Happy Birthday, Mister Convict …

Believe it or not, today marks the two-year anniversary of our first publication of Convicts & Cthulhu, a setting for Lovecraftian horror roleplaying in the early penal settlements of Australia.

In the months since it’s original publication, we have been supplementing the original C&C setting by publishing a series of PDF releases under the “Tickets of Leave” series. Our initial goal was to release one of these every two months — and amazingly we have largely been able to keep to this release tempo, having now released 11 Tickets of Leave. While we initially planned for these to be small, free supplements (a little like the “one sheets” popular for Savage Worlds) … the needs of a mystery-based game have meant our supplements have been more substantial (and continue to grow moreso). They are still all obtainable free-of-charge, or Pay-What-You-Want if you shop via RPGNow.

In case you’ve missed some of these Convicts supplements, here’s a quick roundup of everything that’s been released so far:

Convicts & Cthulhu [96 pages]. This is the core setting book (with CoC 7e game statistics): this is the flagship book in our C&C line — at least until our release of the standalone Convicts & Cthulhu RPG, which is still in development.

Convicts & Cthulhu, Player’s Edition [57 pages]. A cut-down version of the above which focuses on the setting and the information required by players creating convict (or settler, or aboriginal) investigators.

 

Ticket of Leave #1: Night Terrors [4 pages]. Our very first “Ticket of Leave” supplement contains information about the Night Watch, a nocturnal patrol created by the early penal settlements. As well as describing character options and encounters typical to a Night Watch campaign, the PDF includes a short sketch of scenario involving an incompetent cultist and the messy consequences of a summoning that didn’t go as planned . . .

 

 

Ticket of Leave #2: Tricolour Terror [6 pages]. This supplement explores the rather tense relationship between the British penal colony and the French ships which occasionally visited; an antipathy fuelled by the on-again-off-again war between Britain and France in the era. As well as including character options (including French spy!) it has a scenario which begins when a French ship limps into Sydney Harbour with a tale of running into a strange creature at sea … is this a true account of a Mythos horror, or just an attempt to gain the trust of the Colonial authorities for nefarious purposes?

 

Ticket of Leave #3: Criminal Enterprise [8 pages]. This “Ticket of Leave” explores the phenomenon of criminal gangs within the penal settlement. A good proportion of those in the colony are there for their illegal dealings … so is it any surprise that some continue their criminal enterprises even once inside the prison settlement? As well as notes on playing criminal gang members (and a ready-made gang of ne’er-do-wells), the supplement includes a scenario based around a smuggling deal that takes a serious turn for the weird thanks to some rather … odd … clients.

 

Ticket of Leave #4: The Vanishing Ensign [14 pages]. This supplement explores the historical “musters” that took place periodically in the early colonies — massive census-like exercises in which a small team was sent into every corner of the colony to tally up the population, arms, and other defences to determine the colony’s readiness for attack. It features a scenario based around a mysterious sailor whose name appears on many different official records in numerous places around the colony … but nobody seems to be able to locate.

 

Ticket of Leave #5: The Damned & The Degenerate [24 pages]. When the core Convicts & Cthulhu book was published there was only limited space to outline profession templates for “investigators”. This PDF greatly expands upon the list in the core book providing dozens of additional occupations for players to roleplay … all the way from Aboriginal trackers to colonial undertakers. It also includes some slight tweaks to the skills list in the core book. There is a revised C&C fillable character sheet that goes along with these changes.

 

Ticket of Leave #6: Night of the Convict Dead [15 pages]. This PDF explores the subject of cemeteries in the early penal settlement, and the way in which authorities disposed of the (many) people who died, whether from disease, mistreatment, or other violence. It features a scenario with overtones of dark necromantic arts, cruel experiments, and dangerous hubris. All of these collide in the eponymous “Night of the Convict Dead.”

 

 

Ticket of Leave #7: Seams of Peril [14 pages]. Later history of Australia is heavily shaped by the gold rushes that brought many to Antipodean shores … but decades before that, shameless convicts were not above faking “gold strikes” and bargaining authorities to exchange their early release for the “secrets” of their discovery. The supplement includes a scenario about an audacious convict that tries just such a scam … but the location he picks for his phony mine is somewhere that he (and the investigators) would be better not to visit. But their mission is to accompany him to exactly that place.

 

Ticket of Leave #8: Gentlemen Convicts [20 pages]. While the majority of convicts sent to Australia were from the lower classes of British society, there were exceptions — so-called “Gentlemen Convicts” who were sentenced to transportation despite their relative wealth. These elite prisoners had a range of special priveleges, and a kind of society of their own. This “Ticket of Leave” features a scenario centering on just such a group, haunted by a curious and apparently spectral ‘stalker’. Who is behind the brutal murders of the society? And what strange and supernatural hand fashions such gruesome deaths for the gentlemen convicts?

