Welcome to a New Year of Horrors

Happy New Year from all of us here at Cthulhu Reborn! May 2016 bring you all the horrors you wish …

I thought that it would be a great idea to kick off the new year in style by releasing something that’s been sitting around on our hard disks for a while gathering dust — a customised 7th Edition character sheet, skinned with a “Masks of Nyarlathotep” theme.

MoN 7e Sheet - letter - Front sml

Where did this come from? Well … a bit over a year ago I was contacted by Ben Patey, whose ill-fated Kickstarter to create a physical prop set for Masks has been well documented over on YSDC and other blogs (so I won’t rehash its tale of woe here). Ben wanted to have a special “Masks of Nyarlathotep” character sheet designed as a reward to go along with the props. He had previously run an online poll to see whether people wanted a sheet aimed at the older (6th) edition of the rules, or the new (7th) edition — most people wanted the latter, hence this sheet was born.

I believe that some physical character sheets were produced and included along with the prop sets for the small number of backers who have received them. Since there is no current time-line on when any of the other backers (of which I myself am one) will be getting their props, I thought I would go ahead and release these sheets as free downloads for backers of Ben’s Kickstarter and anyone else who might like a Masks themed character sheet. You can grab the sheet either as a pair of high-resolution PNG images (front and back, 300 DPI colour) or you can download the PDF version which has the same autocalc logic as the official Chaosium 7th Edition character sheets.

Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Masks of Nyarlathotep Sheet (front side)

Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Masks of Nyarlathotep Sheet (reverse side)

  Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Character Sheet, 2 sided – Masks of Nyarlathotep edition (autocalc) 

Like all the official CoC 7th Edition PDF sheets, this one will probably only work properly when opened with Adobe’s free PDF Reader or with Adobe Acrobat. It uses a whole bunch of dynamic mojo that most PDF software doesn’t support.

As with every free download provided here on Cthulhu Reborn, this sheet is released under a Creative Commons Attribution license — that means you can do pretty much anything you like with these files, as long as it is not for commercial purposes. I hope folks find this a useful addition to their collection of Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition character sheets :)


German Reprint of “The Machine King”

Loyal readers of Cthulhu Reborn will doubtless already have grabbed a copy of Geoff Gillan’s “The Machine King,” the lavishly illustrated free PDF scenario we released last year. If you haven’t, you can grab one either from the Downloads page here or over on RPGNow.

Machine King - Front Cover Mockup C

“The Machine King” is far-and-away one of the most popular downloads from the site (and from RPGNow too). So it is only fitting that it becomes the first Cthulhu Reborn title to be republished for a non-English-speaking audience.

Some months back we were approached by the excellent and talented guys who publish Cthulhus Ruf, a sort of high-quality indie magazine dedicated to publishing original content for Call of Cthulhu. If you are a German-speaker and also play CoC you are probably already aware of this great publication (if not, you should macht schnell to their site and grab as many issues as are still in print!).

cr08_cover

The translated version of Geoff’s scenario, called “Der Maschinenkonig” was recently published in Issue 8 of Cthulhus Ruf. I was lucky enough to obtain a print copy … and let me just say that the German designers have done a fantastic job!

archiv_08_umschlag

It is sort of appropriate that “The Machine King” be translated into German, since many of the themes and images that are prominent in the scenario draw on things that are themselves German. Geoff’s scenio features significant nods to some great German literature and film (in particular Fritz Lang’s 1927 masterpiece “Metropolis”) and my own modest additions threw one or two more obscure references in as well.

Anyway … a great collaboration … we couldn’t be happier with the results.


Back to Basics: Upgrades for “In The Shadows”

Back when I first created the Cthulhu Reborn blog, its stated purpose was to create freebie stuff that helped to rescue scenarios from undeserved obscurity. I’m very conscious of the fact that it’s been quite a while since I’ve had time to make good on that worthy “mission statement” … so I figure it’s high time that I fix that situation.

While most of the work that I’ve done so far has involved taking scenarios that had been released by their authors as text-only adventures (often copright-free). This time around I thought I’d try a different tactic … finding a published book that, for whatever reason, is undeservedly obscure because it is lacking in some nifty handouts and creating some new designs to make the published material more accessible to Keepers and players alike.

