Christmas is Coming to Convicts & Cthulhu

Better not shout …

Better not cry …

Something is watching …

We are currently putting the finishing touches on the final Convicts & Cthulhu Ticket of Leave release for 2017, a (slightly) Christmas themed tale of ghostly terror.

Out soon … (watch this blog!)

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(Some) Gentlemen Prefer Crime

We are super excited to be able to announce the release, today, of the latest in our “Ticket of Leave” supplements for the Convicts & Cthulhu setting for Lovecraftian roleplaying in the penal settlements of early Australia. This, our eighth “Ticket of Leave” is titled Gentlemen Convicts and weighs in at a respectable 20 pages — and it is available right now as a totally free download here on the Cthulhu Reborn blog.

This PDF release also marks a bit of a milestone for Convicts & Cthulhu in that it brings the total amount of supplemental material we’ve released more than 100 pages. When combined with the original 96 pages in the original C&C book, that means that there is now about 200 pages of pro-quality Convict-related Lovecraftian material that is available for download effectively for free. [A few of our titles are “pay what you want” on RPGNow, which means that you certainly *can* pay a small donation for them if you want, but you can get them free if you want as well]

The eighth Ticket of Leave covers an intriguing, not often discussed, aspect of the early Australian penal settlements — the so-called “Gentlemen Convicts”. These were persons of high standing in Britain who (for one reason or another) still found themselves on the wrong side of a sentence of transportation. Sometimes this happened because the wealthy gentleman (or lady) was truly guilty of a crime — perhaps quite a serious offence — yet despite using the full force of their power and influence to try to manipulate the (highly-corruptible) judicial processes of the day, had somehow still been convicted for it. But equally well, a “Gentleman Convict” might find themselves transported not so much because of their actions as their politics: wealthy persons who had connections to upstart anti-establishment political organisations (such as those advocating free rule for Ireland, or better treatment of Scots), could sometimes find themselves spontaneously found guilty of “sedition” and whisked off to the penal colonies. In some cases all they had done was dare to publish a pamphlet. A third group of “Gentlemen Convicts” were persons of influence who crossed swords with other, even more powerful, members of the upper British classes, and had incurred the wrath of someone with true power. Even the high station of such upstart minor nobles was not enough to protect them from trumped-up charges and a hurried kangaroo trial, and a one-way trip to Australia.

While the “Gentlemen Convicts” were always a numerically small proportion of the overall convict population, they were immensely influential. Their wealth back in Britain meant that, despite the fact that they were indeed convicts (at least by law) they were treated somewhat better than any other convict. Sometimes such convicts travelled with a letter from a wealthy patron in England addressed to the colonial Governor — when they arrived in New South Wales, the government would usually immediately grant them a “Ticket of Leave” which meant that, unlike all other convicts, they would be free to live in their own accommodation and spared a life of harsh physical labour. Other wealthy convicts achieved the same level of freedom by literally buying it. Regardless of how it was obtained, such freedom established the “Gentlemen Convicts” as a sub-class of their own. This was reinforced by the loose associations and organisations they set up amongst themselves.

“Gentlemen Convicts” offer an intriguing opportunity for characters in a roleplaying game. They might be key NPCs in a game, paradoxically a person who is a convict, but also someone who may have more privileges than the investigators. Alternatively, for players who would like to play a convict character but don’t necessarily want to roleplay the harsh treatment of the lower class prisoners Gentlemen convicts provide a useful alternative character type.

The “Ticket of Leave #8” PDF contains some historical background on the Gentlemen Convicts as well as five capsule biographies which illustrate the breadth of this unique social sub-class. The supplement is rounded out with a lengthy scenario seed which centres upon a mysterious supernatural figure that seems to have taken an unnatural interest in a secret society of Gentlemen Convicts. Can the investigators figure out the true motives of this gruesome stalker in time, or will his bloody trail of murder and dismemberment end with every member of the society dead and in pieces? This scenario seed is the longest that we have included in a free C&C supplement — about 11,500 words in all. That’s actually almost as long as a full scenario manuscript!

Because of licensing reasons this “Ticket of Leave”, like the previous one, has been produced in two versions — one which includes Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition statistics and one which does not. The version linked here is the STATTED (CoC 7e) version, which is likely to be what most readers want. The non-statted version will shortly be available via RPGNow. When we published the previous “Ticket of Leave” we were a little worried that splitting things into different versions like this might be off-putting to our customers but sales/download figures seem to indicate those worries were unfounded — which is quite a relief!

We hope that this free PDF will enliven and inspire your own tabletop RPG adventuring in the worlds of Convicts & Cthulhu. If you decide to run the scenario seed, or even pull it apart to create an awesome game scenario of your own devising, we’d love to hear about it! And (since this is Northern Hemisphere convention season), if you decide to run Convicts & Cthulhu at your local Con, you should certainly get in touch — we are always happy to throw some free merchandise your way if you’re willing to write up an account of your incredible gaming experience playing in the C&C setting!


