Category Archives: Scenario Downloads

(Some) Gentlemen Prefer Crime

We are super excited to be able to announce the release, today, of the latest in our “Ticket of Leave” supplements for the Convicts & Cthulhu setting for Lovecraftian roleplaying in the penal settlements of early Australia. This, our eighth “Ticket of Leave” is titled Gentlemen Convicts and weighs in at a respectable 20 pages — and it is available right now as a totally free download here on the Cthulhu Reborn blog.

This PDF release also marks a bit of a milestone for Convicts & Cthulhu in that it brings the total amount of supplemental material we’ve released more than 100 pages. When combined with the original 96 pages in the original C&C book, that means that there is now about 200 pages of pro-quality Convict-related Lovecraftian material that is available for download effectively for free. [A few of our titles are “pay what you want” on RPGNow, which means that you certainly *can* pay a small donation for them if you want, but you can get them free if you want as well]

The eighth Ticket of Leave covers an intriguing, not often discussed, aspect of the early Australian penal settlements — the so-called “Gentlemen Convicts”. These were persons of high standing in Britain who (for one reason or another) still found themselves on the wrong side of a sentence of transportation. Sometimes this happened because the wealthy gentleman (or lady) was truly guilty of a crime — perhaps quite a serious offence — yet despite using the full force of their power and influence to try to manipulate the (highly-corruptible) judicial processes of the day, had somehow still been convicted for it. But equally well, a “Gentleman Convict” might find themselves transported not so much because of their actions as their politics: wealthy persons who had connections to upstart anti-establishment political organisations (such as those advocating free rule for Ireland, or better treatment of Scots), could sometimes find themselves spontaneously found guilty of “sedition” and whisked off to the penal colonies. In some cases all they had done was dare to publish a pamphlet. A third group of “Gentlemen Convicts” were persons of influence who crossed swords with other, even more powerful, members of the upper British classes, and had incurred the wrath of someone with true power. Even the high station of such upstart minor nobles was not enough to protect them from trumped-up charges and a hurried kangaroo trial, and a one-way trip to Australia.

While the “Gentlemen Convicts” were always a numerically small proportion of the overall convict population, they were immensely influential. Their wealth back in Britain meant that, despite the fact that they were indeed convicts (at least by law) they were treated somewhat better than any other convict. Sometimes such convicts travelled with a letter from a wealthy patron in England addressed to the colonial Governor — when they arrived in New South Wales, the government would usually immediately grant them a “Ticket of Leave” which meant that, unlike all other convicts, they would be free to live in their own accommodation and spared a life of harsh physical labour. Other wealthy convicts achieved the same level of freedom by literally buying it. Regardless of how it was obtained, such freedom established the “Gentlemen Convicts” as a sub-class of their own. This was reinforced by the loose associations and organisations they set up amongst themselves.

“Gentlemen Convicts” offer an intriguing opportunity for characters in a roleplaying game. They might be key NPCs in a game, paradoxically a person who is a convict, but also someone who may have more privileges than the investigators. Alternatively, for players who would like to play a convict character but don’t necessarily want to roleplay the harsh treatment of the lower class prisoners Gentlemen convicts provide a useful alternative character type.

The “Ticket of Leave #8” PDF contains some historical background on the Gentlemen Convicts as well as five capsule biographies which illustrate the breadth of this unique social sub-class. The supplement is rounded out with a lengthy scenario seed which centres upon a mysterious supernatural figure that seems to have taken an unnatural interest in a secret society of Gentlemen Convicts. Can the investigators figure out the true motives of this gruesome stalker in time, or will his bloody trail of murder and dismemberment end with every member of the society dead and in pieces? This scenario seed is the longest that we have included in a free C&C supplement — about 11,500 words in all. That’s actually almost as long as a full scenario manuscript!

