Category Archives: Scenario Downloads

A Convicts & Cthulhu Campaign

It’s been several months since we’ve released anything new for our (much-loved) Convicts & Cthulhu RPG. A few people have contacted me asking me if we’d somehow stopped supporting it … fear not, we would never do that. But, even before the current world events had come to disrupt everyone, real-life complications were (temporarily) biting deeply into the free-time of our normal C&C writers. This has slowed down the production of the next Ticket of Leave supplement *and* also preparations for our annual GenCon Convicts & Cthulhu game — the latter of which might depend a lot more on exactly what shape GenCon 2020 takes.

While talking with our small crew the other day, someone suggested that now that there are a LOT of Convicts & Cthulhu scenarios written — scattered through some 400 pages of free/PWYW content that is available to everyone — why don’t we stitch some together to form a campaign? Given the way that downloads of our free scenarios (and especially our free Convicts material) has skyrocketed in recent weeks, having a longer-form Convicts tale that people could just pick up and run seems like an idea whose time has come.

So — between Geoff and myself — we’ve created an eight-chapter “ready(-ish)-to-run” campaign which binds together a selection of scenarios and seeds from the core Convicts & Cthulhu book as well as scenarios from:

All up, the campaign has 8 chapters (six core “campaign arc” chapters and 2 optional chapters). We estimate it will take an Investigator group 10-15 sessions to play. It’s an open framework which would also allow a few extra optional chapters to be inserted if you wanted something longer.

You can download the 33-page PDF which contains the campaign outline as a free download from here on the Cthulhu Reborn blog. We will also put the same file up on DriveThruRPG as a Pay-What-You-Want title (in case you would like to chip a small donation our way to help us keep making new Convicts supplements).

We’ve called the campaign notes a “String-A-Line” supplement to distinguish it from our original Convicts & Cthulhu scenario/sourcebook releases (“Tickets of Leave”) and our NPC-specific supplements (“Musters”). The term “stringing a line” comes from the “Flash Talk” slang spoken by convicts in the colony — it refers to the practice of spinning a long and elaborate story to someone to keep them occupied and distracted while one’s accomplice(s) silently robs them of their goods. It seems like a good analogy for running an RPG campaign (except for the stealing bit, obviously :)).

The campaign we’ve created is called “New Dawn Fades (or The Testing of New South Wales)” and concerns itself with a string of peculiar events which begin at the time of the Investigators’ arrival in the colony in early 1803 and extend through the next 2 years. The odd occurrences are linked thanks to the involvement of a shadowy group who are subtly (and not-so-subtly) pulling strings in NSW to fit their own agenda.

What’s In The String-A-Line?

Given that each of the scenarios themselves exist already in published forms (in the C&C core and the different Ticket of Leave supplements, respectively), we haven’t reprinted them but have instead created some “glue” to stitch these individual tales into a larger narrative. The String-A-Line supplement is thus a kind of framework or playbook that allows you to take those pre-existing publications and mash their component parts together into a harmonious whole.Here’s a quick summary of what we’ve described in the String-A-Line:

  • Description of the shadowy organization who is at the heart of this campaign
  • An option to involve a well-known historical figure in the machinations
  • A summary of several ongoing linking elements that bind the stories together. These include NPCs both friendly and adversarial, colonial organizations that recur through the campaign, and some running mysteries
  • Six brand-new “campaign handouts” that can be given to players as Investigators begin to unravel pieces of the underlying backstory.
  • Eight chapter descriptions (each describing changes/additions to the vanilla published scenarios, how the action ties into the ongoing campaign arc, and the outcomes and loose-ends from each scenario).
  • Six ready-to-play Convicts & Cthulhu investigators

Spoilers Hereafter

If you think you might one day be a player in this campaign, perhaps stop reading here. For everyone else, here’s a quick summary of how the New Dawn Fades campaign unfolds through its eight chapters.

Chapter 1: Un-Fresh Off The Boat

The Investigators begin as passengers (and convicts) on a pair of ships which has just arrived in Sydney Harbour from England. A mysterious illness has broken out onboard meaning the ship is refused permission to dock until after it has served a period of quarantine. One person on board simply can’t wait and makes a break overboard, breaking quarantine. The Investigators – as the only uninfected people on board – are asked to give chase. When they track down the missing man, they find that disgusting Mythos creatures were being smuggled into the colony inside his body. But who could have wanted to bring such terrifying monstrosities to New South Wales?

