Category Archives: Cthulhu Game Aids

ENnies, ENnies, Everywhere

It’s that time of year again when the tabletop RPG world goes into a frenzy as voting opens for the annual ENnie awards.

While Cthulhu Reborn doesn’t have any of its own products up for illustrious prizes, pieces of our work are scattered through quite a number of different (at least 5) books which are up for awards. Because these come from several different publishers, it probably not appropriate for us to suggest, dear reader, that you vote for one book over the other … however I would especially single out the book The Things We Leave Behind by newcomer small publisher Stygian Fox. The team behind that volume are a bunch of small-scale fan-friendly folks (like us), and the book of modern-day scenarios they created is IMHO perhaps the best new book published for Call of Cthulhu in the past year. Plus they are currently selling it at a 25% discount during the ENnies voting period!

Regardless of who you vote for … I would strongly urge you to consider casting your vote. The poll is open until 21 July, you can get there by following this link.

Pulp in any Language is … Pulp

One of the several Lovecraftian books that is up for an ENnie is Chaosium’s Pulp Cthulhu (nominated for Best Supplement). Recently we were approached by a Call of Cthulhu gamer in Poland and asked whether we’d be willing to translate the official Pulp Cthulhu character sheet design into his native language. Well, he offered to do the translation part — which is just as well, since our knowledge of the fine Polish language is sadly lacking. But, we were more than happy to re-typeset the sheet so that it works for Polish gamers.

Just in case there are other readers of Cthulhu Reborn who would also like to have a Polish Pulp sheet … here’s the front and back. Click on the thumbnails to download full-sized images.


Making the Modern, More Modern

Hot on the heels of our announcement yesterday about the future direction of Cthulhu Reborn, we are delighted to announce the release of the first of our free “fan material” PDF supplements for Call of Cthulhu: “The Stars Are Right!” Scenario Upgrade Pack. It’s available as a free download right here on Cthulhu Reborn.

As many readers would be aware, ever since the 1990s Call of Cthulhu has (notionally at least) supported games set not just in the default 1920s setting, but also those in modern day. Chaosium haven’t released a huge number of scenarios set in the modern day, but the best of those they have released are probably those in the anthology titled “The Stars Are Right!” This book was first released in 1992 as CHA2337, featuring seven scenarios written by some of the best writers that were writing for the game at that time. This included some classic material by Richard Watts (perhaps one of his all-time greatest scenarios), Kevin Ross, John Scott Tynes, Gary Sumpter, Fred Behrendt, Steve Hatherley, and André Bishop. A second edition of the book was released in 2004 (as CHA23100) which includes a few minor tweaks to the original scenarios but also adds two new adventures, one by David Conyers and one by William Jones.

While “The Stars Are Right!” is doubtless a classic book — and probably one that is sitting on the shelf of every Call of Cthulhu Keeper who has ever thought of running modern-day games … its scenarios are mostly now almost 25 years old. In those two decades, quite a number of things have changed — particularly in the way that technology has altered everyday life. If you were born after 1992, take it from us: some things really were different back then. Because the text of the scenarios in “The Stars Are Right!” haven’t really been updated much since the time of their first publication, some of their plot elements feel kind of … dated, or anachronistic.

This is where our “Scenario Upgrade Pack” comes in — we’ve long thought that one easy way of modernising these classic scenarios would be to refurbish them with all-knew prop-quality handouts which better reflect the way in which modern day investigators might hunt down clues. So, for example, converting the numerous “newspaper clipping” clues into articles formatted like online news sites or mobile phone feeds. Or converting a clue hidden in someones (physical) address book into the same information squirreled away in their iPhone’s “Contacts” list. While these changes are largely cosmetic, they do go a long way towards covering over some of the things that do feel a bit “old-fashioned” about the scenarios.

Of course, not everything can be fixed with nifty props. So, for several of the scenarios we have also suggested some plot tweaks that might help to replace some anachronistic references (mostly to technology) with things that are more 2017-appropriate. For most of the scenarios, little or no major “surgery” is required — but there is one exception to this rule. Steve Hatherley’s rather intriguing scenario “Fractal Gods” has as its core backstory the notion of a electronic “zine” which is sent to subscribers via floppy disks sent through the mail. That feels more like a 1990s thing than anything that would happen in the 21st Century — so we’ve suggested an alternative backstory and plotline that hopefully feels a bit more contemporary.

