NecronomiCon: An Acolyte’s View, part 2

In the first part of my (entirely-subjective) review of NecronomiCon Providence 2019, I tried to capture some of the overall impressions I had of Providence and the convention overall. One of the key observations in that overview was that in many ways NecronomiCon felt to me a lot more like multiple concurrent conventions — a literary/HPL conference, a game convention, a trade show, and a bunch of affiliated weird-fiction-y events and performances. Given this general impression, it’s probably worth diving into a description of how each of these different parts worked in practice. In this post I’ll try to cover all the game-related stuff.

I should state at the outset that (as should be obvious from this blog) my primary interest in weird fiction these days is in its potential to fuel great gaming experiences. I am interested in HPL and his fiction, but the literary criticism angle and discussion of new weird fiction writers is less my thing. Hence, my view of things will be a little skewed towards the gaming side of things, although I spent time dipping into both aspects of Necro19. The other thing I should highlight is that, clearly, my impressions are going to be idiosyncratic and based on the games/panels/events I was able to attend (which was only a subset of what I would like to have seen, and very much a tiny proportion of what was on offer over the 4 days) — so keep that in mind.

When The Working Gets Weird

Before I launch into a description of the gaming aspect of NecronomiCon, I really should spend some time talking about WeirdWorks. If you aren’t familiar with this (non-commercial) association of amateur-creatives/small-scale horror publishers, it’s a wonderfully broad and diverse group of people who throw around ideas for gaming projects, trade information about industry trends, incubate collaborative efforts, and the like. The group also have a strong association with NecronomiCon, being formed largely as a collection of like-minded folks who wanted to release a zine at NecronomiCon 2017. I wasn’t a part of any of that, but I’ve been loosely kicking around with the WeirdWorkers for a while.

At Necro 2019, WeirdWorks upped the ante a bit: not only did a bunch of WeirdWorkers band together to make another zine (Hypergraphia Issue #2) to debut at the con, but the group hosted a networking event on Thursday afternoon, just prior to the official convention opening. This was an open event which any curious conference-goer could attend to chew the fat about the process of creating weird-fiction games. Because I had been corresponding with the WeirdWorks folks for quite some time, I was quite familiar with many of the active members including the WW event organizers Charles Gerard and Matt Puccio. Of course I had never met *any* of the WeirdWorks folks in person (since hardly anyone is in my part of the globe), so attending this event — to put faces to names — was an absolute must for me.

Even beyond this personally satisfying aspect of the WeirdWorks function, there was another cool aspect to the event — getting signed up for their convention meta-game “Rock, Paper, Cultists!” All registered players were issued with free decks of cards which could be used to challenge other signed-up folks to a simple game (each pick a card from their deck, compare cards using rules printed on the card back, winner takes both). The idea behind it was to encourage folks to chat with other convention-goers … and from what I can tell this worked pretty well. I saw quite a number of folks playing this game all the way through Necro, with a few collecting vast quantities of cards.

The Gaming Hall

The heart of the gaming side of NecronomiCon is the gaming hall, located on the top (18th) floor of the Biltmore/Graduate Hotel. Most of this floor is set up as a single open ballroom with views out over most of Providence. It’s a stunning place to do some gaming, especially if you happen to be in a session around sunset. The gaming hall is filled with a large number of round tables, each big enough for a gaming group of 7 or 8 players. When it was busy — which was most of the time — this was a noisy place to be, with the tables being close enough together that ambient noise spilled from all the surrounding tables to yours. While this isn’t ideal — and definitely strained my voice when I was GM for a couple of sessions — this same issue affects pretty much every game convention I’ve been at, and at least the Biltmore hall had some soft surfaces to absorb some of the sound (as opposed to lots of convention centres where blank concrete surfaces reflect and amplify sound into a wash).

In addition to the open area, the 18th Floor has a number of smaller enclosed rooms along one side of the hall — these seem to have been booked for games sponsored or run by Chaosium. I didn’t personally get to game in those spaces, but they likely would have been quieter.