It wasn’t too hard to find a good candidate … “In The Shadows,” Chaosium’s 1995 book of scenarios by Gary Sumpter. Why is this book such a good candidate? Well, because when it was first published it seemed like it was trying very VERY hard to be a great little package of diverse scenarios, each supported by extensive and deluxe handouts. Indeed on the surface of it, these scenarios might have some of the largest count of handouts Chaosium ever created for standalone scenarios (Scenario#1 has 24 handouts!). So … why aren’t these scenarios better known as great examples of handout-fuelled tabletop fun? Well, perhaps because the production process at Chaosium seemed to have had a few gremlins when it comes to the way the handouts were printed. For whatever reason, pretty much *all* of the books 40 handouts are barely readable — mostly because of heavy mottled grey texture that runs across all of them. This is a real shame because, as written, the handouts are quite crucial to running the scenarios.

Shadows - Shadow Papers 02 - Telegram

So, what I have done to try to make this book more useful … well obviously there’s nothing much I can do to fix the original handouts. But with a bit of squinting (ok, a LOT of squinting) I was able to figure out the text that appears on them, and from that I have been able to re-enginer a brand new suite of handouts for these three scenarios.

While I was going through the process of working with these scenarios, I also jotted down some conversion notes for running them under the latest (7th) Edition of the Call of Cthulhu rules. I figured this might also help time-poor Keepers who were tempted to run one of the three scenarios.Shadows - Devil Papers 15 - Book ExtractTo take a glimpse at the replacement handouts I have created (some of which appear scattered through this page), you can visit this portfolio page which collects them all together. If you want to download the entire “Scenario Upgrade Pack” — which includes the handouts in high-res plus the 7th Edition conversion notes — scroll down to the bottom of this page.

If you don’t already own a copy of “In The Shadows” — either the printed book or the PDF — this material will be useless to you. However if you’re willing to shell out a fairly modest fee you can still buy the PDF (currently on DrivethruRPG it can be had for US$6.57). It’s probably not so easy to track down a physical copy, since the book is doubtless out of print by now.

Shadows - Devil Papers 13 - Newspaper

If you are curious about the three scenarios that make up “In The Shadows” (CHA2357), here is a bit of spoiler-free info from the CthulhuWiki page for the book:

  • “Devil’s Hole” begins with the disappearance of an old friend in Scotland. Subsequent investigation uncovers dreadful secrets about his ancestry, and his terrible fate.
  • “In the Shadows of Death” takes place in what was once the plantation country of Louisiana. Visiting a friend at his newly-inherited mansion sets the stage for a series of haunting encounters, culminating in the monstrous legacy of a blasphemous experiment.
  • “Song of the Spheres” takes place in New England, where the elderly father of a respected colleague has been inexplicably stricken mad. The investigators discover that a slighted musician and his act of supernatural revenge have far greater implications.

Each of the three scenarios has some interesting ideas, and as a package the book is quite diverse. My personal favourite is the third of the scenarios “Song of the Spheres” which features a rather unusual Mythos threat at the culmination of a plot involving crazed composers and musicians. What’s not to like?

Shadows - Song Papers 03 - Song of the Spheres

So … if you want to grab the full “Scenario Upgrade Pack” for “In The Shadows”, what should you do? Well … click the link below!

Scenario Upgrade Pack – In The Shadows [41 pages, 82MB]

As always with material released here on the Cthulhu Reborn blog, this upgrade pack is released under a Creative Commons license which means that you can do pretty much anything you want with it as long as it’s not commercial. Obviously the text of the handouts remains copyrighted by Gary Sumpter, but he has kindly agreed to these reverse-engineered versions of the Chaosium handouts being created.

