Can Cthulhu Be Open?

In the past few weeks there has been some rather interesting discussion over on the Yog-Sothoth forums about the legal status of a set of rules for d100 Lovecraftian horror gaming that some group attempted to circulate under Wizard of the Coast’s Open Gaming License (OGL). While the OGL is a very common part of RPG publishing in other corners of the industry, it has never had much traction in the world of Cthulhu RPGs (with a few exceptions). With the kerfuffle launched by this YSDC thread, it sounds like there are certainly parties who would like things to stay that way.

The YSDC thread in question is linked here, although you will need to be a YSDC member to sign-in and read it.

In this thread Chaosium has made some fairly bold assertions, although those pale into insignificance compared to their recent (doubtless related) posting over on BRP Central. That posting effectively says that, despite the fact that the BRP system was effectively published back in 2006 as Open Game Content (under the OGL), because Mongoose’s license was terminated in 2011 that means the previously published material is now no longer Open Game Content. This is an interesting assertion given the specific language included in the Open Gaming License contract which says “In consideration for agreeing to use this License, the Contributors grant You a perpetual, worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive license with the exact terms of this License to Use, the Open Game Content.”

One wonders what that means for the literally hundreds of game books that have used content derived from the 2006 Mongoose SRD, or from a book that sourced content from the Mongoose SRD, or from a book that used a book that used a book … Mongoose SRD. Does Chaosium’s statement mean that all of those hundreds of books can now no longer be sold?

As someone who has several times considered publishing Cthulhu content under the OGL (rather than the Creative Commons License we usually use here on Cthulhu Reborn), this discussion is of particular interest to me.

Is there any OGL expert out there who knows whether it’s even possible for someone to retroactively assert content is no longer open, long after it was published? Inquiring minds want to know! Replies in comments below or send them to me direct at dean <at> cthulhureborn.com


Tonight We’re Gonna Party Like It’s 1984*

You know what I find kind of weird? The fact that decades that I personally remember quite clearly are now legitimate targets for “historical settings” for film, TV, and games. At the moment we’re going through a bit of a 1980s nostalgia revisitation, perhaps thanks to Stranger Things … and this has bubbled over to the gaming world.

Some time back, the very fine folks at Sentinel Hill Press ran a Kickstarter to re-publish a great old Kevin Ross scenario called “The Dare” featuring a typical 80s bunch of teenaged Kid Investigators who take on the challenge of exploring the local “haunted house.” While that Kickstarter has been a bit delayed due to a variety of health and family issues, it will be a wonderful book when it arrives (trust me).

Back in 2017, Sentinel Hill asked if I would design a custom “1980s Themed” character sheet to go into that book. While those designs are still waiting to go into the book layout for “The Dare”, I was recently thinking about running a completely different Call of Cthulhu scenario with an 80s theme. So naturally I wondered whether I could brush up the (very cut-down) 1980s character sheets for “The Dare” to make them into general-purpose 1980s fillable sheets for Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition.

Turns out … I could. So I figured I’d share this new (unofficial) flavour of character sheet for 7th Edition Call of Cthulhu. Use them to stat up the members of Spandau Ballet and send them across the barricades to fight Great Cthulhu in The Lebanon! Send your crack team of 1980s investigators up against the mysterious neun-und-neunzig Lufballons!

Or, perhaps, do something sensible with the sheet. Either way … feel free to do whatever you wish with the PDF. Just don’t blame me if you can’t get that Hall & Oates song out of your head for weeks 🙂

As usual with things we release here via Cthulhu Reborn, this 1980s character sheet is copyrighted but released under a Creative Commons Share-Alike license. That means, you can use it for any non-commercial use. If you have a burning issue to use it in your awesome commercial product, get in touch with us and we can talk about a full-commercial license.

Here’s the PDF:

  Unofficial 1980s era sheet for Call of Cthulhu, 7th Edition (US Letter, 2 sided, with autocalculation) [NB: For use with Adobe Reader or Acrobat ONLY]

For those who would prefer a NON-fillable sheet that works in any PDF reader, here’s one of those:

  Non-Fillable Unofficial 1980s era sheet for Call of Cthulhu, 7th Edition (US Letter, 2 sided) [NB: For use with any PDF reader]

 

[*] With apologies to Anais Mitchell who wrote a wonderful folk-protest-type song featuring this exact line, for her 2004 album “Hymns for the Exiled”. Her usage is art; mine is shameless.