Coming Soon to a Ticket of Leave

One of the most enjoyable parts of putting together horror gaming material is working with some truly astounding artists and illustrators. We have been very fortunate over recent years to have Reuben Dodd (of Sorrowking Studios) create a lot of the visual identity for our Convict-era horror setting. Recently we set him a tough challenge for an illustration to accompany the eighth in our ongoing “Ticket of Leave” series of supplements (to be released in a week or so). And as usual, he has truly done an amazing job!

 


That One Night When Lost Souls Wander …

Halloween is traditionally the one night of the year when foul things from beyond the grave can break through to wander through our earthly domain. It’s kinda like the Vaults of Hell being left unlocked by some drunken infernal gatekeeper or something.

In the spirit of the season I thought it might be fun to let the infamous Vault-of-unseen-Cthulhu-Reborn-goodies creak open for just a bit and let some designs escape to haunt the internet … just for this one night.

Since starting Cthulhu Reborn back in 2011 we have been asked by a lot of different people to design things for their Lovecraftian projects … in many cases, our hellish designs have made it into PDFs and printed books. But in a lot of other cases, those designs are still sitting in the vaults waiting for the stars to be right and the projects in question to finally see the light of day. Normally we don’t share any pre-release pics of things we’ve made for other people, mostly to avoid stealing anyone else’s thunder. But, infused with the pumpkin-y Halloween goodness we are going to break that habit just once and share some unpublished things. [Apologies to any publishers who might be offended; hopefully you will also share in the spirit of the season]

All four of the tasty morsels we’re going to share have one things in common … they all feature Call of Cthulhu character sheet designs. It is no secret that Cthulhu Reborn has released a lot of different themed versions of the 6th Edition and 7th Edition character sheet. Just check out our downloads page, or the official Chaosium website for examples. But, as you will see below, there are plenty of others we’ve made over the years and which haven’t yet been loosed upon the world!

Ghoulish Morsel #1: Vestiges of Hate

Vestiges of Hate was the name given by Chad Bowser to a techno-thriller espionage-themed Call of Cthulhu campaign or setting that he had been working on. Back in 2013 he asked me whether Cthulhu Reborn might be able to put together some custom character sheets for his pre-generated techno-spy characters (all of which had cool handles like “The Face” or “The Wheelman”), as well as a couple of handouts.

Ghoulish Morsel #2: Punktown

Punktown is a much-delayed, but very cool-sounding, Kickstarter project which provides a near-future dystopian setting for Lovecraftian gaming based on the novels of Jeffrey Thomas. Initially this book was going to be released by the now-defunct (and sadly missed) Miskatonic River Press, but the project has since moved to being released by Chronicle City. It’s actually quite close to being released to its very patient backers … and as a last-minute addition I was asked a couple of weeks back to create a brand new Punktown character sheet.

Ghoulish Morsel #3: Cthulhu By Arclight

Cthulhu By Arclight is a setting book for Delta Green, set during the Vietnam War. It was announced back in 2011 as an upcoming title from Sixtystone Press, but there hasn’t been a lot of news in recent times about its current status … We were asked back in 2011 whether we could contribute some character sheet designs (actually the first commission we received!)

Ghoulish Morsel #4: Colonial Lovecraft Country (CoLoCo)

Also on the “upcoming titles” list from Sixtystone Press is a series of most excellent books set in Colonial-era America, or more particularly Colonial-era versions of the townships made famous by Lovecraft — Arkham, Kingsport, and the like. This is a truly inspired setting for historical gaming, made all the more special by excellent writing by Kevin Ross and others. We really, REALLY hope that these books see the light of day sooner rather than later. We were asked back in 2012 to design a character sheet for the core setting book, Colonial Lovecraft Country.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this peek into our normally-tightly-bound vaults of secret-unreleased-stuff. We hope that you haven’t been unduly disturbed by the nocturnal meanderings of things that should, by all rights, never have seen the light of day!


Kevin Ross, Resurrected!

Most people would be aware that the Cthulhu Reborn blog was originally created as a way to bring-back-to-life some old gems from the early days of Call of Cthulhu scenario publishing. Hence we are absolutely excited to see the announcement today of a new Kickstarter by Sentinel Hill Press, great friends of the blog.

“The Dare” is a scenario written in the early days of Call of Cthulhu by Kevin Ross, one of the all-time great authors to have ever written for the game. It’s biggest claim to fame is that, rather atypically, it affords players the opportunity to take on the roles of everyday 1980s kids who innocently become swept up in the horrors of the Lovecraft Mythos, courtesy of a haunted house (Stranger Things style). The scenario was published in 1996 as part of an anthology titled Dwellers in Shadow. That book was released by a small licensee publisher, Triad Entertainments, and likely only printed in smallish print runs. That means that this great scenario — and many others from this era — are now almost impossible to find; this problem is exacerbated by the fact that Triad closed its doors long, LONG before the era when books were released as PDFs.

