Category Archives: News & Updates

Cthulhu in 2018: A Retrospective, part 1

About this time last year I posted a short series of articles summarizing the Lovecraftian tabletop RPG products that had been released in the preceding year. That summary proved quite popular and was ultimately reprinted in the first issue of Bayt al Azif (a new RPG magazine, launched in 2018). Given that response, I thought it might be fitting to try to pull together a similar retrospective covering the diverse range of gaming releases that came out in 2018.

The task of trying to track down everything released in the past year with a “Lovecraftian” type of influence or flavour is a huge undertaking, so I will caveat this series of articles up front as being an attempt to summarize things that outright claim a connection to HPL’s writings (in some form or other). Even with that restriction in place, there are still a LOT of different and diverse things that came out in 2018, some of which I’ve personally read (or written!) and others which I only know by reputation. I’ll do the best I can to give some hint of what each product is about, and hyperlinks to reviews or product pages wherever I can.

As with last year’s review, this summary will – by necessity (and sanity) – be split over multiple blog postings. In this first post I’ll tackle a quick helicopter-level “capsule summary” of the whole year. If you’re daunted by the full review, just reading the quick summary will give you the big-picture. Most of what follows will just be additional detail. In other words, the capsule summary is your “TL;DR” version.

Capsule Summary (or the TL; DR version)

Compared to recent history, 2018 was a somewhat atypical year for Lovecraftian releases. For the last several years we’ve been used to seeing the list of new titles dominated by a steady stream of Call of Cthulhu titles from Chaosium, reinforced by a healthy supply of professional licensed titles from other established game companies, and then topped up by a trickle of Kickstarter releases from small press publishers. That wasn’t what 2018 was like. Instead:

  • Chaosium’s output – in terms of number of titles at least – was way down, largely due to the amount of effort consumed with creating the mega-brick new Masks of Nyarlathotep.
  • The list of larger established companies which are publishing licensed Call of Cthulhu has declined a little over recent years, hence while those publishers were quite active they were creating content that was a bit further removed from the traditional “heart” of Lovecraftian gaming.
  • Small-scale CoC licensees (like Stygian Fox and Golden Goblin) also seemed a little bit sluggish in getting Kickstarters finalised, thus also contributed a lower-than-normal number of releases to fill out the CoC

In numbers, there were only 10 new titles for Call of Cthulhu released in 2018 compared with 16 new titles in 2017. This included four titles by Chaosium (including aforementioned brick), one release each by Stygian and Golden Goblin, a release by New Comet Games, two new Cthulhu Live scripts from Skirmisher and the long-long-delayed Punktown (from the long-long-dead Miskatonic River Press). Interestingly there were zero releases from Modiphius and Goodman Games (the last two established publishers who are current CoC licensees after the departure of Cubicle7 in late 2017).

So, Call of Cthulhu output (in terms of new titles) was down … does that mean it was a fallow year for Lovecraftian gaming? Well no, not at all. It just means that the interesting stuff was happening in less traditional places. In particular:

  • The year 2018 was an absolute bumper year for Delta Green, not only for releases using Arc Dream’s own system but also the unexpected 1960’s era DG book The Fall of Delta Green (Pelgrane; Trail of Cthulhu rules).
  • It was also the year when Pelgrane made good on their promise to release Robin D. Laws’ Yellow King RPG in all its four-book glory (plus extras).
  • Pelgrane also published a couple of new Trail of Cthulhu titles (Cthulhu City and Hideous Creatures) as well as new supporting material for Cthulhu Confidential.
  • The year 2018 was also a surprisingly good year for magazines and smaller zines with Lovecraftian focus. In the first category there were new issues released by the Arkham Gazette, The Unspeakable Oath (first new issue in 4 years!), and a new mag called Bayt al Azif. On the Zine front there were issues of ongoing zines The Blasphemous Tome, Hypergraphia, and a first issue of Crawl-thulhu (for the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG)

As well as all those slightly left-of-centre releases, 2018 also continued a growing trend towards fantasy games (Pathfinder, D&D5e, and even W.O.I.N.) dipping their toe into Lovecraftian ichor – as well as some of the OSR community deciding to play a little in the eldritch space as well. There was even a somewhat Lovecraft-inspired game released for the Savage Worlds ruleset and a very Lovecraftian title released for the Conan 2d20 game. This gives some indication of how diverse the spread of the HPL influence has become in gaming more generally.

On top of all that there were numerous titles released in 2018 under Chaosium’s community programme, the Miskatonic Repository. Overall the frequency of releases and their quality has been very uneven, but doubtless the MiskRepo has served its purpose in giving new creators a venue for getting scenarios and other content (but mostly scenarios) out to the buying public. In 2018 there were some 44 English-language titles added to the repository, some 19 of which were either free or Pay-What-You-Want. Chaosium have not released any statistics about earnings for creators, though there were some suggestions that the best-selling of the MiskRepo titles had earned its creator hundreds of dollars in sales.

