2022: The Year of Cthulhu Eternal

This year has been an amazing year for Cthulhu Reborn. We have released more content in 2022 than any previous year … and while some of the work happening behind the scenes has progressed the APOCTHULHU product line and other new offerings, the vast majority of our time has been spent launching and supporting Cthulhu Eternal, the free/open game system for Lovecraftian tabletop roleplaying.

While most readers will probably be familiar with at least some of the Cthulhu Eternal stuff that’s been released in 2022, we thought it would be fun … as this dark year limps to a close … to do a bit of a roundup.

Jan/Feb: Initial SRD releases (Jazz Age, Victorian, Modern)

Even though our work on the rules for Cthulhu Eternal started well before 2022, it was the release of our first batch of rulesets (in the form of System Reference Documents) that marked the public launch of the game.

These three rulesets each comprise a full-featured set of rules, tailored for a particular era of gameplay. Each weighs in at about 100 pages of text (no illustrations), and covers everything from game system mechanics, details about generating era-appropriate player characters (Protagonists, in CE parlance), combat, rules for sanity, tomes, rituals, etc. Each SRD gives you the basic tools to run a detailed roleplaying game or campaign.

But the best thing about our SRDs is that every single word in them is 100% open content — which means that ANYONE (not just us) can release content compatible with these rules, or lift particular text or mechanics, or remix the content to make an entire new game. All without paying us (or any other licensor) a cent.

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Needless to say these free/open rulesets have proven to be incredibly popular — and actually constitute (easily) the most downloaded products we’ve ever released. At last counting, each had been nabbed by over 6,000 gamers, earning gold medals on DTRPG. We like to think that a decent chunk of those curious folks have given the system a spin, or written their own nifty adventures brought to life by our rules. We’ve certainly heard tales of some fantastic original (and converted) games that people have run.

The launch of a truly free/open game for Lovecraft Investigation also piqued the interest of a few podcasts who invited us on to talk about the potential of the “open source” rules engine. (Of course we are always open to talking to more folks about such things, so would happily drop by other gaming podcasts if the chance arose!)

Feb to May: Our First Cthulhu Eternal Scenario

Shortly after unleashing the CE game system on the world, we put out a pair of scenarios set in 1920s Arkham. These eventually became the first entries in our ongoing “Miskatonic Mysteries” line — which has swelled to 5 titles as the year has gone on.

The initial scenarios were called “To Touch The Untouchable” and “Help Wanted” and each offer an intriguing balance of investigation and action, in the classic Lovecraft tradition. Both scenarios are also chock filled with newspaper-based props. Because we love vintage newspaper props (do we need a better reason?)

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Mar: Our Fourth Ruleset

People had quizzed us a lot about whether we had plans for releasing versions of Cthulhu Eternal for eras beyond the “traditional” time periods for Lovecraft stories. We’ve always found this kind of interesting — in truth we embarked upon this whole endeavor to create a platform to release entirely new types of game Mythos setting, prioritizing the Jazz/Victorian/Modern trio mostly because previous reader polls had suggested that is what most people were interested in.

In reality, though, our approach to the Cthulhu Eternal rules was always designed to make it relatively easy to port them to a wide range of settings. In order to test this out we took a shot at releasing a version which targets mid-20th century settings, in particular those with a “cold war spy” kind of vibe. Predictably we called those free/open rules the Cthulhu Eternal Cold War SRD. Like the rest it’s about 100 pages and covers everything you need to run a seedy “spy v spy v Mythos” type of game. Or you can downplay the spy stuff and use it for more general purpose games set any time from the 50s to the 80s.

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Apr: Starlight on the Gutter

This Victorian Era scenario is quite an extravagant affair, and also occasioned some fantastic game sessions when we ran it internally for playtesting. It brings together the Cthulhu Mythos and a very famous creation of Oscar Wilde and sets things up for a deadly and very theatrical climax.

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The release of this scenario was also a bit of a milestone for us — with different versions of the same adventure having been kicking around our filing cabinets since about 2011. In reality the core of the scenario is far older … dating back to the mid 1990s!

May: Our First Lost Masterpiece

Over the years we have been fortunate enough to be able to speak with many of the most prolific authors of Lovecraftian RPG gaming material. One of the things that always surprises us when chatting with those luminaries is … just how many little unpublished tidbits they have sitting at the back of their dusty old filing cabinets.