Shadows - Song Papers 02 - Handwritten NoteWe hope that this set of resources encourages folks to check out this book of scenarios (or pull it off the shelf again, if it’s been sitting in your game library for 20 years gathering dust). If it encourages you to give the adventures a spin then the pack has done its job (and you will be making me, and I am sure Mr Sumpter, very happy :)). Here’s hoping your Investigators find themselves a suitably nasty demise … In The Shadows :)


My Encounter with Dracula

It’s been a while since the last blog update here on Cthulhu Reborn, and as usual the reason is that I’ve been busy working on all manner of intriguing projects for other folks … most of which I can’t (yet) talk about. But one thing I definitely *can* talk about is the work I did for Pelgrane Press as part of their insanely-ambitious uber-Kickstarter project to create the Dracula Dossier.

For those who didn’t follow this project, the Dracula Dossier is a sprawling and diverse resource for Night’s Black Agents — Pelgrane’s Gumshoe-fuelled RPG which blends vampires with the cold, hard world of spy-thrillers. The game itself is the creation of Ken Hite (known to Cthulhu gamers for Trail of Cthulhu and Ken Writes About Stuff, but truly someone who has a vast gaming resume) … for this project he is teamed with Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan (whose Cthulhu-related credits include The Laundry, World War Cthulhu, but again who has worked on lots of other amazing stuff too).

So … what’s it all about? Well, the Dracula Dossier isn’t a campaign in the sense of being a pre-built narrative, but rather a toolkit from which an enterprising Gamemaster could create an infinite number of different but related campaigns. The basic premise behind it all is that the events described by Bram Stoker in his original novel were actually based somewhat on real happenings resulting from secret government machinations. As a disinformation campaign, Stoker was forced to redact his original — much more factual — draft of the account and release it as a work of fiction. But the original still exists, and has been studied by generations of intelligence analysts and spies, some of which have annotated it to record their own observations or to note some current event which seems to them related to the Stoker original.

Hawkins Papers - Original Letter to Dracula

The game resource comes in two parts: one is the aforementioned unredacted and annotated version of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”. Yep, that’s right, players get 200+ page hand-annotated novel as the core clue which launches the campaign. By following up on clues, hints or speculations in those pages, they start to investigate the truth behind what happened when Dracula was in Victorian London … but also other intelligence operations that happened before and after that incident. Those investigations lead to encounters with modern-day organisations and individuals tied to those operations … and the whole thing snowballs from there. But, rather than there being one pre-defined plot, the Dracula Dossiers provides (in the second book) a vast collection of NPCs, places, encounters, organisations, etc., any of which *could* be used by the Gamemaster to fill a particular narrative requirement. This allows for a completely improvised campaign customised to whatever the players are interested in. Trail of Cthulhu readers who have Pelgrane’s Armigate Files will be familiar with this general approach — though it’s still a pretty experimental style for RPGs.

Hawkins Papers - Quake Notes (card montage)

Anyway … that’s the project in a nutshell … so what was my involvement in this vast undertaking? Well, one of the (many, MANY) stretch goals for the Kickstarter campaign was the creation of something called the Hawkins Papers, a collection of prop-quality documents which Gamemasters could use when running their own Dracula Dossier’s campaign. I was extremely honoured (and surprised) when Pelgrane approached me to craft the designs for these prop documents. It was a relatively large and time-intensive job, in part because the documents span so many different eras and styles (each of which I needed to research). But it was also an immensely enjoyable thing to do … in no small part because all the folks involved in the production were extremely enthusiastic and great to work with (in particular, publisher and project-wrangler Cat Tobin). In all I think my contribution spanned to about 48 pages of prop documents, plus some other minor graphic design assistance here and there.

Hawkins Papers - Flash Messages 01-06 montage

If you backed the Dracula Dossiers Kickstarter, you will probably have already seen the Hawkins Paper (PDF) which contain my designs … if you are merely curious, you can check out a selection of the designs scattered through this post … but also collected on this portfolio page. If the quality and level of detail of these prop documents entices you to consider buying The Dracula Dossiers, I would certainly encourage you to scoot over to Pelgrane’s site to learn more about the product. And if your gaming interests don’t extend beyond the world of the Cthulhu Mythos, you shouldn’t dismiss the Dracula Dossier altogether — as part of yet ANOTHER stretch goal unlocked along the way, the books also include The Trail of Dracthulhu, a campaign frame that links Dracula’s doings back to the forces of the Mythos allowing an improvised game that is both Dracula-ish and Cthulhu-ish. An intriguing blend of horrific things.

