Return of a Great Old One

Scott David Aniolowski is one of those writers who has achieved a bit of a legendary status among those who have a long-time connection to the Call of Cthulhu game. He has a list of writing credits as long as your arm (see below), but like many of the game’s “Great Old Ones” there hasn’t been much in the way of newly-published material from Scott. But, as the famous couplet from Alhazrad goes, “that is not dead, yada yada yada”. And this is proved, today, as Scott launches a Kickstarter campaign for a brand new scenario publication: “Cold Warning”

The Kickstarter campaign describes Scott’s scenario as follows: “Cold Warning is a Jazz Era, Call of Cthulhu 7th edition scenario set in Arkham, Massachusetts and Hudson, Maine. What begins with the dubious suicide of Joseph Sutton and the bizarre behavior of his widow Marilyn, leads investigators to Winter Haven, a remote hunting lodge in rural Maine. Here they experience mysterious phenomena, encounter suspicious lodge guests and staff, learn of ancient legends, and confront strange and frightening creatures before finally witnessing the awesome power of a Great Old One.”

It also describes how Cold Warning — a scenario first written by Scott in the 1990s — almost became one of those “lost unpublished gems”, after having been left forgotten in his bottom drawer for decades. The long history of the scenario is discussed by Scott in this interesting 20 minute audio interview with the crew from the MU Podcast. As folks who have also worked to bring some of the more obscure “lost classics” of Lovecraftian roleplaying to printed form, this is exactly the kind of thing we’d like to see more of! So, we would definitely encourage you to check out the Kickstarter page for Cold Warning to see if it’s is to your liking. Another great reason to consider backing the book is because it will feature art from Reuben Dodd (see below), who has also done a bunch of great work for us. We love Reuben’s work — and it will be great to see more of it in print.

But … don’t wait too long to check this out. Unlike all of Golden Goblin’s prior Kickstarters (which have each run for about a month), this particular campaign only runs for seven days. This is an interesting experiment, and I’m sure that lots of other publishers will be watching closely to see how it goes. In another first for Golden Goblin, this book will be produced solely as Print on Demand — a distribution method already wholeheartedly embraced by a few other publishers such as Stygian Fox (and us!). Hopefully this will do something to avoid the ugly situation that Golden Goblin faced last month with the backlash over international shipping fees for their “7th Edition Cthulhu Invictus” Kickstarter.

Finally … in case you’re not familiar with Scott’s long history with Call of Cthulhu, the photo montage below gives a visual overview of just *some* of the great books to which he has been a core contributor. You can also check out an interview with Scott we ran here on Cthulhu Reborn back in 2013. And if you’ve ever cracked the cover of Malleus Monstrorum, the encyclopedic book providing game statistics for a huge number of Cthulhu Mythos gods and monsters, then you’re well acquainted with Scott’s genius!


Ticket of Leave #4: Vanishing Ensign Released

We are delighted to announce the release of #4 in our popular series of mini-supplements to the Convicts & Cthulhu setting of Lovecraftian horrors in the early Australian colonies. This release, titled “The Vanishing Ensign” is by far our largest Ticket of Leave supplement — really more of a double-sized release, weigning in at 14 pages of PDF goodness. You can grab it right now from RPGNow. Because it’s a much bigger book than others in the line we’ve decided to make this a “Pay What You Want” title rather than just a simple free PDF. What that means is that if you still want to pick it up for free, you can do so (and that’s fine with us!) but if you would like to chip in a dollar or two as a “thank you” to Cthulhu Reborn, then that avenue is open to you also. Strangely, the number 1 complaint we receive about our free books is that some people wish they could pay for them, as a show of their appreciation I guess. The “Pay What You Want” pricing model is a good way of balancing both … and we will probably use it again if we make more large Tickets of Leave.

So, with all that preparatory stuff out of the way … I guess that just leaves me the task of describing what the heck “Ticket Of Leave #4: The Vanishing Ensign” is all about. At its core this release is inspired by a particular historical detail, Governor Bligh’s enormous military muster of 1807. In the early days of the Australian colonies military resources were pretty dire — there were never enough troops to keep the peace for such a huge population of convicts, and the NSW Corps were given the crappiest of equipment and ordnance (and yet somehow expected to be the front line of defence if other European nations, such as France, decided to invade the colony). Every Governor had complained about this dangerous situation, but it took the irascibility of Bligh to ramp it up a notch. In order to prove to the Colonial Office back in London exactly how terrible the military situation in NSW truly was, he commissioned a team to travel throughout the colony and tabulate a full muster of all troops and ordnance, documenting all the stuff that didn’t work. In the end this grand plan of Bligh’s led to nothing … but it provides an excellent concept for a Convicts & Cthulhu campaign.