Chapter 2: Night Terrors

As “reward” for their quick-thinking actions in Chapter 1, the Investigators are drafted into the Sydney Night Watch — the motley group who enforces the curfew and patrols the streets at night. This chapter introduces life after dark in Sydney. As the Investigators run their patrols they have a range of  colourful encounters. Many of these are mundane but help to paint a vivid picture of what life on the streets of Sydney is like. However, others relate to the trail of havoc created by an unbound Mythos Creature – following up on these will draw the Investigators towards eliminating the menace it poses to the colony.

Chapter 3: Shyneth as the Gold

As part of their Night Watch duties, the Investigators must pretend to be criminals to meet with an American ship off the NSW coast so they can take possession of smuggled distilling equipment as part of a ‘sting’ operation. A criminal gang was supposed to deliver these items to a remote location near Banks’ Town. In order to find out who receives the illegal items the Investigators must make the rendezvous. When they do, they find a weird group who are happily using distilled essences for some rather unorthodox purposes.

Chapter 4: Night of the Convict Dead

An unusual spate of deaths has been reported on the streets of Sydney Town. In each case a pair of corpses is located adjacent to one another – one looking fresh, the other oddly decayed. Investigating these strange discoveries puts the Investigators on the trail of a dark-hearted man with ambitions to become a necromancer. His designs for the dead in Sydney’s burial grounds needs to be stopped, lest he accidentally trigger a mass zombie resurrection that he has no chance of controlling.

Chapter 5: The Lights of Botany Bay

A strange man in Black Robes has appeared in Sydney calling himself “Solander”. He urgently wants to reach the unsettled shores of Botany Bay and apparently has (somehow) swayed Governor King to arrange a military expedition at short notice. King has ordered the Investigators to “volunteer” to help since they already have experience of the Botany Bay region from their earlier smuggling ‘sting.’

Chapter 6: The Dispensatory of Doctor Macdead

Strange tales have recently been reaching Sydney about bizarre medical conditions reported at the hospital at Parramatta. Looking into these reports of mutations and such, the Investigators quickly establish a common link – all the patients had been treated by a private (highly unqualified) doctor named Macdead. Finding the good doctor, however, proves more complicated than expected. In recent weeks he has been arrested (for passing a forged promissory note) and was sent as punishment to the remote secondary punishment settlement of Coal River. But even in his absence, someone (or something) seems to have ambitions to continue visiting horrible medical alterations upon innocent settlers and convicts of the Parramatta region.

Chapter 7: The Orphan School Horror

The Female Orphan School is one of the few charitable institutions to be created in the harsh colony. Girls at the school have begun to report mysterious and eerie phenomenon in the weeks leading up to Christmas, prompting some to think that the school is haunted.

Chapter 8: The Death Knells

Sydney Town awakes one morning to news of a terrible night of carnage that has left three members of the Night Watch dead and a curious axe left embedded in the Harbour Bell which is used to signal the arrival of new ships. The dead are people who the Investigators knew well from their own service in the Night Watch, so the foul murders strike home in a personal way. But who could have wanted to carry out such an apparently motiveless spree of killings right on the shores of Sydney Harbour?

Getting the Campaign

Convicts & Cthulhu String-A-Line #1: New Dawn Fades is available right now, as a free download using the link below.

33 pages; 8.3MB PDF

In order to run the campaign, you will also need the C&C Core book and the six Ticket of Leave supplements from which the scenarios are drawn. Links to the latter are included at the top of this post. You can get the C&C core either from DriveThru RPG (“Pay What You Want”) or from here on the blog (see the C&C Downloads page). The DTRPG page also offers softcover print copies.

Playing the Campaign

We hope that existing fans of the Convicts & Cthulhu setting will consider using (or adapting) this campaign framework to create hours of amazing entertainment for their gaming group. Equally we hope that some folks who haven’t yet dipped their toes into the gritty world of Convicts might find this lengthy campaign just the ticket to inspire them to transport a group of friends to the penal settlements of early Australia to do battle with shadowy adversaries and save the colonies from an even more brutal fate.

If you and your friends give this campaign a spin we’d love to hear how it went. And if you decide to record and share your online games as “Actual Play” recordings, we’d definitely like to let other C&C fans know so they can check it out!

May the New Dawn never fade on your version of New South Wales!


Ticket of Leave #15: The Death Knells, Released!

We’re excited today to be announcing the release of Convicts & Cthulhu Ticket of Leave #15: The Death Knells. This is a release jointly written by yours truly (scenario bits) and Geoff Gillan (the sourcebook bits). The PDF of this substantial (27-page) supplement of dark convict doings and Mythos machinations, is available right now FREE here on the Cthulhu Reborn blog. This version includes stats for Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition.

The genesis for this supplement came about when I had some extended-time off earlier this year and started thinking about all the different angles we have already covered for the Convicts & Cthulhu penal colony setting. We’ve had ghostly apparitions, horrors hidden buried inside the walls of buildings, spooky abandoned whaling ships, creepy 17th Century medical experiments, fallen meteorites, enormous cicadas eating Five Dock, quicklime zombies, and more. Surely we’ve covered everything? … And then it came to me: we have never done anything about musical performance in the colony. So I thought it might be a fun topic to explore, and wrote asking Geoff if he had any relevant historical resources — of course he had a bunch, and then also went off and did some extensive research. He’s superhumanly committed that way; he’s really the heart and soul of the Convicts & Cthulhu game. And also an endless fount of new ideas — in response to the request to chase up my idea, he identified a bundle of other great ideas for future topics we could cove as well!

Music is not something that immediately springs to mind when you think about the penal colonies of early Australia, but in reality it was something that was integral to several different aspects of colonial life. The British military has a long tradition of regimental bands, and even the bottom-of-the-barrel NSW Corps had its own band — not to mention the drummers and fifers that were assigned to various companies. These musicians (usually part-time) were responsible for performing the stirring tunes accompanying government-run events, as well as playing at military ceremonies … such as when an errant soldier was literally “drummed out” of their regiment. Leaving aside the military, music also played a part in the life of the more well-off free settlers. Those who could afford to have a pianoforte shipped out from England certainly used it regularly as a source of evening entertainment (lacking any other medium). Convicts who knew how to play the fiddle or pennywhistle could also earn money by performing tunes at parties thrown by the toffs, or just busking on the streets of Sydney Town or Parramatta. For all these reasons, the notion of a “professional” musician as a C&C investigator is not as far-fetched as it sounds (and we include a profession template in the PDF to cover just this mode of play).

Quite separate to the music of Europeans in New South Wales, the musical traditions of the Indigenous owners of the country were also a major part of daily life. For Aboriginal peoples, the concept of musical performance in ceremony was (and indeed still is today) a very important aspect of spiritual life, and the Songlines taught verbally from generation-to-generation also served as an important practical tool for daily life. Some, especially, served as a kind of musical “map” which allowed for a traveller to navigate unknown terrain safely without fear of becoming lost.

The springboard for the scenario in Ticket of Leave #15 is a relatively-obscure Cthulhu Mythos story of extra-dimensional horror. (I’ll happily send a free copy of the printed C&C core book to the first person to guess the author and title in comments below). The scenario begins when investigators are asked to find out who was responsible for a horrible night of carnage that has seen the murders of three members of Sydney’s Night Watch (see ToL#1). Not only were these three men strangled silently in the night, but whoever committed the foul crime also quizzically left a large hand-axe, apparently of French origin, embedded in the brass of the large bell which stands adjacent to the Government Wharf. Both the Night Watch and the Colonial Government want the perpetrator caught and tried immediately … but, as usual, it turns out not to be anywhere near as simple as that.

Ticket of Leave #15 is available right now, via the link below. It will soon also be up on DTRPG as a Pay-What-You-Want title (if you’d like to generously flick us some money to help keep the C&C line thriving!).

Ticket of Leave #15: The Death Knells (STATTED version) [27 pages; 5.0MB]

As always with material published here on Cthulhu Reborn, this file is released under a Creative Commons License, which means you’re free to do whatever (non-commercial) things you’d like to do. If you do something cool with this scenario, say make an Actual Play recording of your C&C group running through the adventure — let us know and we’ll mention it here on the blog!


Ticket of Leave #14: A Whale of a New Release

Today we are delighted to announce the release of Convicts & Cthulhu Ticket of Leave #14: Hark, Now Hear The Sailor’s Cry, written by Matthew Ruane. The PDF of this whale-sized (32 page) scenario is available for FREE right now from here on Cthulhu Reborn, complete with CoC7e stats.

This marks the 18th release for the Convicts & Cthulhu product line, and the largest supplement we’ve released to date for the setting. It is also our official GenCon 2019 scenario, and will be played out by groups in Indy in just a couple of weeks. [Obviously if you’re booked in to play in one of those groups, maybe don’t read the PDF until afterwards!]

As always with our Ticket of Leave supplements, this one is themed around one particular facet of life in the early Australian penal colonies … this time around it is centred upon the early maritime industries of whaling and sealing. Now, we are no particular fans of the slaughter of whales and seals for their blubber, bones and skins … but we can’t deny that historically this was an important part of life in the 18th and 19th centuries. Thankfully we’ve moved on from such barbarity (well, with a few notable exceptions …)

 

In creating this supplement and detailed scenario, Matthew has done something quite special — created a direct link between the Convicts & Cthulhu setting and the colonial world of New England, much beloved by H.P. Lovecraft. In this scenario, American whalers out of Kingsport, MA, have stumbled upon something quite horrific on their journeys across the Pacific in search of whales. And when their path brings them into the waters south of the Australian continent, an unexpected set of events has the potential to unleash Mythos terrors in a quite unexpected — yet typically destructive — way.

While the Convicts & Cthulhu setting is nominally limited to the era 1795-1810, Matthew has chosen to base this adventure slightly later, in 1812. There are several historical reasons for this choice … but one of the most intriguing from a plot perspective is that in 1812 Britain and America are at war! Half a world a way in the fledgling United States a conflict has erupted that will eventually become known as the “War of 1812.” In the colonies, news of this fighting is greeted with much interest and only serves to heighten the concerns raised when an American whaleship is discovered floating — seemingly derelict — in Bass’s Straits. The Investigators are hastily scrambled to find out what dire plot or deception those sneaky Americans are up to … but of course soon find themselves adrift in their own sea of troubles.

Ticket of Leave #14 is available right now, via the link below. It will soon also be up on DTRPG as a Pay-What-You-Want title (if you’d like to generously flick us some money to help keep the C&C line thriving!).

Ticket of Leave #14: Hark, Now Hear the Sailors Cry (STATTED version) [32 pages; 6.4MB]

As always with material published here on Cthulhu Reborn, this file is released under a Creative Commons License, which means you’re free to do whatever (non-commercial) things you’d like to do. If you do something cool with this scenario, say make an Actual Play recording of your C&C group running through the adventure — let us know and we’ll mention it here on the blog!


Released: Convicts & Cthulhu Muster #2

Today we are very excited to announce the release of the second entry into our newest line of support materials for Convicts & Cthulhu, the C&C Musters. We debuted this format back in December — it’s basically a short supplement which examines a real-world historical figure through the lens of their potential for use in a Lovecraftian investigative game scenario. There are lots of ways to use historical character detail as an inspiration for new plots, NPCs, and even investigators — and the goal of the Musters is to give you the tools to do any of these with the background of an intriguing, real-historical figure.

C&C Muster #2, subtitled “The Master of Convicts” focuses on the eventful life of Nicholas Divine (sometimes spelled “Devine”) who served for most of the C&C era in an important government role of “Superintendent of Convicts.” This made Divine the man ultimately in charge of which convicts were assigned to which work gangs or other labour — obviously something that is important to you if you *are* a convict, but also if you are someone whose day-to-day life is enabled by plentiful free convict labour.

Perhaps even more interesting than Nicholas Divine’s official life are some of the details of his personal life. Sent out to New South Wales in 1789 aboard the HMS Guardian, Divine was an innocent party caught up in a dramatic encounter which left the Guardian fatally damaged thanks to an unfortunate encounter with an iceberg off the southern coast of Africa. This unusual situation came to be thanks to the ship’s captain making the decision, upon sighting the iceberg, to cautiously approach it to carve off ice to supplement the ship’s limited supplies of fresh water — as a sailing maneuver, it doesn’t go down in history as one of the Royal Navy’s finest (although to be fair to Captain Riou, the sudden night fogs that rose up shortly after the ice carving maneuver really didn’t help). But as an event with potential for exploitation in a Lovecraftian scenario … such an encounter is pure gold.

This PDF also includes some additional description of the 18th Century British practice of creating Prison Hulks — non-seaworthy ships converted to floating (temporary) prisons and left floating in the Thames or one of the major shipping harbours. Your convict’s backstory might very well incorporate some time spent aboard a Hulk (none of which BTW warrant the name “incredible,” quite the opposite in fact) … so it’s good to have some historical data to help fill in that part of his or her personal history.

C&C Muster #2 is an eight-page PDF available for download right now, from here on the Cthulhu Reborn blog. It has game statistics for the Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition rules.


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