Category Archives: Cthulhu Game Aids

DNA of a Cthulhu Sourcebook

It’s funny what you find lying around on your hard drive when you go back and “tidy up” some old folders.

Back in 2013 I was asked to take on the job as project leader/coordinator for what would eventually become Chaosium’s “Terror Australis” Revised Edition. This was an exciting, if somewhat daunting, task to take on. The hardest choices that needed to be made were around what types of contents make for a truly great Cthulhuoid sourcebook — sure there are many examples out there, some much better than others. But there doesn’t really seem to be an accepted “template” for what people want so see.

After re-reading virtually every geographical-based sourcebook previously published, I came away with some thoughts about the utility of different types of contents and also about the categories of readers who buy Cthulhu sourcebooks. To try to make sense of all this information (and also apply it to planning for the Australian sourcebook) I wrote a short “discussion paper” on the topic. It was titled: “Call of Cthulhu Sourcebooks: What they contain and how people use them.” I only ever shared this paper with a few people on the project team … but re-reading it now I wonder whether it might be of interest to a broader community of game designers and writers. So I figure I’d release it here.

Call of Cthulhu Sourcebooks: What they contain and how people use them.

Before anyone comments that the final Terror Australis Revised Edition doesn’t exactly match the template described in this paper … that is (to some extent) true. The plan outlined here was, however, the starting point for that book (which went on to eventually take out the 2019 ENnie for “Best Setting”). Obviously much editing and selection of written content from the full original manuscript — about half of which didn’t end up in the final book — took place between the start and finish of that long, LONG process. All of which skewed the DNA of that book to a lesser or greater degree.

As a kind of summary of what’s in the discussion paper (for the TL;DR crew), here’s a quote from the conclusions section of the discussion paper:

This paper proposes that there are four classes of readers for a Cthulhoid RPG sourcebook:

    • Players,
    • Keepers who just want to play the scenarios,
    • Keepers who want to build “homebrew” scenarios, and
    • Keepers who like to tweak existing scenarios, ad lib around existing scenarios or who otherwise want to adopt a “plug & play” approach to creating something original.

All four of these groups have different information needs, although their needs clearly overlap.

A range of ten different forms of information need have been described (four for players, six for Keepers), which is admittedly an entirely arbitrary system of categorisation based mainly on what has been published previously and what people (claim to) want from books.

Using this very simple modelling tool it is conceivable that one could guide the design of a sourcebook by assigning proportions of different types of information based its utility to a specific target audience. An example of this process, undertaken for “Secrets of Australia” is included.

Tonight We’re Gonna Party Like It’s 1984*

You know what I find kind of weird? The fact that decades that I personally remember quite clearly are now legitimate targets for “historical settings” for film, TV, and games. At the moment we’re going through a bit of a 1980s nostalgia revisitation, perhaps thanks to Stranger Things … and this has bubbled over to the gaming world.

Some time back, the very fine folks at Sentinel Hill Press ran a Kickstarter to re-publish a great old Kevin Ross scenario called “The Dare” featuring a typical 80s bunch of teenaged Kid Investigators who take on the challenge of exploring the local “haunted house.” While that Kickstarter has been a bit delayed due to a variety of health and family issues, it will be a wonderful book when it arrives (trust me).

Back in 2017, Sentinel Hill asked if I would design a custom “1980s Themed” character sheet to go into that book. While those designs are still waiting to go into the book layout for “The Dare”, I was recently thinking about running a completely different Call of Cthulhu scenario with an 80s theme. So naturally I wondered whether I could brush up the (very cut-down) 1980s character sheets for “The Dare” to make them into general-purpose 1980s fillable sheets for Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition.

Turns out … I could. So I figured I’d share this new (unofficial) flavour of character sheet for 7th Edition Call of Cthulhu. Use them to stat up the members of Spandau Ballet and send them across the barricades to fight Great Cthulhu in The Lebanon! Send your crack team of 1980s investigators up against the mysterious neun-und-neunzig Lufballons!

Or, perhaps, do something sensible with the sheet. Either way … feel free to do whatever you wish with the PDF. Just don’t blame me if you can’t get that Hall & Oates song out of your head for weeks 🙂

As usual with things we release here via Cthulhu Reborn, this 1980s character sheet is copyrighted but released under a Creative Commons Share-Alike license. That means, you can use it for any non-commercial use. If you have a burning issue to use it in your awesome commercial product, get in touch with us and we can talk about a full-commercial license.

