Category Archives: Scenario Downloads

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 …


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.

Convicts Have Broken Loose!

Convicts & Cthulhu B&W Logo sml

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)

Machine King - Front Cover Mockup C

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 …


Machine King - Handout 2 - advertisement grey fx2

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!

Conspiracy Reborn: Geoff Gillan’s “The Past Is Doomed”

Geoff Gillan should be familar to many fans of Call of Cthulhu. Although he didn’t write a huge volume of scenarios for the game, he *did* create (and partially write) one of the game’s all-time classic campaigns, Horror on the Orient Express. And the handful of scenario he did contribute to Chaosium books in the early 1990s (including scenarios in both Blood Brothers books, Fearful Passages and Tales of the Miskatonic Valley) were in equal parts intriguing and spell-binding … in a horrific kind of way. To be honest, I wish Geoff wrote more Cthulhu stuff.

[for a more detailed bibliography of Geoff Gillan’s gaming and fiction writing, check out his page on the Cthulhu Wiki]

But here’s the thing … he *did* write more for Call of Cthulhu, including a scenario called “The Past Is Doomed” which eventually got published in the Chaosium Digest. My understanding is that this was intended as Geoff’s contribution to a modern day scenario compendium which Chaosium planned but ultimately pulled the plug on.

Back when Geoff first put this out for free on the email digest, I thought it was kinda insane … but in a good way. You know, in a similar way that anything that Grant Morrison touches has a special kind of weird that makes your brain hurt, but somehow seems like underneath it all there’s something profoundly intelligent. That’s the sort of insane I’m talking about.

It’s really hard to say much about “The Past Is Doomed” without giving away some of its many-layered (and somewhat elusive) secrets. I can say that it’s set in Arkham, in the 1990s and it begins as an investigation into the disappearance of a well-known, if somewhat eccentric author. At its roots, it is a scenario which blends equal parts occult conspiracy with a curious obsession with the history of America in the 20th Century. Indeed, in Geoff’s intro he describes it providing some kind of thematic link between traditional 1920s Cthulhu and whatever Lovecraft’s haunted town of Arkham must have become in the modern era.

As I have been working my way through the highlights of the Cthulhu material published in the Chaosium Digest, Geoff’s scenario stood out as something very worthy of being turned into a glossy PDF. It contains so many bizarre, yet compelling ideas that it would be a shame for it to languish in text-only form in an email archive somewhere. But, unlike the other scenarios that I have released here on Cthulhu Reborn, the digest text of “The Past Is Doomed” represents more of a sketch of how the scenario might be — mainly because Geoff never really developed it too far before Chaosium’s project evaporated. I guess that I could have just re-published it in that form … but I figured it would be fairly easy to put a little flesh on the places where the scenario’s (rotting) skeleton was still showing, and put out something that is more representative of how Geoff’s adventure might have looked if it had been developed further.

Normally I shy awy from monkeying around with other people’s text … it tends to annoy the original authors no end. But, in this case, via some well-connected folks I was able to make contact with Geoff and talk to him about his original vision for “The Past Is Doomed” and how it might be augmented in a sympathetic way (i.e., a way I could monkey with the text that wouldn’t end up with Mr Gillan coming after me with an axe).

So that’s what I did … anybody who goes to the trouble to compare this PDF with the original Chaosium Digest version, will see that there has been a lot of text added by way of concrete handouts to get Investigators from plot point A to plot point B more tangibly. There has also been a level of additional exposition of some of the most elusive ideas, in an effort to make them a little more accessible without entirely spoiling the weird and otherworldly feel of the original.

One thing I talked quite a lot about with Geoff was whether it was a good idea to update “The Past Is Doomed” from a scenario set in the “now” of the 1990s (i.e., when it was written) to the “now” of … well, now. Eventually, we decided that the themes of the scenario worked a lot better in the pre-Millennial angst of the 1990s, so we left it there. I guess that makes it a kind of retro piece.


