Monthly Archives: May 2020

Have Another Tot of Rum (Convict’s Birthday)

Today (or technically yesterday) marks the four year anniversary of the release of the original Convicts & Cthulhu core book. So … happy birthday to C&C.

In past years we have tried to time our C&C releases so that we’re able to put out something new to celebrate the anniversary, but this year things have been so crazy that we haven’t been able to do that. Hopefully the brand new campaign PDF that we released back in April will satiate your need for new Convict content for a little longer.

We can offer three pieces of news about the future of Convicts & Cthulhu, though:

  • We now have a draft manuscript ready for the next Ticket of Leave (#16) — it’s titled “The Devil to Play” and concerns itself with convict theatres in the colony;
  • We believe that despite the many changes to GenCon, we will still have a Convicts & Cthulhu event at the con. More details to follow;
  • In creating the APOCTHULHU RPG we have crafted a customised version of a d100 system that we will use as the engine for our (long-planned) standalone Convicts & Cthulhu game. The same engine might also be useful for other gaming projects that have been on our backburner … so watch this space.

In the meantime … we offer our heartfelt thanks to those of you who have downloaded and read our Convicts games. And for those who have been in touch with details about your game runs — thank you from the bottom of our hearts; it’s your enjoyment of this unique setting that keeps us creating.

So … another tot of rum to celebrate (then it’s back to the ankle line).


First Review of APOCTHULHU QS

The first review of the APOCTHULHU Quickstart rules was just published over on the Rolling Boxcars blog. It’s a bit of a mixed review (some pros and some cons), and definitely worth a read.

The TL;DR summary is that the reviewer generally praises the game’s rules and the presentation of the Quickstart, but is less sure whether the idea of a game blending horrors of Mythos encounters with everyday grimness of Post-Apocalyptic survival is something for everyone.

Of course we are also keen to hear what you folks, our loyal readers, think of the game … and whether you think that the central concept is TOO dark and gritty for your gaming group to enjoy. Drop a comment below if you have an opinion.

Released Today: APOCTHULHU Quickstart

The APOCTHULHU Quickstart PDF is available right now on DriveThruRPG. The 73-page PDF contains literally everything you need to get a game of Post-Apocalyptic Lovecraftian goodness up and running for your gaming group.

More specifically, it includes:

  • A streamlined version of the full APOCTHULHU rules (which will be released later in the year)
  • Rules for creating new characters (called “Survivors” in the APOCTHULHU parlance)
  • A set of six fully-detailed pre-generated characters
  • A suitably creepy sample Post-Apocalypse setting (“This Fecund Planet” as featured here in the blog in February), and
  • A 25-ish page scenario by Chad Bowser set in the same Post-Apocalyptic world.

The whole thing is a “Pay-What-You-Want” title on DTRPG, which means you can grab it for free if you want. Indeed, if the current world situation finds you in difficult circumstances we really WANT you to grab it for free. Alternatively, if you are interested in contributing some funds to allow us to make the core rulebook even cooler and prettier, your generosity will be very much appreciated by all of us here at Cthulhu Reborn.

Also today we have created a support page here on Cthulhu Reborn to provide resources for APOCTHULHU. Right now it contains a fillable autocalc version of the character sheet as well as pre-filled character sheets for the six-pregens included in the Quickstart. Feel free to grab these files if you think they’ll make it quicker and easier for you and your friends to dive into the game.

So … don’t delay … head over to DTRPG and nab yourself a brand new RPG. The Apocalypse has never been more Lovecrafty.

What Makes A Lovecraftian Apocalypse?

The book project that eventually morphed itself into the (soon to be released) APOCTHULHU RPG had a simple enough goal — to create a selection of game scenarios that were at the intersection of the cosmic horror of H.P. Lovecraft and the Post-Apocalypse sub-genre.

That sounds like something pretty easy to define, right?

Turns out, not so much. While Lovecraft’s fiction is full of non-specific prophecies of the fall of mankind and the return of the Great Old Ones (or other similar future agents of human extinction), they are short on details. On the one hand, this is fantastic when it comes to leaving ample room for game scenarios to paint different versions of the dystopian worlds left after the Apocalypse comes. But it does make it difficult to pin down exactly what features of a Post-Apocalyptic setting would make it resonate with Lovecraft’s sweeping visions of cosmic indifference and the mechanistic inevitability of mankind’s demise.

I mean, does the kind of world that features in your average post-Nuclear Holocaust story have that kind of “Lovecrafty” vibe? Maybe. What about your average “Walking Dead” kind of Zombie Apocalypse? Eh, maybe not so much. And what about the world presented in traditional Post-Apocalyptic RPGs like Gamma World? Almost certainly not.

Dean modelling Apoco-Hoodie

We thought a lot about this point while we were designing the APOCTHULHU game. In particular we thought a great deal about the problem of what might make an Apocalypse feel like it has a connection to Lovecraft’s world view.

