A Convict Went To Sea, Sea, Sea

Just a quick note to report that we’ve just finished up the editing for Convicts & Cthulhu Ticket of Leave #14. This will be our GenCon2019 tie-in scenario, written by our star-writer-and-GenCon-GM Extraordinaire, Matthew Ruane. We believe that all the spots in Matthew’s Convicts & Cthulhu sessions at GenCon are already full, but if you’ll be there and have a hankering to see how C&C plays at the table … definitely track down Matthew. I’m told that sometimes GenCon sessions have “no shows,” so sometimes you can just turn up at the right time and place and steal a spot in the game.

This Ticket of Leave will be titled “Hark, Now Hear The Sailors Cry” and be themed around the early whaling and sealing industries in Australian waters. This is new territory for Convicts & Cthulhu: pretty much every scenario we’ve released so far has been land-based and set in the general environs of the penal colony at New South Wales. This one takes Convicts out into much more uncharted waters — both literally and figuratively. It’s also given me an excuse to draw a deckplan for an 18th Century Whaling ship (think Moby Dick, but slightly earlier) … which was surprisingly fun to do.

And of course, a Ticket of Leave wouldn’t be a Ticket of Leave without a brand new art piece from our long-time collaborator Reuben Dodd (of Sorrow King Studios). While it might *seem* the illustration above might allow you to guess which Mythos creatures are the adversaries in this scenario, you’d probably be wrong … sometimes, even a tale with Deep Ones can have hidden depths 馃檪

With the text, maps, and artwork for this new supplement now done we’re hoping to get this into layout ASAP. That means that we should get the PDF out to CR readers & DriveThru customers in a week or so!

 


Can Cthulhu Be Open? Part 2

 

Since posting about Chaosium’s stance on the Open Gaming License as it applies to the d100 game system, there has been a lot of chatter on various forums (in several different languages). Most recently, there has been some more detailed explanation by Chaosium, over on their BRP forum which I would urge anyone with an interest in publishing d100-like games to read.

Put simply, the Chaosium position is that while there was an OGL version of the Runequest rules produced by Mongoose in 2006, that fact does not mean you can use that OGL-published material in your own games. Why not? Because, they argue, Issiaries (Greg Stafford’s company which owned the Runequest IP at the time and licensed it to Mongoose) never gave a perpetual license for the use of the content … so Mongoose could never have produced an OGL version which allows any other parties a perpetual license to re-use content (which is what the OGL essentially is). By this logic, one assumes Chaosium believes that Mongoose was in breach of its licensing contract … although Issiaries did not object to the OGL version back in 2006, and it was only 5 or so years later that any questions were raised about the appropriateness of the OGL license.

The other assertion Chaosium make is that this same objection does NOT apply to the Legend RPG later produced by Mongoose. (The Legend RPG, for those who are unaware, was a product produced by Mongoose in 2011 — and still available from them. It is d100-like but is rewritten from the ground up and includes none of the Runequest-specific parts previously found in their Runequest SRD).

So How Does This Matter to Cthulhu Games?

While this is an interesting piece of history for fans of Runequest, I am personally much more interested in how this affects other games which have been developed since 2006 using content from the now-verboten Mongoose Runequest SRD. Some of those games are explicitly Lovecraftian, and it’s those which interest me most.

One of the great things about OGL-published games is that the publisher is obligated to include details about all the prior OGL titles from which they have derived content. That means the OGL statement at the back (or sometimes front) of a publication is a great source of information about the “ancestry” of a publication. In the current situation — when something from earlier “generations” has its legitimacy questioned, this kind of information can be invaluable in trying to sort out who in the “family tree” might also potentially be ruled “illegitimate”.

Sifting through the OGL statements for most of the “children” with a Lovecraftian leaning, I was able to synthesize the following “family tree” or inter-related games:

The part of the diagram shaded in red represents games which, under Chaosium’s interpretation of events, may have something to worry about. Each of these is either derived directly from the Mongoose SRD (which Chaosium asserts is now invalid) or derives from *both* the Mongoose SRD and Legend. The reason these games could be in trouble is that the chain of “claims to legitimacy” can be seen as a bit like a row of dominoes. If something you’ve relied on in your game is proven invalid — knocking down “their” domino — there’s a good chance that you’re somewhere downstream in the row of toppling plastic. even if that’s just one of several sources you’ve used.

Interestingly enough, of the Lovecraftian games I looked at the only game which has a rock-solid claim (according to Chaosium’s statements) is Arc Dream’s Delta Green RPG. So … anybody out there who is contemplating making a new d100 game, you’d do well to look at how the Arc Dream guys worked around the potential landmines.

