Category Archives: News & Updates

Kickstarters of Note

We don’t usually use the Cthulhu Reborn blog as a vehicle to advertise people’s Kickstarters … but there are two pretty remarkable campaign happening now-ish that we’re willing to make an exception for.

The first is the already-massively-funded Kickstarter for Graham Walmsley’s super-light rule system Cthulhu Dark. As I write this the campaign is something like 850% funded with about four days still to go. Whether or not you’re interested in funding the KS, it’s still worth visiting the page just to watch the cool campaign video — I swear these things are getting more and more professional. Long-time readers of Cthulhu Reborn might remember that we interviewed Graham a few years back (with a short addendum), during which he spoke a lot about the realities of being a small-scale publisher. We are really thrilled to see his Kickstarter doing so well … and really do hope that the last few days keep the momentum moving quick enough to get to some of those enticing final stretch goals.

The second Kickstarter that I want to mention is … still some days away from launching (so I will need to be deliberately vague). All I will say at this stage is that recently I received a link to THIS strange twitter video. Make of it what you will 🙂 And watch that space.

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From the Audient Void

Last week I posted here on Cthulhu Reborn, asking readers what they thought about some of the challenges and options facing small-scale publishers of Lovecraftian RPG material. Since then I have received rather a lot of feedback from a variety of different corners — it’s actually been quite insightful.

Because some of the same issues likely affect other small publishers — and people who are contemplating taking a future step into the world of publishing — I thought it might be useful to summarize some of the key points that readers have been mentioning in their feedback.

The Importance of Independence

Perhaps the most common piece of feedback we received was that readers place a huge amount of value on the fact that Cthulhu Reborn is an independent (albeit very small-scale) voice in the tapestry of Lovecraftian RPG publishing. Anything that moves us away from that position of independence, would risk Cthulhu Reborn becoming irrelevant to readers.

I guess this is not too surprising given that most players of Lovecraftian RPGs are well aware that there are several different publishers and products, each of which has its own distinctive take on “gamifying” the works of HPL, and in most cases a fairly healthy catalogue of published titles. If Cthulhu Reborn were publishing material that was exactly like any one of those existing publishers, people would naturally ask the question “why should I download your books when I could the same kind of thing from a well-established, large-scale publisher?” To be useful, we need to be doing something a little bit different — perhaps filling a slightly different niche.

This becomes more relevant in relation to fears voiced by a number of readers that hitching our wagon too much to Chaosium (e.g., by formally becoming a commercial licensee) might threaten that independence. I don’t honestly know whether it *would*, but there are certainly some people who are concerned that it might.

“Unearthed” by khantheripper (deviantart)

The Importance of Game Systems

One of the things I was most interested to get feedback about was how wedded our readers are to the Call of Cthulhu system, the game which we have (more-or-less) exclusively focussed to date. One thing I’m sure every game publisher fears is that a decision to support a slightly different system, or indeed release systemless material, might alienate their audience, leaving a lot of people behind.

I’ll be honest: I was half expecting the overwhelming response from readers to be “our group only plays Call of Cthulhu; if you shifted to other systems your material would be useless to us.” But that wasn’t what most people said. Instead what the vast majority of folks told us was that, for Lovecraftian games, they viewed the system as the *least* important part of the final product. If a scenario or setting is well-written, evocative, and has the requisite atmosphere, tone, and number of scares — people seem to be saying that they would be more than willing to do a bit of system conversion to use it with whatever game they ran for their group. I think that’s an interesting trend, and while not universal (there actually *were* a few people that told us they wouldn’t be able to use anything that didn’t have CoC statistics) it suggests to us that the choice of which system(s) to support is perhaps not as significant as we first thought.

