person. Absolutely, totally normal behaviour … well, maybe not so much NORMAL, but perfectly rational. Right?

A few folks left comments on the earlier blog posting suggesting that we commission a special product and dedicate it to our hater-stan … we love this idea. But what kind of spite-themed product would work best do you think? Best suggestion in comments we will find a way to make it happen 🙂


A New Era for Cthulhu Eternal: Age of Revolutions

Today we are proud to announce the release of another in our expanding range of customized versions of the Cthulhu Eternal ruleset. This one is firmly aimed at historical games set in any period between 1750 and 1850. We call this turbulent century the “Age of Revolutions” since it embodied massive political and social shifts as well as great advances in industry and learning.

The Cthulhu Eternal “Age of Revolutions” SRD is available right now as a Pay-What-You-Want download on DriveThruRPG. It is a fully-featured ruleset, spanning a little over 100 pages, and is ready to bring life any 18th Century Lovecraftian game setting you wish. Ever wonder what the Cthulhu Mythos was up to during the American Revolution? Or during the Reign of Terror following the French? How about the secret Otherworldly battles that somehow formed part of the vast Napoleonic Wars? And if settings of conflict and strife aren’t your thing, the “Age of Revolutions” is also the time when both the Industrial Revolution and the “Enlightenment” were hitting their peaks — who knows what terrors might have been stumbled upon by those re-writing the established order of industry, or the longstanding worldview?

This era is also the time of the creation of the Australian penal settlements, which is a setting very near and dear to our hearts thanks to our long-standing Convicts & Cthulhu setting. In the future, we plan to reboot that line using this SRD as a foundation stone.

But for now, we invite anyone who has an interest in historical gaming, and also a fascination for cosmic horror, to consider mixing the two to build … some kind of 18th Century Mythos Monstrosity … and bring it to your game table with our SRD ruleset!

As with all our previous Cthulhu Eternal SRDs (Modern, Cold War, Jazz Age, Victorian, APOCTHULHU), this new edition is a self-contained and full-featured bare-bones TTRPG. While it doesn’t have the flashy illustrations and worked examples you’ll find in your average published game, the text of the rules are extensive and cover everything you would need to run a Lovecraftian game set in the 18th Century — everything from character development, skills, combat, sanity rules, and guidelines for building magickal rituals, supernatural effects, and adapting pre-existing Mythos horrors. Also included are some nifty character sheets (fillable and printable versions). Best of all, though, is the price tag — you can get this 100+ page ruleset for free if you want, or a small donation if you’d like to help us make more editions (we have many more planned).

We hope the creation of this new roleplaying engine will encourage folks to go back and look at this evocative (if somewhat grubby) period of history and imagine what horrors might lurk in the unwatched places as the world underwent the tumultuous events that created the world that we recognize today. Because our rules are 100% free and open (under the Wizards OGL) anything you imagine and create is yours to release (commercially if you want) as long as you do so under the OGL … Download our SRD today and start scheming.

So, find your powder horn, polish up your brace of flintlocks, … it’s time to set out into to uncover the hidden threats that no earthly revolution can harm, but which you must suppress lest all humanity fall. Nobody said it was going to be an easy life! C’est la vie.


Miskatonic Mysteries #5: Bottoms Up! — Released

It’s H.P. Lovecraft’s birthday … so we thought we’d celebrate the occasion by releasing yet ANOTHER in our immensely popular “Miskatonic Mysteries” PDF scenario series. This new addition is titled “Bottoms Up!”, written by one of my personal favorite indie Lovecraft game writers Rachael B. Randolph.

The best news is … the 42 page Cthulhu Eternal scenario (with loads of neat props) is available right now!

[NB: An earlier version of this scenario was released with stats for a different D100 ruleset, so if this all sounds familiar … you’re probably remembering that version. This revision converts the scenario to the Cthulhu Eternal, adds a nifty new map of Bolton (see below) and otherwise refreshes the layout.]

This scenario takes Protagonists away from haunted Arkham to the nearby industrial town of Bolton (most famous for its involvement in some of the experiments performed by Herbert West: Reanimator). Unlike genteel and academic Arkham, Bolton is a working-class haven full of factories which once produced a range of fine produce to supply every town in the Miskatonic Valley.

Brewed products made by the Bolton Brewing Company — in particular beers and ales — were once a mainstay of local life from Aylesbury to Kingsport. But with the introduction of Prohibition the brewery business has suffered greatly … and has had to fall back on its non-alcoholic brewed drinks, sodas, and tonics. But recent advances in cheap long-distance transport have made the soda-selling business incredibly competitive. Out of state operators like Moxie (based in Maine) and Bub-L-Pep (from California) have now cornered a sizable share of the Miskatonic market. To business-minded folks it seems inevitable that Bolton Brewing is destined for bankruptcy.

