Author Archives: deanadelaide

Expedition to the Blue Mountain Peaks

It’s only just over a month since we released the previous title in out Convicts & Cthulhu line … but we find ourselves again today quite breathless with excitement, announcing the release of Tickets of Leave #12: Fallen Stars. This PDF is an exciting release for us, since it brings a brand new writer into the C&C production team, long-time historical RPGer Matthew Ruane (who has a long relationship with Colonial-era Lovecraftian RPGs having run many of the convention previews for Sixtystone Press’ excellent-but-sady-still-forthcoming Colonial Lovecraft Country line).

Matthew’s Ticket of Leave weighs in at a respectable 22 pages, and is available for download right now, absolutely free! The format for this supplement is a little more like a traditional convention scenario — which is not surprising, because a version of this scenario will be run at GenCon 2018 in August as our official C&C scenario for the convention. So, if you are already booked into playing on one of the runs of this game in Indy, you may want to hold off reading this Ticket of Leave straight away (or do so with your spoiler-sensitive sunglasses on).

The historical subject matter for Ticket of Leave #12 draws on two related strands important to life in the early penal colony of New South Wales. One of those is the growing need to find new farmland to house and feed the growing settlement, an ambition significantly hampered by the tall slopes of the Blue Mountains bordering the western edge of the colony. Despite several efforts by determined explorers, there is still no known path through this vast natural barrier (at least, Europeans know of no such path — Aboriginal peoples actually had two well-established “highways” to traverse the mountains). The other facet of colonial life explored in this supplement is the inquisitive scientific elite who look upon the strange and vastly unfamiliar flora and fauna of the new continent of Australia and see great new opportunities to expand humanity’s knowledge. And every reader of Lovecraftian fiction knows that expanding the limits of human knowledge *always* works out well …

In this scenario, the Investigators are invited (or obliged) to join an expedition to the remote foothills of the Blue Mountains where, some nights prior, a fiery ball of rock fell from the sky — a “falling star.” Several members of the colonial administration see the opportunity to collect specimens from this scientific oddity as an offer too good to pass up. But, few white men have ever penetrated this far into the hinterland, and the maps of the region are more akin to blank leaves of paper with a few stray scratchings. Thus, the expedition calls for hardy and fearless souls who can survive on their own in the wild bushland … and who knows, somewhere along the way they may even stumble upon the much-sought-after pass through the vertiginous Blue Mountains. Or they may find something (or be *found by* something) far stranger altogether …

Ticket of Leave #12: Fallen Stars by Matthew Ruane (with some minor historical sidebars by Geoff Gillan) is available right now as a free download from the Cthulhu Reborn blog. The version linked here is complete with game statistics for the Call of Cthulhu, 7th Edition (under Chaosium’s fan license). As with other recent releases, we have been obliged by Chaosium’s somewhat arbitrary licensing rules to also create a stat-free version of the supplement for release via RPGNow and DrivethruRPG. We would encourage you to share the links to either or both of these versions with your personal network of Lovecraftian RPG enthusiasts. The more free stuff out there in the wild, the better for everyone!

This release also brings us back into our regular bi-monthly schedule of releases (after April’s release being delayed); so from here we’re aiming for another Ticket around GenCon time, one around Halloween, and maybe even a third Convict Christmas-themed supplement.

As a final note, I would really like to express my thanks to Matthew Ruane, our all-new Convicts & Cthulhu writer. In producing this product line we strive for a very high level of historical accuracy — sometimes creating a whole bunch of work for ourselves just to present the Colonial Australian setting in all its grim and gritty (and horrific) detail. Matthew has embraced this obsessive mania for historical verisimilitude and run with it … and the result of his research is a fine, if rather sanity-sapping, adventure which showcases everything we love about Convicts & Cthulhu. So, well done, Matthew … but if all the GenCon groups end up going hideously insane before completing the scenario, we wouldn’t be at all surprised 🙂

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Welcoming a New Convict

It doesn’t seem all that long ago that we were were announcing the release of our eleventh Ticket of Leave supplement for Convicts & Cthulhu … but, strike me down, we are about to put out another one!