“Nuclear” by Schistad (deviantart)

In terms of specific systems that people suggested we *could* consider if we were to (partially-or-fully) move away from Call of Cthulhu, there wasn’t a clear standout recommendation. Each of the following had some supporters:

  • Gumshoe / Trail of Cthulhu
  • The new Delta Green RPG (Arc Dream)
  • Savage World (“Realms of Cthulhu”)
  • Cthulhu Dark (whose glossy hardback edition is being Kickstarted right now)
  • The forthcoming “King in Yellow” RPG (Pelgrane)
  • Cakebread & Walton’s “Rennaisance” system (based on BRP)
  • GORE
  • Greg Stolze’s “Nemesis” system (based on Godlike)
  • Cthulhu d100 (currently only available in Spanish)
  • Lamentations of the Flame Princess

A few folks (perhaps cheekily) suggested we could make our *own* system … but with all those to choose from, I’m not sure why we would want to go to that amount of trouble.

A World Beyond Systems

Interestingly, several people directed us to a handful of previous efforts that have been made to create systemless supplements for Lovecraftian games. While I was already aware of one (Gary Sumpter’s book “Tainted Legacies”) I wasn’t aware of other similar efforts which have more explicitly targetted multiple game systems via systems of more generic notations which can be easily translated into different systems. One of these is the “Dark Symbols” created by Brennen Reece and Graham Walmsley (and used for the generic scenario “Sukakpak” by Jason Morningstar, published in The Unspeakable Oath #21).

So, What Next?

We are still sifting through all the mountains of intriguing ideas and options that you, our faithful body of readers, have provided us. Some of the points that have come out of this exercise have already proven very insightful to us — and have changed our perception about what folks *want* from a small-scale publisher like Cthulhu Reborn.

There’s still some amount of pondering (not to mention reading up on various different licensing approaches used for different systems) to be done before we have a clear way forward … but, once we have a clear direction we will certainly share it with you. In the meantime, if you have any *further* insightful feedback — feel free to use the form below. I do feel, however, that you guys have already been extraordinarily generous with the feedback you’ve given us (so, thank you for that!)

 


A Reason to Change Direction?

As long-time readers of Cthulhu Reborn would know, we have a long history (6+ years) of creating cool and innovative, high-quality PDFs and print books which specifically aim to be useful to folks who play Chaosium’s awesome tabletop RPG, Call of Cthulhu. We were founded with the idea of bringing great stuff out for little or no cost, and almost all of the 15 or so titles that we’ve released can be grabbed (electronically at least) without spending anything.

One of the things that has proven a growing challenge over the years is knowing how to respond to the very frequent suggestions and requests that Cthulhu Reborn should take on more ambitious and larger-scale projects. Creating bigger things inherently brings with it the need to pay writers, artists, printers, etc … so necessarily involves charging something for the final product, even if only to recover costs. And asking for money for a Call of Cthulhu product really means becoming a licensee of Chaosium. To pursue this we have been in on-and-off discussions with Chaosium since 2012, but the small-scale of Cthulhu Reborn as a publishing endeavour seems to have made it hard to find a way to make it work for all concerned.

In the past few days, however, Chaosium have released a new set of licensing policies — some of which are aimed to specifically to address fan-based (free) publication and smaller scale commercial publication. While we’re very glad to see some clear direction from Chaosium on these topics, after some consideration of the terms of Chaosium’s “small publisher” license (and, in particular, the way it is implemented) we have some concerns. Without going into a bunch of specifics, we’re fairly confident that this new licensing model would only really work for PDF-only titles which are quite small (~ 10-20 pages). And while some of the things we would want to do might fall into those parameters, many wouldn’t.

 

“Fork in the Road” by khantheripper (Deviantart)

This development leaves us with a difficult decision to make — namely, how should Cthulhu Reborn continue? There are a few different options.

More Focus on Freebie Stuff?

Chaosium’s policy on fan-based releases is actually quite generous, but comes with the inherent limitation that it’s purely a non-commercial arrangement (i.e., you can’t ask for money in return for your products). While returning to our roots as a purely-freebie-based publisher is very attractive in some ways, it does mean that we couldn’t really commission paid artwork or pay writers for their contributions (both of which we *have* done). There also really isn’t any way to make freebie stuff work in print, since there are inherent costs in the physical production of books.