But … recent news suggests that the old Bolton business isn’t going down without a fight. They’ve announced a range of new — and highly … unusual — new soda flavors. Varieties like “Djingula Bean” soda and “Xuin Flower Elixir” … flavors that no established soda manufacturer has ever bottled. Flavors that nobody much seems to even recognize.

Naturally this odd announcement has bemused residents in Arkham and elsewhere … but further afield it has inflamed a strong curiosity in some of those out-of-state competitors. The soda game is a cut-throat business, and inside information is the key to winning it. Some might call it gentle probing, others “industrial espionage.” Either way, there is a curious and sinister angle to this whole affair — since the first two out-of-town “investigators” both wound up dead. Each was found in a car at the bottom of the Miskatonic River, hands bound to the steering wheel. Who could have committed such brutal killings? The Mob? The brewers? Rival soda companies?

The Protagonists are hired on to get to the bottom of these ghastly murders. One thing is for certain … this is going to be thirsty work. So … Bottoms Up!


A Very Special Thank You to Our #1 Hater

If you occasionally drop by our product pages on DTRPG, you might sometimes find something a bit … peculiar. Almost all of the product we have listed consistently score excellent ratings with folks who have purchased them … 4/5 or 5/5 ratings almost exclusively.

But sometimes, you might stumble upon a product which only has a couple of really low ratings. “What’s up with that?”, you might think to yourself. The mystery might even be compounded if we let the cat out of the bag … pretty much 100% of those 1 and 2 star ratings were all left by ONE individual.

What’s that? Someone who has purchased dozens of copies of our PDFs … the same products multiple times over … apparently just for the opportunity to leave bad product ratings? Sounds insane, right. But that’s what our DTRPG sales reports definitively show. One person, using two different drivethru accounts (accounts 2XXXX8 and 17XXXX6 [redacted for privacy]), seems hell-bent on repeatedly leaving us bad feedback. Well, I guess that is their privilege … although we really don’t know why.

There’s a couple of ironies about this situation, though. The first is the fact that this person’s reviews don’t persist for long — they’re up for a short time, but then quickly removed as inauthentic. The second irony is that this one individual — whoever he, she, or they might be — has now provided Cthulhu Reborn enough DTRPG revenue that we will shortly be in a position to commission further Open Source Lovecraftian PDF scenarios get written.

So … from that perspective … can I just say that whoever our #1 hater might be, please PLEASE don’t stop! We can make great new things together; your money and our creativity can achieve wonderful things.


APOCTHULHU at NecronomiCon Providence

While I am (sadly) not in Providence this weekend, celebrating H.P. Lovecraft’s life and monstrosities at NecronomiCon 2022 … some of our fine book did manage to make the trip.

If you are at the con and have always wanted to pick up hardcover or softcover editions of our APOCTHULHU books, track down the shared “small RPG publishers table”. There are even a few nifty T-Shirts available for sale.

Iä Iä …

In other news … we are hard at work on the next two PDF releases that should be crawling out from our crypt of gaming. One is a great “Miskatonic Mystery” playable with the Cthulhu Eternal Jazz Age SRD. The other is … a whole new edition of the CE system, optimized for a brand new historical era. Watch this space. Things should be stirring before the month is out.


Miskatonic Mysteries #4: Spoiled Milk — Released

The juggernaut of Cthulhu Eternal scenarios continues … with today’s release of “Spoiled Milk” by Jo Kreil. This is the fourth title in our Miskatonic Mysteries line and, like the others, can be played with the Jazz Age version of the Cthulhu Eternal SRD (which we’ve bundled in with the download on DTRPG).

The set up is simple: a sudden rise in the number of residents falling ill after consuming spoiled milk has put the town of Arkham on high alert. People are questioning the quality of the product coming from the three main dairies supplying locals with their daily deliveries. Some have even taken to blaming bleary-eyed milkmen for the spate of illness. Arkham seems on the brink of a milk-related uproar!

Of course things are not as simple as they would appear … and there are certain strange and unusual aspects to the milk-related illnesses and hospitalizations. Can the Protagonists discover the true cause of these weird happenings … and fix the situation?

This scenario is a short self-contained mystery that will take a group of plucky Protagonists from the hustle and bustle of downtown Arkham out into the rural districts which surround it. We’ve handily just drawn an all-new map of these environs, so you can take your investigations out into the peculiar countryside.

It’s worth noting that, like the previous Miskatonic Mysteries, the core of this adventure has been released previously as a supporting scenario to Dateline: Lovecraft. This version converts everything across to Cthulhu Eternal, puts it all into a fresh new layout, and compiles all the digital handouts into a VTT-friendly format.

We have chosen to release this PDF at a lower price-point than others in the Miskatonic Mysteries line, not because it’s shorter or less-polished (it’s neither of those) but because we thought it would be good to have a cheaper way for people to see the production values we put into these products.

So … pack your shotguns into the Packard. We’re going out to visit the dairy. What could go wrong?


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