Let’s face it, life in the early penal colonies of Australia was no picnic. Even if you were fortunate enough to avoid the brutal floggings and ever-present threat of capital punishment for disobedience, there was always disease and starvation to contend with. Is it any surprise, then, then the mortality rate in these grim colonies was — at least by our standards — shockingly high. People died in the colonies all the time. This problem was not made better by the fact that conditions on the ships coming to the settlements was even more toxic, which meant that frequently vessels arrived with many of their passengers having perished on the voyage over.
All these corpses had to be disposed of somehow, and in this era that meant finding somewhere to bury them. The settlement at Sydney began with some modestly-sized burial plots, a couple for convicts and another for sailors. These were filled within four years, creating somewhat of a crisis. It wasn’t until some time later when the governors grappled with the problem more sensibly, that a very large cemetery was allocated at the far southern extent of the township (ironically, this location is in modern times where Sydney’s town hall stands).
Even with a sizeable space to bury their dead, the early colonists were remarkably lax when it came to doing so — all graves were all dug by convict labourers who couldn’t care less whether they were deep enough or not. This meant that many bodies were buried in very shallow graves, which created problems of noxious smells not to mention attracting pigs from neighbouring fields who were free to roam around the burying ground (and occasionally dig up corpses).
While all these details of early colonial life are horribly macabre … they are wonderful fuel for tales of horror and death. After all, where would have the necromantic tales of H.P. Lovecraft or Edgar Allen Poe (not to mention George A. Romero) have been without an ample supply of poorly protected corpses.
Ticket of Leave #6 — released (more-or-less) on the first anniversary of the publication of the core Convicts & Cthulhu setting — is a chunky 15-page PDF which explores burial customs and locations in the early colonies. But, far more excitingly, it also includes a creepy mini-scenario by Geoff Gillan, which explores the dark and nasty consequences of cadavers being just a little to easy to obtain for experimentation. The scenario also includes wonderful new art (pictured above) by the fantastic Reuben Dodd, a long-time friend of Cthulhu Reborn.
Do your investigators dare to leave their homes on the Night of the Convict Dead? Available right now for download via RPGNow (as a pay-what-you-want title).
“They’re coming to get you, convicts!”
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It’s hard to believe it, but in a few days time we will be celebrating the first anniversary of the release of Convicts & Cthulhu, our (suprisingly very popular) sourcebook for playing grime-and-depravity-fuelled Cthulhu Mythos adventures amid the horrific penal colonies of early Australia. Since its release, the core Convicts book has sold almost 1700 copies in PDF and print. We’ve also managed to bring out five mini-supplements under the “Ticket of Leave” line which, collectively, have sold almost 1900 PDF downloads (of course many of the downloads of both the main book and the Tickets have been free-of-charge downloads, so maybe the term ‘sold’ isn’t 100% accurate, but you get the meaning).
If by some chance you have missed grabbing some of these books, here are some links to the RPGNow pages where you can grab them. Each is either free or “pay-what-you-want”:
Convicts & Cthulhu core setting book [96 pages; PDF or print].
Convicts & Cthulhu player’s edition (the historical and setting sections of the core book) [57 pages; 10.6MB]
Ticket of Leave #1: Night Terrors [4 pages]
Ticket of Leave #2: Tri-Colour Terror [6 pages]
Ticket of Leave #3: Criminal Enterprise [8 pages]
Ticket of Leave #4: The Vanishing Ensign [14 pages]
Ticket of Leave #5: The Damned & The Degenerate [24 pages]
To celebrate the one-year anniversary, we’re planning to release our sixth supplemental release sometime close to the actual C&C first birthday (30th May). Obviously this will depend on several unholy stars aligning, but … fingers crossed. The title of the sixth “Ticket of Leave” will be “Night of the Convict Dead” — we’ve even commissioned some new art from the always-amazing Reuben Dodd. Here’s a peek at his illustration:
BTW if you’re wondering whether the recent flurry of activity around Convicts & Cthulhu means that Cthulhu Reborn are only working on convict-related projects … let me assure you that is not the case. In recent weeks we have commissioned two well-known Call of Cthulhu authors to create brand new setting books in entirely different corners of the Call of Cthulhu world. Hopefully we will be able to share some more specific news about those awesome future projects soon!
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We are very excited to announce the release of the fifth installment in our highly-popular “Ticket of Leave” series of mini-supplements for Convicts & Cthulhu. It’s available for download right now on RPGNow. This one is entitled “The Damned & The Degenerate” — it’s a bit of a departure from previous PDFs in that it doesn’t aim to expand the world of C&C by adding new narrative elements. Instead it is a comprehensive revisiting of the character generation sections of the original sourcebook. While we originally only had a small number of pages to devote to character templates and skills, the richness of the colonial prison setting lends itself to a very broad range of colourful characters, both roguish and virtuous (but mostly roguish). The opportunity to go back and expand the character rules as its own mini-supplement was just too good a temptation to resist.
Mind you, I *say* “mini-supplement” … but the reality is that when we started looking at the intriguing range of character types that are possible for the colonial Australian setting we ended up with quite a sizeable list. The original Convicts & Cthulhu sourcebook has something like 12 occupation templates — the list for this Ticket of Leave is just over 40. Of course, describing the game statistics and historical context of all those professions takes space. So our “mini” supplement weighs in at 24 pages, and includes a fresh copy of the C&C character sheet.
The set of character occupations in ToL5 is broadly divided into four categories — Indigenous Australian occupations, Convict occupations, Government/Military Occupations and Free Settler Occupations. All the obvious things are in there, but so too are a bunch of interesting and unusal character types. Ever wanted to play an Aboriginal tracker paid by the white colonists to track down escaped convicts? Well, now you have the “Bush Constable”. Ever wondered how “aristocratic” convicts, or convict confidence tricksters might work? Now those are options. And if you’ve ever speculated that maybe there were turncoat foreign spies lurking beneath the thin veneer of the colonies, plotting an overthrow … you can now create exactly such a character.
To illustrate the diverse range of convict-era character types, and also to give Keepers and players ready-made “drop-in” characters, this PDF is peppered with lots of examples of real historical people who performed those jobs in the colonies. These aren’t the high-and-mighty people of the colonial administration; rather they are the day-to-day people struggling to get by. In other words, perfect NPCs and replacement investigators. Full stats are provided for each example character, along with a historically-sourced bio (because the squalid details of real history is actually more horrible than anything we could dream up ourselves).
To round out “Ticket of Leave #5: The Damned and Degenerate” we’ve included some slightly tweaked and better-described rules around handling a few CoC 7th Edition skills in the colonial setting. And we’ve also included some notes on playing a couple of unusual character types. The first of these are early “bushrangers” — desperate escaped convicts (and occasionally deserting military types) who somehow manage to survive off the land. The second is the odd phenomenon of free settler women who came to the colonies to accompany their convicted husbands (now that’s dedication!).
If you are a Keeper or player with an interest in Convicts & Cthulhu, there will certainly be a wealth of character-based material in this PDF that is helpful to running your game. You can grab it right now from RPGNow. As with the previous Ticket of Leave we have decided to make this a “Pay What You Want” release rather than a straight free download — this is really just to reflect the amount of effort that has gone into creating a fully illustrated beautiful 24-page booklet. Of course we are more than happy if our loyal readers want to grab the book for free. But we would graciously accept any higher purchase price as well (and would consider it a valuable donation which will help us maintaining this product line well into the future!).
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