More Focus on Bite-Sized PDF-only releases?

Navigating Chaosium’s processes for applying to be licensed under their “Small Publisher” license is somewhat of an unpredictable maze but conceivably we *could* make this the principal way that Cthulhu Reborn brings things to you. While this would allow us to continue to make stuff for the Call of Cthulhu RPG system — which is a game we love — as described above, it really would max out at fairly small publications. Something like the core Convicts & Cthulhu book would simply be much too large to attempt under such a license (for example).

“Rusted to a Halt” by khantheripper (Deviantart)

More Focus on System-Independent Stuff?

Chaosium’s licenses only apply to products which make direct use of its Intellectual Property — i.e., the copyrights and trademarks that make up Call of Cthulhu as a property. Conceivably we *could* follow in the footsteps of a few others and continue to publish game-useable content but without reference to specific game mechanics etc of the Call of Cthulhu game. Prop packs and resources might fit well into this model. The advantages are that Cthulhu Reborn could tackle whatever sized projects people wanted, but the downside is that the products aren’t explicitly for Call of Cthulhu and would require some work to be used in a CoC game.

Start Developing For A Different Lovecraftian RPG?

Whereas once upon a time Call of Cthulhu was the “only game in town” for Lovecrafitan gaming, that certainly isn’t true these days. Over recent years a bunch of other systems have sprung up (e.g., Trail of Cthulhu, Realms of Cthulhu [Savage Worlds], Delta Green RPG, to name just a few). Almost all of these are much more open in their licensing terms & conditions, allowing creators a lot of freedom in using the system however they wish. Conceivably we could reorient some or all of Cthulhu Reborn’s energies into targetting one of those alternative Lovecraftian RPGs. Of course that assumes that people *want* material for those games.

We Want To Hear What You Think

Ultimately, what we want most is to continue to create products that are useful to people like you, and support Lovecraftian gaming the way you play it. So … what do you think we should do? If there are other systems out there that you use for Lovecraftian stuff, which ones are they? Feel free to leave your thoughts either in the comments to this post, or using via the contact form below (which will just go to us, and not be visible to others).


No Time Off For Good Behaviour

It’s hard to believe it, but in a few days time we will be celebrating the first anniversary of the release of Convicts & Cthulhu, our (suprisingly very popular) sourcebook for playing grime-and-depravity-fuelled Cthulhu Mythos adventures amid the horrific penal colonies of early Australia. Since its release, the core Convicts book has sold almost 1700 copies in PDF and print. We’ve also managed to bring out five mini-supplements under the “Ticket of Leave” line which, collectively, have sold almost 1900 PDF downloads (of course many of the downloads of both the main book and the Tickets have been free-of-charge downloads, so maybe the term ‘sold’ isn’t 100% accurate, but you get the meaning).

If by some chance you have missed grabbing some of these books, here are some links to the RPGNow pages where you can grab them. Each is either free or “pay-what-you-want”:

Convicts & Cthulhu core setting book [96 pages; PDF or print].

Convicts & Cthulhu player’s edition (the historical and setting sections of the core book) [57 pages; 10.6MB]

Ticket of Leave #1: Night Terrors [4 pages]

Ticket of Leave #2: Tri-Colour Terror [6 pages]

Ticket of Leave #3: Criminal Enterprise [8 pages]

Ticket of Leave #4: The Vanishing Ensign [14 pages]

Ticket of Leave #5: The Damned & The Degenerate [24 pages]

To celebrate the one-year anniversary, we’re planning to release our sixth supplemental release sometime close to the actual C&C first birthday (30th May). Obviously this will depend on several unholy stars aligning, but … fingers crossed. The title of the sixth “Ticket of Leave” will be “Night of the Convict Dead” — we’ve even commissioned some new art from the always-amazing Reuben Dodd. Here’s a peek at his illustration:

BTW if you’re wondering whether the recent flurry of activity around Convicts & Cthulhu means that Cthulhu Reborn are only working on convict-related projects … let me assure you that is not the case. In recent weeks we have commissioned two well-known Call of Cthulhu authors to create brand new setting books in entirely different corners of the Call of Cthulhu world. Hopefully we will be able to share some more specific news about those awesome future projects soon!