We were fortunate to be able to secure permission from Kevin Ross — perhaps the most prolific and accomplished writers for Chaosium’s “Call of Cthulhu” in its golden age — to put out a few of his very earliest pieces. We grouped two mi-go themed adventures together as “Dark Visitations”.

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Jun-Aug: More Miskatonic Madness

The first pair of 1920s Miskatonic Valley scenarios seemed to be quite popular, so we released another three entries in the series. The first two of them (Smoke Green and Spoiled Milk) are set mostly in the Arkham vicinity, but the third (Bottoms Up!) mostly takes place in Bolton, a little-used (fictional) neighboring town. It’s an industrial town mentioned in just one Lovecraft story (Herbert West of Reanimator fame lived there for a while) … but has so far not been depicted in gaming form. That meant we needed to create a whole new town map … that was a fun task (which thankfully was helped by input from Bret Kramer, renowned Lovecraft scholar and publisher of the excellent Arkham Gazette gaming mag).

Links:

  • Miskatonic Mysteries #3: Smoke Green
  • Miskatonic Mysteries #4: Spoiled Milk
  • Miskatonic Mysteries #5: Bottoms Up!

Aug: Our Fifth Ruleset

Not content with the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first century settings we’d covered in Cthulhu Eternal SRDs, we decided to make one tailored to stories from the mid 18th Century onwards. We toyed with a few candidate titles to capture the essence of this turbulent time, but eventually settled on the “Age of Revolutions”. This is kind of fitting since the time period encompasses both the French and American revolutions … and arguably a sizeable chunk of the industrial revolution as well.

While one of our main motivations for making this version of Cthulhu Eternal is to (eventually) reboot our much-loved “Convicts & Cthulhu” setting, numerous people have pointed out that it has a lot of potential for a broad range of intriguing game settings. In addition to all the notable historical upheavals mentioned above the ruleset could feasibly be used for things like the French and Indian Wars, or Napoleonic conflicts. All it needs is for motivated writers with a historical bent …

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Oct: Cthulhu Eternal Added to Roll20

With a range of Cthulhu Eternal rulesets out in the wild, we decided it was time to build some support for playing our game on at least one of the major Virtual Table Top (VTT) sites. We’d love to support lots of these, but our resources are limited — so we concentrated on getting Cthulhu Eternal on to Roll20. Rather than putting a bunch of different character sheets on the site, we ended up created one mega-sheet that can be reconfigured to support any of the published SRDs … and a bunch of others that we would ultimately like to release in the fullness of time.

For those who use Roll20, the mega-sheet can be selected whenever you’re creating a new R20 game (look in the section “Sheets by Publisher” — it’s called “Cthulhu Eternal by Cthulhu Reborn Publishing”).

Dec: The “Re-Animated By Cthulhu Eternal” Logo License

With five full rulesets out in general circulation, it seems that a small grass-roots community of “Open Source” Lovecraft RPG hackers has sprung up. We’re aware of several intriguing projects that have already begun. One thing that emerged as a common question was “if I publish my own scenario or game, can I put the Cthulhu Eternal logo on the cover, or claim compatibility with the Cthulhu Eternal system?”

We obviously want to make it as easy as possible to do all those things, and to clarify the whole legal situation about using our logo we created a special license which says basically you are free to use a compatibility logo (below) on pretty much any (legal) publication you might care to release. There is no charge for this, and you don’t need to get prior approval by us for using the logo.

Note that this license only governs usage of logos etc … using the text of the Cthulhu Eternal SRDs is controlled by the (WotC) Open Gaming License 1.0a.

And That’s Our Year

A year is a long time in gaming … but this year (maybe for the first time) I can look back and think yep, we sure did release a lot of stuff in 2022. Five full rulebooks, five Miskatonic Mysteries, and two other major scenarios. The only thing we didn’t do is release any physical print books (all the things mentioned above are PDF-only at present). We’re hoping to rectify that in the future, perhaps grouping together some of our scenarios into a print anthology. But that is, as they say, a future project.

So … what’s next for Cthulhu Eternal, you might ask. Well we are keeping quite a lot of stuff under wraps for now … but I will just leave this image below as a teaser for something that is currently being worked on by the illustrious Chad Bowser (famous for inventing the latest CoC Dark Ages, and the original Cthulhu Invictus). We hope to share more …. when the stars come right.


2 responses to “2022: The Year of Cthulhu Eternal

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