Category Archives: Convicts & Cthulhu

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.

 


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!


Ticket of Leave #10 Released!

Who would have thought, back when we published the Convicts & Cthulhu core setting (in May 2016), that it would go on to spawn 10 supplements! Certainly not us. But we are very pleased that the demand for Convict-related Lovecraftian game material has allowed us to explore many diverse corners of this dark and brutal world.

Ticket of Leave #10 is available right now as a 17-page PDF download from here on the Cthulhu Reborn blog, absolutely free. This release differs in format slightly from previous releases in the series in that it is almost entirely scenario-related material (as opposed to a mix of historical source material and game stuff). It’s also probably true that the specifics of this particular scenario are less tied to the Convicts setting than usual, making it transplantable to being set in other times and places.

This release is titled “The Doom That Came To Five Dock” and concerns a tale of devastating destruction in a remote corner of the convict colony. In the early days of European settlement, knowledge of the (very unfamiliar) Australian flora and fauna was very sketchy — and many lived in fear that strange beasts might roam the darker corners of the bushland. This scenario begins with a lurid story that suggests that one of the staging docks used by ferrymen as they ply the river between Parramatta and Sydney may have been destroyed — in a most unlikely way. According to a lone survivor, the wharves and buildings were not brought down by a storm, or freak tide, or even an uprising by the Aboriginal people. Rather, it was destroyed … by an enormous insectoid horror!

Keepers who have been itching to send their Convict-era investigators on a (literal!) bug-hunt, will find this the perfect scenario to slake that desire. Of course, in true Lovecraftian fashion there is also an investigative element as well … although, as usual knowledge of what is really going on does not necessarily equate to a quick and easy solution to the horror. Life as an investigator is never simple.

As with all of our Ticket of Leave scenario seeds, the Keeper is provided with three different ways in which the machinations of the Cthulhu Mythos may have become entangled in the affairs of mankind, providing several options for integrating the scenario into your ongoing campaign.

Ticket of Leave #10: The Doom That Came To Five Dock 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 complicated reasons associated with Intellectual Property restrictions imposed by Chaosium, we’ve also created a stat-free version released via DrivethruRPG — in all likelihood, if you’re reading this post, you’ll probably want the version with all the game stats.

We hope you and your group enjoy this bug-filled tale of horror and convict intrigue! We are hoping to continue with the pattern that we’ve established of releasing something new for Convicts & Cthulhu every couple of months — certainly if this one “sells” as well as the past few have done, then we will certainly keep this line of “mini” supplements going.


Australia: where even the insects can kill

It’s February … and that means it is time for our bi-monthly Ticket of Leave release. This time around we will be going for a slightly different format … but one which I think most C&C gamers will be able to fit easily into their convict campaigns. The text of the ToL is written … assuming editing and layout go smoothly, you should see this new release sometime around the middle of the month.

Here’s a teaser … a new art piece by the always brilliant Reuben Dodd.

Watch the skies!


Cthulhians All Let Us Rejoice

Australian readers would be well aware that today, January 26, is Australia Day — the national holiday that commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet of colonists to the shores of New South Wales in 1788. Although the significance and symbolism of this particular day has recently been hotly debated, in the context of Convicts & Cthulhu, these early events in the history of European settlement “down under” are more than a little significant. So, if there were any day that inspired the need to brush off your copy of C&C and invite a few friends over to share a horrific tale of convict life … today would be it!

But January 26th is important to Australian history not just because of the arrival of the First Fleet … but arguably just as important as the anniversary of the rather scurrilous and corrupt military uprising known popularly as the Rum Rebellion. Exactly 210 years ago today, a group of highly-placed military officers (egged on by a wealthy landowner hungry for more power and influence) stormed into Government House in Sydney and put the Governor — the infamous and foul-mouthed William Bligh — under arrest. They then proceeded to set themselves up as de facto rulers of the colony, much to the dismay of the Colonial Office back in London.

The historical details surrounding this rather dramatic and dark part of Australia’s early history is described in a fair amount of detail in the Convicts & Cthulhu book (so I won’t repeat it here). Interestingly, this unusual quirk of history very seldom gets a lot of mention … growing up in Australia and being schooled in early colonial history I never once heard that, for a short time the country was under the rule of an upstart military junta.

Folks who have read the material we have published for the Convicts & Cthulhu setting might have imagined to themselves that the dramatic and booze-soaked events of the Rum Rebellion might be an interesting backdrop for a degenerate tale of Lovecraftian horror. Guess what …? We thought so too — in fact the whole C&C setting began life as the sourcebook half of a Rum Rebellion scenario called “The Demon Drink” that Geoff Gillan wrote for a compilation of Australian historical scenarios for Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition.

Now, you might be wondering what exactly happened to this fine scenario of Rum-soaked horror … well, it (along with seven other great scenarios) is sitting with Chaosium as part of a book tentatively titled “Australian Aeons”. Prior to selling the book to Chaosium in June 2016, we made the decision to commission art for it from the ever-amazing Reuben Dodd. Most of the pieces he drew for “Australian Aeons” have yet to see the light of day … but I thought in the spirit of Australia Day, and the Rum Rebellion, maybe I would share some here on the CR blog.

Before anyone asks what the publication ETA might be for “Australian Aeons” … I have no idea, although I am hopeful that it will progress through Chaosium’s production queue and hopefully emerge sooner-rather-than-later. But, for those who hunger after some juicy morsels of Antipodean horror both historical, modern, and post-Apocalyptical … the wait will be worth it, believe me 🙂

In the meantime … fire up the barbie, pour yourself a coldie, and celebrate the anniversary of the libidinous summoning of one of the horrors of the Cthulhu Mythos.


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