Return of a Great Old One

Scott David Aniolowski is one of those writers who has achieved a bit of a legendary status among those who have a long-time connection to the Call of Cthulhu game. He has a list of writing credits as long as your arm (see below), but like many of the game’s “Great Old Ones” there hasn’t been much in the way of newly-published material from Scott. But, as the famous couplet from Alhazrad goes, “that is not dead, yada yada yada”. And this is proved, today, as Scott launches a Kickstarter campaign for a brand new scenario publication: “Cold Warning”

The Kickstarter campaign describes Scott’s scenario as follows: “Cold Warning is a Jazz Era, Call of Cthulhu 7th edition scenario set in Arkham, Massachusetts and Hudson, Maine. What begins with the dubious suicide of Joseph Sutton and the bizarre behavior of his widow Marilyn, leads investigators to Winter Haven, a remote hunting lodge in rural Maine. Here they experience mysterious phenomena, encounter suspicious lodge guests and staff, learn of ancient legends, and confront strange and frightening creatures before finally witnessing the awesome power of a Great Old One.”

It also describes how Cold Warning — a scenario first written by Scott in the 1990s — almost became one of those “lost unpublished gems”, after having been left forgotten in his bottom drawer for decades. The long history of the scenario is discussed by Scott in this interesting 20 minute audio interview with the crew from the MU Podcast. As folks who have also worked to bring some of the more obscure “lost classics” of Lovecraftian roleplaying to printed form, this is exactly the kind of thing we’d like to see more of! So, we would definitely encourage you to check out the Kickstarter page for Cold Warning to see if it’s is to your liking. Another great reason to consider backing the book is because it will feature art from Reuben Dodd (see below), who has also done a bunch of great work for us. We love Reuben’s work — and it will be great to see more of it in print.

But … don’t wait too long to check this out. Unlike all of Golden Goblin’s prior Kickstarters (which have each run for about a month), this particular campaign only runs for seven days. This is an interesting experiment, and I’m sure that lots of other publishers will be watching closely to see how it goes. In another first for Golden Goblin, this book will be produced solely as Print on Demand — a distribution method already wholeheartedly embraced by a few other publishers such as Stygian Fox (and us!). Hopefully this will do something to avoid the ugly situation that Golden Goblin faced last month with the backlash over international shipping fees for their “7th Edition Cthulhu Invictus” Kickstarter.

Finally … in case you’re not familiar with Scott’s long history with Call of Cthulhu, the photo montage below gives a visual overview of just *some* of the great books to which he has been a core contributor. You can also check out an interview with Scott we ran here on Cthulhu Reborn back in 2013. And if you’ve ever cracked the cover of Malleus Monstrorum, the encyclopedic book providing game statistics for a huge number of Cthulhu Mythos gods and monsters, then you’re well acquainted with Scott’s genius!


A Golden Geek Nomination!

Colour me blown away — purely by chance we just discovered that Convicts & Cthulhu was nominated for the category of “Best RPG Supplement of 2016” in this year’s Golden Geek Awards. Sadly, we only learned of this news a few hours before voting closed … otherwise we would have spruiked far and wide for votes! Ah well, as they say — it’s great just to be nominated.

In other Convicts & Cthulhu news, Cthulhu Reborn are right now working with Geoff Gillan to put the finishing touches on a double-sized Ticket of Leave supplement which gives C&C Keepers an entire new campaign frame for their 18th Century convict tales of horror plus an extended scenario sketch to get their campaign rolling. If all goes well that should be released sometime in March. Beyond that there are quite a number of other products bubbling away — some related to Convicts & Cthulhu, some in completely different Lovecraftian domains. So we’re quietly hopeful that 2017 will be a year of many horrific publications from us!


