Category Archives: News & Updates

The Victorian Apo-Hack

Welcome to another year — we’re looking forward to something new and (eventually) better from 2021, and we sincerely hope that’s true for you also.

Back in December we released the APOCTHULHU SRD — the barebones version of our full RPG engine that’s absolutely open and free for anyone to use (for personal or commercial projects). Ever since we did that we have been getting a steady stream of folks downloading the SRD, but also a steady stream of questions about the SRD.

The most frequent thing people ask about the SRD is … “so, can I use this to make game content that has nothing to do with Post-Apocalyptic stuff?” The simple answer to that is, “of course you can!” Open means OPEN; if you can find some way to recycle the rules of our game to make something completely new and original and unrelated to Apocalyptic worlds, you absolutely can. Not only that, we would LOVE for you to build your new content based on the skeleton of our game, and as per the terms of the OGL you don’t need to pay us a cent in licensing (as long as you follow the attribution and other rules in the OGL contract).

These various questions about recycling APOCTHULHU’s core system got us to thinking, though … what could WE do with that same rules engine. When designing the game — based upon other pre-existing OGL rulesystems, we might add — we looked to make something as flexible as possible. After all, APOCTHULHU is supposed to be able to power any number of different “end of the world” scenarios so it can’t be terribly specific to any one setting.

We realized when combing through the rules subsystems in our SRD, there are really only 4 areas that need to be tweaked to adapt the rules to an entirely new Lovecraftian setting. These are:

  1. Harshness: what types of environmental backgrounds in the new setting (if any) might be considered so awful that someone growing up there might be stronger-but-mentally-scarred? This is what APOCTHULHU’s Harshness ratings are all about. An auxiliary question is: if there are Harsh backgrounds, what types of “Adversity Skills” might someone be given to recognize the challenges they’ve needed to overcome to become a player-character adult
  2. Skills: The APOCTHULHU skills list is sort-of generic in lots of ways, but if you’re targetting a historical era or somewhere far in the future, they’ll need a bit of tweaking in some places
  3. Archetypes: Similarly, the set of character templates in the APOCTHULHU SRD are geared towards Post-Apocalyptic games; for other settings you’d need to devise some new archetypes particular to the time/place
  4. Equipment-related: Weapons and Vehicles available at different historical periods vary a lot. The generic list of both in the APOCTHULHU SRD are a good cross-section of possibilities, but for other settings you’d probably want to build more specific tables of both.

And that’s about ALL that needs tweaking to make a brand new flavour of Lovecraftian gaming — well, from a rules perspective anyway. To make a fully evocative setting you’d need to write a lot of flavour text to spark ideas in both players in GMs, but that’s a whole different type of RPG development.

As an experiment to validate the above, we decided we would see how easy it would be to hack the APOCTHULHU SRD to build the core mechanics for a Pre-Apocalyptic game set somewhere in the Victorian Age of history. That’s basically 1850s through to 1900. So, the kind of Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes kind of era.

Based on the above we devised a Victorian-Age variant of the APOCTHULHU Skills List and using that built 11 typical character archetypes for the era. We also put together some tables of weapons and vehicles common in the era.

You can download the PDF hack-notes here:

SRD HACK – Victorian Age Cthulhu

(it should go without saying that for this to be useful to you, you’ll also need the APOCTHULHU SRD file. Thankfully you can get this for free via this link or from DriveThruRPG if you’d prefer).

In the spirit of collaborative invention, we thought we’d share the results of our experimental hacking — if this material is helpful to you, feel free to use it however you want! If this kind of thing is especially helpful to other designers or game-hackers, we’ll create some more for other historical eras … drop a comment below if you have any ideas about cool settings that you’d think are crying out for a Lovecraftian treatment.


Busy Last Days of the Year

There’s no doubt that 2020 has been a very productive year for us here at Cthulhu Reborn — we’ve brought the whole APOCTHULHU RPG into the world (for better or worse) and a couple of other publications as well.

But, we aren’t content to rest on our horrific laurels just because the demon-spawn-year (a.k.a. 2020) is almost at an end. In fact there are two nifty things that we are hoping to sneak out before the calendar clicks over. I thought I’d share a couple of details about what we have coming out soon …

With the massive amount of effort that has gone into our Post-Apocalyptic Lovecraft stuff, a couple of our other popular lines have received a lot less love. It’s a sad consequence of there being only so much time to go around … but we always wanted to go back and catch up on some new titles for ongoing lines.