Because of licensing reasons this “Ticket of Leave”, like the previous one, has been produced in two versions — one which includes Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition statistics and one which does not. The version linked here is the STATTED (CoC 7e) version, which is likely to be what most readers want. The non-statted version will shortly be available via RPGNow. When we published the previous “Ticket of Leave” we were a little worried that splitting things into different versions like this might be off-putting to our customers but sales/download figures seem to indicate those worries were unfounded — which is quite a relief!

We hope that this free PDF will enliven and inspire your own tabletop RPG adventuring in the worlds of Convicts & Cthulhu. If you decide to run the scenario seed, or even pull it apart to create an awesome game scenario of your own devising, we’d love to hear about it! And (since this is Northern Hemisphere convention season), if you decide to run Convicts & Cthulhu at your local Con, you should certainly get in touch — we are always happy to throw some free merchandise your way if you’re willing to write up an account of your incredible gaming experience playing in the C&C setting!

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Convict with the Midas touch?

Most readers with an interest in Convicts & Cthulhu will probably have heard something about the series of Gold Rushes which formed an important part of Australian Colonial history, bringing thousands of people to the newly formed colonies in the 1840s and 1850s. What very few people will know, however, is that these momentous discoveries of precious gold were not in fact the first occasion that Australia was seized by gold mania. Very early in the history of New South Wales, a convict named Daley stunned the colonial authorities by revealing that while out on an assignment to a remote part of the colony he had stumbled upon a gold mine! Not only that, but he had extracted enough ore to make a sizeable sale to a ‘black-complexioned man’ who was purportedly crew on a visiting ship.

Understandably many people became very excited by this news, not least the colonial authorities. Despite Daley first requesting only that he be granted passage back to England in exchange for the location of his valuable find, the Government was more keen to have the convict show them the place himself. And this is where the whole tale came unstuck for the entirety of Daley’s elaborate story was, in fact, a monstrous hoax. There was no such gold mine, no such ‘black-complexioned man’, and the nuggets which the convict had produced as evidence were in fact other pieces of gold and bronze that he had scavenged together and mashed into aggregates. And it was with the (painful) revelation of this audacious lie that the unsung Gold Rush of 1789 died.

Except of course, in the world of Convicts & Cthulhu it doesn’t need to … such a colourful yarn of duplicity, dishonour, and brazen desperation has all the makings of a superb tale of dark and gritty horror. All that it needs is an injection of weirdness. Perhaps the so-called nuggets were something other that natural? Perhaps the convict was actually enthralled by some other force, compelling him to make such wild claims? Or Perhaps the real lie is the one the convict told when recanting his tale after receiving three hundred lashes?

Horrific renditions of the Fake Gold Rush tale are the subject of Ticket of Leave #7: Seams of Peril, which Cthulhu Reborn is delighted to release today as a free download. This lavishly-illustrated 14 page PDF includes information about the historical hoax, and the types of perils that might face a group sent to verify the claims of a spurious gold-mine in remote areas of the Blue Mountains. It also includes three different Mythos threats that could explain the weirdness that accompanies the convict’s claim. Each of these provides a different type of adversary, and a different flavour of Lovecraftian supernatural horror; allowing the Keeper to pick the type of peril that best suits his or her tastes (or those of the gaming group). We hope that Keepers will enjoy sending their Investigators off on wild (golden) goose chases out into perilous, unexplored parts of the colony — to be cruelly devoured, seduced, or just stabbed in the eye by a lying convict. What could be more fun?

Please note: this is the first Ticket of Leave that we have released under Chaosium’s new “Fan Use” policy. In order to comply with the terms of this policy we have been obliged to create two versions of the PDF — one with game stats and one which omits game stats. The version downloadable direct from Cthulhu Reborn is the statted (Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition) version. This is distinct from generic non-statted version downloadable from RPGNow. Most readers will want the direct download version, however customers who only obtain PDFs via RPGNow/DrivethruRPG are welcome to download the generic (systemless) edition if they prefer.


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 musterĀ  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

Convicts & Cthulhu B&W Logo sml

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.


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