Category Archives: Convicts & Cthulhu

Today is Talk Like A Convict Day!

Several people have contacted us recently to alert us to a great new article about Convict Australia over on the (always-interesting and informative) Atlas Obscura. The article is about the “Flash” language that was used by convicts — a kind of “thieves cant” — and its collation into a book published in 1819. This was Australia’s first “dictionary.” The article’s a great read and we’d definitely suggest all Convicts & Cthulhu fans scoot over and read it.

The topic of convict slang and the “Flash” language are both mentioned in the core Convicts & Cthulhu book (see the box on the top of page 25 of the C&C 1e book). There you can find a few examples of terms from the dictionary as well as a link to the FREE copy of original book. We haven’t looked at the recently-published “updated” version of the book that’s mentioned in the AO article, but from the publishers website it seems to take the original 1819 text and add some historical footnotes about documented usage of some words. For gaming purposes, we’d suggest the free version — but then again we just like free stuff.

Liven up your next C&C game with some convict slang!  Why just have your credulous NPCs fooled by a run-of-the-mill conman peddling a tale when they could be the victim of a LETTER-RACKET (see below)?

LETTER-RACKET: going about to respectable houses with a letter or
statement, detailing some case of extreme distress, as shipwreck,
sufferings by fire, etc.; by which many benevolent, but credulous,
persons, are induced to relieve the fictitious wants of the imposters,
who are generally men, or women, of genteel address, and unfold a
plausible tale of affliction.

(from A New and Comprehensive Vocabulary of the Flash Language, 
James Hardy Vaux, 1819.)

Ticket of Leave #15: The Death Knells, Released!

We’re excited today to be announcing the release of Convicts & Cthulhu Ticket of Leave #15: The Death Knells. This is a release jointly written by yours truly (scenario bits) and Geoff Gillan (the sourcebook bits). The PDF of this substantial (27-page) supplement of dark convict doings and Mythos machinations, is available right now FREE here on the Cthulhu Reborn blog. This version includes stats for Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition.

The genesis for this supplement came about when I had some extended-time off earlier this year and started thinking about all the different angles we have already covered for the Convicts & Cthulhu penal colony setting. We’ve had ghostly apparitions, horrors hidden buried inside the walls of buildings, spooky abandoned whaling ships, creepy 17th Century medical experiments, fallen meteorites, enormous cicadas eating Five Dock, quicklime zombies, and more. Surely we’ve covered everything? … And then it came to me: we have never done anything about musical performance in the colony. So I thought it might be a fun topic to explore, and wrote asking Geoff if he had any relevant historical resources — of course he had a bunch, and then also went off and did some extensive research. He’s superhumanly committed that way; he’s really the heart and soul of the Convicts & Cthulhu game. And also an endless fount of new ideas — in response to the request to chase up my idea, he identified a bundle of other great ideas for future topics we could cove as well!

Music is not something that immediately springs to mind when you think about the penal colonies of early Australia, but in reality it was something that was integral to several different aspects of colonial life. The British military has a long tradition of regimental bands, and even the bottom-of-the-barrel NSW Corps had its own band — not to mention the drummers and fifers that were assigned to various companies. These musicians (usually part-time) were responsible for performing the stirring tunes accompanying government-run events, as well as playing at military ceremonies … such as when an errant soldier was literally “drummed out” of their regiment. Leaving aside the military, music also played a part in the life of the more well-off free settlers. Those who could afford to have a pianoforte shipped out from England certainly used it regularly as a source of evening entertainment (lacking any other medium). Convicts who knew how to play the fiddle or pennywhistle could also earn money by performing tunes at parties thrown by the toffs, or just busking on the streets of Sydney Town or Parramatta. For all these reasons, the notion of a “professional” musician as a C&C investigator is not as far-fetched as it sounds (and we include a profession template in the PDF to cover just this mode of play).

Quite separate to the music of Europeans in New South Wales, the musical traditions of the Indigenous owners of the country were also a major part of daily life. For Aboriginal peoples, the concept of musical performance in ceremony was (and indeed still is today) a very important aspect of spiritual life, and the Songlines taught verbally from generation-to-generation also served as an important practical tool for daily life. Some, especially, served as a kind of musical “map” which allowed for a traveller to navigate unknown terrain safely without fear of becoming lost.