This is the largest project that I have released here on Cthulhu Reborn, both in terms of the number of pages of the PDF, the amount of handout material, and the complexity of the page layout. All up it spans to 48 pages — 32 pages of scenario text, a couple of covers and 14 pages of (mostly double-sided) handouts. There is a *lot* of artwork in this layout, both in terms of spot artwork and maps, but particularly in page textures. There are something like 14 different page textures that I designed, all of which you’ll probably only just notice as some faint subliminal in the background. All of this adds size … so if you want to grab this freebie, you will be up for downloading 40MB of PDF.

To give you an idea of what you’ll be getting if you download this PDF, here’s a montage of a few of the page-layouts:


The story elements of “The Past Is Doomed” include some mind-bending warping of the boundaries between historical era. That seemed to lend itself to some intriguing opportunities for making some unusual artwork via the joys of Photoshop.

Then there was the chance to make some page textures that thematically evoked the idea of time being warped somehow:


To download the PDF adaptation of Geoff Gillan’s The Past Is Doomed, click the link below:

  Download Geoff Gillan’s “The Past Is Doomed” (48 pages, 40MB)

As always with all content that I publish 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 blindingly obvious, the copyright holder here is Geoff Gillan for the text and me for the layout.

On a personal note, I would really like to thank Geoff for being so open to my efforts to adapt his adventure via the addition of a considerable amount of text of my own writing. Thanks also to Andy Miller for his excellent work doing copy-editing for this book!

A Nightmare Reborn: Mark Morrison’s Deadwave

The name Mark Morrison is one of those iconic ones that should be familiar to anyone who has followed for any length of time Chaosium’s two flagship roleplaying lines, Call of Cthulhu and Elric/Stormbringer.

Those who were around in the early days of CoC history (say, the late 1980s and early 1990s) would certainly recognize Mark’s name from his numerous superb scenario contributions to books from that era — perhaps most famously his still-much-referenced scenario from Mansions of Madness (Crack’d and Crooked Manse) and the scenarios in Terror Australis. Many would also remember the long-running column that he wrote for The Unspeakable Oath, titled “The Case of Mark Edward Morrison” and his contributions to a couple of classic campaigns (Horror on the Orient Express and At Your Door).

Even new-comers to the game would likely have run across Mark’s work — his introductory scenario Dead Man Stomp has been printed in all editions of the Call of Cthulhu rulebook since 1992.

[for a more extensive bibliography of Mark’s Cthulhu work, as well as a summary of his contribution to Elric, check out this page on the Cthulhu Wiki]

What fewer may know is that Mark wrote quite a lot of additional material for Call of Cthulhu, mostly for convention play, that has never been published. The “vaults” of the Cthulhu Conglomerate (the Melbourne-based group of writers in which Mark was a key contributor) have taken on almost legendary status.

In 1994 Mark published a (non-convention) scenario in the Chaosium Digest, called Deadwave. It’s my understanding that this was something that had been submitted to Chaosium for consideration on a couple of occasions, but which for whatever reason had never been published by them. Which really is a shame, because it is a superb — and in many ways innovative — piece. When I first read Deadwave back in the day, my mind was literally swimming with its possibilities … because, unlike traditional scenarios, Mark’s scenario is designed to be slotted into an ongoing campaign in a way which factors in prior events in the campaign and uses them to turn the Investigators’ world on its end. It provides a series of quite detailed events, but in a way that is designed to be flexibly customised by the Keeper, all with the ultimate goal of corroding whatever safe and mundane world the players’ characters have built around themselves. Had Trail of Cthulhu existed 15 years earlier, you might have described Deadwave as a unremitting attack by a Mythos force on the Investigators’ Sources of Stability.

When I first started adapting old scenarios from the Chaosium Digest as free high-production-value PDFs, Mark’s scenario was one of those that immediately sprang to mind as being worthy of (finally) being published in such a form. I’m very pleased that I have finally been able to produce such a layout for Deadwave … and even more thrilled that Mark agreed to contribute a brand-new short introduction to the PDF.