 

 


The Safewords of Cthulhu

There has been many interesting things to come out of recent debate over on YSDC about the intersection between Intellectual Property law, the Cthulhu Mythos, Chaosium, BRP, and the Open Gaming Licence.

One of the most contentious of the discussion topics has been around which Mythos creatures/gods/characters are truly in the Public Domain, which are definitely “licensed” by their original creators for game use, and which fall into the enormous grey-area in between. For a game designer trying to put together a brand new Lovecraftian game, knowing this stuff is pretty important … but there really aren’t too many places you can go to find such details. The prevailing wisdom seems to be “buy yourself a copy of Dan Harms’ excellent Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia and figure out for yourself which things were first mentioned in stories now in the public domain.” For most people, that is more work than they expected.

Fortunately, one of the folks who weighed in to the YSDC discussion was @CaseUndefined who is creating a Lovecraftian RPG in German called FHTAGN. In order to determine which Mythos entities were safe to include, and which weren’t, he spent a long time researching the various named beings and gods that are mentioned in short stories to find which are truly Public Domain.

You can see the original German material produced by @CaseUndefined at this link … but in the interests of making the results of his/her research more accessible to English-speaking audiences, I have extracted the list of “safe” Mythos Entities and translated the relevant names back to English. I have done the same for FHTAGN’s list of Unnatural Rituals. Obviously the FHTAGN game itself has a lot more information and game-stats about each of these things, I am just giving the names of the entities or rituals in question. If you have an interest in FHTAGN or speak German and wish to see the source text, see the link above.

[ Standard Disclaimer: this is the results of original research for the FHTAGN game; it’s not legal advice about the Intellectual Property status of entities mentioned in Lovecraft’s tales. ]

 

Cosmic Horrors

路聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Azathoth
路聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Beings From Ib
路聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Bokrug
路聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Cthulhu
路聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Colour Out Of Space
路聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Dagon and Hydra
路聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Deep Ones
路聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Dholes
路聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Elder Things
路聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Flying Polyps
路聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Ghasts
路聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Ghouls
路聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Gloon
路聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Gnorri
路聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Great Race of Yith
路聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Gugs
路聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Hastur
路聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 High Priest Not To Be Described
路聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Hunting Horrors
路聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Hypnos
路聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Mi-Go
路聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Miri Nigri
路聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Moonbeasts
路聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Nath-Horthath
路聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Night-gaunts
路聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Nodens
路聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Nyarlathotep
路聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Rat-Things
路聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Re-Animated Corpse
路聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Re-Animated Horror
路聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Shantaks
路聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Shoggoths
路聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Shub-Niggurath
路聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Star-Spawn of Cthulhu
路聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Tamash
路聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Winged Servants
路聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Yog-Sothoth
路聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Zo-Kalar
路聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Zoogs and the Ancient Zoog

Unnatural Rituals

  • Aklo Sabaoth
  • Ancestral Bond
  • Dho-Hna Formula
  • Elder Sign
  • Essential Salts
  • Powder of Ibn Ghazi [added 30Jun19]
  • Sign of Koth
  • Summon Beings

Can Cthulhu Be Open?

In the past few weeks there has been some rather interesting discussion over on the Yog-Sothoth forums about the legal status of a set of rules for d100 Lovecraftian horror gaming that some group attempted to circulate under Wizard of the Coast’s Open Gaming License (OGL). While the OGL is a very common part of RPG publishing in other corners of the industry, it has never had much traction in the world of Cthulhu RPGs (with a few exceptions). With the kerfuffle launched by this YSDC thread, it sounds like there are certainly parties who would like things to stay that way.

The YSDC thread in question is linked here, although you will need to be a YSDC member to sign-in and read it.

In this thread Chaosium has made some fairly bold assertions, although those pale into insignificance compared to their recent (doubtless related) posting over on BRP Central. That posting effectively says that, despite the fact that the BRP system was effectively published back in 2006 as Open Game Content (under the OGL), because Mongoose’s license was terminated in 2011 that means the previously published material is now no longer Open Game Content. This is an interesting assertion given the specific language included in the Open Gaming License contract which says “In consideration for agreeing to use this License, the Contributors grant You a perpetual, worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive license with the exact terms of this License to Use, the Open Game Content.”