<< That’s it for part 1 – I’ll continue the 2018 Retrospective in part 2 with some more detailed information about the three “marquee” products for the year and a run-through of the other CoC titles published by Chaosium and others >>


Roll for Library Use, Convicts

I’m sure everyone who drops by the Cthulhu Reborn blog is well-acquainted with Convicts & Cthulhu, our roleplaying game of Lovecraftian horror in the early penal settlements of Australia. But apparently it’s not just gamer-types who have an interest in our humble game … but also curators at the National Library of Australia (the official Aussie Library of Record, and also our biggest).

Some time back, much to our surprise, we were approached by the NLA to add Convicts & Cthulhu (and eventually all the Tickets of Leave) to their games and e-book collections. Recently, the first of these additions made it to the catalogue. You can even view and download the PDF version of the title from the library’s website, for free.

It’s great (if more than a little surprising) to discover that the NLA is seeking to archive pieces of Australian “culture” like ours. It feels somewhat of an honour to have our work preserved in this way … although it does make feel a little self-conscious about making our humble scribblings about mad cultists and rampaging Cthulhuoid monstrosities just a bit more “library worthy” 🙂


A Very HPL Christmas to All

Some 92 years ago, a writer of weird tales thus spake:

There is snow on the ground,
And the valleys are cold,
And a midnight profound
Blackly squats o’er the wold;
But a light on the hilltops half-seen hints of feastings un-hallowed and old.

There is death in the clouds,
There is fear in the night,
For the dead in their shrouds
Hail the sin’s turning flight.
And chant wild in the woods as they dance round a Yule- altar fungous and white.

To no gale of Earth’s kind
Sways the forest of oak,
Where the sick boughs entwined
By mad mistletoes choke,
For these pow’rs are the pow’rs of the dark, from the graves of the lost Druid-folk.

Best wishes to all readers of Cthulhu Reborn and those who download our stuff (and help spread the word about what we do). May the best of the season — unhallowed and old — be yours.

This Book Shatters Minds!

There have been so many new Lovecraftian Kickstarters that have been delivering goodies over the past few weeks that it’s almost too hard to keep track … but one very exciting development was Pelgrane’s release of Absinthe in Carcosa, the enormous in-world “city-guide-slash-insane-notebook” prop for the Yellow King RPG.

 

The reason this is exciting for us is because Pelgrane kindly allowed us to design almost all of this 194-page book based on detailed notes and outlines written by Robin D. Laws. The original concept was that Absinthe in Carcosa should be a photo-realistic replica of a notebook compiled by an 1890s American art student (of shaky sanity) studying in Paris. As this poor unnamed fellow gets caught up in reality-shattering revelations, he gains insights into both the true nature of things and also the future stalwart figures who will read his words years later. Accordingly he takes a pair of scissors to an assortment of handy contemporary guidebooks to Paris — some mundane, others luridly sensationalist — and compiles a syncretic guide to everything an occult investigator might need to know about 1890s Paris … hand annotated with various scratchings. And illustrated with art and pictures that, to the compilers tattered mind at least, elucidate his message.

Needless the say the resultant mish-mash is both exceptionally full of handy information, strangely idiosyncratic and at times elliptical, and full of art which implies dreadful truths … In short, it’s a nifty and entirely unique artifact.

Putting together the 180+ pages of collages from dozens and dozens of real-world Victorian era books and posters was a huge undertaking, but also a lot of fun. Robin’s notes spelled out exactly what needed to be where but also left enough free to slot in all manner of weirdness (and even a few deeply-buried “easter eggs” for the eagle-eyed). Pelgrane have been kind enough to list me as first author on the book … which is probably undeserved (since the vision and composition is really Robin’s work). But I am more than happy to take the credit!

Backers of the Yellow King RPG who backed at a level where they will receive Absinthe in Carcosa should have now received a “grabcode” from Pelgrane (I got mine on 7 Dec) to download the PDF version. Be warned, it’s big: something like 530MB of high-resolution art-quality PDF. But I hope those who grab it will enjoy paging through the unravelling mind of a sensitive Belle Epoch art scholar … and find ways to use his curious compilation to enhance their games of the YK:RPG, or any other game which needs some solid 1890s Carcosa-inspired weirdness dropped into it unceremoniously.

BTW: if you have downloaded a copy of Absinthe in Carcosa and have some thoughts on what you liked (or didn’t like) about it, I am sure that Pelgrane would love to hear about it. And so would I!

I can’t wait to see what it looks like in print!


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