Ticket of Leave #12: Fallen Stars should be out before the end of the month, neatly bringing us back into our normal bi-monthly series of PDF releases. This supplement is especially exciting for a couple of reasons: firstly, it is written by a brand new writer to the C&C line, Matthew Ruane. And secondly, a version of this new scenario will be our official Convicts & Cthulhu game at GenCon 2018 in August (something we’ve never done before!)

So keep your eyes peeled here, and hopefully we will be announcing the release in the next couple of days! In the meantime, you can enjoy the wonderful new Reuben Dodd artwork that we’ve commissioned for ToL #12. This scene highlights the fact that not all trips out into the wild bushland of NSW are as uneventful as one might like.

 


Building the Apocalypse, part 1

News, News, News …

We’ve been quite excited here at Cthulhu Reborn HQ, watching our friends at Stygian Fox bring home their successful Kickstarter to republish the wonderful “New Tales of the Miskatonic Valley” (first released in 2008 by the much-missed Miskatonic River Press). It will be great to see these scenarios back in print … and we will also have the privilege of contributing a few pages of Miskatonic-related newspaper pages to the back of the book. Yay! (Note: this is distinct from the much larger newspaper-related product, Dateline: Lovecraft, which we’ll be releasing ourselves later this year. So, two batches of Arkham newspaper weirdness!)

And in slightly related news, Cthulhu Reborn are happy to finally reveal the first of eight writers who is currently scribbling away creating scenarios for our forthcoming Post-Apocalypse book. It is none other that frequent Stygian contributor and editor, Jeff Moeller. Most people will probably recognize Jeff from his superlative modern-day scenarios in the ENnie award-winning The Things We Leave Behind. The gritty style of his Lovecraftian writing (so much a breath of fresh air when major publishers seem hell-bent on driving their games relentlessly towards pulp sensibilities) is a great fit for what we’re looking to achieve with APOCTHULHU.

Jeff has already submitted a scenario manuscript for a scenario set in a post-Apocalyptic near future in which the catastrophic “end of the world” predicted by a fringe cult — much lambasted by social and traditional media — actually came to pass. At the appointed time the world actually *did* burn in a fiery maelstrom, Old Testament style. But those who followed the cult’s instructions (even if only as an ironic joke), survived the conflagration and live on in a series of bunkers around the world. These Survivors include the player characters. One year on, and the silence and isolation of the bunker are broken by a strange radio signal … urging them to make a trek across the wasteland, to where the faithful are preparing a FINAL event which will bring an ancient prophecy to its conclusion. But who is behind the message? And is the prophesied birth of the cult’s Messiah really going to save the already shattered world, or damn it forever?

So basically … just some light entertainment for your gaming table 🙂

[Recap of earlier news: APOCTHULHU is an anthology of scenarios, each set in a different version of the world following a “Mythos Apocalypse”. It is written to use a (slightly) tweaked version of the Delta Green RPG rules, but is designed to be readily translated to other d100 systems, should you wish to do so.]


Happy Birthday, Mister Convict …

Believe it or not, today marks the two-year anniversary of our first publication of Convicts & Cthulhu, a setting for Lovecraftian horror roleplaying in the early penal settlements of Australia.

In the months since it’s original publication, we have been supplementing the original C&C setting by publishing a series of PDF releases under the “Tickets of Leave” series. Our initial goal was to release one of these every two months — and amazingly we have largely been able to keep to this release tempo, having now released 11 Tickets of Leave. While we initially planned for these to be small, free supplements (a little like the “one sheets” popular for Savage Worlds) … the needs of a mystery-based game have meant our supplements have been more substantial (and continue to grow moreso). They are still all obtainable free-of-charge, or Pay-What-You-Want if you shop via RPGNow.

