ENnies: Vote for Cool Props

As many readers would be aware, it is once again that time of year — the time when the tabletop RPG industry holds its de facto vote, the ENnies, for the best products of the past year.

Hawkins Papers - Flash Messages 01-06 montage

While there aren’t any Cthulhu Reborn products in the running (maybe next year?!) … if you’re a CR supporter you *can* still vote for us, sort of. One of the products that has been nominated in the category of Best Supplement is Pelgrane Press’ “The Hawkins Papers”. Readers with a good memory might remember this product — it’s a prop-based add-on to the uber-successful “Dracula Dossier” Kickstarter (for the Gumshoe vampires-and-high-tech-espionage RPG Night’s Black Agents). It’s been mentioned here because Pelgrane hired Cthulhu Reborn to design all the props for this package.

You can see a sampling of the items we created for our friends at Pelgrane — along with some additional info — over on this page.

If you love detailed period prop-designs and would like to see RPG publishers include more of it in their future projects, I hope you would consider casting your Ennies vote the way of The Hawkins Papers. You can vote here.

Hawkins Papers - Quake Notes (card montage)

While you’re there you will also find other cool Cthulhu-related products that have been nominated. Pelgrane has a bunch (in fact, so many that they created a special ENnies sampler where you can see bits of all of their nominated products, including “The Hawkins Papers”). The Modiphius folks have also scored a few nominations for their Achtung! Cthulhu campaign “Shadows of Atlantis” … and Cubicle 7 have also been nominated for their Cthulhu Britannica: London box set.


Ticket of Leave #1 Released

Convicts & Cthulhu B&W Logo sml

The success of Convicts & Cthulhu (in PDF and now in print) has taken us here at Cthulhu Reborn a little bit by surprise … but it’s a good kind of surprise. In the spirit of trying to find ways to support gamers and readers who have taken a punt and downloaded C&C I have been madly scrabbling around to see whether there is any additional material we can release that will help folks as they run games in this (rather unusual) Lovecraftian setting.

I have also been pestering Geoff Gillan (prime creator of C&C) for anything he might have … and it seems that this tactic has paid off in spades (yay for pester power!). Geoff has come back to me with an entire short manuscript for a mini-supplement to the C&C core book. I have frantically typeset and illustrated this gem and released it as a free 4-page PDF, available over on RPGNow: Convicts & Cthulhu — Ticket of Leave #1.

Convicts & Cthulhu Ticket Of Leave #1 cover (sml)

The goal of this small bite-sized (4 pages) addition to C&C is to give Keepers a small self-contained nugget of information which includes a variety of different elements which could conceivably be put together into a short scenario or alternatively picked apart to provide pieces for an all-original scenario of their own devising.

We are hoping to release further “Tickets of Leave” further down the track (as astute readers may have deduced by the “#1” in the title of this supplement :-)). In the meantime, we hope that folks find this small PDF to be a useful addition to the Convicts & Cthulhu setting.


Convicts in Print!

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It’s official … you can now get yourself a print-on-demand softcover book version of Convicts & Cthulhu. All you have to do is head over to this page on RPGNow and purchase either the print version of the book or the print & PDF combo.

As with the original PDF, the printed book is a “Pay-What-You-Want” title … now you may wonder how that works, given the fact that it obviously costs a certain amount of money to print and ship a physical book. The answer is simple: you can still pay whatever you want but the amount you type into the box must be AT LEAST the cost of producing the printed book (about USD $4.00). If you type an amount into the box that is more than the basic cost of printing, the rest of the money goes to Cthulhu Reborn — well, most of it anyway. After you’ve added the Pay-What-You-Want book to your shopping cart you’ll still need to add postage and handling as per a normal print book order from RPGNow or DrivethruRPG.

Convicts & Cthulhu softcover pic1 (sml)

By my estimate, most folks should be able to get a POD copy of Convicts & Cthulhu made and shipped to them for around USD $9 or maybe even less. I figure that’s not too bad for a 96-page B&W roleplaying book with a nice glossy cover.

The test copy that I had printed turned out looking really nice BTW. The phone camera pic above probably doesn’t do justice to the finished product, but should give you some idea of what you’re buying.

 


The Popular Convict

Convicts & Cthulhu B&W Logo sml

Wow … Convicts & Cthulhu has proven to be a much more popular title than I could ever have hoped. For the first few days after its release it held the top spot in RPGNow’s “hottest product” list … and five weeks later it is still lurking in that list (currently at #13). All-in-all something like 700 copies have now been sold, with generous folks using the “Pay-What-You-Want” feature to donate a few hundred dollars towards the upkeep of Cthulhu Reborn.

We are both delighted and humbled by the success of this book … and in particular by the generosity of folks who have chipped in some of their hard-earned cash.

Armed with the success of the base Convicts & Cthulhu book I have been lobbying hard to get Geoff Gillan to write some additional material for the setting. Despite the fact that he is a very busy novelist and freelance scenario-writer (not to mention has a busy day job), I have been able to secure a little bit of his time for elaborating the setting.