The View from the Gaming Table (Graduate, L18)

Gaming sessions at Necro were organized into a programme of sessions that GMs had previously nominated. The scheduling of sessions was based on some general preferences for days and time (morning vs afternoon), but was (necessarily, I guess) independent of all other streams of activities at the convention. This meant that my own two sessions (a 4-hour Dateline: Lovecraft game on Friday night and a 2-hour Convicts & Cthulhu game on Saturday night) clashed with other popular things that *I* wished I could go to as well. I guess that’s just how things go. This year for the first time, NecronomiCon convention-goers who wanted to book into game sessions could do so using a third party website. Bookings were free of charge, but you needed to register on the booking website and lock in a seat for the sessions you planned to attend. A lot of the sessions by more popular/well-known GMs sold out within an hour or so of going live (several weeks before the convention). But quite a number of sessions, including one of mine, only partly filled up and even supposedly “full” games often had people who failed to show up — so if you’re keen for a particular game it’s worthwhile lurking around at the time it’s scheduled to start, just in case a place frees up.

In addition to the scheduled games, the gaming hall is set up to allow people to also create ad hoc (“pickup”) games by speaking with the minions and finding a free table at any time. I think there was also a library of boardgames that groups could book out for sessions, too.

All the game sessions I ran or played in went really well. Both sessions I GMed had surprising players — two out of three of my Dateline players had never played Call of Cthulhu before (one had never played an RPG before); two of my Convicts players turned out to be ex-pat Aussies living in exile in the USA! I was also fortunate enough to play in a World War 2 era scenario which featured a mysterious German U-Boat that had spontaneously appeared in a Scottish Loch. This mind-bending scenario was written by an author whose work we hope to soon feature on Cthulhu Reborn. In the dying hours on the very last day of the convention I also managed to inveigle myself into a game of Cthulhu Dark (a scenario from Hypergraphia #2, run by the author no less!)

Panels About Gaming

Aside from the very active gaming hall, there was a small amount of game-related content buried away in the programme of NecronomiCon panel discussion/presentations. If I am being honest, this was the only truly disappointing element of the convention programme, not because of a lack of interesting speakers but because of the commercial focus of most of the panel topics.

Some of the gaming panels were held in smaller rooms in the Omni hotel (on Level 2) with others held in larger spaces (ballrooms) in the Biltmore/Graduate. All up there were six gaming-related panels at NecronomiCon 2019:

  • Creating Historical Settings for Call of Cthulhu (Saturday; panelists Lynne Hardy, Mike Mason, Oscar Rios, Christopher Smith Adair)
  • Victory at Home and Beyond: Investigators for Social Equality (Saturday; panelists Gwen Callahan, Charles Gerard, Lynne Hardy, Andrew Leman, Jeffrey Moeller, Nicholas Nacario, Oscar Rios)
  • A Taste of Ashes: DELTA GREEN (Sunday; panelists A. Scott Glancy, Daniel Harms, Kenneth Hite, Shane Ivey)
  • Cosmic Horror of the Warhammer Universe (Sunday; panelists John Goodrich, Niels Hobbs, Nicholas Kaufmann, Mike Mason, Molly Tanzer)
  • How To Game The Weird (Sunday; panelists Fiona Maeve Geist, Dan Harms, Kenneth Hite, Shane Ivey, Badger McInnes, Sandy Petersen)
  • Favorite Call of Cthulhu Scenarios (Sunday; panelists Sean Branney, Paul Fricker, Jon Hook, Mike Mason, Matthew Sanderson)

Having been to more than my fair share of game convention panels, I have come to appreciate that there are two general categories — panels which exist primarily to promote the selling of game books, and others that aim to promote an exchange of ideas intended to educate or be thought-provoking for the audience. The former are great if you are unfamiliar with a particular game or game setting and want to hear some of the creators share some broad descriptions of what they think is great about their creation. The latter are great if you are already acquainted with the game/setting but want to hear panelists challenge one another with different ideas to explore the defining ideas in new and interesting ways. I have come to learn that game publishers greatly prefer the former type of panels (since they see them as a vehicle for snagging new recruits to their game and thereby selling books). On the other hand, as someone who tries to stay informed about all the different Lovecraftian RPG product lines that are out there, I really prefer the latter.

Ken Hite “Necro2019 Guest of Honor” Portrait

Even in the lead-up to NecronomiCon 2019, when the schedule of panels was published, I suspected that I would be out of luck when it came to seeing thought-provoking panel discussions about RPG lines. This was confirmed by the one session I *was* able to attend — the Saturday panel relating to historical settings, which had some great panelists, but was clearly limited to discussing product-lines currently being sold by Chaosium and Golden Goblin Press. I would love to have heard the same folks talking about the topic more generally (e.g., the challenges of creating game scenarios for entirely original times and places), but that was plainly not the intent of this session. I am hopeful that some of the other sessions were more educational/enlightening — certainly the inclusion of the impressively erudite Kenneth Hite on a couple of them would have upped the odds of that kind of discussion breaking through.