In case you’ve missed some of these Convicts supplements, here’s a quick roundup of everything that’s been released so far:

Convicts & Cthulhu [96 pages]. This is the core setting book (with CoC 7e game statistics): this is the flagship book in our C&C line — at least until our release of the standalone Convicts & Cthulhu RPG, which is still in development.

Convicts & Cthulhu, Player’s Edition [57 pages]. A cut-down version of the above which focuses on the setting and the information required by players creating convict (or settler, or aboriginal) investigators.

 

Ticket of Leave #1: Night Terrors [4 pages]. Our very first “Ticket of Leave” supplement contains information about the Night Watch, a nocturnal patrol created by the early penal settlements. As well as describing character options and encounters typical to a Night Watch campaign, the PDF includes a short sketch of scenario involving an incompetent cultist and the messy consequences of a summoning that didn’t go as planned . . .

 

 

Ticket of Leave #2: Tricolour Terror [6 pages]. This supplement explores the rather tense relationship between the British penal colony and the French ships which occasionally visited; an antipathy fuelled by the on-again-off-again war between Britain and France in the era. As well as including character options (including French spy!) it has a scenario which begins when a French ship limps into Sydney Harbour with a tale of running into a strange creature at sea … is this a true account of a Mythos horror, or just an attempt to gain the trust of the Colonial authorities for nefarious purposes?

 

Ticket of Leave #3: Criminal Enterprise [8 pages]. This “Ticket of Leave” explores the phenomenon of criminal gangs within the penal settlement. A good proportion of those in the colony are there for their illegal dealings … so is it any surprise that some continue their criminal enterprises even once inside the prison settlement? As well as notes on playing criminal gang members (and a ready-made gang of ne’er-do-wells), the supplement includes a scenario based around a smuggling deal that takes a serious turn for the weird thanks to some rather … odd … clients.

 

Ticket of Leave #4: The Vanishing Ensign [14 pages]. This supplement explores the historical “musters” that took place periodically in the early colonies — massive census-like exercises in which a small team was sent into every corner of the colony to tally up the population, arms, and other defences to determine the colony’s readiness for attack. It features a scenario based around a mysterious sailor whose name appears on many different official records in numerous places around the colony … but nobody seems to be able to locate.

 

Ticket of Leave #5: The Damned & The Degenerate [24 pages]. When the core Convicts & Cthulhu book was published there was only limited space to outline profession templates for “investigators”. This PDF greatly expands upon the list in the core book providing dozens of additional occupations for players to roleplay … all the way from Aboriginal trackers to colonial undertakers. It also includes some slight tweaks to the skills list in the core book. There is a revised C&C fillable character sheet that goes along with these changes.

 

Ticket of Leave #6: Night of the Convict Dead [15 pages]. This PDF explores the subject of cemeteries in the early penal settlement, and the way in which authorities disposed of the (many) people who died, whether from disease, mistreatment, or other violence. It features a scenario with overtones of dark necromantic arts, cruel experiments, and dangerous hubris. All of these collide in the eponymous “Night of the Convict Dead.”

 

 

Ticket of Leave #7: Seams of Peril [14 pages]. Later history of Australia is heavily shaped by the gold rushes that brought many to Antipodean shores … but decades before that, shameless convicts were not above faking “gold strikes” and bargaining authorities to exchange their early release for the “secrets” of their discovery. The supplement includes a scenario about an audacious convict that tries just such a scam … but the location he picks for his phony mine is somewhere that he (and the investigators) would be better not to visit. But their mission is to accompany him to exactly that place.

 

Ticket of Leave #8: Gentlemen Convicts [20 pages]. While the majority of convicts sent to Australia were from the lower classes of British society, there were exceptions — so-called “Gentlemen Convicts” who were sentenced to transportation despite their relative wealth. These elite prisoners had a range of special priveleges, and a kind of society of their own. This “Ticket of Leave” features a scenario centering on just such a group, haunted by a curious and apparently spectral ‘stalker’. Who is behind the brutal murders of the society? And what strange and supernatural hand fashions such gruesome deaths for the gentlemen convicts?