Fortunately, while it’s true that the “Old Gent from Providence” dealt mainly in sketchy outlines when it came to describing life after the end of the world, there are two notable exceptions to this rule. Both are “stories” (or more accurately prose poems parading as stories) which describe a heightened version of how the world fell into oblivion and what came next. The first is something many readers will probably have encountered — the prose poem “Nyarlathotep” which HPL wrote in 1920 almost as the first part of (what would eventually become) his “Mythos” cycle. In this short piece, Lovecraft paints an eerie and slightly surreal sketch of how Nyarlathotep came from Egypt, touring around putting on a show demonstrating the modern marvels of electricity. Those who see this show are forever changed by it, while at the same time the world seems to be corrupted by these same forces … leading to a terrifying (if briefly sketched out) demise for humanity.

The other Apocalyptic tale which Lovecraft had a large hand in writing is a piece written in 1935 ostensibly by Robert Barlow (HPL’s young friend who generously hosted him on several trips to Florida late in Lovecraft’s life and who was appointed as HPL’s literary executor only to be somewhat gazzumped by August Derleth). With Lovecraft’s obvious assistance Barlow wrote a story called “Till A’ The Seas” which is a two part piece which is part prose poem and part story. It describes a future world in which the Earth has been devastated by the sun becoming hotter and hotter. In this world a few people survive, and the second half of the piece tells the tale of a few of them … in particular Ull, the man who would eventually prove to be the last survivor of the human race. The story ends on a massive downbeat tone with Ull perishing and the entire planet eventually lapsing into a state of “death.”

The last few paragraphs of this story have such a “Lovecrafty” type of depiction of the ultimate extinction of our world that they’re worth quoting here:

“And now at last the Earth was dead. The final, pitiful survivor had perished. All the teeming billions; the slow aeons; the empires and civilizations of mankind were summed up in this poor twisted form – and how titanically meaningless it all had been! Now indeed had come an end and climax to all the efforts of humanity – how monstrous and incredible a climax in the eyes of those poor complacent fools of the prosperous days! Not ever again would the planet know the thunderous rampaging of human millions – or even the crawling of lizards and the buzz of insects, for they, too, had gone. now was come the reign of sapless branches and endless fields of tough grasses. Earth, like its cold, imperturbable moon, was given over to silence and blackness forever.

“The stars whirred on; the whole careless plan would continue for infinities unknown. This trivial end of a negligible episode mattered not to distant nebulae or to suns new-born, flourishing, and dying. The race of man, too puny and momentary to have a real function or purpose, was as if it had never existed. To such a conclusion the aeons of its farcically toilsome evolution had led.”

Taking inspiration from these two scant examples of Lovecraft’s depiction of extinction of the human race — either at the hands of bizarre alien gods, or just due to the blind and unstoppable processes of cosmic decay — we’ve tried to put position APOCTHULHU as a game that is about less traditional Apocalypses than those found commonly in RPGs.

It’s not really a game that tries to be a Zombie survival horror game, nor is it really one which aspires to look at life after mankind’s own hubris or scientific blunders render the planet uninhabitable. You can probably use the rules in APOCTHULHU for those kinds of games, but it’s not what it’s designed for.

The kinds of “end of the world scenarios” where cryptic forces descend from the stars are, however, quite fitting for the Lovecraftian vibe. As are Apocalypses where ancient things rise up from hidden places in our earth … and yes, also those where the dreams of alien horrors force mankind to bring about its own downfall (perhaps by nuclear or biological blunders). Those are areas we’ve tried to develop in our sample settings as well as in the detailed lists of inspirational movies / TV / comics / novels / stories that form an appendix to the core APOCTHULHU rules (coming later in the year).

We hope that those ideas about what makes for a “Lovecraftian” Apocalypse are broad enough that you can pick up the game and still make a bunch of different types of game settings … but that all of them ooze the same kind of cosmic dread that is central to HPL’s (and Robert Barlow’s) vision of our world’s demise.

APOCTHULHU Rises This Friday

Our team of tireless Apocalypse Builders has been working on APOCTHULHU for a long time (since December 2017, in fact). So it feels a bit surreal to be finally announcing that the very first part of this epic project is just about to be released to the world.

Yes, that’s right — APOCTHULHU is almost here.

Well, at least the APOCTHULHU Quickstart is almost here. We will be releasing it on DriveThruRPG this Friday.

The Quickstart is a 73-page PDF which gives you everything you need to start playing a game of APOCTHULHU. The PDF will be a “Pay-What-You-Want” release … and we’re planning a softcover version later in the year.

As well as having a cut-down (but feature-complete) version of the game mechanics, the QS contains:

  • Rules for creating Survivors (the player characters in the panoply of possible Mythos Post-Apocalypses you can play),
  • A Two-sided character sheet,
  • Six Pre-Generated Survivors,
  • A ready-to-use Post-Apocalypse setting (in fact, it’s one of the four we previewed here on the blog back in February), and
  • A fantastic pick-up-and-play scenario by Chad Bowser called “Amber Waves”.