So … that’s what this Ticket of Leave concentrates on — providing the historical, game, and narrative resources that a Call of Cthulhu Keeper might need to put together an extended series of scenarios which feature the intrepid investigators travelling to the most far-flung parts of the colony to gather information. Given the poorly-explored nature of the landscape at this time, there are ample opportunities for concealing any number of terrifying Cthulhu Mythos threats in places where “the hills rise wild.” And of course, there is always the chance that investigators digging too deeply into the records of the colony might stumble upon certain … irregularities … that need to be cleared up to ensure that the results of the Governor’s grand musterย  will stand up to scrutiny. Whether it’s encounters with terrifying alien menaces, or battles against black-hearted murderers or cultists, this campaign frame has opportunities for incorporating any number of different threads, all within an overarching narrative construct. Plus, there is always the possibility that by piecing together disparate findings from different parts of the colony, investigators might stumble upon something really big … because “we live on an island of ignorance”, etc, etc.

The PDF is rounded out by a detailed scenario sketch that could easily be used as a springboard for a longer campaign spent gathering the Governor’s muster. The scenario involves a curious anomaly in the records held in lots of different parts of the colony — all of them record a certain Ensign Dobley as being among their contingent, but in reality there seems to be no such person. Or rather that he seems to exist, but nobody knows where he might be currently found. It is a mystery that needs urgent resolution for the statistics gathered to have any meaning at all. Rather than give just one Cthulhu Mythos explanation for this strange phenomenon, the PDF provides three different “solutions” each of which makes use of a different style of threat, allowing the Keeper to pick the flavour of horror he wishes to inflict on his players.

“Ticket of Leave #4: The Vanishing Ensign” is available for download right now — scoot over to RPGNow to secure your copy. And if you do decide to chip a dollar or two to help us keep the pipeline of glossy, high-quality, supplements going … you will incur our eternal thanks!


A Golden Geek Nomination!

Colour me blown away — purely by chance we just discovered that Convicts & Cthulhu was nominated for the category of “Best RPG Supplement of 2016” in this year’s Golden Geek Awards. Sadly, we only learned of this news a few hours before voting closed … otherwise we would have spruiked far and wide for votes! Ah well, as they say — it’s great just to be nominated.

In other Convicts & Cthulhu news, Cthulhu Reborn are right now working with Geoff Gillan to put the finishing touches on a double-sized Ticket of Leave supplement which gives C&C Keepers an entire new campaign frame for their 18th Century convict tales of horror plus an extended scenario sketch to get their campaign rolling. If all goes well that should be released sometime in March. Beyond that there are quite a number of other products bubbling away — some related to Convicts & Cthulhu, some in completely different Lovecraftian domains. So we’re quietly hopeful that 2017 will be a year of many horrific publications from us!


2016: Cthulhu’s Year in Review

So, normally at about this time of year our good friends over at Sentinel Hill Press put together a blog posting which summarises all the nifty products that were released for Call of Cthulhu in the previous year. Because I know that the Sentinel folks are really, REALLY busy with a combination of real world things (a new homonculous) and finishing off their amazing Arkham Gazette Kickstarter, I’ve decided to step in to write up this year’s write up — a “those were the tentacles that were” kind of thing. I hope WinstonP doesn’t mind ๐Ÿ™‚

Compared to the last few years, 2016 was a quiet-ish year for new Call of Cthulhu releases. Depending on how you count it, there were between 10 and 12 new book titles released for the game compared to around 16 in 2015. Of course, that number does include two pretty important titles — the Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition rules (which were technically published in PDF form late in 2015, even though most people didn’t get hard copies until late 2016) and the long-awaited Pulp Cthulhu.

There is no denying that 2016 was a year dominated by Kickstarter-delivered titles … in fact every single title that was produced for Call of Cthulhu came out as the result of a Kickstarter, or as an add-on to a Kickstarter. Here’s a breakdown of the books released in 2016, grouped by publisher.

Chaosium

Chaosium had a big year in 2016, mostly due to the (much elongated) delivery of it’s anticipated 7th Edition Call of Cthulhu rules. Although versions of the final layouts have been kicking around for a year or so, it has been great to see most backers of their 2013 Kickstarter campaign get their books. The Kickstarter isn’t entirely finished yet, but it’s close to being done — which must be a big relief to Chaosium (who have earned the unenviable epithet “The Company That Almost Kickstarted Itself To Death”).