Finally, because most Call of Cthulhu gamers seem to now be using the current (7th) edition of the game, we have included some game statistics for each of the scenarios which brings them in line with that edition. Mostly the conversion between editions is super easy, but we thought it might save some time-poor Keepers a few minutes of mental arithmetic.

If you’re not sure if it’s for you, check out the montage of handouts above– just a fraction of the 48 handouts we’ve included in the pack. BTW, because some of the scenarios in “The Stars Are Right!” are pretty light-on for handouts, we have invented a few additional pieces here and there inspired by textual descriptions in the scenarios themselves. Hopefully these capture the intentions of the original scenario writers.

We hope that Cthulhu Reborn readers will find these resources helpful. “The Stars Are Right!” is still a title that seems to be in print on the Chaosium site, and is also available as a PDF. If you’re looking for a set of modern day horror scenarios you could do a lot worse — particularly if you can supplement the Chaosium book with the sleek new handouts in our pack. Of course if you already own “The Stars Are Right!” in either first or second edition, you can always brush off the cobwebs and give the scenarios a fresh spin with our suggested tweaks — maybe breathing some new life into those classic tales of “modern” dread.

“The Stars Are Right!” Scenario Upgrade Pack is a 67 page free PDF, and weighs in at something like 15MB.

 


Ticket of Leave #5: The Damned and Degenerate

We are very excited to announce the release of the fifth installment in our highly-popular “Ticket of Leave” series of mini-supplements for Convicts & Cthulhu. It’s available for download right now on RPGNow. This one is entitled “The Damned & The Degenerate” — it’s a bit of a departure from previous PDFs in that it doesn’t aim to expand the world of C&C by adding new narrative elements. Instead it is a comprehensive revisiting of the character generation sections of the original sourcebook. While we originally only had a small number of pages to devote to character templates and skills, the richness of the colonial prison setting lends itself to a very broad range of colourful characters, both roguish and virtuous (but mostly roguish). The opportunity to go back and expand the character rules as its own mini-supplement was just too good a temptation to resist.

Mind you, I *say* “mini-supplement” … but the reality is that when we started looking at the intriguing range of character types that are possible for the colonial Australian setting we ended up with quite a sizeable list. The original Convicts & Cthulhu sourcebook has something like 12 occupation templates — the list for this Ticket of Leave is just over 40. Of course, describing the game statistics and historical context of all those professions takes space. So our “mini” supplement weighs in at 24 pages, and includes a fresh copy of the C&C character sheet.

The set of character occupations in ToL5 is broadly divided into four categories — Indigenous Australian occupations, Convict occupations, Government/Military Occupations and Free Settler Occupations. All the obvious things are in there, but so too are a bunch of interesting and unusal character types. Ever wanted to play an Aboriginal tracker paid by the white colonists to track down escaped convicts? Well, now you have the “Bush Constable”. Ever wondered how “aristocratic” convicts, or convict confidence tricksters might work? Now those are options. And if you’ve ever speculated that maybe there were turncoat foreign spies lurking beneath the thin veneer of the colonies, plotting an overthrow … you can now create exactly such a character.

To illustrate the diverse range of convict-era character types, and also to give Keepers and players ready-made “drop-in” characters, this PDF is peppered with lots of examples of real historical people who performed those jobs in the colonies. These aren’t the high-and-mighty people of the colonial administration; rather they are the day-to-day people struggling to get by. In other words, perfect NPCs and replacement investigators. Full stats are provided for each example character, along with a historically-sourced bio (because the squalid details of real history is actually more horrible than anything we could dream up ourselves).

To round out “Ticket of Leave #5: The Damned and Degenerate” we’ve included some slightly tweaked and better-described rules around handling a few CoC 7th Edition skills in the colonial setting. And we’ve also included some notes on playing a couple of unusual character types. The first of these are early “bushrangers” — desperate escaped convicts (and occasionally deserting military types) who somehow manage to survive off the land. The second is the odd phenomenon of free settler women who came to the colonies to accompany their convicted husbands (now that’s dedication!).

If you are a Keeper or player with an interest in Convicts & Cthulhu, there will certainly be a wealth of character-based material in this PDF that is helpful to running your game. You can grab it right now from RPGNow. As with the previous Ticket of Leave we have decided to make this a “Pay What You Want” release rather than a straight free download — this is really just to reflect the amount of effort that has gone into creating a fully illustrated beautiful 24-page booklet. Of course we are more than happy if our loyal readers want to grab the book for free. But we would graciously accept any higher purchase price as well (and would consider it a valuable donation which will help us maintaining this product line well into the future!).