Our first return to older fields will be Convicts & Cthulhu Ticket of Leave #16. This will be our 20th supplement for Convicts & Cthulhu, which is quite an achievement. Well I think so anyway. ToL#16 centres upon the theme of theatrical performance in the penal colonies … which is perhaps not something that immediately springs to mind as part of a prison settlement, and yet historically there were theatres almost from the very earliest days of Australian colonization.

Geoff has been working on the research for this supplement for a long time … and to be honest it might be backed up by the most thorough historical delving we’ve done so far. Because the historical records are pretty spotty, Geoff’s chased down quite a number of unusual avenues to get the sorts of details that we were after. Any time when you start celebrating because of a rare discovery buried away in someone’s 1975 Ph.D. thesis (recently shared online), you know you’re in the right place for some premium C&C writing. Geoff is so good at that kind of historical research that I am constantly in awe.

As well as all the evocative history stuff, this supplement will contain a challenging scenario that might just be our most baffling Lovecraftian mystery we’ve written yet. It’s also looking destined to be our longest scenario to date — I’m guessing it’ll be about 33 or 34 pages. And, as always, a Pay-What-You-Want release (here and on DTRPG)

If you have purchased the APOCTHULHU Core Rulebook and read the two epic scenarios that are at the back, you will have encountered Jeff Moeller’s intriguing Apocalypse-by-fire tale “Kick the Can”. Without giving out any spoilers for this gruesome adventure … one unusual thing about it is the way the plot revolves around curious radio transmissions.

The Survivors begin the scenario in a bunker, having lived through some pretty unpleasant times, and their only clue about the new state of the world comes in the form of a weird message received on their CB Radio. As things go on, there are other stranger things that similarly lurch forth from the electromagnetic aether.

Because there are so many nifty radio/telephony kinds of clues in this scenario, one thing I thought would be sort of cool was to create a kind of “audio handout” pack. Something with a bunch of MP3s that the GM could whip out and play when the players say “ok, so what do we hear when the strange signal comes on?”

And so … that is exactly what we have created. With the help of a lot of folks willing to give their vocal talents (including some very famous people from the gaming industry, who have graciously agreed to help out). To make things more interesting than just nifty voice signals, we’ve put quite a bit of effort into creating a multi-layered background of interference, half-heard snatches of old broadcasts, and the like. In doing this we have found that there is a mountain of free (mostly Creative Commons released) audio over on The Internet Archive (a.k.a. the best place on the entire Web). We often source media from here — and we always ALWAYS give them a hefty donation each year to help them keep it free to everyone.

The “audio handouts” pack for Kick The Can will probably be about 15 MP3s of various sorts. In total it will be about 16 minutes of audio weirdness that you can bring to your gaming table — real or virtual — to make Jeff’s scenario even creepier than it already is. And it’s already pretty creepy. We will be releasing the MP3 pack as a free download … hopefully just before NYE. It’ll definitely be downloadable from here, and maybe elsewhere too.


Sharing the Apocalypse

If you’ve downloaded or purchased any of the APOCTHULHU books we’ve released this year, you might have noticed that they are released under the Open Gaming License (that is, the true Open Gaming License as originally created by Wizards of the Coast).

Why is that an important thing?

We’ve previously written here on the blog about the huge possibilities that are created through the open sharing of game mechanics and other content. While some parts of the Lovecraft RPG world seem to have spiraled in recent years towards bigger publishers trying to create proprietary closed games, there continues to be a huge general trend towards releasing content as free to re-use or remix. It’s a lot like the “open source” movement that has had a major impact on some parts of the IT industry, but for game mechanics and content.

We have always been excited by the possibilities created by the handful of D100-based games that have had their core mechanics released under OGL. In fact it was two such systems — Mongoose’s “Legend” and Arc Dream’s “Delta Green RPG” — that served as a direct inspiration for APOCTHULHU. Truth be told, there is no way that we could have created such a well-honed and balanced D100 system without the countless hours that went into making those earlier games … and those designers deciding to release their mechanics as open content.

Even as we have hugely benefited from OGL D100 rules, we want to make it easy for future gamers and designers to benefit from our own humble efforts. To that end we have compiled ALL of the open game mechanics from APOCTHULHU into a single document, our “System Reference Document”.