Except for dice (or online dice substitutes) it contains absolutely everything you need to take the APOCTHULHU game rules for a spin, either for a one-shot run of the supplied scenario or for an extended scenario of your own invention.

In the lead up to the Quickstart release this Friday I thought I’d share some additional info in the coming days regarding the game and its approach to tackling the subject of “Lovecraftian” Post-Apocalypse gaming.

As you’ll note from the description of the QS, one unusual thing about APOCTHULHU is that it isn’t a game which is tied to a single Post-Apocalyptic setting, but rather a set of rules for bringing any number of different such settings to life. This was an early design choice we made. The reasoning behind that was fairly simple … we noticed that there are an awful lot of different ways in which Mythos fiction hints that our world might end. Even in Lovecraft, there are hints of several different nightmare scenarios which “are foretold” as ways in which the unthinkably alien forces of the Mythos might unseat mankind from his illusion of pre-eminence. Picking just one such setting as the Apocalyptic fall of humanity inherently sidelines a lot of *other* cool ideas which would be equally fertile springboards for game scenarios. Furthermore, picking one possible dystopian future as the basis for our game would make it difficult for folks to use APOCTHUHLHU as a vehicle for playing things like “the continuation of classic campaign X, in the event that the Mythos Investigators *didn’t* save the day after all.”

With all that in mind we tried to build a game that would support any kind of Mythos “End of the World.” Do you want to explore a world in which civilization fell after Shub-Niggurath bestowed her terrible gift of fertility on the land? Or would you prefer an Apocalypse where Nyarlathotep’s smooth words seduced global superpowers into mutual annihilation? Would your players find it fun to explore the ruins of the world left behind after R’lyeh rose heralding the return of Great Cthulhu? All of these things are possible settings for APOCTHULHU.

Now there are perils to building a game which has no deeply-embedded “world” associated with it, the biggest being that the GM has more work to do in establishing the setting. We’ve tried to counter that in APOCTHULHU in two ways. First, the core book — which will be out later in the year — has a lot of material which aims to streamline the process of defining and establishing a custom Post-Apocalyptic setting. The second approach we’ve taken is also providing a diverse set of “pick-up-and-use” game settings that our awesome writers have already outlined. Several of these pre-defined settings are also further fleshed out by way of “ready-to-run” scenarios. The goal is to provide a spectrum of different resources: if you’re a world-building kind of GM, you have simple, elegant and flexible tools to customize things to your heart’s content. If you’re after a one-shot, the scenarios have you covered … and if you’re somewhere in the middle, the pre-defined settings are an awesome springboard for your own creative elaborations.

The Quickstart has a slice of most of these elements — it has a stripped back version of the core rules, which you can use in any Post-Apocalyptic setting you like, it has a pre-defined setting called “This Fecund Earth”, and a ready-made scenario called which is tied to that setting.

We hope that you’ll grab yourself a copy of the APOCTHULHU Quickstart when it hits the virtual shelves on Friday, to see for yourself how much fun the Mythos Post-Apocalypse can be. Well, maybe “fun” isn’t the right word …



APOCTHULHU Creeps Closer

Back in February we spent some time sharing sneak peaks at some of the content for APOCTHULHU, a brand new RPG that we’ve been working on for … er … quite a long time (we started back in 2017, but that seems a lifetime ago).

Since February, everyone’s lives have been a bit of a jumble, but our plucky APOCTHULHU team has kept moving forwards on finalizing text and graphics for the first release in the product line — the APOCTHULHU Quickstart rules. All going well, this should be out within the next month.

Recently we completed the cover design for the Quickstart. Here it is:

Most of the layout for the Quickstart has now been done, so I can say with some confidence that it will be a 72-page book and contain:

  • A cutdown (but fully-featured) version of the APOCTHULHU game rules,
  • A nifty two-page character sheet,
  • Six pre-generated APOCTHULHU Survivors (complete with full character sheets),
  • A sample Post-Apocalypse setting — actually one that we shared here on the blog back in February
  • An awesome introductory scenario by Chad Bowser

Here’s a sneak preview at one of the pages that’s gone through almost-but-not-quite-final layout. As you can see we have tried as hard as we can to make the books in the APOCTHULHU line visually pleasing while retaining high contrast between text and background.

The Quickstart will be released first as a PDF, then later as a softcover Print-on-Demand book. We’re cautious about promising timely turnaround of physical books at this point — based on how long international shipping is taking, we expect print proofs to take their sweet time getting to us for review.

For the PDF we will be supporting PDF layering which means you can easily switch off glossy background textures altogether (if the classic look is more your thing).

Finally, because everyone seems to have to put together promo videos for their new game to be taken seriously, here’s our first experiment at video promotion. This really is just an audio-visual teaser … but we will be creating another video or two which melds similar snazzy visuals with some voice-overs that tell you actual things about the game! Facts in ads? There’s something wrong with me, I know!


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