Another somewhat gaming-related session that I was able to attend was the lunchtime “battle” between two of the leading podcasts of the Lovecraftian RPG world: the Miskatonic University Podcast vs the Good Friends of Jackson Elias. This was a fun session, with both teams of podcasters up on a stage engaging in a series of semi-serious/semi-mock debates on a range of gaming-related topics. I’m not sure that any of the debates really settled anything (even the weighty question of whether Dunwich Horror’s Prof Armitage was a hero or villain), but it was a fun hour regardless (audio recording here).

The Vendor Hall

As I mentioned in the convention overview in part one, another very active part of NecronomiCon 2019 was the promoting and selling of Lovecraftian-related items in the Vendor Hall. This was a large open space (a vast ballroom) on the ground floor of the Omni Hotel. Packed into this large room was a veritable treasure-trove of weird horror-related swag. I spent quite some time trawling through the several rows of vendor tables looking at the impressive diversity of things on sale. There were definitely a lot of weird-fiction related books being sold, but also a fair number of game publishers had tables offering their recent products (Chaosium had a sizeable one, as did the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society; Arc Dream and Squamous Studios both had smaller tables; strangely Golden Goblin Press was entirely unrepresented in the vendor hall). Aside from games and fiction books there were lots of T-Shirts on sale, as well as physical props and DVDs of H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival highlights. There was undoubtedly a lot of other weirdness that defies categorization as well.

Lovecraft’s notes for “Mountains of Madness.” How the heck did he read that?

There were three particular highlights for me in the vendor hall. One was dropping by and meeting the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society guys (Sean and Andrew). I have been a big fan of their work since their earliest days producing physical morsels of weirdness, and have corresponded a little with Andrew sharing prop-making tips (aka being eclipsed by his vast experience in the domain). So it was great to meet the guys in person. Unfortunately I couldn’t buy anything from their stacks of amazing products, since I already owned (or had pre-ordered) one of every item on display. Well, that’s not quite true — I did buy one of their amazing replicas of Lovecraft’s literal “back of the envelope” outline for “At the Mountains of Madness” (pictured nearby).

Arkham Relic Hunt (being Kickstartered by Squamous right now)

Another highlight was meeting the Squamous Studio guys — Badger and Damon, who I had also corresponded with a little bit over the years. Damon was especially keen to get me into a round of his new card game “Arkham Relic Hunt” (which is still on Kickstarter, with a few days left to go at the time of writing). The game is a very fast-paced exercise in exploring various locations around Arkham to discover relics/spells which you can use to snipe the other players who are engaged in exactly the same mission. It’s anarchic fun, which has the potential for a lot of “hey let’s all pile up on player X” type action. Badger and Damon thoughtfully let me be “player X” in this scenario … for pretty much the entire time I was playing at their table. But despite all that kindness I still didn’t get the lowest final score (thanks to some last minute luck and perhaps skill). Anyway, it’s a game I’d definitely recommend checking out on Kickstarter if rapid-fire competitive play is your thing.

Jason Thompson’s awesome graphic novel of HPL’s Dreamquest

The last of the vendor hall highlights for me was dropping by the table run by Jason Thompson, famous for his graphic novel version of HPL’s Dreamland tales as well as creating one of the most amazing maps of the Dreamlands. (He’s also the talent who drew an impressively-huge number of popular “walkthrough” map/posters for classic 80’s D&D modules and even for the classic “Haunting” scenario featured at the back of virtually every Call of Cthulhu rulebook edition). Unbeknownst to me prior to NecronomiCon, Jason has recently been developing a Dreamlands RPG which aims to differ from previous gaming depictions in that it aims to capture the wonder and whimsy of the Dunsanian/Lovecraftian dream cycles as much as the nightmarish aspects. The new RPG is designed such that most of the gameplay takes place in the Dreamlands. The mechanics, as described to me by Jason, focus on the power of words and memories as resources that dreamers can spend to influence their dream experience — but if anyone spends *too many* they risk losing the very memories which tie them back to reality. Jason ran three sessions of his game in the Gaming Hall but unfortunately all were at times when I was either busy elsewhere or actually running my own games nearby — so I never got to see this new Dreamland RPG in action, but it sounds pretty interesting. Definitely something to watch out for when it gets released (or Kickstartered).