You can download it either directly via this link, or by going to DTRPG. It’s free either way.

Why might you be interested in the APOCTHULHU System Reference Document (SRD)? Well, if you are a game moderator or player you might like to take a look at the full (unillustrated) text of our game system. In fact, you could even play an entire game using the rules contained therein — all for free. Of course we think that the beautifully illustrated core rules make for easier reading, and that book contains mountains of setting and scenario content that aren’t in the SRD … but the system is described there in its full detail. If you are a game designer, you might be interested in nabbing a copy of the APOCTHULHU SRD if you wish to re-use some well-tested and extensive rules covering all aspects of a Lovecraftian D100 game (characters, skills, combat, sanity, etc).

If you do grab our SRD, you’re really free to do anything with it that meets to conditions of the Open Gaming License (see the end of the document for the full license text). That includes making future commercial products … as long as the licenses requirements around attribution and release are met. So, if you want to make the next great RPG and these rules will help you do that … borrow whatever you wish and make your dream system a reality!


Psst. Wanna Buy the al-Azif?

Normally we don’t fill this blog with promos about other people’s products … but I am going to make an exception today. Because today, dear reader, something very cool got released — issue #3 of Lovecraftian gaming magazine Bayt al-Azif.

You can download the PDF right now from DriveThruRPG, but the print edition is still a little way off.

Where once upon a time there used to be a whole bunch of gaming magazines which regularly included Lovecraftian game material, now there are only two. Bayt al-Azif is a kind of spiritual successor to the probably-dead-again The Unspeakable Oath. Like that earlier mag it covers a broad spectrum of games from the Lovecraftian family rather than just limiting itself to one or two. Also like TUO it offers a good mix of scenarios, helpful gaming resources, and even some material about gamers and the gaming hobby (which isn’t that common).

For issues #1 and #2, the fine publishers of Bayt al-Azif approached us to ask if they could reprint the “Year in Review” articles that I’ve been writing each January for the past few years. This year I didn’t actually manage to find time to write such a retrospective for the blog … so when they came asking for a contribution for Bayt issue #3 I needed to quickly research and write one especially for them. Well, I say quickly … but it still took over a week to pull everything together and write. There’s a lot of Lovecraftian RPG stuff released each year — especially if you try to cover ALL of it, not just the obvious CoC and DG material. Even with 10,000 words to devote to the topic there are still things that can only be mentioned fleetingly in passing.

In addition to writing the Year in Review article, I was also fortunate enough to contribute a handout for one the magazine’s scenarios … and we were able to scrape together some spare R’lyehan-coinage to take out a brand new full-page display ad promoting APOCTHULHU (see below).


The Apocalypse Laid Bare

Now that the first batch of physical copies of the APOCTHULHU Core Rulesbook is arriving, we’ve been getting some great feedback about the book.

Long time Cthulhu gamer (and writer) Max_Writer even went so far as to record a 9 minute video of his “unboxing” of the hardback book. This is great, because it shows pretty much the entire interior of the book as he pages through … so if you ever want to take a sneak peek, the link below is your gateway. In true Lovecraftian style, though, once seen … there’s no going back 🙂


Apocalyptic News

A few small updates about the APOCTHULHU RPG.

1. We have heard that the first batch of print copies of the APOCTHULHU Core rules — pictured above — are starting to arrive in people’s mailboxes (in North America, at least). That’s fantastic news. We hope that everyone enjoys the book … and gives the game a spin with their gaming buddies sometime.

2. After a few delays, we have now approved the B&W interior editions of the APOCTHULHU Core book for sale. We made these editions (a softcover and a hardcover) to cater to old school gamers who prefer classic and sparse interior layouts.

The B&W versions are available via completely different channels to the colour print editions (hopefully to avoid confusion). If you want one, you can order it direct from Lulu using these links:

Note that Lulu frequently runs promotions which include discounts to the normal retail price of all printed books. Right now there is a 10% discount code; these appear fairly often and are definitely worth looking out for.

3. Our very VERY good friends at Yog-Sothoth.com (aka YSDC) are running a give-away APOCTHULHU promo as part of their live broadcast this Friday (the 13th of November). If you’d like to be in the running to score a free Hardcover copy of the core rules, listen in to their Beyond the Vale show.