2016: Cthulhu’s Year in Review

So, normally at about this time of year our good friends over at Sentinel Hill Press put together a blog posting which summarises all the nifty products that were released for Call of Cthulhu in the previous year. Because I know that the Sentinel folks are really, REALLY busy with a combination of real world things (a new homonculous) and finishing off their amazing Arkham Gazette Kickstarter, I’ve decided to step in to write up this year’s write up — a “those were the tentacles that were” kind of thing. I hope WinstonP doesn’t mind 🙂

Compared to the last few years, 2016 was a quiet-ish year for new Call of Cthulhu releases. Depending on how you count it, there were between 10 and 12 new book titles released for the game compared to around 16 in 2015. Of course, that number does include two pretty important titles — the Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition rules (which were technically published in PDF form late in 2015, even though most people didn’t get hard copies until late 2016) and the long-awaited Pulp Cthulhu.

There is no denying that 2016 was a year dominated by Kickstarter-delivered titles … in fact every single title that was produced for Call of Cthulhu came out as the result of a Kickstarter, or as an add-on to a Kickstarter. Here’s a breakdown of the books released in 2016, grouped by publisher.

Chaosium

Chaosium had a big year in 2016, mostly due to the (much elongated) delivery of it’s anticipated 7th Edition Call of Cthulhu rules. Although versions of the final layouts have been kicking around for a year or so, it has been great to see most backers of their 2013 Kickstarter campaign get their books. The Kickstarter isn’t entirely finished yet, but it’s close to being done — which must be a big relief to Chaosium (who have earned the unenviable epithet “The Company That Almost Kickstarted Itself To Death”).

The other big, BIG release for Chaosium in 2016 was Pulp Cthulhu. Those of you who have followed the game for a while will already be aware that Pulp Cthulhu has been an “upcoming title” for Call of Cthulhu for a decade or more. The version that finally came out in 2016 probably has very little in common with the book that was originally announced in the mid 2000s, having been extensively “reworked” by Mike Mason and others. It is quite a significant release for Call of Cthulhu, though, since it introduces a rather different “mode” of play — much less focussed on investigation, and much more on two-fisted, Indiana Jones-style, action. While other Lovecraftian games have incorporated “pulp” sensibilities (in particular Trail of Cthulhu), few if any have embraced this mode with as much gusto.

In addition to these two big rules-related books, Chaosium released a couple of books which brought new scenarios. Doors To Darkness is a book of 7th Edition scenarios which is specifically targetted at beginning Keepers and players, with the book providing more-than-typical guidance text to help folks who are still learning the game. Interestingly, this book was briefly released in limited numbers at NecronomiCon 2015 in a black and white softcover format but Chaosium subsequently made the decision to abandon that layout in favour of a new, full-colour hardcover treatment to better fit in with the more lavish presentation that premiered with the 7th Edition books and Pulp Cthulhu. Chaosium Creative Director Jeff Richard has mentioned at convention panels that this high production value will be standard for all future books produced by the company.

The other Chaosium release for 2016 was a more slim tome — a Free RPG Day scenario by Sandy Petersen called “The Derelict”. This short, modern-day title was significant for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it was Chaosium’s first Free RPG Day book; secondly it was the first newly published Call of Cthulhu material in 20 years written by the original creator of the game.

Another interesting first for Chaosium in 2016 was the establishment of their “Organised Play” programme via the “Cult of Chaos”, a free-to-join association of Keepers that volunteers to run Call of Cthulhu either at public events (e.g., conventions) or for their own home-grown groups. Chaosium’s first “Organised Play” event was a six-part classic-era campaign called “A Time to Harvest” set around Miskatonic Universtity and the backwaters of Vermont. This campaign was released in parts (one chapter per month throughout mid-2016) to Cult of Chaos keepers for free. There are plans to revise the campaign based on feedback from those Keepers and one day release this campaign as a proper Chaosium title.