One wonders what that means for the literally hundreds of game books that have used content derived from the 2006 Mongoose SRD, or from a book that sourced content from the Mongoose SRD, or from a book that used a book that used a book … Mongoose SRD. Does Chaosium’s statement mean that all of those hundreds of books can now no longer be sold?

As someone who has several times considered publishing Cthulhu content under the OGL (rather than the Creative Commons License we usually use here on Cthulhu Reborn), this discussion is of particular interest to me.

Is there any OGL expert out there who knows whether it’s even possible for someone to retroactively assert content is no longer open, long after it was published? Inquiring minds want to know! Replies in comments below or send them to me direct at dean <at> cthulhureborn.com


Tonight We’re Gonna Party Like It’s 1984*

You know what I find kind of weird? The fact that decades that I personally remember quite clearly are now legitimate targets for “historical settings” for film, TV, and games. At the moment we’re going through a bit of a 1980s nostalgia revisitation, perhaps thanks to Stranger Things … and this has bubbled over to the gaming world.

Some time back, the very fine folks at Sentinel Hill Press ran a Kickstarter to re-publish a great old Kevin Ross scenario called “The Dare” featuring a typical 80s bunch of teenaged Kid Investigators who take on the challenge of exploring the local “haunted house.” While that Kickstarter has been a bit delayed due to a variety of health and family issues, it will be a wonderful book when it arrives (trust me).

Back in 2017, Sentinel Hill asked if I would design a custom “1980s Themed” character sheet to go into that book. While those designs are still waiting to go into the book layout for “The Dare”, I was recently thinking about running a completely different Call of Cthulhu scenario with an 80s theme. So naturally I wondered whether I could brush up the (very cut-down) 1980s character sheets for “The Dare” to make them into general-purpose 1980s fillable sheets for Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition.

Turns out … I could. So I figured I’d share this new (unofficial) flavour of character sheet for 7th Edition Call of Cthulhu. Use them to stat up the members of Spandau Ballet and send them across the barricades to fight Great Cthulhu in The Lebanon! Send your crack team of 1980s investigators up against the mysterious neun-und-neunzig Lufballons!

Or, perhaps, do something sensible with the sheet. Either way … feel free to do whatever you wish with the PDF. Just don’t blame me if you can’t get that Hall & Oates song out of your head for weeks 馃檪

As usual with things we release here via Cthulhu Reborn, this 1980s character sheet is copyrighted but released under a Creative Commons Share-Alike license. That means, you can use it for any non-commercial use. If you have a burning issue to use it in your awesome commercial product, get in touch with us and we can talk about a full-commercial license.

Here’s the PDF:

Unofficial 1980s era sheet for Call of Cthulhu, 7th Edition (US Letter, 2 sided, with autocalculation) [NB: For use with Adobe Reader or Acrobat ONLY]

For those who would prefer a NON-fillable sheet that works in any PDF reader, here’s one of those:

Non-Fillable Unofficial 1980s era sheet for Call of Cthulhu, 7th Edition (US Letter, 2 sided) [NB: For use with any PDF reader]

 

[*] With apologies to Anais Mitchell who wrote a wonderful folk-protest-type song featuring this exact line, for her 2004 album “Hymns for the Exiled”. Her usage is art; mine is shameless.

“Sure is going to be lonely … after I turn you in.”


Convicts & Cthulhu & Spies & Zombies

I may have mentioned already that Geoff Gillan, long time friend and collaborator of Cthulhu Reborn, recently launched his own self-publishing imprint for genre fiction. I have been fortunate enough to be able to read quite a few of Geoff’s published and unpublished novels and short tales, and really enjoy the deft and witty way in which he fuses genre themes and traditional formats into something new and exciting.

Geoff’s fiction imprint is called Mutant Brainchild, and just a few days ago its snazzy new website went live! This site is kind of the go-to place for the different fiction lines and releases Geoff has planned, including material that you can purchase (or download for free) right now.

As a celebration of Convicts & Cthulhu’s third birthday (see a few blog posts ago), Mutant Brainchild put out a short gaming-related post which ties the Convicts universe to the Cold War/Weird/Espionage world of Geoff’s “Man from Z.O.M.B.I.E.” series. For those who haven’t yet checked out those stories (start with the free sampler short!), it’s basically a setting which fuses 1960s gritty spy drama with the “weird science” notion that spy organizations have created post-human agents (“Zeroes”) which are the perfect, cold-hearted, agents. The C&C Birthday posting introduces the idea of a shadowy organization — the Revivification Bureau — that serves a similar purpose in the 1800s. A great free addition to the C&C setting!


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