 

Ticket of Leave #9: Orphan School Horror [23 pages]. This “Ticket of Leave” is our (vaguely) Christmas themed release, centering upon the only benevolent institution in Sydney township, the Female Orphan school. This worthy establishment was set up to ease the problems of unwanted children on the streets. The scenario included has a decidedly “ghostly” theme: several of the female orphans at the school claim to have seen strange poltergeist-type manifestations. But there is a lot more going on that just a mere ghostly manifestation … and investigators had best hurry to solve the mystery before whatever lurks in the school succeeds in its mission to break through into our world.

 

Ticket of Leave #10: The Doom That Came To Five Dock [17 pages]. This supplement is a scenario-only release that describes a Mythos-heavy manifestation of doom in a remote riverside ferry station between Sydney and Parramatta. Can the tales of frightened ferryboat captains be believed; lurid stories which claim that Five Dock station was reduced to splinters by a massive and terrifying … insect horror?

 

 

Ticket of Leave #11: The Dispensatory of Doctor Macdead [25 pages]. This is our most recent “Ticket of Leave” (released just a few days ago), which focusses on the practice of medicine in the early colonial era. Even by the primitive standards of 18th century surgery, the health care available in the colonies was horrific, basic, and woefully lacking in medical supplies. The scenario included in the PDF is a lengthy tale revolving around a hoaxer who claims to be a private doctor, a most curious medical text book, and a rash of stories about patients who have exhibited the most bizarre transformations … what is the truth behind these terrible events? And why can nobody seem to find the self-styled “Doctor Macdead?”

 

 

 


Medical Malpractice of the Mythos Kind

After a few delays, we are utterly thrilled to be able to announce the release of the eleventh in our ongoing “Tickets of Leave” supplements for Convicts & Cthulhu. This PDF is the largest free scenario-product we’ve ever released, weighing in at a cool 14,000 words (and 25 pages). You can download it right now, absolutely free! And since this month marks the second anniversary of the publication of the core Convicts & Cthulhu book, you can consider this our birthday gift to you (that’s how birthdays work, right?)

This Ticket of Leave returns to the format we’ve used for many previous releases — namely a short sourcebook section, exploring an aspect of life in the colonies, followed by a lengthy scenario seed. Ticket of Leave #11: The Dispensatory of Doctor Macdead, delves deeply into the seedy and somewhat primitive world of medical practice.

 

By modern standards, the medicine of the late 18th Century seems crude and horrific. But the surgeons and doctors of early Australian colonies practiced their art with even more primitive tools. Perpetually under-provisioned, and utterly reliant on a supply of European medicines which frequently did not materialize, the official colonial doctors struggled somehow to treat the thousands of officials, settlers, and even convicts.

To make matters even worse, however, the colony had no real concept of regulating the medical profession — this meant that several of the official surgeons sent out from England were woefully under-qualified. Also there were a raft of private doctors who set up shop in the larger settlements … sometimes without any qualifications at all. These charlatans and hoaxers weren’t necessarily malicious, just greedy con-artists whose fake treatments were trusted by honest folk.

The scenario found in Ticket of Leave #11 concerns a most unusual medical book (the titular dispensatory) which causes some considerable Mythos-related mayhem in the the hands of an amateur medical man. The charlatan doctor — James Macdead — has engaged in some most unusual surgical treatments at Parramatta, but has since disappeared. Rumours of strange side-effects of his treatment has come to the attention of the colonial authorities, and naturally the messy task of looking into those weird tales falls to … yep, you guessed it, the investigators!

Ticket of Leave #11: The Dispensatory of Doctor Macdead is available right now for free download from the Cthulhu Reborn blog, complete with game statistics for Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition (under Chaosium’s fan license). For messy reasons relating to Intellectual Property restrictions imposed by Chaosium, we are obliged to also create a stat-free version for distribution via DrivethruRPG — most likely, you’ll want the version with the game stats. But if not, jump on to Drivethru and you’ll find the other one.

