Monthly Archives: June 2019

The Safewords of Cthulhu

There has been many interesting things to come out of recent debate over on YSDC about the intersection between Intellectual Property law, the Cthulhu Mythos, Chaosium, BRP, and the Open Gaming Licence.

One of the most contentious of the discussion topics has been around which Mythos creatures/gods/characters are truly in the Public Domain, which are definitely “licensed” by their original creators for game use, and which fall into the enormous grey-area in between. For a game designer trying to put together a brand new Lovecraftian game, knowing this stuff is pretty important … but there really aren’t too many places you can go to find such details. The prevailing wisdom seems to be “buy yourself a copy of Dan Harms’ excellent Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia and figure out for yourself which things were first mentioned in stories now in the public domain.” For most people, that is more work than they expected.

Fortunately, one of the folks who weighed in to the YSDC discussion was @CaseUndefined who is creating a Lovecraftian RPG in German called FHTAGN. In order to determine which Mythos entities were safe to include, and which weren’t, he spent a long time researching the various named beings and gods that are mentioned in short stories to find which are truly Public Domain.

You can see the original German material produced by @CaseUndefined at this link … but in the interests of making the results of his/her research more accessible to English-speaking audiences, I have extracted the list of “safe” Mythos Entities and translated the relevant names back to English. I have done the same for FHTAGN’s list of Unnatural Rituals. Obviously the FHTAGN game itself has a lot more information and game-stats about each of these things, I am just giving the names of the entities or rituals in question. If you have an interest in FHTAGN or speak German and wish to see the source text, see the link above.

[ Standard Disclaimer: this is the results of original research for the FHTAGN game; it’s not legal advice about the Intellectual Property status of entities mentioned in Lovecraft’s tales. ]

 

Cosmic Horrors

·         Azathoth
·         Beings From Ib
·         Bokrug
·         Cthulhu
·         Colour Out Of Space
·         Dagon and Hydra
·         Deep Ones
·         Dholes
·         Elder Things
·         Flying Polyps
·         Ghasts
·         Ghouls
·         Gloon
·         Gnorri
·         Great Race of Yith
·         Gugs
·         Hastur
·         High Priest Not To Be Described
·         Hunting Horrors
·         Hypnos
·         Mi-Go
·         Miri Nigri
·         Moonbeasts
·         Nath-Horthath
·         Night-gaunts
·         Nodens
·         Nyarlathotep
·         Rat-Things
·         Re-Animated Corpse
·         Re-Animated Horror
·         Shantaks
·         Shoggoths
·         Shub-Niggurath
·         Star-Spawn of Cthulhu
·         Tamash
·         Winged Servants
·         Yog-Sothoth
·         Zo-Kalar
·         Zoogs and the Ancient Zoog

Unnatural Rituals

  • Aklo Sabaoth
  • Ancestral Bond
  • Dho-Hna Formula
  • Elder Sign
  • Essential Salts
  • Powder of Ibn Ghazi [added 30Jun19]
  • Sign of Koth
  • Summon Beings

Can Cthulhu Be Open?

In the past few weeks there has been some rather interesting discussion over on the Yog-Sothoth forums about the legal status of a set of rules for d100 Lovecraftian horror gaming that some group attempted to circulate under Wizard of the Coast’s Open Gaming License (OGL). While the OGL is a very common part of RPG publishing in other corners of the industry, it has never had much traction in the world of Cthulhu RPGs (with a few exceptions). With the kerfuffle launched by this YSDC thread, it sounds like there are certainly parties who would like things to stay that way.

The YSDC thread in question is linked here, although you will need to be a YSDC member to sign-in and read it.

In this thread Chaosium has made some fairly bold assertions, although those pale into insignificance compared to their recent (doubtless related) posting over on BRP Central. That posting effectively says that, despite the fact that the BRP system was effectively published back in 2006 as Open Game Content (under the OGL), because Mongoose’s license was terminated in 2011 that means the previously published material is now no longer Open Game Content. This is an interesting assertion given the specific language included in the Open Gaming License contract which says “In consideration for agreeing to use this License, the Contributors grant You a perpetual, worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive license with the exact terms of this License to Use, the Open Game Content.”

One wonders what that means for the literally hundreds of game books that have used content derived from the 2006 Mongoose SRD, or from a book that sourced content from the Mongoose SRD, or from a book that used a book that used a book … Mongoose SRD. Does Chaosium’s statement mean that all of those hundreds of books can now no longer be sold?

As someone who has several times considered publishing Cthulhu content under the OGL (rather than the Creative Commons License we usually use here on Cthulhu Reborn), this discussion is of particular interest to me.

Is there any OGL expert out there who knows whether it’s even possible for someone to retroactively assert content is no longer open, long after it was published? Inquiring minds want to know! Replies in comments below or send them to me direct at dean <at> cthulhureborn.com


Tonight We’re Gonna Party Like It’s 1984*

You know what I find kind of weird? The fact that decades that I personally remember quite clearly are now legitimate targets for “historical settings” for film, TV, and games. At the moment we’re going through a bit of a 1980s nostalgia revisitation, perhaps thanks to Stranger Things … and this has bubbled over to the gaming world.

