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!

Advertisements

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 :)!


The Future of Convicts & Cthulhu

Over the past few weeks, several people have asked me about Cthulhu Reborn’s plans for the (surprisingly-popular) Convicts & Cthulhu line, in light of the announcement about the direction of our future publication efforts. This is something that has played on our minds a lot and has received a lot of attention, with a number of different options considered.

At the end of all that navel-gazing, though, we have decided on both a near-term and short-term direction for Convicts. Both are exciting in their own way, so I thought I’d share some details with you guys.

Short Term Future

Prior to Chaosium releasing its new policies on licensed material, Cthulhu Reborn already had a healthy pipeline of upcoming (mostly smallish) Convicts & Cthulhu supplements in the works. Most of these are Ticket-of-Leave type releases whose manuscripts specifically target Call of Cthulhu as their game system. In the short term we plan to continue with our plan of releasing one of these every two months — a goal we’ve mostly managed to maintain over the past year.

The next of these releases, Ticket of Leave #7, will be titled “Seams of Peril” and concerns a wayward expedition to validate a peculiar convict claim of having stumbled upon a rich gold deposit … only of course the truth is something far weirder and more dangerous. The original plan was to release this PDF in August, which would align with our bi-monthly release schedule. Unfortunately that probably won’t happen due to a combination of ill-health and prolonged travel, but we will certainly have it out sometime in September.

ToL #7 will follow the format of recent releases, but will be an exclusively FREE download. The major difference between this PDF and previous releases will be that it will be produced in two versions: one with Call of Cthulhu game stats (for download direct from here on the Cthulhu Reborn blog) and another with the stats removed (for download from RPGNow). This may seem like a strange thing to do, but it is unfortunately necessary for us to comply with the letter of Chaosium’s “fan use” license. We sincerely hope that this doesn’t inconvenience anyone too much.

Following on from ToL#7 we have a enough additional things in the production queue to keep that line ticking along until the end of the year.

Longer Term Future

The longer-term plans for Convicts & Cthulhu are, however, far more ambitious. Put simply we would like to re-launch Convicts as a standalone RPG of its own. Now, before you raise your eyebrows and mutter to yourself “why does the world need yet ANOTHER new RPG system?” … we are not proposing to create a brand new tabletop gaming system, but instead re-purpose the Renaissance system published by the most excellent guys at Cakebread & Walton. For those of you who haven’t checked out their work, it’s definitely worth a look. Renaissance Deluxe is a d100 RPG system which has a pedigree that stretches back to earlier versions of Runequest which have now become open platforms (by virtue of being published under the OGL). Thus Renaissance has a very BRP-like feel to it, and many of its systems will be very familiar to gamers who have played other similar games.

The most recently-published version of the Renaissance system is in Cakebread & Walton’s rather splendid book Dark Streets, 2nd Edition which is a historical RPG set in a Lovecraft-infused version of 18th Century London. If you are a fan of our Convicts material, chances are you’d probably like this setting as well (in our humble opinion). The 2nd edition of Dark Streets (unlike the first) is also a standalone game, which includes all the cutdown parts of the Renaissance system that you need to play. We are kind of using this as a starting template for how a standalone Convicts & Cthulhu game might look.

In terms of content that we want to roll into the new standalone C&C game — well, we certainly will be aiming to bring all the scenario and source material that we’ve released under the Ticket of Leave series back into the core book. We’re also looking at expanding out the historical coverage in a few areas as well as covering a bigger part of the New South Wales colony. But I guess the biggest new sections — still to be written — are those which describe supernatural manifestations (spells, creatures, gods). In this we will be sticking as close as possible to two sources: Lovecraft’s writings themselves, and some of the traditional Indigenous Australian songlines and mythologies. It’s an exciting thing to be tackling … and I’m sure we will be sharing some of that work-in-progress as it gets written.

In the meantime, though, here’s a (very draft) version of what the standalone C&C cover might look like.


Last Days of the Castaigne Reign

As I type these words, there is about 66 hours left on Pelgrane’s behemoth of a Kickstarter for its Yellow King Roleplaying Game. The success of this fundraiser has been quite impressive — some 35 stretch goals have been smashed through, and the current funding is around £142,000 (which, for comparison purposes is about US $185,000). Even at this level, this campaign is up there with the highest-performing Lovecraftian RPG-related Kickstarters ever run, far surpassing Pelgrane’s previous runaway hit, the Dracula Dossier (approx £88,000) and approaching the territory of Chaosium’s mega-campaign for Horror on the Orient Express, 2nd Edition (US $207,000).