Australian Aeons Illo #D1.1

At the moment, the plan is to release a small number of 3-4 page free PDFs which expand upon Convicts & Cthulhu in some way. We’re calling these bite-sized chunks of C&C goodness “Tickets-of-Leave.” The manuscript for the first “Ticket-of-Leave” is already written and awaiting layout and art … so hopefully there should be an announcement of its availability soon.

I am also hoping to have an announcement soon on print-copies of the original Convicts & Cthulhu book.

BTW: on the off chance that you’re reading this but *haven’t* already grabbed yourself a copy of the original Convicts & Cthulhu PDF, you can do so over on RPGNow.


Convicts Have Broken Loose!

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Convicts & Cthulhu has just been released for download via RPGNow: you can grab yourself a copy by following this link. You can also find the promo text there, describing the Convicts & Cthulhu setting and what’s contained in the book.

The lavishly illustrated 96-page sourcebook is available entirely for free … although if you really wish to pay for it, you can make a small donation (whatever you like) to assist with the costs of keeping new Cthulhu Reborn content coming. We’ve enabled this “pay-what-you-want” approach because several folks over on YSDC violently objected to the idea of grabbing this book entirely for free:). Please don’t feel any obligation to donate — it’s purely there as an option if you are feeling especially generous.

[In case it isn’t obvious: you can download the file without paying a cent simply by entering zero dollars in the Pay-What-You-Want box and proceeding to the checkout.]

We have also created a fillable PDF version of the Convicts & Cthulhu character sheet (using the same Autocalc code used in Chaosium’s fillable PDF sheets). See the link below!

Convicts & Cthulhu - Char Sheet Sample - Thomas Jackson

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

We hope that you have many hours of convict-filled mayhem as you explore the depraved and corrupt world of the early Australian prison colonies! Horrors of all flavours lurk just around every corner … none so terrifying as the vast swearing vocabulary of the irascable Governor Bligh. Believe me.

 


A Rum Bunch

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This is our final “teaser” posting ahead of the release of Convicts & Cthulhu (which is still planned for sometime around June 1). This time around I thought I would provide a bit of an overview of exactly what era is covered in the book, and also what type of game resources we have included.

On the topic of exactly what constitutes the Convicts & Cthulhu “era” … while the era of convict transportation to the colonies of Australia covered quite a broad historical period (all the way from 1788 until the 1840s), we have chosen to concentrate on a much more specific time period, namely 1795-1810. This isn’t an arbitrary decision, but one made based on the fact that some rather unique events and alarming themes prevalent in this era make it an especially good setting for tales of darkness and evil.

Convicts & Cthulhu - Flinders Map

While there is a wealth of description in Convicts & Cthulhu, the early days of penal settlement in Australia can be summarised as an initial well-meaning plan which ran off the rails. Despite the fact that the entire idea of a prison settlement meant life was supposed to be hard (for the convicts at least) the first Governor of New South Wales, Arthur Phillip, was actually a somewhat enlightened and sympathetic man who aimed to run things as fairly as possible. Sadly, his tenure was cut short due to illness, leaving the colony somewhat unexpectedly in 1795. The speed of his departure created a problem … no successor had been appointed by the Colonial Office in Britain, thus the responsibility of running things fell to the heads of the military unit created to be gaolers to the convicts, the New South Wales Corps. As noted in the previous blog posting, these men were not especially capable and certainly not as highly principled as the departing Governor … so they did what any self-interested group would do when handed the power of government. They abused it, to make themselves extraordinarly wealthy.

The main way in which the corruption of the New South Wales Corps manifested was in their monopolistic practices and in particular the way in which they insisted on controlling the importation (and also price) of Rum, a popular commodity and trade good. Owing to a lack of coinage in the early colony, Rum was also a commodity that was used as a de facto currency, so controlling its price meant that the military could basically manipulate the “Rum Economy” to their benefit. The practice was not condoned by the Colonial Office back in England, who sent out a series of official Governors charged specifically with cracking down on this practice; but like any good cartel, the New South Wales Corps weren’t going to give up their cash cow without a fight. In the end this rising tension — inflamed by the extraordinary abrasiveness of Governor Bligh — led to actual insurrection, the military coup which is today called the “Rum Rebellion” of 1808. It wasn’t until order was restored two years later that things started on a more predictable and reasonable march towards Australia’s colonies becoming fully-fledged “civilised settlements.”