“Sure is going to be lonely … after I turn you in.”


Convicts & Cthulhu & Spies & Zombies

I may have mentioned already that Geoff Gillan, long time friend and collaborator of Cthulhu Reborn, recently launched his own self-publishing imprint for genre fiction. I have been fortunate enough to be able to read quite a few of Geoff’s published and unpublished novels and short tales, and really enjoy the deft and witty way in which he fuses genre themes and traditional formats into something new and exciting.

Geoff’s fiction imprint is called Mutant Brainchild, and just a few days ago its snazzy new website went live! This site is kind of the go-to place for the different fiction lines and releases Geoff has planned, including material that you can purchase (or download for free) right now.

As a celebration of Convicts & Cthulhu’s third birthday (see a few blog posts ago), Mutant Brainchild put out a short gaming-related post which ties the Convicts universe to the Cold War/Weird/Espionage world of Geoff’s “Man from Z.O.M.B.I.E.” series. For those who haven’t yet checked out those stories (start with the free sampler short!), it’s basically a setting which fuses 1960s gritty spy drama with the “weird science” notion that spy organizations have created post-human agents (“Zeroes”) which are the perfect, cold-hearted, agents. The C&C Birthday posting introduces the idea of a shadowy organization — the Revivification Bureau — that serves a similar purpose in the 1800s. A great free addition to the C&C setting!


The False Bottom in the Case of Mark Edward Morrison

There is an old Nick Cave song that warns of the perils of burying that-which-you-think-is-dead in a hole that is too shallow. When the rains come, and the tide rises, those shallow-buried things can just … float up to the surface [*]. Well, it seems that the same holds true for Lovecraftian RPG scenarios. I say this because just when you think that there is nothing left from the ancient writings of classic-era Call of Cthulhu writers … up pops something that has lain brooding in the ground for 30+ years.

Here on the Cthulhu Reborn blog we are very much into the revivification of old Lovecraftian RPG material … and so were most excited by yesterday’s release of “The Saltwater Inheritance” by Mark Morrison. This new Miskatonic Repository title is available for sale right now ($1.99). There is a whole story to how this particular scenario came into existence, but Mark explains it most ably in the PDF itself and on the DriveThruRPG product page.

This might just be one of the very few Miskatonic Repository titles that I’d put into the “must buy” category. It’s interesting for both historical reasons — it was written just before Mark hit the big time as one of the core writers of 1980s/early-90s Call of Cthulhu — and also because it contains some delightfully gruesome pieces.

Now … this has just got us wondering what *else* might be hiding under the false bottom in Mark Edward Morrison’s infamous case.

 

[*] If anybody actually knows which Nick Cave song I’m alluding to, feel free to post it in the comments. For the first correct identification I’m happy to hand out a free PDF of our Dateline: Lovecraft PDF, normal value $14.99.


Propping Up the Convict

As mentioned here last week, today marks the third anniversary of the Convicts & Cthulhu setting being released. In those three years we have released 15 supplemental PDFs to flesh out the setting with campaign ideas, scenarios, NPCs, and curious nuggets of historical detail. It’s probably fair to say that, by now, there is enough Convicts & Cthulhu content out there that you could easily run a lengthy campaign set in and around the penal colony of New South Wales

If you don’t already have all 15 of the supplements, they are downloadable either from our Download page (free), or by searching “Convicts & Cthulhu” on DriveThruRPG (“Pay-What-You-Want”).

What makes especially happy about this flourishing product line is that we’ve been able to bring these several hundred pages of content to you *entirely* as Pay-What-You-Want. That means that if you’re not in a position to shell out the (sometimes significant) cover prices for other publisher’s Lovecraftian RPG books — there’s always C&C as a cheap alternative. Heck, if you want to grab it all for free, you can (although chipping a little money our way certainly helps a lot when it comes to keeping the product line going).

