Monthly Archives: April 2019

Long Road to Terror (Australis)

Terror Australis & Aboriginal Art

Keen observers of the published output of Lovecraftian RPG publishers will probably have noted Chaosium’s recent announcement of the release of the brand-new hard-cover full-colour Terror Australis (CHA23155).

This particular book is something quite close to my (Dean’s) heart, since I was not only the project manager for the majority of the project to craft this book, but also wrote a reasonable chunk of it.

Despite the fact that the publisher is billing this as a “2nd Edition” of Terror Australis, that title is a bit misleading since the new volume has only a tiny amount of overlap with the original 1980’s version of Terror Australis (CHA2319). It is, in fact more than 90% brand-new material. The decision to radically rework the Australian sourcebook rather than simply adapt the superb text that Mark Morrison and Penelope Love wrote back in the 80s was made for several different reasons. The biggest factor was the fact that the original Terror Australis, while brilliant, was written in the earliest days of Lovecraftian RPGs and takes a very “80’s view” of what constitutes a historical sourcebook — expectations of depth and complexity and comprehensiveness have moved on, and we wanted the new “edition” to fill those expectations. Another big factor was the very important consideration of treating Indigenous Australian culture and beliefs in a culturally-sensitive way. The original book has some cursory descriptions of these topics, but speaking with Penny (who wrote all those back in the mid-80s) she was eager to see them expanded out into a much more nuanced rewrite.

Another important consideration that was foremost in my mind when sketching out a plan for the book that became Terror Australis 2e was presenting 1920s Australia as a fully-fleshed setting for Lovecraftian games … not just an adjunct to HPL’s “Shadow Out of Time” and Masks of Nyarlathotep. There are plenty of intriguing and engaging tales of cosmic horror that could be set in the various different corners of Mythos-haunted Australia …

The process of getting this book out as a published work has been a very long road. I was brought on in 2012 as a writer (part of an all-Aussie team) and took over the project in 2013. A finished manuscript was submitted in early 2015 … and has taken a long time to make its way through the twisty-turny process of becoming a book. Subsequent to finishing this book, many of the authors expressed an interest in writing more Australian-based scenarios, but set in a diversity of historical eras — the resulting scenario anthology book, Australian Aeons, was completed in 2016 and subsequently purchased by Chaosium. The process of creating one of those historical scenarios in turn spawned Geoff Gillan’s awesome Convicts & Cthulhu setting which readers of this blog will probably be very familiar with. (If not, click here)

While the release of Terror Australis 2e is a moment of huge catharsis for me … it is probably even moreso for the very patient collection of authors who wrote parts of the book back in 2013 and haven’t heard much about the book since. So, I would especially like to extend some very special and heartfelt thanks to Marion & Phil Anderson (who wrote the two excellent new scenarios), Richard Watts (who wrote the sourcebook for his home-town of Melbourne, with flair of course), Geoff Gillan (who neatly summarized all of Australian history, while keeping all the juicy bits), as well as the book’s other writers (Darren Watson, Vian Lawson, and John Hughes, Tristan Goss, and James Haughton). I would also like to extend a particular thanks to James and John for their amazing an essential input to the sections on Indigenous Australian beliefs and culture — I learned a lot from writing and working through those sections with folks whose day jobs see them working to improve the (generally terrible) conditions in which most Indigenous Australian people still live.

[Note: the image at the top of this page shows Terror Australis 2e surrounded by original Aboriginal artwork from this blogger’s personal collection. All these pieces were sourced ethically — either directly from the artist or from established dealers who provided certificates of authenticity from the original artists to establish their provenance. The subject of cultural appropriation of Aboriginal art styles by Western artists is a big issue, and quite contentious one for cultural and spiritual reasons. I would strongly urge people purchasing such art to only do so when it is clear that their money is going to the original artist, and that artist is an Indigenous Australian person.]


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