We really hope that you and you game crew decide to give the scenario a spin — either as a standalone taste of dark colonial horror, or as part of an ongoing Convicts & Cthulhu campaign. It would work equally well in either context. Oh, and one last thing … I am certain that some folks will assume that the name “James Macdead” is some kind of Pulpy creation of ours — in fact it isn’t: there was actually a real convict bearing that amazing name transported to Australia (although he wasn’t a doctor and arrived a little later than the C&C era, so we have taken some liberties).

Long live Doctor Macdead!


The ANZAC legend didn’t mention …

Today (25 April) is ANZAC day.

That probably doesn’t mean anything much to you unless you happen to be an Aussie or a Kiwi. But if you do hail from one of those countries then you’ll likely know that today marks the 103rd anniversary of one of the first major military engagements that Australia and New Zealand were involved in — the disastrous Gallipoli campaign of early WW1. Somehow I’ve always thought it says a lot about our two countries that the biggest national day of remembrance doesn’t reflect on a military victory, but on a struggle against impossible odds which ultimately led to a terrible defeat.

A few years back when I was putting together a group of writers to create Call of Cthulhu scenarios set in different eras of Australian history, references back to these early defining moments of the nation were proposed by a few different people. In the end, two of the eight proposed scenarios had some relationship to the ANZACs (or other similar forces). These both made it into the final manuscript for Australian Aeons, a book that is in Chaosium’s forthcoming products queue (release date TBA). Because today is ANZAC day I thought it would be cool to share a few illustrations commissioned for those scenarios, all drawn by the uber-talented Reuben Dodd (of Sorrowking Studios).

The first scenario with a WW1 connection is Chad Bowser’s creepy story about the true fate of the AE-1, the very earliest Australia submarines which formed a part of the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (ANMEF). This group saw action in the seas north of Australia even before the ANZACs sailed for Turkey. At the time Chad was writing this scenario, the fate of this lost vessel remained a mystery — since then, its wreckage has been located. Here’s a couple of the illustrations created for the scenario:

The second Australian Aeons scenario with a WW1 connection is a modern day scenario written by myself and Vian Lawson which imagines a modern-day Cthulhu Mythos-related terror incident Sydney which has its origins on the fields of Gallipoli. This scenario actually received its first playtest on ANZAC day 2016 … here are a couple of its illustrations:

 


Horrors in our Future

I promised a bit of an update on what Cthulhu Reborn is working on, and what we hope to release in 2018. In the past couple of years most of our attention has been on getting the Convicts & Cthulhu product line up and properly supported. Now that that’s going along well (with well over 1000 copies of the core C&C book out there and in the hands of gamers), it gives us some bandwidth to think about other things as well. Of course that doesn’t mean that we’re going to slow down on the C&C releases — far from it — but rather that we hope to kick off some other product lines as well as supporting and growing C&C.

I always feel that announcing future products (and product lines) is a bit like tempting fate — as soon as you put pen to paper (or electrons to screen, or whatever), Fate seems to conspire to throw up roadblocks to make you look stupid. Or maybe it just seems that way. Anyway, let’s throw caution to the wind and announce some stuff anyway.

We have previously announced our plans to re-issue Convicts & Cthulhu as a standalone RPG, and that is still the plan. Geoff Gillan has been hard at work digging up new historical data to flesh out the system. We have also been looking closely into the Rennaisance system, as well as chatting with the (extremely helpful and nice) folks at Cakebread & Walton, who created Rennaisance. There is still work to be done at figuring out exactly how we want some of the game mechanics to work, to best bring out some of the unique features of the convict setting. One thing that we’re toying with is making some heavy use of Renaissance’s “faction” system to try to capture some of the grubby corruption, nepotism, and graft that was a core part of life in the prison colony. We have a first draft of a game, and it’s looking good … but it all needs some more time and effort to finishing off.