Ticket of Leave #4: Vanishing Ensign Released

We are delighted to announce the release of #4 in our popular series of mini-supplements to the Convicts & Cthulhu setting of Lovecraftian horrors in the early Australian colonies. This release, titled “The Vanishing Ensign” is by far our largest Ticket of Leave supplement — really more of a double-sized release, weigning in at 14 pages of PDF goodness. You can grab it right now from RPGNow. Because it’s a much bigger book than others in the line we’ve decided to make this a “Pay What You Want” title rather than just a simple free PDF. What that means is that if you still want to pick it up for free, you can do so (and that’s fine with us!) but if you would like to chip in a dollar or two as a “thank you” to Cthulhu Reborn, then that avenue is open to you also. Strangely, the number 1 complaint we receive about our free books is that some people wish they could pay for them, as a show of their appreciation I guess. The “Pay What You Want” pricing model is a good way of balancing both … and we will probably use it again if we make more large Tickets of Leave.

So, with all that preparatory stuff out of the way … I guess that just leaves me the task of describing what the heck “Ticket Of Leave #4: The Vanishing Ensign” is all about. At its core this release is inspired by a particular historical detail, Governor Bligh’s enormous military muster of 1807. In the early days of the Australian colonies military resources were pretty dire — there were never enough troops to keep the peace for such a huge population of convicts, and the NSW Corps were given the crappiest of equipment and ordnance (and yet somehow expected to be the front line of defence if other European nations, such as France, decided to invade the colony). Every Governor had complained about this dangerous situation, but it took the irascibility of Bligh to ramp it up a notch. In order to prove to the Colonial Office back in London exactly how terrible the military situation in NSW truly was, he commissioned a team to travel throughout the colony and tabulate a full muster of all troops and ordnance, documenting all the stuff that didn’t work. In the end this grand plan of Bligh’s led to nothing … but it provides an excellent concept for a Convicts & Cthulhu campaign.

So … that’s what this Ticket of Leave concentrates on — providing the historical, game, and narrative resources that a Call of Cthulhu Keeper might need to put together an extended series of scenarios which feature the intrepid investigators travelling to the most far-flung parts of the colony to gather information. Given the poorly-explored nature of the landscape at this time, there are ample opportunities for concealing any number of terrifying Cthulhu Mythos threats in places where “the hills rise wild.” And of course, there is always the chance that investigators digging too deeply into the records of the colony might stumble upon certain … irregularities … that need to be cleared up to ensure that the results of the Governor’s grand muster  will stand up to scrutiny. Whether it’s encounters with terrifying alien menaces, or battles against black-hearted murderers or cultists, this campaign frame has opportunities for incorporating any number of different threads, all within an overarching narrative construct. Plus, there is always the possibility that by piecing together disparate findings from different parts of the colony, investigators might stumble upon something really big … because “we live on an island of ignorance”, etc, etc.

The PDF is rounded out by a detailed scenario sketch that could easily be used as a springboard for a longer campaign spent gathering the Governor’s muster. The scenario involves a curious anomaly in the records held in lots of different parts of the colony — all of them record a certain Ensign Dobley as being among their contingent, but in reality there seems to be no such person. Or rather that he seems to exist, but nobody knows where he might be currently found. It is a mystery that needs urgent resolution for the statistics gathered to have any meaning at all. Rather than give just one Cthulhu Mythos explanation for this strange phenomenon, the PDF provides three different “solutions” each of which makes use of a different style of threat, allowing the Keeper to pick the flavour of horror he wishes to inflict on his players.

“Ticket of Leave #4: The Vanishing Ensign” is available for download right now — scoot over to RPGNow to secure your copy. And if you do decide to chip a dollar or two to help us keep the pipeline of glossy, high-quality, supplements going … you will incur our eternal thanks!


A Convict’s Christmas (of Crime)

Convicts & Cthulhu Logo 2Just in time for Christmas and the holiday season, we are pleased to be able to announce the release of a third freebie mini-supplement to our hugely popular Convicts & Cthulhu setting. Ticket of Leave #3: Criminal Enterprise is an 8 page PDF that is packed with useful resources relating to the flourishing criminal underworld that existed in the townships of early New South Wales. With this supplement, Convicts & Cthulhu gamers have everything that you’d need to run a gang-related campaign or scenario in which the players took on the roles of scurrilous criminals.