Hawkins Papers - Goetic Org Chart (texture)

Oh … and one last thing that may be of interest to some: to celebrate the release of the Dracula Dossier, Pelgrane have declared this month the “31 Nights of Dractober” and are posting daily reveiws of classic vampire films from the dawn of cinema to today. Some really interesting gems.


Free Addon for Mutable Deceptions 1

Readers of Cthulhu Reborn that are interested in creating 1920s era Newspaper-based props for their Lovecraftian games probably already know about Mutable Deceptions, Volume 1. For those that don’t it’s basically a PDF-based toolkit for making nifty authentic-looking 1920s newspaper articles, complete with surrounding articles/ads and a reverse side. It’s Cthulhu Reborn’s only commercial product to-date … and you can find out more about it over on RPG Now if you are so inclined.

One of the things that people ask me most about this package is … “how come there aren’t more ‘reverse side’ pages of ordinary news articles and ads? I’ve made lots of articles using the templates but they all have the same stuff on the back! My players are bored of reading the same fake articles.”

MDB1-1 - Generic Reverse FS1 (small)

This is a fair comment — although the original PDF pack for Mutable Deceptions, Volume 1 does include 8 or so pages you can use to create reverse sides for your awesome home-made newspaper clues, there’s always room for more. And I do hate bored players.

So … in the spirit of giving out Freebies for loyal readers of this blog, I thought I would put together some additional PDF pages that can be used along with Mutable Deceptions if you want a bigger selection of material for the reverse side of your clippings.

MDB1-2 - Generic Reverse FS2 (small)

Of course, there’s nothing to stop anybody from using these files on their own (without Mutable Deceptions) — if you can do that, more power to you. Celebrate the spirit of sharing free stuff on the Internet! Print ’em out and use them to wrap your fish and chips for that authentic old-school dinner (disclaimer: if you do this, I am not responsible for anything that happens – you’re on your own :)).

You can download a PDF with two full pages of new newspaper content (based on real American newspapers of the 1920s, but re-typeset to look more consistent with the fonts and typography used in Mutable Deceptions, V1). Each page is provided as a version with background texture and another without — for those who like printing their newspaper articles on exotic paper to give them even greater authenticity.

I hope folks find these helpful — I am likely to create a second batch of freebie newspaper add-ons sometime in the future.


That is not Dead, which Can …

… eternally be occupied on other projects :)

Well, it’s been quite a few months since the last post here on Cthulhu Reborn. That doesn’t mean that we haven’t been busily working away on Cthulhuoid goodies, though. Quite the opposite, actually. In fact, since December we’ve helped out on a whole bunch of different Kickstarter projects for a whole bunch of different people and companies. In the absence of any new freebie content to post here I thought I’d include a brief “sneak peek” at our contributions to two of those projects.

Arkham Gazette

The Arkham Gazette is a nifty gaming magazine published by Bret Kramer’s Sentinel Hill Press. It’s devoted to printing awesomely-detailed gaming resources set in “Lovecraft Country,” that creepy and haunted fictional part of Massachusetts often visited in HPL’s horror stories. Back in December, Sentinel Hill Press ran a very successful Kickstarter campaign to bring the third issue of the Arkham Gazette to print, with a whole bunch of cool content and add-ons. Also stretch goals unlocked during the campaign allowed for the previous issues of the magazine to also be revisited and brushed up with professional layout and handouts.

I was lucky enough to be invited to contribute a whole bunch of different items to the various print and PDF products that backers of this Kickstarter will receive. Below are just a few of them.