Licensees

Moving away from Chaosium-land, 2016 was also a big year for several of the Call of Cthulhu licensees. Foremost among those is Cubicle 7, who put out three books as part of two different Kickstarter campaigns. The first of these was World War Cthulhu: London, a book detailing the home front during World War II (as part of Cubicle 7’s WW2 setting first described in 2013’s World War Cthulhu: Their Darkest Hour). The WWC: London book was originally created as a stretch goal to the 2013 Cthulhu Britannica London Kickstarter, and is the last piece of that campaign to be delivered.

An entirely different Kickstarter campaign by Cubicle 7 saw the release of an exciting new campaign setting for Call of Cthulhu — the shadowy world of 1970s Cold War espionage. Two different books were released as part of this campaign in 2016. They were World War Cthulhu: Cold War and the Section 46 Operations Manual. Both books look great and the Cold War looks like a really interesting, if somewhat grim, setting for Cthulhu gaming — one I am certainly looking forward to reading (especially if it maintains the uniformly high standard Cubicle 7 has shown of late).

Speaking of World War 2 setting, 2016 also saw the final books delivered for Modiphius’ rather ambitious Kickstarter for the Achtung! Cthulhu line of products. Ever since this campaign was run in 2013 there has been a steady stream of sourcebooks and hardback campaigns published as well as some rather strange cross-over products with other game systems. Two of the latter titles were the stragglers that finally saw the light of day in 2016 — Elder Godlike (a cross-over with Greg Stolze’s superhero RPG Godlike) and Secrets of the Dust (a cross-over with Paolo Parente’s DUST universe).

Golden Goblin Press has established somewhat of a reputation for itself in recent years with timely fulfilment of Kickstarter campaigns. In 2016 they delivered on their third such game-related Kickstarter, Tales of the Caribbean. This book includes seven 1920s-era scenarios spread over the diverse islands of the Caribbean.

Goodman Games also released another volume of its popular Age of Cthulhu line: The Lost Expedition. As with the previous entry in this series, this (ninth) book in the AoC line was funded via a Kickstarter.

Last, but certainly not least, among the Call of Cthulhu licensees active in 2016 is the new-kid-on-the-block Stygian Press (run by Stephanie McAlea). This new publisher released its first (Kickstarter-funded) book, The Things We Leave Behind, which aims to present a grim and grown-up version of modern-day Call of Cthulhu. I would have to say that I was blown away by the quality of the writing in this book — these are truly great, if somewhat dark and twisted, scenarios … certainly a lot more embedded in the horrors of 21st century “modern” life than almost anything that’s been published before. If I had to pick one “best book” for the year, this one would certainly be a serious contender.

Magazines

Generally, 2016 was a pretty lean year for Call of Cthulhu content in Magazines — once again the stalwart “Unspeakable Oath” remained silent, with no releases.

The big exception to this resounding silence is the back-issues of the Arkham Gazette released by Sentinel Hill. In 2014, Sentinel ran a highly successful Kickstarter to create the third issue of its Lovecraft Country magazine/sourcebook, devoted to an in-depth study of witchcraft in Arkham and elsewhere. The PDF and print versions of this magazine issue were all delivered in 2015 … but stretch goals of the original Kickstarter promised upgrades and reissues of older (free PDF-only) issues of the magazine. In 2016 two of these emerged — Issue #0 (Aylesbury Pike) and Issue #1 (Arkham), both in PDF and softcover Print-On-Demand.

Cthulhu Reborn

Convicts & Cthulhu Logo 2

Finally, I can’t write a wrap-up of 2016 without sparing a few sentences to flog Convicts & Cthulhu, our very own big release for 2016. This setting book, covering Lovecraftian horrors in the early penal settlements of Australia, has been extremely well-received and has sold far, far in excess of our wildest dreams. Geoff Gillan — my partner in convict-ness has, subsequent to the release of the main (96-page softcover and PDF) book, also written three small supplements which we have released for free. All of those goodies are available right now over on RPGNow.


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