Some time back, the very fine folks at Sentinel Hill Press ran a Kickstarter to re-publish a great old Kevin Ross scenario called “The Dare” featuring a typical 80s bunch of teenaged Kid Investigators who take on the challenge of exploring the local “haunted house.” While that Kickstarter has been a bit delayed due to a variety of health and family issues, it will be a wonderful book when it arrives (trust me).

Back in 2017, Sentinel Hill asked if I would design a custom “1980s Themed” character sheet to go into that book. While those designs are still waiting to go into the book layout for “The Dare”, I was recently thinking about running a completely different Call of Cthulhu scenario with an 80s theme. So naturally I wondered whether I could brush up the (very cut-down) 1980s character sheets for “The Dare” to make them into general-purpose 1980s fillable sheets for Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition.

Turns out … I could. So I figured I’d share this new (unofficial) flavour of character sheet for 7th Edition Call of Cthulhu. Use them to stat up the members of Spandau Ballet and send them across the barricades to fight Great Cthulhu in The Lebanon! Send your crack team of 1980s investigators up against the mysterious neun-und-neunzig Lufballons!

Or, perhaps, do something sensible with the sheet. Either way … feel free to do whatever you wish with the PDF. Just don’t blame me if you can’t get that Hall & Oates song out of your head for weeks 🙂

As usual with things we release here via Cthulhu Reborn, this 1980s character sheet is copyrighted but released under a Creative Commons Share-Alike license. That means, you can use it for any non-commercial use. If you have a burning issue to use it in your awesome commercial product, get in touch with us and we can talk about a full-commercial license.

Here’s the PDF:

  Unofficial 1980s era sheet for Call of Cthulhu, 7th Edition (US Letter, 2 sided, with autocalculation) [NB: For use with Adobe Reader or Acrobat ONLY]

For those who would prefer a NON-fillable sheet that works in any PDF reader, here’s one of those:

  Non-Fillable Unofficial 1980s era sheet for Call of Cthulhu, 7th Edition (US Letter, 2 sided) [NB: For use with any PDF reader]

 

[*] With apologies to Anais Mitchell who wrote a wonderful folk-protest-type song featuring this exact line, for her 2004 album “Hymns for the Exiled”. Her usage is art; mine is shameless.

“Sure is going to be lonely … after I turn you in.”


Convicts & Cthulhu & Spies & Zombies

I may have mentioned already that Geoff Gillan, long time friend and collaborator of Cthulhu Reborn, recently launched his own self-publishing imprint for genre fiction. I have been fortunate enough to be able to read quite a few of Geoff’s published and unpublished novels and short tales, and really enjoy the deft and witty way in which he fuses genre themes and traditional formats into something new and exciting.

Geoff’s fiction imprint is called Mutant Brainchild, and just a few days ago its snazzy new website went live! This site is kind of the go-to place for the different fiction lines and releases Geoff has planned, including material that you can purchase (or download for free) right now.

As a celebration of Convicts & Cthulhu’s third birthday (see a few blog posts ago), Mutant Brainchild put out a short gaming-related post which ties the Convicts universe to the Cold War/Weird/Espionage world of Geoff’s “Man from Z.O.M.B.I.E.” series. For those who haven’t yet checked out those stories (start with the free sampler short!), it’s basically a setting which fuses 1960s gritty spy drama with the “weird science” notion that spy organizations have created post-human agents (“Zeroes”) which are the perfect, cold-hearted, agents. The C&C Birthday posting introduces the idea of a shadowy organization — the Revivification Bureau — that serves a similar purpose in the 1800s. A great free addition to the C&C setting!


The False Bottom in the Case of Mark Edward Morrison

There is an old Nick Cave song that warns of the perils of burying that-which-you-think-is-dead in a hole that is too shallow. When the rains come, and the tide rises, those shallow-buried things can just … float up to the surface [*]. Well, it seems that the same holds true for Lovecraftian RPG scenarios. I say this because just when you think that there is nothing left from the ancient writings of classic-era Call of Cthulhu writers … up pops something that has lain brooding in the ground for 30+ years.

Here on the Cthulhu Reborn blog we are very much into the revivification of old Lovecraftian RPG material … and so were most excited by yesterday’s release of “The Saltwater Inheritance” by Mark Morrison. This new Miskatonic Repository title is available for sale right now ($1.99). There is a whole story to how this particular scenario came into existence, but Mark explains it most ably in the PDF itself and on the DriveThruRPG product page.

This might just be one of the very few Miskatonic Repository titles that I’d put into the “must buy” category. It’s interesting for both historical reasons — it was written just before Mark hit the big time as one of the core writers of 1980s/early-90s Call of Cthulhu — and also because it contains some delightfully gruesome pieces.

Now … this has just got us wondering what *else* might be hiding under the false bottom in Mark Edward Morrison’s infamous case.

 

[*] If anybody actually knows which Nick Cave song I’m alluding to, feel free to post it in the comments. For the first correct identification I’m happy to hand out a free PDF of our Dateline: Lovecraft PDF, normal value $14.99.


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