Not content to have such a wonderful piece permanently inaccessible to 21st century gamers, Sentinel Hill have chosen to not only reprint this classic, converted to the current 7th Edition. They have also decided to greatly expand upon the original ideas of Kevin Ross, turning the scenario into a much more substantial piece — but one whose “essential salts” are still firmly Kevin’s original concept.

We are very excited by this project — it’s exactly the sort of thing we love. If you think a dose of classic, long-out-of-print scenario madness might also be your thing, you can check out the KS campaign page. But if you are thinking of backing, don’t hesitate too long … unlike most Kickstarters, this one only runs for 10 days!


Convict with the Midas touch?

Most readers with an interest in Convicts & Cthulhu will probably have heard something about the series of Gold Rushes which formed an important part of Australian Colonial history, bringing thousands of people to the newly formed colonies in the 1840s and 1850s. What very few people will know, however, is that these momentous discoveries of precious gold were not in fact the first occasion that Australia was seized by gold mania. Very early in the history of New South Wales, a convict named Daley stunned the colonial authorities by revealing that while out on an assignment to a remote part of the colony he had stumbled upon a gold mine! Not only that, but he had extracted enough ore to make a sizeable sale to a ‘black-complexioned man’ who was purportedly crew on a visiting ship.

Understandably many people became very excited by this news, not least the colonial authorities. Despite Daley first requesting only that he be granted passage back to England in exchange for the location of his valuable find, the Government was more keen to have the convict show them the place himself. And this is where the whole tale came unstuck for the entirety of Daley’s elaborate story was, in fact, a monstrous hoax. There was no such gold mine, no such ‘black-complexioned man’, and the nuggets which the convict had produced as evidence were in fact other pieces of gold and bronze that he had scavenged together and mashed into aggregates. And it was with the (painful) revelation of this audacious lie that the unsung Gold Rush of 1789 died.

Except of course, in the world of Convicts & Cthulhu it doesn’t need to … such a colourful yarn of duplicity, dishonour, and brazen desperation has all the makings of a superb tale of dark and gritty horror. All that it needs is an injection of weirdness. Perhaps the so-called nuggets were something other that natural? Perhaps the convict was actually enthralled by some other force, compelling him to make such wild claims? Or Perhaps the real lie is the one the convict told when recanting his tale after receiving three hundred lashes?

Horrific renditions of the Fake Gold Rush tale are the subject of Ticket of Leave #7: Seams of Peril, which Cthulhu Reborn is delighted to release today as a free download. This lavishly-illustrated 14 page PDF includes information about the historical hoax, and the types of perils that might face a group sent to verify the claims of a spurious gold-mine in remote areas of the Blue Mountains. It also includes three different Mythos threats that could explain the weirdness that accompanies the convict’s claim. Each of these provides a different type of adversary, and a different flavour of Lovecraftian supernatural horror; allowing the Keeper to pick the type of peril that best suits his or her tastes (or those of the gaming group). We hope that Keepers will enjoy sending their Investigators off on wild (golden) goose chases out into perilous, unexplored parts of the colony — to be cruelly devoured, seduced, or just stabbed in the eye by a lying convict. What could be more fun?

Please note: this is the first Ticket of Leave that we have released under Chaosium’s new “Fan Use” policy. In order to comply with the terms of this policy we have been obliged to create two versions of the PDF — one with game stats and one which omits game stats. The version downloadable direct from Cthulhu Reborn is the statted (Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition) version. This is distinct from generic non-statted version downloadable from RPGNow. Most readers will want the direct download version, however customers who only obtain PDFs via RPGNow/DrivethruRPG are welcome to download the generic (systemless) edition if they prefer.


ENnies Winner are Grinners

Those of you who follow the tabletop RPG industry closely will likely already know that the winners of this year’s ENnie awards (presented each year at GenCon) were announced a few hours ago. Call of Cthulhu in general was well represented, which is great to see.

Of the many Cthulhu-related titles that took prizes, Cthulhu Reborn had a hand in the crafting of three:

  • Pulp Cthulhu (Chaosium) — GOLD: we contributed maps and the character sheet;
  • Doors to Darkness (Chaosium) — SILVER: we contributed maps
  • The Things We Leave Behind (Stygian Fox) — GOLD: we contributed handouts

We congratulate the various publishers whose works have received some much earned industry recognition — even though our contributions are relatively slight (in the context of the finished books), Cthulhu Reborn is very pleased to have been involved in such successful projects.

Particularly noteworthy is the achievement of our good friends at Stygian Fox — for your very first book to take out a hotly-contested industry award is quite remarkable, but very much deserved. The Things We Leave Behind is a collection of extremely well-written scenarios which sets a very high standard for modern-day Lovecraftian adventures. Our congratulations in particular go out to Stygian Fox stalwarts Stephanie McAlea and Jeffrey Moeller — those folks must be on cloud nine right about now :)!


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