Watch This Space

In the third and final part of this NecronomiCon wrap-up, I will attempt to try to capture some personal impressions of the literary and biographical parts of the convention … as well as the ever-important “extracurricular” aspects (including the weird prayer breakfast and the surreal Dunwich picture show).

 

 


NecronomiCon: An Acolyte’s View, part 1

A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend NecronomiCon Providence for the first time. This particular conference/convention has always held some special intrigue for me, as (from the outside at least) it looks to be the coming together of pretty much all the divergent “flavours” of Lovecraft-inspired fandom. Not to mention also being a haunting ground for Lovecraft and associated weird fiction scholars and game designers.

For various personal reasons, I haven’t been in a position to attend any of the previous “rebooted” NecronomiCons (which started in 2013 and are held every second year). Coming from far, far away – almost literally the opposite side of the world – makes the pilgrimage to Providence a significantly complicated undertaking from both a logistical and financial perspective. But in 2019, the stars were finally right.

Because I have been a “curious outsider” to previous NecronomiCon Providence events, I thought it might be nice to write a couple of blog postings which aim to capture my impressions of the conference/convention – as a first-time attendee. Hopefully these posts might be useful to other folks who haven’t been able to make the event, as well as anyone who is contemplating making the journey to Providence for the next (2021) NecronomiCon.

Some Words About Providence

Pretty much every account I’ve ever read about fan visits to Lovecraft’s hometown of Providence have described the city as a beautiful place. That was also my impression of the downtown areas of Providence: charming and elegant in their own way, and with just the right mix of greenery, historical buildings, and modern facilities. The central part of Providence – where NecronomiCon is held – is also surprisingly compact, meaning that all the conference venues places of HPL-significance are within easy walking distance of one another.

Providence Skyline (as seen from the Gaming Hall)

The majority of NecronomiCon is held in a pair of hotels – the Biltmore (now the Graduate Providence), a large 1920s high-rise gem, and the Omni Providence, a modern-style high-rise. The two locations are about 3- or 4-minutes’ walk apart, and during the event there is a steady stream of people moving back and forth between the two. Both hotels are in the downtown area of Providence, quite close to a large and greenly-attractive park which also doubles as a kind of public transport hub.

The part of Providence where HPL spent most of his life is immediately to the east of the centre of town, just across the water. This is College Hill, the site of Brown University and all of the various places where Lovecraft lived while in Providence. It’s a charming and picturesque neighbourhood made up almost-entirely of different styles of historic architecture, most dating back to the Victorian age, some well into the 18th century or earlier. The NecronomiCon opening ceremony was held in the stunning First Baptist Church which is located in this part of town. It is very easy to walk to College Hill from the central part of town – it’s maybe a 10 minute walk – but be warned that exploring the neighbourhood can be strenuous as some of the streets are steep.

Getting To Providence / Accommodation Options

Because Providence is a smaller US city, the number of flights that fly direct into its airport are fewer than for major destinations like nearby Boston. For this reason, some NecronomiCon attendees fly into/out of Providence directly but many journey to Boston and complete their trip by road or rail. I took the latter option, choosing to end my international flight in Boston and then (after a day’s stopover there) take the train from Boston South Station to Providence – a trip of about 40 minutes. This worked out very well and brought me right into the heart of Providence, a short walk from the convention hotels. Other people I spoke to at NecronomiCon rented cars from Boston and drove down themselves.

Outside the Graduate (left) with the Omni in the background (centre)

Because most of the activity at NecronomiCon takes place in the Biltmore/Graduate and the Omni, the most convenient – but probably also the most expensive – option for accommodation is to get a room in one of those hotels. The conference had a limited block booking in both, but I didn’t get in early enough to take advantage of that rate. Regardless I decided to book some nights’ accommodation in each of the two. The Biltmore/Graduate is by far the more luxurious (and expensive), having gorgeously appointed rooms in an artsy/preppy kind of theme. My room at the Omni was a typical example of a modern hotel room, but was more spacious than my room at the Graduate. The convenience of being able to stop by your accommodation in-between conference sessions, or to drop off purchases made in the vendor hall, was great – but obviously comes with a cost.