In producing the PDF version of Deadwave, I have exercised a slight editorial hand (which those who have read the plain-text version from the Chaosium Digest will notice). Mostly all I’ve done is a little reorganisation and the addition of some bridging text. However, I have made one significant augmentation. At the time when Mark was writing the scenario there was exactly one time-period/setting for Call of Cthulhu — what we would today call the “classic era” (ie the 1920s). However, due to the remarkably flexible way that he had constructed the scenario, it works pretty much just as well for any era of the game where there is some level of Industrial-age technology or later. That means, with just the substitution of a few words here and there, Deadwave could be a Gaslight scenario, or a modern-day scenario … or probably even a near future scenario. I recognized this fact while copy-editing, and decided to include some notes throughout the text to help Keepers take advantage of this flexibility.

My PDF for Deadwave runs to twenty-nine pages, made up of seventeen pages of scenario, a couple of covers and three separate collections of high-quality (double-sided) newspaper props. All up it’s about 15MB in size. Scroll down to the bottom of this posting for the download link, or scoot over to my Downloads page where you can get this and numerous other goodies, all for free.

To give you an idea of what you’ll be getting if you download this PDF, here’s a montage of a few of the page-layouts:


The multi-era nature of the scenario also ended up being reflected in the graphic design of the PDF, starting with the covers (above) — the idea for those was to include a “strip” which looked like it was printed in the 1890s, another from the 1920s and a third one from modern-day. The internal art is similarly schizophrenic when it comes to era — samples representatives of all the eras are present throughout:

(above pic, courtesy of the talented AlwaysDisconcerted: check out her page on DeviantArt)


One of the interesting challenges of producing a scenario which can be run in three different eras of the game was deciding what to do about handouts: Mark’s original text described two newspaper handouts which are quite important to the early phases of the adventure. Now, obviously a handout which renders these in a 1920s newspaper style isn’t going to be very useful for either Gaslight or modern games (when newspaper looked quite different). I could have just produced some generic non-period-specific handouts, I guess … but in the end I decided to take the plunge and design three separate layouts for each newspaper article, one for each era. Here’s a montage of one of these articles rendered in the three different styles:


To download the PDF adaptation of Mark Morrison’s Deadwave, click the link below:

Download Mark Morrison’s “Deadwave” (29 pages, 14.7MB)

As always with all content that I publish 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 blindingly obvious, the copyright holder here is Mark Morrison for the text and me for the layout.

Now … go forth and create The Deadwave

I hope that some folks out there get some use out of this rendition of Deadwave — a lot of work has gone into both the writing (a long time ago), and the design (more recently). But I am very happy that finally, a couple of decades after its writing, Mark’s work is finally out there in a version that (hopefully) does it more justice than the plain text of the Chaosium Digest.

Given the unique and flexible nature of the scenario, there are an endless number of ways that Keepers might weave Deadwave into their scenarios … I’d be fascinated to hear how it infects people’s games (and would encourage anyone who runs it to post on or elsewhere to share some details of their own rendition of this poisonous little tale of revenge).

Pleasant nightmares!

A Dream Reborn: Porphyry & Asphodel (Penelope Love)

I have a not-so-guilty confession to make … I have always loved the Cthulhu scenarios written for Chaosium by Melbourne-based writer Penelope Love.

If you’re not familiar with her work — and a lot of it is probably now out of print — I would heartily recommend it to anyone. Penny was one of the writers in the “Golden Era” of Call of Cthulhu (well, at least that’s how I always think of the early-to-mid-90s … what with it being the era of the Herber/Ross Lovecraft Country series and some of the all-time classic campaigns like Horrror on the Orient Express) … and for several years was a key contributor to several different Chaosium product lines. Her work was unique in that it was imbued with a kind of almost indefinable sense of “emotional depth” absent from most gaming material, making her narratives seem just that bit more “adult” and intelligent than the norm. In addition to her work as a game writer, Penny writes sci-fi (and occasionally Mythos-themed) fiction and has been published in all sorts of places — for those that are interested, I have tried to summarize a quick Penelope Love bibliography at the bottom of this post.