We think YSDC is the premier online community for Lovecraftian RPGs (which, unlike some others is also quite tolerant of a diversity of games and viewpoints). As such, we’re proud to support them in this small way 🙂


APOCTHULHU Core Available in Print

Halloween has come a little bit early here at Cthulhu Reborn’s non-Euclidean towers. For today we have the immense pleasure of announcing the first of the print editions for the APOCTHULHU Core Rulebook has gone on sale!

For the record, we are planning to make the rulebook available in four(!) different editions — two with full-colour interiors (hardback, softback), and two with streamlined monochrome interior layouts (hardback, softback).

Today, we’ve made the two colour editions available for sale — these correspond directly to the (default) appearance of the PDF that many folks have purchased on DriveThruRPG. Photos of the two colour books are scattered through this post.

One of the features of our launch of the PDF back in August was that early purchasers of the PDF would receive a discount voucher for purchasing the print edition (the discount amount equaling the PDF purchase price). We are working through implementing those discounts now … if you bought the PDF you *should* have received an email from DriveThruRPG with details of a discount voucher for the Hardcover rulebook.

I say *should* because … well … DriveThru’s tools for doing this kind of thing are a little basic, and also many customers opt out of receiving mail from publishers (to avoid spam). So, if you did purchase the PDF and have NOT received an email about the discount … please, PLEASE drop us an email at vouchers@cthulhureborn.com so we can sort something out for you.

Creating a massive (330 page) rulebook for a brand new RPG has proven to be an exhausting experience … although thanks to the help of an amazing and inspiring crew of collaborators, we’ve not only made it but also created a finished product that I’m really proud of. I hope that those of you who decide to pick up a hardcopy think likewise when it slithers its way into your mailbox.

Oh, and for anyone who is curious about the monochrome interior editions … we are still waiting on one of the proofs before putting them on sale. They won’t be sold via DTRPG, but instead via direct purchases on Lulu (and perhaps Amazon if we can figure out how to do that :)).


APOCTHULHU is on Roll20!

A small (but important) news update for APOCTHULHU today. If you are like most gamers, you are probably doing a lot more online gaming than you used to do. Social distancing and other pandemic-related factors has pushed a lot of RPG sessions and conventions into “virtual” mode.

If you have an interest in running APOCTHULHU as part of your online games, we would be chuffed … and to make that just a little bit easier, we have recently created a nifty APOCTHULHU online character sheet for the Roll20 Virtual Tabletop. So, if you use Roll20, you can now pick our character sheet from the list of (gazillions) of pre-defined character sheets when you set up a new online game.

The Roll20 sheet is pretty neat — not only does it contain all the key info on the APOCTHULHU sheet but most of the common dice rolls can be triggered by clicking buttons (skill names, stat names, resources ratings, bond values, etc). Plus the sheet knows about the dice-rolling conventions of APOCTHULHU with regards to criticals and fumbles.

Coming Next …

We will shortly be making an announcement about print editions of the APOCTHULHU core rules becoming available for order. We’ll also be describing how folks who’ve previously purchased the PDF of the core rulebook can claim a discount on the print edition of their choice.

Watch. This. Space.


Another Great APOCTHULHU Review

Paul StJohn Mackintosh is an RPG reviewer extraordinaire … and someone we sent a copy of the APOCTHULHU core book.

Suffice it to say that we were delighted by the complimentary things he had to say about our game.

Paul particularly calls out the detailed setting based on William Hope Hodgson’s novel “The Night Land” as a high-point of the core PDF, and we’d have to agree. Working with Kevin Ross, who wrote this awesome adaptation of Hodgson’s ideas to the gaming format, we were constantly impressed by the evocative “gameability” of this far-future Post-Apocalypse.

In Paul’s words:

Hodgson’s immensely distant sunless dreamscape, ruled by nightmare presences that besiege humanity’s last redoubt, was a formative influence on Lovecraft, but has remained very underused by RPG designers, no least because of the original novel’s turgid prose. Consequently, Apocthulhu and Kevin Ross are performing a real service to the horror RPG audience by disinterring Hodgson’s creations and framing them in such a well-proven, flexible system.

(from the review)

Most readers here have probably already checked out the APOCTHULHU RPG (either the core PDF, or the Pay-What-You-Want Quickstart) to see if it’s their gaming “cup-of-tea” … but if you’re undecided about it, maybe give Paul’s review a read and see if that helps.


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