The other big, BIG release for Chaosium in 2016 was Pulp Cthulhu. Those of you who have followed the game for a while will already be aware that Pulp Cthulhu has been an “upcoming title” for Call of Cthulhu for a decade or more. The version that finally came out in 2016 probably has very little in common with the book that was originally announced in the mid 2000s, having been extensively “reworked” by Mike Mason and others. It is quite a significant release for Call of Cthulhu, though, since it introduces a rather different “mode” of play — much less focussed on investigation, and much more on two-fisted, Indiana Jones-style, action. While other Lovecraftian games have incorporated “pulp” sensibilities (in particular Trail of Cthulhu), few if any have embraced this mode with as much gusto.

In addition to these two big rules-related books, Chaosium released a couple of books which brought new scenarios. Doors To Darkness is a book of 7th Edition scenarios which is specifically targetted at beginning Keepers and players, with the book providing more-than-typical guidance text to help folks who are still learning the game. Interestingly, this book was briefly released in limited numbers at NecronomiCon 2015 in a black and white softcover format but Chaosium subsequently made the decision to abandon that layout in favour of a new, full-colour hardcover treatment to better fit in with the more lavish presentation that premiered with the 7th Edition books and Pulp Cthulhu. Chaosium Creative Director Jeff Richard has mentioned at convention panels that this high production value will be standard for all future books produced by the company.

The other Chaosium release for 2016 was a more slim tome — a Free RPG Day scenario by Sandy Petersen called “The Derelict”. This short, modern-day title was significant for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it was Chaosium’s first Free RPG Day book; secondly it was the first newly published Call of Cthulhu material in 20 years written by the original creator of the game.

Another interesting first for Chaosium in 2016 was the establishment of their “Organised Play” programme via the “Cult of Chaos”, a free-to-join association of Keepers that volunteers to run Call of Cthulhu either at public events (e.g., conventions) or for their own home-grown groups. Chaosium’s first “Organised Play” event was a six-part classic-era campaign called “A Time to Harvest” set around Miskatonic Universtity and the backwaters of Vermont. This campaign was released in parts (one chapter per month throughout mid-2016) to Cult of Chaos keepers for free. There are plans to revise the campaign based on feedback from those Keepers and one day release this campaign as a proper Chaosium title.

Licensees

Moving away from Chaosium-land, 2016 was also a big year for several of the Call of Cthulhu licensees. Foremost among those is Cubicle 7, who put out three books as part of two different Kickstarter campaigns. The first of these was World War Cthulhu: London, a book detailing the home front during World War II (as part of Cubicle 7’s WW2 setting first described in 2013’s World War Cthulhu: Their Darkest Hour). The WWC: London book was originally created as a stretch goal to the 2013 Cthulhu Britannica London Kickstarter, and is the last piece of that campaign to be delivered.

An entirely different Kickstarter campaign by Cubicle 7 saw the release of an exciting new campaign setting for Call of Cthulhu — the shadowy world of 1970s Cold War espionage. Two different books were released as part of this campaign in 2016. They were World War Cthulhu: Cold War and the Section 46 Operations Manual. Both books look great and the Cold War looks like a really interesting, if somewhat grim, setting for Cthulhu gaming — one I am certainly looking forward to reading (especially if it maintains the uniformly high standard Cubicle 7 has shown of late).

Speaking of World War 2 setting, 2016 also saw the final books delivered for Modiphius’ rather ambitious Kickstarter for the Achtung! Cthulhu line of products. Ever since this campaign was run in 2013 there has been a steady stream of sourcebooks and hardback campaigns published as well as some rather strange cross-over products with other game systems. Two of the latter titles were the stragglers that finally saw the light of day in 2016 — Elder Godlike (a cross-over with Greg Stolze’s superhero RPG Godlike) and Secrets of the Dust (a cross-over with Paolo Parente’s DUST universe).

Golden Goblin Press has established somewhat of a reputation for itself in recent years with timely fulfilment of Kickstarter campaigns. In 2016 they delivered on their third such game-related Kickstarter, Tales of the Caribbean. This book includes seven 1920s-era scenarios spread over the diverse islands of the Caribbean.

Goodman Games also released another volume of its popular Age of Cthulhu line: The Lost Expedition. As with the previous entry in this series, this (ninth) book in the AoC line was funded via a Kickstarter.