So, anyway … way back in the “Golden Era” of Call of Cthulhu, in 1992 to be precise, Penelope wrote a Dreamlands scenario called “Porphyry and Asphodel”. I’m not really sure of the circumstances — quite possibly it was intended that it be included as a new scenario for the Third Edition of Dreamlands (also published in 1992) but later dropped from that book. Who knows? In any event, Chaosium’s loss proved to be a gain for the (small but devoted) online community of CoC fans — because Penny decided to make her finished manuscript available for free, by publishing it in the email-based Chaosium Digest (volume 8, numbers 6-9; November 1994).

I remember reading “Porphyry and Asphodel” when it first appeared in 1994 and being totally blown away by it … like so many of the best Dreamlands scenarios, it perfectly captures the elusive atmosphere of Lovecraft’s dream stories; it balances whimsy and horror in a very organic way; it draws together elements from a couple of Lovecraft’s central Randolph Carter cycle of stories in an intriguing way. That it was published for free rather than gracing the pages of a Chaosium book speaks volumes about the publisher’s inability at the time (and maybe still today?) to find a business model that would allow them to finance publication of the mountain of high-quality submissions they were sitting on top of.

The version of “Porphyry and Asphodel” published in the Chaosium Digest was flat, unformatted text. It also lacked one important ingredient — a map of the “Castle of Sleep”, which forms a very important part of the adventure (although it’s easy to imagine how it would be laid out). I thought that I would have a shot at fixing both of these small impediments by producing a typeset PDF version of the scenario (complete with map). It’s my hope that through a little bit of formatting and some simple artwork (please remember, my art budget here is $zero) … this wonderful scenario will become accessible to a whole new audience.

My PDF layout for the scenario runs to twenty-six pages of formatted text and art, including covers, two full-colour maps and a prop-quality newspaper clipping. All-up, it’s about 8.9MB in size.

To give you some idea of what you’ll be getting if you download the PDF, here’s a couple of pictures from the book. Here’s the front cover:

I can’t include a full image of the castle map (for spoiler-reasons), but here’s a part of that map:

And here’s a sample page layout (page 11 to be precise):

Download Penelope Love’s “Porphyry and Asphodel” (26 pages, 8.9MB)

As always with all content that I publish 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 blindingly obvious, the copyright holder here is Penelope Love for the text and me for the layout.

Happy dreams

A (likely incomplete) Penelope Love Bibliography

Call of Cthulhu game material:

1987: Terror Australis (co-author of most of the book)

1990: Tatterdemallion (with Richard Watts and Kevin Ross, from Fatal Experiments)

1991: Horror on the Orient Express (Venice chapter)

1992: Furious Driving (from Fearful Passages)

1992: Chateau of Blood (from Blood Brothers 2) [Hammer film type scenario; awesome]

1992: minor contribution to Kevin Ross’ Escape from Innsmouth

1993: The Masterwork of Nicholas Forby (from Sacraments of Evil) [Gaslight scenario]

1993: column in The Unspeakable Oath, Issue 10

2007: The Old Damned House (with Liam Routt, from the 2nd Edition of Mansions of Madness)

Elric game material:

1993: Melniboné: Dragon Isle and Dreaming City sourcebook (with Geoff Gillan, Mark Morrison and Richard Watts)

Call of Cthulhu fiction:

1995: “Unseen” (from Made in Goatswood)

2010: “The Whisper of Ancient Secrets” from Cthulhu’s Dark Cults


1993: The Castle of Eyes (Chaosium)

2004: The Widow’s Tale (‘A Novel of Glorantha’, Tradetalk)

Sci-Fi Short Fiction:

1995: “Here Be Dragons” in Eidolon (Winter, 1995)

1999: “Short Cut” in Spooky Tales

2000: “The Dry-Witch” in Eidolon (Autumn, 2000)

2005: “The Unlawful Priest of Todesfall” in Daikaiju! Giant Monster Tales

2007: “Tell Him I Too Have Known” in Fantastic Wonder Stories

2009: “The Janus’ Tale” in Canterbury 2100: Pilgrimages in a New World

2010: “Border Crossing” in Belong

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