Here’s the PDF:

  Unofficial 1980s era sheet for Call of Cthulhu, 7th Edition (US Letter, 2 sided, with autocalculation) [NB: For use with Adobe Reader or Acrobat ONLY]

For those who would prefer a NON-fillable sheet that works in any PDF reader, here’s one of those:

  Non-Fillable Unofficial 1980s era sheet for Call of Cthulhu, 7th Edition (US Letter, 2 sided) [NB: For use with any PDF reader]


[*] With apologies to Anais Mitchell who wrote a wonderful folk-protest-type song featuring this exact line, for her 2004 album “Hymns for the Exiled”. Her usage is art; mine is shameless.

“Sure is going to be lonely … after I turn you in.”

Propping Up the Convict

As mentioned here last week, today marks the third anniversary of the Convicts & Cthulhu setting being released. In those three years we have released 15 supplemental PDFs to flesh out the setting with campaign ideas, scenarios, NPCs, and curious nuggets of historical detail. It’s probably fair to say that, by now, there is enough Convicts & Cthulhu content out there that you could easily run a lengthy campaign set in and around the penal colony of New South Wales

If you don’t already have all 15 of the supplements, they are downloadable either from our Download page (free), or by searching “Convicts & Cthulhu” on DriveThruRPG (“Pay-What-You-Want”).

What makes especially happy about this flourishing product line is that we’ve been able to bring these several hundred pages of content to you *entirely* as Pay-What-You-Want. That means that if you’re not in a position to shell out the (sometimes significant) cover prices for other publisher’s Lovecraftian RPG books — there’s always C&C as a cheap alternative. Heck, if you want to grab it all for free, you can (although chipping a little money our way certainly helps a lot when it comes to keeping the product line going).

On this occasion of C&C’s third birthday we wanted to give all our loyal readers a bit of a birthday present. We also thought it might be a good occasion to try something different — hence was born the idea for the “Convict Document Pack” which we are proud to be releasing today!

So, what is the “Convict Document Pack,” anyway? Well … in simplest terms it is a resource that helps you in the creation of realistic prop documents representing some of the most important records kept about convicts in the colony. If your convict was fortunate enough to be granted a “Ticket of Leave,” he or she would be given a (probably grubby) piece of paper proclaiming this status. Same for the rare cases where penal sentences were pardoned because a convict had done something spectacularly wonderful (or been somehow proven innocent after all). And if your convict survived long enough to serve out his or her entire sentence (assuming it wasn’t imprisonment “for life”), they would receive a “Certificate of Freedom.”

All of these important convict documents are included in this pack, in both flat (print & fill) form and also as fillable PDF forms. For the print & fill blanks we’ve included actual signatures for the two most important colonial Governors of the C&C era.

So … never again shall your convict Investigator’s special status need be a minor detail on the back of his or her character sheet. Now they can proudly carry their documents … and present them to snarky NSW Corp Redcoats who challenge them in the street! Further more, these blank documents make great starting points for GM-inspired handouts and clues as part of scenarios. In a similar vein, we have also included in this pack a fillable blank PDF of the single-page broadsheet newspaper produced in the colony, the “Sydney Gazette.”

Downloading the Convict Document Pack

Depending on your preference, you can download these docs either as a single ZIP file (17MB), or via the individual PDF download links below:

Convict Document Pack Info + Print & Fill templates [6.5MB]

Fillable Convict Prop Documents (blank) [4.1MB]

Fillable Convict Prop Documents (sample text) [4.1MB]

Fillable Sydney Gazette (blank) [2.1MB]

Fillable Sydney Gazette (sample text) [2.1MB]

We hope that these prop document resources will give you a set of handy tools to enhance your games of Lovecraftian horror set in the penal colonies. And if you wind up using them in some especially nifty way … feel free to drop us a note telling us about your brilliant prop-fuelled goodness (emails to feedback <at>

[As always, these resources are released here under a Creative Commons license which means basically that you can use these prop document templates for whatever personal use you can dream up. If you want to use them for a profit-making endeavor — say, for some splashy new TV Series set in the penal colonies — you’d need to contact us about obtaining a separate license.]


Exit the Dateline; Enter the Zombies!

Thank you to everyone who spent some of their hard-earned cash to pick up one of the combo-packs of printed Dateline: Lovecraft newspaper and book. These sold far quicker than we had anticipated, and in the end our modest print run was well-and-truly exhausted a week or so ago. Everyone who ordered one should now have their printed Dateline winging its way towards them … though many folks have already reported it landing upon their doorsteps!

While we are very thankful to *everyone* who bought one of these packs, we do want to give a special shout out to a few folks who are serial supporters of Cthulhu Reborn and who chipped in above-and-beyond to help make this print run even more successful. Those folks are: Adam Alexander, Jeff Vandine, Douglas Bailey, and Perry Tatman. We feel very humbled to have such wonderful folks backing our publishing endeavours!