Speaking with other attendees, it seems that a lot of groups band together and hire out AirBnB house accommodation to share among everyone. Some of those AirBnB’s seemed to be quite conveniently located to the convention, a short bus ride away or similar, but others opted for places that were a little more distant. Given that most days the convention started around 8:30 or 9AM and socializing frequently stretched late into the night (I was out til ~2AM on Friday and Saturday nights), sleep is already at a premium. I would imagine that adding travel to/from outlying AirBnBs might exacerbate that even more.

One Convention? Two Conventions? More?

NecronomiCon bills itself as a kind of one-stop event that takes in all aspects of literature, games, media, and … miscellaneous stuff … all which is somehow associated with Lovecraft. Actually, it’s even broader than that, encompassing anything with a “weird fiction” pedigree. With such a broad (some might say catholic) focus, I was quite interested to see how a single event could somehow roll in everything from hard literary criticism, through new weird fiction, through Lovecraft-inspired games, through art and film projects, through to heavy-metal music. Of course the answer is that while all of those things are included in some way … the resulting amalgam doesn’t truly feel like a single homogenous conference or convention, but more like a conglomerate of a few independent “sub-conventions.” A thing of many semi-independent parts, if you will.

A Strange Providence Public Artwork (aka the donut that could consume YOU!)

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the relationship between the literature/biographical stream of NecronomiCon and the gaming stream. Both are sizeable, but are run as largely independent events (with the main cross-over points being the rather sparse and lacklustre programme of gaming panels). That’s not to say that attendees entirely go for one side of the convention or the other, but there definitely seems to be some degree of separation between “literary nerds” and “gamer nerds.”

In addition to the two major streams of the convention, there is a very active “trade show” type vendor hall where folks sign up to sell their weird-horror wares – some game-related, some fiction-related, some altogether unrelated to either.

At the same time as the very active programme of literature talks/panels, gaming sessions, and vendor selling is happening, NecronomiCon also has a very full programme of “external events.” These include things like live podcast recordings, performances by the HPLHS of their audio dramas, film stuff, art stuff, weird masquerade balls, tours of HPL sites in Providence, meet ups of different communities, life-sized weird horror puppets, and metal music performances. And probably more too.

Weirdness, Weirdness All Around

With all those different streams of Lovecraft (and weird-fiction) inspired stuff going on at the same time, it’s fair to say that there is never a shortage of things to do. I was warned ahead of time by folks that had been to previous NecronomiCons that it is very easy to overcommit on one aspect of the convention (e.g., booking into lots of game sessions) and missing out on other things because their timings clashed. On the other hand, there are some things – like the bus tours of Providence – that tend to sell out quickly, so there’s a need to commit to some of those well ahead of the convention.

A Lobster Hat Was Somehow Important to the Opening Ceremony

So … how did it feel to be awash in such a sea of interesting “things to do” (most of which are included in the cost of the convention sign-up)? Well, speaking as someone who came to NecronomiCon hoping to dip into parts of *all* of the different streams of activities … I found the experience rather overwhelming. One could liken it to trying to drink from a firehose … although I would probably go further and say it’s like trying to multitask between drinking from three or four firehoses at the same time. While I’ve been to lots of academic-style conferences and a fair share of game conventions, I don’t think I have ever felt this torn between different things that I wanted to see and do. I guess that’s an endorsement of the richness of the NecronomiCon programme … but it also has the effect that no matter how you dash from session to session to best use your time, you’ll inevitably still miss a fair number of things you’d really like to have seen or been part of. Ultimately, I guess it’s better to have “feast” rather than “famine” even if that means a certain amount of disappointment.

Speaking with others whose travel plans caused them to leave a little earlier – missing part of Sunday (a quieter day, but still pretty hectic) – the general sense is that its preferable to stick around until the last hurrah, even if only for the opportunity to network and socialize. Thankfully my own plans were made based on the wisdom of friends who were old Necro-hands, so not only was I able to take in the full 4-day experience but also to stick around for additional “rest days” in Providence afterwards.

Watch This Space

In the second part of this NecronomiCon wrap-up, I will attempt to try to capture some personal impressions of the game-related elements of the convention.


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!