Convicts & Cthulhu - Illo D7

But who wants to set their tale of dark deeds and madness from beyond the stars in a time of law and order when there’s a decade of corruption and lawlessness on offer? Hence our decision to focus on this part of Australia’s convict history …

Before I sign off, I also wanted to share some information about what we have included in the 96 pages of Convicts & Cthulhu and how you might use it to kickstart a Convict era campaign. Here’s the Table of Contents:

Convicts & Cthulhu - Contents

As you’ll note we have tried to include all the normal sorts of things you might find in a Call of Cthulhu sourcebook, adapted for the setting … (so  much less focus on musty old tomes and libraries, and much more on eerie and remote places which have remained untouched since the dawn of time). We’ve deliberately aimed to support lots of different investigator roles — sure, some people will love to play convicts, but you can also play guards or settlers. Or if you are really adventurous you can also play an Aboriginal investigator. The book includes one complete scenario and six detailed scenario seeds (sort of like “Tales of Terror” from The Unspeakable Oath; horrific situations with multiple different Mythos explanations). There exists a much more epic Convicts & Cthulhu scenario, but that will appear in a later publication …

Of course, once Convicts & Cthulhu is in your hands we would also love to see other people contribute to the setting — the book will be released (like most things here on Cthulhu Reborn) under a Creative Commons license, so you can do whatever you like with it as long as you don’t ask for money.

Anyway … back to creating the last few pieces of art for Convicts & Cthulhu … watch this space for a download link in the near future!

 


Genesis of the Convicts

Convicts & Cthulhu B&W Logo sml

Good news on the Convicts & Cthulhu front — layout is nearing completion, which means that we now have a final page count for the book. It will be a 96 page freebie, making it the most ambitious project we have undertaken (either free or paid). There’s still some work to be done redrawing maps etc, so I am still estimating a release date around June 1.

Given that it’s going to be out pretty darned soon, I figure I should provide a few more details about what this book aims to cover and how it come into existence. While I would love to be able to say that it was my brilliant idea to write something about the dark dealings of the Cthulhu Mythos in the convict colonies of Australia, that would be a complete fabrication. In fact it was Geoff Gillan who first approached me with the idea when I was running a project to create a book of Call of Cthulhu scenarios set in unusual eras of Australia’s short but lurid history. Geoff has a university degree in history, so he is always surprising me with amazing things about the past — in this case his first suggestion was to create a scenario or campaign revolving around the Rum Rebellion of 1808.

Now … for those of you who aren’t that familiar with the early history of Australia, let me summarise the fairly dark and scurrilous circumstances which led to the first European settlement on the Australian continent. It all came about because of two things that happened in the 1770s — the first was the discovery by England of the surprisingly fertile eastern coast of Australia; the second was the rather unsporting decision taken by Britain’s colonies in America that they would (thank you very much) really prefer to be independent. The first was important because until then the only parts of the Australian landmass that Europeans had encountered were not the sort of places they were enthusiastic about colonising. The second was important because the loss of the British colonies in America meant the end of the practice of transporting convicted criminals to serve sentences in America (a system that had proved successful in alleviating some of the crowding in London’s slums as well as removing “undesirables” from England althogether).

With the discovery of the fertile eastern coastline (dubbed “New South Wales” by Cook, its discoverer), Britain had a ready-made spot where it could continue to export all its less-than-upstanding citizens that fell afoul of the law. There are a number of common misconceptions about transportation: one is that those who were sent out to the Australian colonies were the very worst of the criminals. In fact, criminals who were convicted of *really* bad things like murder were much more likely to simply be executed in Britain … those who were sent out to Australia were more like petty thieves, those convicted of prostitution, or similar crimes. But this still constituted a very large number of rather shady characters. Another misconception is that everyone who came to the early Australian colonies was a criminal — in fact, right from the beginning the convict population only comprised about a third of the people in the colony. There were many, many military gaolers and almost as many free settlers (folks who saw the new colony as a chance to farm the land).

Convicts & Cthulhu page montage

In setting up the early colony, one of the hardest things was trying to find people who wanted to serve as its military gaolers. After all, the chance of being sent halfway around the world to look after a bunch of reprobate criminals was hardly the kind of assignment that many people would find an excellent career move. So, as a result the calibre of military personnel that came to serve in that capacity — forming the now-infamous New South Wales Corp — were not the most decorated of soldiers. In fact, most of them were only marginally less corrupt than the people they were guarding (and in many cases had been assigned the job as a punishment for some misdeed, often desertion).

All this created a rather unusual kind of environment … isolated, filled with degenerate people, and perched on the tip of a continent about which Europeans knew almost nothing. This is fertile fuel for tales of lurid depravity, dark deeds, and horrific encounters. In short, an environment well suited to being backdrop for a Call of Cthulhu story. To quote Convicts & Cthulhu:

Keepers seeking dark-hearted men and women to serve as adversaries in a Call of Cthulhu scenario will find a wealth of riches in the early penal settlements of New South Wales. Almost by design the majority of the population of this isolated place is made up of the detritus of Britain and its Empire – the inconvenient members of its society that do not fit into the accepted mould of respectability. Within this body of free-thinkers, rebels and reprobates there are no shortage of advocates of beliefs in strange and unnatural gods. Some of those keep their black religious practices to themselves, but others are eager that they spread out like a cancer. It is that latter group that is behind several different subversive “cults” currently thriving in New South Wales.

Australian Aeons Illo #D3

Tomorrow: the corruption of the early colony of New South Wales, and the circumstances leading to the military coup (!)


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