On a different — but no less exciting — subject, we recently got word that long-time collaborator and friend of Cthulhu Reborn, Geoff Gillan, has taken the plunge and created a publishing imprint for his genre fiction. Some hard-core Call of Cthulhu fans may already know that Geoff (in addition to being the driving force behind Horror on the Orient Express) has already had novel or two published in dead-tree format by major publishers. Not content with that, he has been madly scribbling away penning novels and short stories … and now, for the first time these will be available in eBook form.

Available on:

Formats: PDF, EPUB, MOBI

An advantage of being Geoff’s collaborator on Convicts & Cthulhu is that I’ve been able to get a sneak peek at some of these … in particular the first series of novels and stories, the “Man From Z.O.M.B.I.E.” series. If Cold War spy fiction tickles your fancy but you always wished for a little supernatural spice to season your Fleming or similar, these are definitely worth checking out. Similarly if you’re a zombie buff whose interested in unusual and innovative (not to mentioned nuanced) uses of the walking dead, maybe they might be your thing also.



Released: Convicts & Cthulhu Muster #1

Today we are delighted to be announce the release of our fifth (and final) Convicts & Cthulhu product for 2018 … and the launch of a brand new line of supplements. Available for free download right now is Convicts & Cthulhu: Muster #1 — The Turbulent Mason.

Most readers of Cthulhu Reborn will probably be familiar with the “Tickets of Leave” line of supplements that we have been releasing since July 2016 on a (somewhat) regular schedule. Those PDFs have mostly been a combination of sourcebook material and scenario seeds or full-blown detailed “ready-to-play” scenarios. Those supplements have been very well received, and by my count we have now released about 224 pages of scenario-related “fuel” to keep a Convicts & Cthulhu campaign going (on top of the extensive scenario seeds and starter scenario in the 96 page core book).

But, we are always looking for interesting new things to try — and the C&C Muster series represents a different kind of product altogether. Each is based around a detailed portrayal of a single historical (or historically-accurate) person, offering not only a complex and three-dimensional portrait of their character, background, and general history but also looking at the character through a “Lovecraftian gaming” lens to offer some ready-to-use ideas about dropping the character into an ongoing campaign or scenario, either as an ally or adversary. Or even a replacement Investigator.

For the first installment of the C&C Muster series, Geoff has chosen to write a piece on an intriguing fellow by the name of Anthony Fenn Kemp. History records Kemp is figure that lived a multi-faceted life on the periphery of many of the major events which defined the early history of the penal colonies. He had mercantile interests despite also being a soldier, and despite being a somewhat upstanding member of society Kemp also was at the heart of some rather scurrilous campaigns to defame some of the colonial leaders of the day.

While there is plenty of juicy history written about Anthony Fenn Kemp, the C&C Muster also takes inspiration from a much less documented aspect of this curious man … namely his strong ties to Freemasonry. As all good Lovecraftian game authors know, it’s only a hop-skip-and-jump from masonic affiliations to associations with all manner of OTHER secretive societies, and we suggest a few different ways of creatively being inspired by this facet of Kemp’s history.

C&C Muster #1: The Turbulent Mason is available for free download right now from this very blog. It will also be available (in a stat-free form to meet Chaosium’s licensing constraints) on DrivethruRPG soonish.

We will be keen to hear back from our loyal Convicts & Cthulhu readers, players, and lurkers to hear whether the C&C Muster format meets its goals of providing helpful “drop in” character resources for games. If you have any thoughts about this or any other C&C release, feel free to let us know via the contact form below. In the meantime … best wishes for a rugose and squamous Christmas, and may all your Convicts be accounted for at the January muster 🙂


Brand new Greek-Language CoC7 sheets

Well, it’s been a bit quiet here on the blog … although there has been a lot of behind-the-scenes activity here at Cthulhu Reborn Underwater Lair, including the launch of a few new projects. I hope to share some news about cool new future releases sometime in the coming days.

We are also still working on the next in the Convicts & Cthulhu “Ticket of Leave” PDFs, although it is starting to look like that may not be released in April as planned but spill over into early May. It will be themed around colonial medical horror — so it’s strangely ironic that its delay is due to key folks getting ill. Maybe it’s evidence of the Curse of the Convict Sawbones at work!

One small activity that we *have* recently completed is the translation of both the 1920s and Modern-day CoC7e character sheets into Greek. This came as a request from a fervent fan of CoC who lives in Greece — where there is no current local publisher for the game — and wished that he and his players could use sheets in their local language. We were happy to oblige … with a lot of translation notes (we don’t speek Greek!). And since it’s always possible that there are other Greek-speaking gamers out there who might like to use these same sheets, I figured I would make them available for download here.

So … I present to you, the PDF version of the Greek-language 1920s CoC sheet, and the PDF version of the Modern-day equivalent. These files are also available on the Cthulhu Reborn downloads page (along with a lot of other cool character sheet designs). There are also JPG versions of front and reverse sides as well, if those are what you’re after.

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