A Convict Went To Sea, Sea, Sea

Just a quick note to report that we’ve just finished up the editing for Convicts & Cthulhu Ticket of Leave #14. This will be our GenCon2019 tie-in scenario, written by our star-writer-and-GenCon-GM Extraordinaire, Matthew Ruane. We believe that all the spots in Matthew’s Convicts & Cthulhu sessions at GenCon are already full, but if you’ll be there and have a hankering to see how C&C plays at the table … definitely track down Matthew. I’m told that sometimes GenCon sessions have “no shows,” so sometimes you can just turn up at the right time and place and steal a spot in the game.

This Ticket of Leave will be titled “Hark, Now Hear The Sailors Cry” and be themed around the early whaling and sealing industries in Australian waters. This is new territory for Convicts & Cthulhu: pretty much every scenario we’ve released so far has been land-based and set in the general environs of the penal colony at New South Wales. This one takes Convicts out into much more uncharted waters — both literally and figuratively. It’s also given me an excuse to draw a deckplan for an 18th Century Whaling ship (think Moby Dick, but slightly earlier) … which was surprisingly fun to do.

And of course, a Ticket of Leave wouldn’t be a Ticket of Leave without a brand new art piece from our long-time collaborator Reuben Dodd (of Sorrow King Studios). While it might *seem* the illustration above might allow you to guess which Mythos creatures are the adversaries in this scenario, you’d probably be wrong … sometimes, even a tale with Deep Ones can have hidden depths 🙂

With the text, maps, and artwork for this new supplement now done we’re hoping to get this into layout ASAP. That means that we should get the PDF out to CR readers & DriveThru customers in a week or so!

 


Can Cthulhu Be Open? Part 2

 

Since posting about Chaosium’s stance on the Open Gaming License as it applies to the d100 game system, there has been a lot of chatter on various forums (in several different languages). Most recently, there has been some more detailed explanation by Chaosium, over on their BRP forum which I would urge anyone with an interest in publishing d100-like games to read.

Put simply, the Chaosium position is that while there was an OGL version of the Runequest rules produced by Mongoose in 2006, that fact does not mean you can use that OGL-published material in your own games. Why not? Because, they argue, Issiaries (Greg Stafford’s company which owned the Runequest IP at the time and licensed it to Mongoose) never gave a perpetual license for the use of the content … so Mongoose could never have produced an OGL version which allows any other parties a perpetual license to re-use content (which is what the OGL essentially is). By this logic, one assumes Chaosium believes that Mongoose was in breach of its licensing contract … although Issiaries did not object to the OGL version back in 2006, and it was only 5 or so years later that any questions were raised about the appropriateness of the OGL license.

The other assertion Chaosium make is that this same objection does NOT apply to the Legend RPG later produced by Mongoose. (The Legend RPG, for those who are unaware, was a product produced by Mongoose in 2011 — and still available from them. It is d100-like but is rewritten from the ground up and includes none of the Runequest-specific parts previously found in their Runequest SRD).

So How Does This Matter to Cthulhu Games?

While this is an interesting piece of history for fans of Runequest, I am personally much more interested in how this affects other games which have been developed since 2006 using content from the now-verboten Mongoose Runequest SRD. Some of those games are explicitly Lovecraftian, and it’s those which interest me most.

One of the great things about OGL-published games is that the publisher is obligated to include details about all the prior OGL titles from which they have derived content. That means the OGL statement at the back (or sometimes front) of a publication is a great source of information about the “ancestry” of a publication. In the current situation — when something from earlier “generations” has its legitimacy questioned, this kind of information can be invaluable in trying to sort out who in the “family tree” might also potentially be ruled “illegitimate”.

Sifting through the OGL statements for most of the “children” with a Lovecraftian leaning, I was able to synthesize the following “family tree” or inter-related games:

The part of the diagram shaded in red represents games which, under Chaosium’s interpretation of events, may have something to worry about. Each of these is either derived directly from the Mongoose SRD (which Chaosium asserts is now invalid) or derives from *both* the Mongoose SRD and Legend. The reason these games could be in trouble is that the chain of “claims to legitimacy” can be seen as a bit like a row of dominoes. If something you’ve relied on in your game is proven invalid — knocking down “their” domino — there’s a good chance that you’re somewhere downstream in the row of toppling plastic. even if that’s just one of several sources you’ve used.

Interestingly enough, of the Lovecraftian games I looked at the only game which has a rock-solid claim (according to Chaosium’s statements) is Arc Dream’s Delta Green RPG. So … anybody out there who is contemplating making a new d100 game, you’d do well to look at how the Arc Dream guys worked around the potential landmines.

 

 


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