On this occasion of C&C’s third birthday we wanted to give all our loyal readers a bit of a birthday present. We also thought it might be a good occasion to try something different — hence was born the idea for the “Convict Document Pack” which we are proud to be releasing today!

So, what is the “Convict Document Pack,” anyway? Well … in simplest terms it is a resource that helps you in the creation of realistic prop documents representing some of the most important records kept about convicts in the colony. If your convict was fortunate enough to be granted a “Ticket of Leave,” he or she would be given a (probably grubby) piece of paper proclaiming this status. Same for the rare cases where penal sentences were pardoned because a convict had done something spectacularly wonderful (or been somehow proven innocent after all). And if your convict survived long enough to serve out his or her entire sentence (assuming it wasn’t imprisonment “for life”), they would receive a “Certificate of Freedom.”

All of these important convict documents are included in this pack, in both flat (print & fill) form and also as fillable PDF forms. For the print & fill blanks we’ve included actual signatures for the two most important colonial Governors of the C&C era.

So … never again shall your convict Investigator’s special status need be a minor detail on the back of his or her character sheet. Now they can proudly carry their documents … and present them to snarky NSW Corp Redcoats who challenge them in the street! Further more, these blank documents make great starting points for GM-inspired handouts and clues as part of scenarios. In a similar vein, we have also included in this pack a fillable blank PDF of the single-page broadsheet newspaper produced in the colony, the “Sydney Gazette.”

Downloading the Convict Document Pack

Depending on your preference, you can download these docs either as a single ZIP file (17MB), or via the individual PDF download links below:

Convict Document Pack Info + Print & Fill templates [6.5MB]

Fillable Convict Prop Documents (blank) [4.1MB]

Fillable Convict Prop Documents (sample text) [4.1MB]

Fillable Sydney Gazette (blank) [2.1MB]

Fillable Sydney Gazette (sample text) [2.1MB]

We hope that these prop document resources will give you a set of handy tools to enhance your games of Lovecraftian horror set in the penal colonies. And if you wind up using them in some especially nifty way … feel free to drop us a note telling us about your brilliant prop-fuelled goodness (emails to feedback <at> cthulhureborn.com).

[As always, these resources are released here under a Creative Commons license which means basically that you can use these prop document templates for whatever personal use you can dream up. If you want to use them for a profit-making endeavor — say, for some splashy new TV Series set in the penal colonies — you’d need to contact us about obtaining a separate license.]

 


Convict News Muster

We have been a bit quiet on the news front here on the CR blog, but be assured that there’s still a whole bunch of work being done to create new content for all our established lines, and also to put together brand new settings as well.

Convicts & Cthulhu has been cruising along with small “pay-what-you-want” releases for quite a while. We released a small supplement earlier this year … but I was recently reminded by Geoff Gillan (C&C creator and principal writer) that an important date is fast approaching. Yes, that’s right: on May 30 it will be exactly 3 years since the original C&C book was published. Since then we’ve added reams of content — thirteen Ticket of Leave scenario/setting supplements and a couple of Muster (NPC) supplements as well.

We are also currently working on a 14th Ticket of Leave — to be written by Matthew Ruane and also run by him in two sessions at GenCon 2019. Both sessions are already sold out. By releasing his convention scenario, we’ll be able to help dozens more C&C groups also enjoy his scenario … so everyone wins (except perhaps the investigators who will probably be driven inexorably insane)! There are also vaguer plans for a 15th Ticket of Leave as well.

Despite these upcoming planned releases for C&C, Geoff & I both agree that it wouldn’t be fitting to skip over our “third birthday” without giving some kind of Convict-related gift to all the wonderful people who have downloaded and played our stuff. So, we are going to do something a little different — a document prop pack.

This pack will feature period-realistic versions of some of the key documents which your investigators might run into as clues relating to convicts within the colony. The convict docs will be released as both fillable PDF forms and also high-quality flat images which you can print and write on. And as an added bonus, this pack will also include a blank fillable template for the one-page Sydney Gazette (the one and only “newspaper” printed in the colony).

This pack will be released on May 30 … but the montage image above will hopefully whet your appetite and get you thinking about ways you might weave these beautiful and historically-realistic prop documents into you games of Convicts & Cthulhu!

 

 


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