Last, but certainly not least, among the Call of Cthulhu licensees active in 2016 is the new-kid-on-the-block Stygian Press (run by Stephanie McAlea). This new publisher released its first (Kickstarter-funded) book, The Things We Leave Behind, which aims to present a grim and grown-up version of modern-day Call of Cthulhu. I would have to say that I was blown away by the quality of the writing in this book — these are truly great, if somewhat dark and twisted, scenarios … certainly a lot more embedded in the horrors of 21st century “modern” life than almost anything that’s been published before. If I had to pick one “best book” for the year, this one would certainly be a serious contender.

Magazines

Generally, 2016 was a pretty lean year for Call of Cthulhu content in Magazines — once again the stalwart “Unspeakable Oath” remained silent, with no releases.

The big exception to this resounding silence is the back-issues of the Arkham Gazette released by Sentinel Hill. In 2014, Sentinel ran a highly successful Kickstarter to create the third issue of its Lovecraft Country magazine/sourcebook, devoted to an in-depth study of witchcraft in Arkham and elsewhere. The PDF and print versions of this magazine issue were all delivered in 2015 … but stretch goals of the original Kickstarter promised upgrades and reissues of older (free PDF-only) issues of the magazine. In 2016 two of these emerged — Issue #0 (Aylesbury Pike) and Issue #1 (Arkham), both in PDF and softcover Print-On-Demand.

Cthulhu Reborn

Convicts & Cthulhu Logo 2

Finally, I can’t write a wrap-up of 2016 without sparing a few sentences to flog Convicts & Cthulhu, our very own big release for 2016. This setting book, covering Lovecraftian horrors in the early penal settlements of Australia, has been extremely well-received and has sold far, far in excess of our wildest dreams. Geoff Gillan — my partner in convict-ness has, subsequent to the release of the main (96-page softcover and PDF) book, also written three small supplements which we have released for free. All of those goodies are available right now over on RPGNow.


A Convict’s Christmas (of Crime)

Convicts & Cthulhu Logo 2Just in time for Christmas and the holiday season, we are pleased to be able to announce the release of a third freebie mini-supplement to our hugely popular Convicts & Cthulhu setting. Ticket of Leave #3: Criminal Enterprise is an 8 page PDF that is packed with useful resources relating to the flourishing criminal underworld that existed in the townships of early New South Wales. With this supplement, Convicts & Cthulhu gamers have everything that you’d need to run a gang-related campaign or scenario in which the players took on the roles of scurrilous criminals.

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The fact that crime played an important part in the early history of Australia shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone. After all, about half of the Europeans living in the colony during this era were sent there as punishment for crimes they committed back in England or Ireland. The military gaolers charged with keeping law and order were only marginally less corrupt, with many having been obliged to “volunteer” for service in New South Wales in order to escape punishment for some misdemeanour of their own. While some of the convicts and blackhearted soldiers treated their incarceration in the colony as an opportunity to “go straight”, many others continued with their criminal ways — aided by some lax security measures and the corruptibilty of the NSW Corps. Over time shadowy criminal organisations sprang up — some as mere covens of thieves, stealing just to survive; others as sketchy political and business enterprises fixed on greedy profit or power. But in a place where the forces of the Cthulhu Mythos are never far away, there is always the chance that “a simple plan” might lead criminals into something far, far more dangerous.

Ticket of Leave #3: Criminal Enterprise provides Keepers with resources to portray the seedy criminal underworld, and allow players to take on the roles of gang members. The PDF includes backgrounds and CoC 7th Edition stats for a ready-to-use gang of nefarious folks; it also includes a detailed scenario sketch which focusses on a double-crossing smuggling mission that leads the criminal investigators into the clutches of some rather unsavoury Mythos forces. It’s available right now as a free download from RPGNow.

This will be Cthulhu Reborn’s last release for 2016 — and I wanted to take the opportunity (what, with it being “the season of good-will to all Shoggoths” and all) to thank everyone who has bought one of our books or downloaded one of our freebie PDFs this year. In particular I would very much like to thank folks who have donated money when purchasing our “Pay What You Want” titles; that money is extremely useful in allowing us to plan for some more ambitious future projects, including better art budgets and the like.

There’s no doubt that 2016 has been by far our most successful year, buoyed by some incredible sales of the Convicts & Cthulhu book and supplements. We are hoping to continue this momentum into 2017, and have already planned out a few tasty treats … in the meantime, all the best for a joyous Yithmas and a happy New Aeon!