Despite having met a whole stack of stretch goals, the campaign still has more up its sleeve … and the very next one is something near and dear to our hearts. To quote the campaign page itself:

£143,000: Perfectly Normal Handouts  

A band logo that incorporates the Yellow Sign. A disturbing infographic ripped from a corporate prospectus. A handbill for a club where the soultakers prowl. If we hit this stretch goal, document artiste extraordinaire Dean Engelhardt will take a break from his work on Absinthe in Carcosa to create 6 pages of modern handouts for This is Normal Now. NOTE TO ALL CAT TOBINS READING THIS: these will all appear in the book, and GMs will print them out from their PDFs, no actual physical document creation or tea-staining required.

This goal is only a few hundred pounds from being met, so hopefully with a few days still to go it will safely be surpassed … and then the fun can really begin.

[As an aside: in case anyone is wondering, the “note to all Cat Tobins” is a sly reference to the gruelling task of creating physical versions of our Hawkins Paper props, part of the previous Pelgrane KS. While digitally creating a bunch of aged documents is easy for us, making a few hundred packs of physical versions was (shall we say) quite a bit of effort. Most of this was done by the hard-working Cat Tobin, co-publisher of Pelgrane and document tea-staining expert par excellence.]

One of the other great things about this Kickstarter is that quite a substantial amount of Robin Laws’ text for all four books already exists — and backers get access to this “early draft” as soon as they back. If you signed up and haven’t grabbed your copy of these PDFs, check out this update for the link (after you’ve logged in to KS of course). Having now had a chance to read through these hundreds of pages of goodness I can really get a good appreciation of exactly how ambitious Robin’s vision of the game truly is. In some ways its more like four games in one, with each of the four settings re-imagining or expanding on the original ideas of Chambers and others in weird, compelling, and strangely quirky kinds of ways. Even if you have absolutely no intention of ever running a Gumshoe-based game, the concepts and settings that are outlined in this volumes would make amazing fuel for a creative and uniquely refreshing gaming experience in any system you’d care to run. I was particularly impressed by the odd tweaks of “modern day” that make up the last two books — if you’re looking for a oddly-disturbing yet subtle twist on the real-world of 2017, you could do a lot worse than mining these settings for ideas!

Speaking of Kickstarters that are much bigger on the inside, I have also recently found time to look through the quickstart “Cthulhu Dark Zero” that Graham Walmsley released almost immediately after his recent Cthulhu Dark KS closed. Given that the rules to Cthulhu Dark are incredibly lean (the basic rules take up only 2 pages, and even the “extended” version is only a handful) most of the book is occupied by general — and very insightful — advice on how to go about making cool and evocative mystery-based scenarios. Pretty much *all* of this great material would be helpful to gamemasters regardless of whatever system they are running. Looking for helpful tips on avoiding common structural errors in mystery-based scenarios? It’s here. Looking for some cool suggestions for making things feel authentically Lovecraftian? That’s here too. If you’ve ever read Graham’s previous (system agnostic) book, Stealing Cthulhu, you’ll already know how deeply he has delved into the structure of what makes HPL’s tales tick — that deep knowledge goes a long way towards making the advice in Cthulhu Dark Zero just that much more … helpful. Highly recommended for folks who like to roll-their-own Lovecraftian RPG scenarios.


ENnies, ENnies, Everywhere

It’s that time of year again when the tabletop RPG world goes into a frenzy as voting opens for the annual ENnie awards.

While Cthulhu Reborn doesn’t have any of its own products up for illustrious prizes, pieces of our work are scattered through quite a number of different (at least 5) books which are up for awards. Because these come from several different publishers, it probably not appropriate for us to suggest, dear reader, that you vote for one book over the other … however I would especially single out the book The Things We Leave Behind by newcomer small publisher Stygian Fox. The team behind that volume are a bunch of small-scale fan-friendly folks (like us), and the book of modern-day scenarios they created is IMHO perhaps the best new book published for Call of Cthulhu in the past year. Plus they are currently selling it at a 25% discount during the ENnies voting period!

Regardless of who you vote for … I would strongly urge you to consider casting your vote. The poll is open until 21 July, you can get there by following this link.

Pulp in any Language is … Pulp

One of the several Lovecraftian books that is up for an ENnie is Chaosium’s Pulp Cthulhu (nominated for Best Supplement). Recently we were approached by a Call of Cthulhu gamer in Poland and asked whether we’d be willing to translate the official Pulp Cthulhu character sheet design into his native language. Well, he offered to do the translation part — which is just as well, since our knowledge of the fine Polish language is sadly lacking. But, we were more than happy to re-typeset the sheet so that it works for Polish gamers.