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The fact that crime played an important part in the early history of Australia shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone. After all, about half of the Europeans living in the colony during this era were sent there as punishment for crimes they committed back in England or Ireland. The military gaolers charged with keeping law and order were only marginally less corrupt, with many having been obliged to “volunteer” for service in New South Wales in order to escape punishment for some misdemeanour of their own. While some of the convicts and blackhearted soldiers treated their incarceration in the colony as an opportunity to “go straight”, many others continued with their criminal ways — aided by some lax security measures and the corruptibilty of the NSW Corps. Over time shadowy criminal organisations sprang up — some as mere covens of thieves, stealing just to survive; others as sketchy political and business enterprises fixed on greedy profit or power. But in a place where the forces of the Cthulhu Mythos are never far away, there is always the chance that “a simple plan” might lead criminals into something far, far more dangerous.

Ticket of Leave #3: Criminal Enterprise provides Keepers with resources to portray the seedy criminal underworld, and allow players to take on the roles of gang members. The PDF includes backgrounds and CoC 7th Edition stats for a ready-to-use gang of nefarious folks; it also includes a detailed scenario sketch which focusses on a double-crossing smuggling mission that leads the criminal investigators into the clutches of some rather unsavoury Mythos forces. It’s available right now as a free download from RPGNow.

This will be Cthulhu Reborn’s last release for 2016 — and I wanted to take the opportunity (what, with it being “the season of good-will to all Shoggoths” and all) to thank everyone who has bought one of our books or downloaded one of our freebie PDFs this year. In particular I would very much like to thank folks who have donated money when purchasing our “Pay What You Want” titles; that money is extremely useful in allowing us to plan for some more ambitious future projects, including better art budgets and the like.

There’s no doubt that 2016 has been by far our most successful year, buoyed by some incredible sales of the Convicts & Cthulhu book and supplements. We are hoping to continue this momentum into 2017, and have already planned out a few tasty treats … in the meantime, all the best for a joyous Yithmas and a happy New Aeon!


Do You Zew Cthulhu?

Over the years Call of Cthulhu has been translated into oodles of different languages … so it’s no surprise that there are lots of people around the world playing CoC in tongues other than English. I was recently asked by one such gamer — a wonderful Polish guy called Wojtek — whether it would be possible to get a version of the 7th Edition CoC sheet created for Zew Cthulhu (as CoC is called in its Polish-language edition) version of the game. Now Zew Cthulhu isn’t even currently being supported by a publisher, but clearly that’s not stopping folks in Poland from picking up the newest edition of CoC and running it!

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Anyway … after some very enthusiastic discussions with Chaosium (in the form of Mike Mason and Rick Meints) all the rights issues were squared away, allowing me to create and release this Polish-language rendition of the 1920s CoC 7e sheet.

If you are a Polish CoC Keeper or player — or just really want to see what the character sheet looks like in another, somewhat beautiful and exotic, language — click on the links below!


Convicts Have Broken Loose!

Convicts & Cthulhu B&W Logo sml

Convicts & Cthulhu has just been released for download via RPGNow: you can grab yourself a copy by following this link. You can also find the promo text there, describing the Convicts & Cthulhu setting and what’s contained in the book.

The lavishly illustrated 96-page sourcebook is available entirely for free … although if you really wish to pay for it, you can make a small donation (whatever you like) to assist with the costs of keeping new Cthulhu Reborn content coming. We’ve enabled this “pay-what-you-want” approach because several folks over on YSDC violently objected to the idea of grabbing this book entirely for free :). Please don’t feel any obligation to donate — it’s purely there as an option if you are feeling especially generous.

[In case it isn’t obvious: you can download the file without paying a cent simply by entering zero dollars in the Pay-What-You-Want box and proceeding to the checkout.]

We have also created a fillable PDF version of the Convicts & Cthulhu character sheet (using the same Autocalc code used in Chaosium’s fillable PDF sheets). See the link below!

Convicts & Cthulhu - Char Sheet Sample - Thomas Jackson

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

We hope that you have many hours of convict-filled mayhem as you explore the depraved and corrupt world of the early Australian prison colonies! Horrors of all flavours lurk just around every corner … none so terrifying as the vast swearing vocabulary of the irascable Governor Bligh. Believe me.

 


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