The springboard for the scenario in Ticket of Leave #15 is a relatively-obscure Cthulhu Mythos story of extra-dimensional horror. (I’ll happily send a free copy of the printed C&C core book to the first person to guess the author and title in comments below). The scenario begins when investigators are asked to find out who was responsible for a horrible night of carnage that has seen the murders of three members of Sydney’s Night Watch (see ToL#1). Not only were these three men strangled silently in the night, but whoever committed the foul crime also quizzically left a large hand-axe, apparently of French origin, embedded in the brass of the large bell which stands adjacent to the Government Wharf. Both the Night Watch and the Colonial Government want the perpetrator caught and tried immediately … but, as usual, it turns out not to be anywhere near as simple as that.

Ticket of Leave #15 is available right now, via the link below. It will soon also be up on DTRPG as a Pay-What-You-Want title (if you’d like to generously flick us some money to help keep the C&C line thriving!).

Ticket of Leave #15: The Death Knells (STATTED version) [27 pages; 5.0MB]

As always with material published here on Cthulhu Reborn, this file is released under a Creative Commons License, which means you’re free to do whatever (non-commercial) things you’d like to do. If you do something cool with this scenario, say make an Actual Play recording of your C&C group running through the adventure — let us know and we’ll mention it here on the blog!


Ticket of Leave #15 Coming Soon

It’s been a while since we’ve provided an update on the various projects that are being written, edited, and typeset here at Cthulhu Reborn. One thing that is hopefully not too far away from being ready is our next Ticket of Leave supplement for the Convicts & Cthulhu setting.

This new Ticket of Leave — our fifteenth supplement in that line, and our 19th Convicts release overall — will be based around the subject of music in the early penal colonies of Australia. Titled “The Death Knells” it will feature a scenario which ties in with the general music-related theme.

As always, Reuben Dodd (of Sorrowking Studios) has done a sterling job at drawing a nifty new illustration to go along with the macabre scenario. He truly is a national treasure.

Ticket of Leave #15: The Death Knells should be an October release, here and on DriveThruRPG (fingers-crossed).


Ticket of Leave #14: A Whale of a New Release

Today we are delighted to announce the release of Convicts & Cthulhu Ticket of Leave #14: Hark, Now Hear The Sailor’s Cry, written by Matthew Ruane. The PDF of this whale-sized (32 page) scenario is available for FREE right now from here on Cthulhu Reborn, complete with CoC7e stats.

This marks the 18th release for the Convicts & Cthulhu product line, and the largest supplement we’ve released to date for the setting. It is also our official GenCon 2019 scenario, and will be played out by groups in Indy in just a couple of weeks. [Obviously if you’re booked in to play in one of those groups, maybe don’t read the PDF until afterwards!]

As always with our Ticket of Leave supplements, this one is themed around one particular facet of life in the early Australian penal colonies … this time around it is centred upon the early maritime industries of whaling and sealing. Now, we are no particular fans of the slaughter of whales and seals for their blubber, bones and skins … but we can’t deny that historically this was an important part of life in the 18th and 19th centuries. Thankfully we’ve moved on from such barbarity (well, with a few notable exceptions …)

 

In creating this supplement and detailed scenario, Matthew has done something quite special — created a direct link between the Convicts & Cthulhu setting and the colonial world of New England, much beloved by H.P. Lovecraft. In this scenario, American whalers out of Kingsport, MA, have stumbled upon something quite horrific on their journeys across the Pacific in search of whales. And when their path brings them into the waters south of the Australian continent, an unexpected set of events has the potential to unleash Mythos terrors in a quite unexpected — yet typically destructive — way.

While the Convicts & Cthulhu setting is nominally limited to the era 1795-1810, Matthew has chosen to base this adventure slightly later, in 1812. There are several historical reasons for this choice … but one of the most intriguing from a plot perspective is that in 1812 Britain and America are at war! Half a world a way in the fledgling United States a conflict has erupted that will eventually become known as the “War of 1812.” In the colonies, news of this fighting is greeted with much interest and only serves to heighten the concerns raised when an American whaleship is discovered floating — seemingly derelict — in Bass’s Straits. The Investigators are hastily scrambled to find out what dire plot or deception those sneaky Americans are up to … but of course soon find themselves adrift in their own sea of troubles.

Ticket of Leave #14 is available right now, via the link below. It will soon also be up on DTRPG as a Pay-What-You-Want title (if you’d like to generously flick us some money to help keep the C&C line thriving!).

Ticket of Leave #14: Hark, Now Hear the Sailors Cry (STATTED version) [32 pages; 6.4MB]

As always with material published here on Cthulhu Reborn, this file is released under a Creative Commons License, which means you’re free to do whatever (non-commercial) things you’d like to do. If you do something cool with this scenario, say make an Actual Play recording of your C&C group running through the adventure — let us know and we’ll mention it here on the blog!


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