In the meantime, though, we don’t want to let the Convicts & Cthulhu setting languish. So we will still be continuing our general plan to release one new PDF supplement every two months or so. We were supposed to release one in April, but ill-health has consumed a big chunk of people’s time this month, so Ticket of Leave #11 probably won’t see release until May. In some ways, though, that is fitting because May is the second birthday of the C&C product line!

 

Sometime late last year, we were approached by the super-talented Jo Kreil who we had worked with on a post-Apocalyse Australian wasteland scenario for Australian Aeons (forthcoming from Chaosium, date TBD). Jo really enjoyed the idea of writing about post-Apocalyptic horrors, and wondered whether we might be interested in publishing an anthology of scenarios with that kind of flavour. Of course we said “yes!” And so was born the idea of APOCTHULHU, an anthology which aims to showcase several different visions of what the dystopian world “after the stars come right” might look like. We have been able to sign up a collection of some of our favourite Lovecraftian RPG writers — some of them seasoned veterans, others relative newcomers to the industry. Jo will be the principal editor for the book, but  I will be doing all the boring behind-the-scenes things that need to happen to bring a book like this together. The current plan is for the scenarios to make use of a slightly tweaked version of the Delta Green RPG (although none of the scenarios have any reference or relationship to the Delta Green universe — we just like their OGL system mechanics).

So far I have been really impressed by the different perspectives that authors have brought to their view of what a Cthulhuoid post-Apocalypse might look like. I must confess to being a little worried that everyone would dream up similar Apocalypses (“armies of deep ones march out of the sea; roll credits”). But I guess there are a lot of different Lovecraftian ways to destroy the world — and our seven writers have each found a fairly unique approach.

This book is currently still in the writing phase, and we will be surely announcing lots more details about it at a later date. We might release some parts of it early, too, just as a taster for what the end of the world might look like. Crispy.

 

Most readers of this blog will know all-too-well Cthulhu Reborn’s long-held fascination with Jazz-Age newspapers and providing cool-looking props that soup up that old-faithful handout, the newspaper clipping. Heck, a while back we even released a nifty PDF-based toolkit to make it easier for people to make their own high-quality Jazz-Age newspaper clips.

A while back we dreamed up the concept for a new type of game product. We are all well-used to the idea of buying a cool book of game scenarios and then perhaps having deluxe versions of the prop handouts available as free downloads. What if the reverse were true? What if folks bought a huge, high-quality prop handout which in turn formed the core for a line of free scenarios that made use of plot seeds, clues, situations, and other elements drawn from the handout?

This is (broadly speaking) the concept that launched Dateline Lovecraft — a massive newspaper prop which puts a complete 12-page broadsheet issue of the Arkham Advertiser in the hands of you and your players. Buried in its pages are hundreds of hints of weird goings-on — right from the front-page headlines, all the way through to the wall-of-text that is the classified ad section on page 12. Whether its coded messages buried in the crossword clues, or cryptic allusions in an article on historic but notorious buildings up on French Hill … any of them might be useful launching-off points for a devious scenario of your own making.

Even on its own, we think this kind of uber-prop would be a cool product … but something that could be made even cooler by the release of a series of free scenario PDFs that each picks up some of the quirky features (or even some of the mundane ones) and weaves a Lovecraftian tale of horror — much in the same way that our Ticket of Leave series continually builds and refines a library of plot ideas and nasty scenario options.

About 2/3rds of the newspaper prop is already created … and believe me, there is a LOT of text that goes into each page of a 1920s broadsheet newspaper. We have also commissioned some awesome writers to create the first few of the freebie scenarios. Two are already written, awaiting illustration and layout.

So … there you go … that’s a bit of a general update on SOME of the things we are working on (at least when we’re not individually working on projects for other Lovecraftian game publishers!). Now, let’s see how Fate conspires …


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