Convicts Reviewed

 

Convicts & Cthulhu Logo 2Most readers of Cthulhu Reborn will likely be quite familiar with Convicts & Cthulhu, the Colonial Australian setting we published back in May. But if you’ve been curious about the setting but wavering about whether to pick it up you might be interested to read the rather comprehensive review of Convicts & Cthulhu recently published on the Reviews From R’lyeh blog. Generally the review is very complimentary, though it does mark C&C down slightly because in one or two areas it refers back to the forthcoming Chaosium book “Secrets of Australia.” I am hoping that this particular “flaw” will be fixed next year …

A couple of the folks have asked what the relationship is between our (BRP-based) Convicts & Cthulhu and Cthulhu Hack: Convicts & Cthulhu. The short answer is that the latter is an adaptation of our Colonial Australian horror setting to an OSR-type rule system, made with our full endorsement. The Cthulhu Hack version only includes a bare-bones depiction of the setting, and in fact suggests that readers go and download our book for a more thorough treatment of the setting. It does include some nifty random tables and an interesting scenario, though … so even if you have our Convicts & Cthulhu, you might still want to check out the Cthulhu Hack version as well.

In other Convicts & Cthulhu news, we are just putting the finishing touches on the third in our series of mini-supplements which expand the setting in specific areas while also (hopefully) providing Keepers with resources that they can pick up and use directly in their Convicts & Cthulhu games. The third “Ticket of Leave” supplement concentrates on criminal enterprises in the penal colony (unsurprisingly rather common). We’re hoping to get it out before the Holiday Horror descends.

BTW: if you still do not have your very own copy of the base Convicts & Cthulhu book, you can get a PDF or print copy as a “Pay What You Want” title on RPG Now. For the PDF, that means you can nab a copy for as little as … well, nothing … and for the softcover book you can grab it for the cost of printing (about US$4) plus shipping. The two “Tickets of Leave” are completely free PDFs which can be nabbed from here and here.


Convicts @ PAX

I am just back at Cthulhu-Reborn-Central after 2 & 1/2 days spent in Melbourne for PAX Aus 2016. At the convention I had the opportunity to hang out with the Chaosium folks and also meet up with many great Call of Cthulhu writers, past and present. In fact I even had the absolute honour of sharing the stage with many of those same writers for a really entertaining panel session titled “The Cool of Cthulhu” which delved into the many different reasons why HPL’s creations are successful today and how much the CoC RPG has helped that success.

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However, the highlight of PAX was undoubtedly meeting dozens upon dozens of gamers and running sessions of Call of Cthulhu. My aim this year was to get some Australian content onto the Chaosium running list. So, while there was ample Arkham-based mischief being run for gamers who wanted it there was also four different Australian-themed scenario — all of them from future or recent publications. Thanks especially to Tristan who ran three separate sessions of Phil Anderson’s eerie Tasmanian scenario “Black Water, White Death.”

Convicts & Cthulhu Logo 2One of the best play experiences I had, though, was running “Un-Fresh Off The Boat” for a group of six players on Saturday morning. This run of the scenario featured all the things that make Convicts & Cthulhu such a compelling setting. We had moments of high tension between the three convict investigators and the military investigator who suddenly had responsibility for the (unruly) convicts thrust upon him. We also had investigators on both sides struggling to come to grips with the new society that they were about to join — with convicts desperately trying to figure out ways that they might clamber up from the bottom of the social heap to avoid the worst that the colony has to offer. There was plenty of revulsion (again on all sides) when confronted with the nature of “convict settlement justice” … although that was as nothing compared to the revulsion that they encountered when the forces of the Cthulhu Mythos entered the scene.

Convicts & Cthulhu - Illo D7

In the end the scenario ended with many semi-insane investigators trapped in a room with a pair of horrors while one of their number set off an enormous explosion by selflessly dropping a lit lantern into a prised-open barrel of gunpowder. It was almost a total-party-kill, although the reluctant leader Captain Ross did manage to survive to limp back to civilisation to explain. Or to try to explain at least. It seems like a Call of Cthulhu type ending ๐Ÿ™‚

In prepping this scenario for convention play I created a bunch of resources that others might find helpful. Here’s some download links:

BTW: if you do use this material to run your very own convention session of “Un-Fresh Off The Boat”, we would love to hear about it (and in particular how well the scenario ran for you)!

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Finally, thanks to the six brave players who signed up for the Convicts scenario — they all approached their chosen roles with great enthusiasm and commitment. A particular thank-you to the (I assume) father and daughter group who took on the two female characters (the plucky free settler Charlotte Savage and the mild-mannered convict Molly Rowson). Both did an incredible job at portraying their characters and trying to establish a moral compass for the group when conflict threatened to tear the group apart … I’m sure the fact that the players hail from somewhere not too far from Sydney Town made it just that bit easier to imagine the squalid life of NSW convicts ๐Ÿ™‚


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