Just in case there are other readers of Cthulhu Reborn who would also like to have a Polish Pulp sheet … here’s the front and back. Click on the thumbnails to download full-sized images.


Making the Modern, More Modern

Hot on the heels of our announcement yesterday about the future direction of Cthulhu Reborn, we are delighted to announce the release of the first of our free “fan material” PDF supplements for Call of Cthulhu: “The Stars Are Right!” Scenario Upgrade Pack. It’s available as a free download right here on Cthulhu Reborn.

As many readers would be aware, ever since the 1990s Call of Cthulhu has (notionally at least) supported games set not just in the default 1920s setting, but also those in modern day. Chaosium haven’t released a huge number of scenarios set in the modern day, but the best of those they have released are probably those in the anthology titled “The Stars Are Right!” This book was first released in 1992 as CHA2337, featuring seven scenarios written by some of the best writers that were writing for the game at that time. This included some classic material by Richard Watts (perhaps one of his all-time greatest scenarios), Kevin Ross, John Scott Tynes, Gary Sumpter, Fred Behrendt, Steve Hatherley, and André Bishop. A second edition of the book was released in 2004 (as CHA23100) which includes a few minor tweaks to the original scenarios but also adds two new adventures, one by David Conyers and one by William Jones.

While “The Stars Are Right!” is doubtless a classic book — and probably one that is sitting on the shelf of every Call of Cthulhu Keeper who has ever thought of running modern-day games … its scenarios are mostly now almost 25 years old. In those two decades, quite a number of things have changed — particularly in the way that technology has altered everyday life. If you were born after 1992, take it from us: some things really were different back then. Because the text of the scenarios in “The Stars Are Right!” haven’t really been updated much since the time of their first publication, some of their plot elements feel kind of … dated, or anachronistic.

This is where our “Scenario Upgrade Pack” comes in — we’ve long thought that one easy way of modernising these classic scenarios would be to refurbish them with all-knew prop-quality handouts which better reflect the way in which modern day investigators might hunt down clues. So, for example, converting the numerous “newspaper clipping” clues into articles formatted like online news sites or mobile phone feeds. Or converting a clue hidden in someones (physical) address book into the same information squirreled away in their iPhone’s “Contacts” list. While these changes are largely cosmetic, they do go a long way towards covering over some of the things that do feel a bit “old-fashioned” about the scenarios.

Of course, not everything can be fixed with nifty props. So, for several of the scenarios we have also suggested some plot tweaks that might help to replace some anachronistic references (mostly to technology) with things that are more 2017-appropriate. For most of the scenarios, little or no major “surgery” is required — but there is one exception to this rule. Steve Hatherley’s rather intriguing scenario “Fractal Gods” has as its core backstory the notion of a electronic “zine” which is sent to subscribers via floppy disks sent through the mail. That feels more like a 1990s thing than anything that would happen in the 21st Century — so we’ve suggested an alternative backstory and plotline that hopefully feels a bit more contemporary.

Finally, because most Call of Cthulhu gamers seem to now be using the current (7th) edition of the game, we have included some game statistics for each of the scenarios which brings them in line with that edition. Mostly the conversion between editions is super easy, but we thought it might save some time-poor Keepers a few minutes of mental arithmetic.

If you’re not sure if it’s for you, check out the montage of handouts above– just a fraction of the 48 handouts we’ve included in the pack. BTW, because some of the scenarios in “The Stars Are Right!” are pretty light-on for handouts, we have invented a few additional pieces here and there inspired by textual descriptions in the scenarios themselves. Hopefully these capture the intentions of the original scenario writers.

We hope that Cthulhu Reborn readers will find these resources helpful. “The Stars Are Right!” is still a title that seems to be in print on the Chaosium site, and is also available as a PDF. If you’re looking for a set of modern day horror scenarios you could do a lot worse — particularly if you can supplement the Chaosium book with the sleek new handouts in our pack. Of course if you already own “The Stars Are Right!” in either first or second edition, you can always brush off the cobwebs and give the scenarios a fresh spin with our suggested tweaks — maybe breathing some new life into those classic tales of “modern” dread.

“The Stars Are Right!” Scenario Upgrade Pack is a 67 page free PDF, and weighs in at something like 15MB.

 


%d bloggers like this: