Category Archives: Scenario Downloads

Happy Birthday Convicts (Have a Ticket of Leave)

Let’s face it, life in the early penal colonies of Australia was no picnic. Even if you were fortunate enough to avoid the brutal floggings and ever-present threat of capital punishment for disobedience, there was always disease and starvation to contend with. Is it any surprise, then, then the mortality rate in these grim colonies was — at least by our standards — shockingly high. People died in the colonies all the time. This problem was not made better by the fact that conditions on the ships coming to the settlements was even more toxic, which meant that frequently vessels arrived with many of their passengers having perished on the voyage over.

All these corpses had to be disposed of somehow, and in this era that meant finding somewhere to bury them. The settlement at Sydney began with some modestly-sized burial plots, a couple for convicts and another for sailors. These were filled within four years, creating somewhat of a crisis. It wasn’t until some time later when the governors grappled with the problem more sensibly, that a very large cemetery was allocated at the far southern extent of the township (ironically, this location is in modern times where Sydney’s town hall stands).

Even with a sizeable space to bury their dead, the early colonists were remarkably lax when it came to doing so — all graves were all dug by convict labourers who couldn’t care less whether they were deep enough or not. This meant that many bodies were buried in very shallow graves, which created problems of noxious smells not to mention attracting pigs from neighbouring fields who were free to roam around the burying ground (and occasionally dig up corpses).

While all these details of early colonial life are horribly macabre … they are wonderful fuel for tales of horror and death. After all, where would have the necromantic tales of H.P. Lovecraft or Edgar Allen Poe (not to mention George A. Romero) have been without an ample supply of poorly protected corpses.

Ticket of Leave #6 — released (more-or-less) on the first anniversary of the publication of the core Convicts & Cthulhu setting — is a chunky 15-page PDF which explores burial customs and locations in the early colonies. But, far more excitingly, it also includes a creepy mini-scenario by Geoff Gillan, which explores the dark and nasty consequences of cadavers being just a little to easy to obtain for experimentation. The scenario also includes wonderful new art (pictured above) by the fantastic Reuben Dodd, a long-time friend of Cthulhu Reborn.

Do your investigators dare to leave their homes on the Night of the Convict Dead? Available right now for download via RPGNow (as a pay-what-you-want title).

“They’re coming to get you, convicts!”

 


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!


Vive le Convicts! (ToL #2 Released)

Convicts & Cthulhu B&W Logo sml

In the wake of the surprise (but very gratifying) success of the Convicts & Cthulhu book — now a silver selling product on both RPG Now and DrivethruRPG — I have been asking Geoff Gillan, principal writer and historian for the book, for ideas for mini-supplements to enhance the setting. One of the first batch of ideas Geoff came back with was the idea of doing something about the French exploration of early Australia and the tensions between French and English explorers and colonists.

I’ll be honest — this wasn’t an area of history that I was even remotely well-informed about. This is despite the fact that the city where I live is rather close to the site where two of the great explorers of the early 19th Century — Englishman Matthew Flinders and Frenchman Nicholas Baudin — had a surprise (and somewhat tense) encounter in 1802, which thankfully didn’t escalate into conflict. But after reading through the material that Geoff wrote up I could completely see why he suggested exploring a French angle for Convicts & Cthulhu — in the era in question France and England were bitter foes, soon to become formal enemies in the Napoleonic Wars. The question of whether the French had an interest in laying claim to part of the newly-discovered continent of Australia was something that created much fear — both ration and irrational — in the minds of early Australian colonial settlers. And of course fear and paranoia is always great raw material to weave into a Call of Cthulhu story …

convicts-cthulhu-french-ships-smlThe other thing that Geoff’s historical material got me wondering about was whether any of those numerous French “scientific expeditions” to the coastline of Australia were really more … perhaps motivated by occult motives. After all, France is the home of many a great and accomplished occult tradition — who’s to say that some of those voyages weren’t subtly (or maybe not-so-subtly) infiltrated or directed by occult interests. After all, you have to wonder why France, of all the great European sea-faring powers of the days, placed such great emphasis on acquiring territory in the South Pacific during the great era of colonial expansion. It’s almost as if they were looking for something …

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Convicts & Cthulhu: Tickets of Leave #2 — “Tricolour Terror” packs all this and more into a 6 page PDF of resources and scenario ideas which provide Call of Cthulhu Keepers with everything they need to start populating their Convicts & Cthulhu scenarios with French characters, either as investigators or as bitter foes for the investigators. It includes historical notes, NPC write-ups for the most prominent French explorers, two new French-themed professions, plus a developed scenario-seed from which several different tales can be spun.

The PDF is available right now as a free download from RPGNow.


Ticket of Leave #1 Released

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The success of Convicts & Cthulhu (in PDF and now in print) has taken us here at Cthulhu Reborn a little bit by surprise … but it’s a good kind of surprise. In the spirit of trying to find ways to support gamers and readers who have taken a punt and downloaded C&C I have been madly scrabbling around to see whether there is any additional material we can release that will help folks as they run games in this (rather unusual) Lovecraftian setting.

I have also been pestering Geoff Gillan (prime creator of C&C) for anything he might have … and it seems that this tactic has paid off in spades (yay for pester power!). Geoff has come back to me with an entire short manuscript for a mini-supplement to the C&C core book. I have frantically typeset and illustrated this gem and released it as a free 4-page PDF, available over on RPGNow: Convicts & Cthulhu — Ticket of Leave #1.

Convicts & Cthulhu Ticket Of Leave #1 cover (sml)

The goal of this small bite-sized (4 pages) addition to C&C is to give Keepers a small self-contained nugget of information which includes a variety of different elements which could conceivably be put together into a short scenario or alternatively picked apart to provide pieces for an all-original scenario of their own devising.

We are hoping to release further “Tickets of Leave” further down the track (as astute readers may have deduced by the “#1” in the title of this supplement :-)). In the meantime, we hope that folks find this small PDF to be a useful addition to the Convicts & Cthulhu setting.


Convicts Have Broken Loose!

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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.

 


Machine King Lives!

Following on from the post earlier in the week … Cthulhu Reborn are delighted to announce that our fifth freebie PDF book — Geoff Gillan’s mind-blowing “The Machine King” — is now available for download. Scroll down to the bottom of this announcement for links (or if you’re impatient, just jump across to our Downloads page)

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This book has been a long time in the making: the scenario was first written by Geoff back in 1995 and we have been working with him since April last year to revise the original text, give it a thorough editorial treatment and commission some art which realises the grand and imaginative vision of the scenario. For this latter task we were extremely fortunate in securing the talents of Cinthya Álvarez (aka CinTheBarbarian) whose moody portraits and depictions of mechanical monstrosities perfectly complements the themes in Geoff’s writing.

Although “The Machine King” was always envisaged as a freebie release, in terms of production values, we have treated it with exactly as much attention to detail as we would apply to a commercial release and we’re very pleased with the visual look that Cinthya’s amazing art has allowed us to achieve.

Machine King - The Cog Wheel Machine III (Cynthia)

In his Geoff’s author intro to “The Machine King”, Geoff describes the curious path by which this “musty old work” has finally made its way to publication:

For once when I say musty it is not hyperbole. The manuscript was feared lost when most of the contents of my home were destroyed back in the Wollongong floods of 1998. Since it was written years before, for a Chaosium Dreamlands book that never got beyond the planning stages, the typescript was the sole copy. After the flood cleanup it could not be found. I felt its loss quite keenly since unusually among my own works, I actually liked it. Years passed and my friend and brother in law, Martin Knight was clearing out his garage and found a garbage bag full of stuff from my flood cleanup. The cleanup had been a frantic drive to claw up as much as could be salvaged since we were warned by the cops that looters would be by as soon as the premises were left unattended. Boxes and bags were packed up and went in all directions. In the garbage bag were a bunch of my old manuscripts, still stinking of river mud but essentially intact. I rejoiced that some lost material had been found, but being then in the middle of yet another house move, I boxed it all up in an airtight container and promptly forgot about it.

Skip forward another decade and I was contacted by Dean who wanted to bring to life an old adventure of mine, The Past Is Doomed. I let him loose and in the process gained not just an editor and colleague but a good friend. As you all probably know Dean has an insatiable hunger for old Chthloid scribblings and is probably more to be pitied than shunned—in this spirit, when he asked me if I had more from the old days, I began to wonder. Was Machine King, the unwanted Dreamlands scenario still around? Could it be that Martin, ironically one of its original playtesters, had salvaged it unknowingly from the river muck? I had a vague feeling it was among those papers but it had been so long I could not honestly remember. So I rummaged through the papers in my current house in Brisbane and there after much digging in all the wrong boxes was a clean Manila envelope with an ancient manuscript inside. Also there were all the notes and photocopies of steam-age illustrations that had inspired it …

 

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You can download your own ABSOLUTELY FREE copy of “The Machine King” using the links below. The difference between the two versions is simply that the “Printer-Friendly” version omits background textures and the ornate borders around text boxes to make them a little less “ink hungry”. Both versions are 65 Page full-production PDFs with colour covers and greyscale book interiors. Each PDF is a 17MB download.

As always with all content that published here on Cthulhu Reborn, this is provided as a copyrighted file but freely distributable under a Creative Commons license. That means basically, you can do whatever you want with this material … except make money out of it. In case it isn’t obvious, the copyright holder here is Geoff Gillan & Dean Engelhardt for the text and layout.

On a personal note, I would really like to thank Geoff for working with us so closely to adapt his remarkable adventure via the addition of a considerable amount of content, and also the re-imagining of the story in a different setting (the Gaslight era rather than the 1920s assumed by the 1990s Chaosium book). Thanks also to Andy Miller for his excellent work doing copy-editing for this book!


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