Arkham Gazette 2 - Handout 5C - Newspaper Article (sml)Arkham Gazette 3 - Handwritten Notebook, Page 8 (sml)

The Dracula Dossier

Another great Kickstarter from last year (although one not strictly relating to Lovecraftian stuff) was Pelgrane Press’ campaign for The Dracula Dossier. This is an awesome resource for Ken Hite’s intriguing “Night’s Black Agents” game which mashes the Spy Thriller genre with the Vampire genre and fuels the whole thing with Robin Laws’ Gumshoe system (as seen also in “Trail of Cthulhu”). The purpose of this Kickstarter is to mine the tale of Dracula to create a framework for conspiracy thiller gaming. One of the interesting add-ons that was unlocked during the wildly successful campaign (the 32nd (!) stretch goal reached), is a series of prop documents from a range of different eras, all relating to the government conspiracy known as “Operation Edom”. I was incredibly pleased to be invited to take on the challenge of producing these for Pelgrane. A few of the many, many designs can be seen below.

Hawkins Papers - Goetic Org Chart (texture)Hawkins Papers - 1940s Military Memo (texture)Finally …

In between all of this work for other people I *have* found a little bit of time to work on some of the freebie projects that have been the staple of Cthulhu Reborn. Keep your eyes on this page for an announcement — hopefully soonish.


Christmas in Arkham

Happy holidays, dear reader of Cthulhu Reborn. It’s certainly been a great year for the blog, and one that has allowed us to release a bunch of free prop-goodness to (hopefully) enhance your Lovecraftian tabletop gaming experience.

As always, though, a significant proportion of the prop design work we have done this year has been for commercial publishers — and while some of that has made it into products, a lot of it is still waiting to see the light of day. One of the projects that falls into that category is an amazing and fun project involving the creation of dozens of high-detail Arkham-themed prop documents for a deluxe kit that a publisher has yet to announce. As always with these kinds of jobs there ends up being too many ideas and designs to put everything into the final product — leaving cool but extraneous bits of left-overs.

Postmarks Montage

I figure it would be in the spirit of the holiday season to work one of these left-overs up into something that I could release here as a free Arkham prop document. A Cthulhu Reborn Christmas gift :).

The design I chose to finish is … a dance card that is both Arkham-themed and Christmas-themed. “What’s a dance card?” I hear you young whipper-snappers quipping to yourselves. Well, I’m sure everyone is familiar with phrases “having a full dance card” and the like, but few of us today really appreciate the very important social function that that this humble piece of cardboard once held for people. When dancing was one of the primary form of social interaction (which it certainly was in the 1920s … and several later decades too) people would dance with many different people on any given night. If one wanted to recall the name of the dishy Army officer one foxtrotted with last Saturday evening, chances are you’d pull out the dance card that you’d kept as a souvenir of the night. Similarly, when one was asked to dance later in the night it was important to be able to “book” people into a free slot — and the dance card was the way of doing that.

CR Prop Freebie - Dance Card (outside)

Dance Card (outside)

 

One can imagine that nine decades ago, in the fictitious town of Arkham, MA, the yuletide dance at the most prestigious hotel in town — the glittering Hotel Miskatonic — would have been the social occasion of the season. So, when one of the party-goers is found in a back alley, apparently assaulted on his or her walk home — by something with tentacles! — the bloodied dance card on their corpse could be a clue!

CR Prop Freebie - Dance Card (inside)

Dance Card (inside)

 

The freebie prop that I have created is a 2 page PDF that allows you to create a realistic-looking 1920s dance card. Print double sided, cut out, and fold in half. If you’re really keen you can even punch out the hole and attach a piece of string with a small pencil on the end. That’s how the dance cards of the 1920s were done … a bit like this:

 

Click the link below to grab the PDF … and send your Lovecraftian investigators off to solve the mystery that haunts the mayor’s big Yuletide party!

Freebe Prop – Arkham Christmas Dance Card (5MB, 2 pages).

As an aside, the photo of the Hotel Miskatonic on the front of the dance card is actually something that I created as a mashup of several different period photos of luxury hotels. That picture *does* make it into one of the props I delivered to the publisher … so you might see it again someday on a letterhead or something.

CR Prop - Hotel Miskatonic

Hotel Miskatonic … as envisioned and Photoshopped by CR

 

In the meantime — back here in Christmas, 2014, far from the luxury of the roaring twenties — we here at Cthulhu Reborn would like to offer our best wishes for a fun, safe and enjoyable holiday season. And down wander into any alleys that smell … fishy :)


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