 

Ticket of Leave #9: Orphan School Horror [23 pages]. This “Ticket of Leave” is our (vaguely) Christmas themed release, centering upon the only benevolent institution in Sydney township, the Female Orphan school. This worthy establishment was set up to ease the problems of unwanted children on the streets. The scenario included has a decidedly “ghostly” theme: several of the female orphans at the school claim to have seen strange poltergeist-type manifestations. But there is a lot more going on that just a mere ghostly manifestation … and investigators had best hurry to solve the mystery before whatever lurks in the school succeeds in its mission to break through into our world.

 

Ticket of Leave #10: The Doom That Came To Five Dock [17 pages]. This supplement is a scenario-only release that describes a Mythos-heavy manifestation of doom in a remote riverside ferry station between Sydney and Parramatta. Can the tales of frightened ferryboat captains be believed; lurid stories which claim that Five Dock station was reduced to splinters by a massive and terrifying … insect horror?

 

 

Ticket of Leave #11: The Dispensatory of Doctor Macdead [25 pages]. This is our most recent “Ticket of Leave” (released just a few days ago), which focusses on the practice of medicine in the early colonial era. Even by the primitive standards of 18th century surgery, the health care available in the colonies was horrific, basic, and woefully lacking in medical supplies. The scenario included in the PDF is a lengthy tale revolving around a hoaxer who claims to be a private doctor, a most curious medical text book, and a rash of stories about patients who have exhibited the most bizarre transformations … what is the truth behind these terrible events? And why can nobody seem to find the self-styled “Doctor Macdead?”

 

 

 

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Medical Malpractice of the Mythos Kind

After a few delays, we are utterly thrilled to be able to announce the release of the eleventh in our ongoing “Tickets of Leave” supplements for Convicts & Cthulhu. This PDF is the largest free scenario-product we’ve ever released, weighing in at a cool 14,000 words (and 25 pages). You can download it right now, absolutely free! And since this month marks the second anniversary of the publication of the core Convicts & Cthulhu book, you can consider this our birthday gift to you (that’s how birthdays work, right?)

This Ticket of Leave returns to the format we’ve used for many previous releases — namely a short sourcebook section, exploring an aspect of life in the colonies, followed by a lengthy scenario seed. Ticket of Leave #11: The Dispensatory of Doctor Macdead, delves deeply into the seedy and somewhat primitive world of medical practice.

 

By modern standards, the medicine of the late 18th Century seems crude and horrific. But the surgeons and doctors of early Australian colonies practiced their art with even more primitive tools. Perpetually under-provisioned, and utterly reliant on a supply of European medicines which frequently did not materialize, the official colonial doctors struggled somehow to treat the thousands of officials, settlers, and even convicts.

To make matters even worse, however, the colony had no real concept of regulating the medical profession — this meant that several of the official surgeons sent out from England were woefully under-qualified. Also there were a raft of private doctors who set up shop in the larger settlements … sometimes without any qualifications at all. These charlatans and hoaxers weren’t necessarily malicious, just greedy con-artists whose fake treatments were trusted by honest folk.

The scenario found in Ticket of Leave #11 concerns a most unusual medical book (the titular dispensatory) which causes some considerable Mythos-related mayhem in the the hands of an amateur medical man. The charlatan doctor — James Macdead — has engaged in some most unusual surgical treatments at Parramatta, but has since disappeared. Rumours of strange side-effects of his treatment has come to the attention of the colonial authorities, and naturally the messy task of looking into those weird tales falls to … yep, you guessed it, the investigators!

Ticket of Leave #11: The Dispensatory of Doctor Macdead is available right now for free download from the Cthulhu Reborn blog, complete with game statistics for Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition (under Chaosium’s fan license). For messy reasons relating to Intellectual Property restrictions imposed by Chaosium, we are obliged to also create a stat-free version for distribution via DrivethruRPG — most likely, you’ll want the version with the game stats. But if not, jump on to Drivethru and you’ll find the other one.

We really hope that you and you game crew decide to give the scenario a spin — either as a standalone taste of dark colonial horror, or as part of an ongoing Convicts & Cthulhu campaign. It would work equally well in either context. Oh, and one last thing … I am certain that some folks will assume that the name “James Macdead” is some kind of Pulpy creation of ours — in fact it isn’t: there was actually a real convict bearing that amazing name transported to Australia (although he wasn’t a doctor and arrived a little later than the C&C era, so we have taken some liberties).

Long live Doctor Macdead!


The ANZAC legend didn’t mention …

Today (25 April) is ANZAC day.

That probably doesn’t mean anything much to you unless you happen to be an Aussie or a Kiwi. But if you do hail from one of those countries then you’ll likely know that today marks the 103rd anniversary of one of the first major military engagements that Australia and New Zealand were involved in — the disastrous Gallipoli campaign of early WW1. Somehow I’ve always thought it says a lot about our two countries that the biggest national day of remembrance doesn’t reflect on a military victory, but on a struggle against impossible odds which ultimately led to a terrible defeat.

A few years back when I was putting together a group of writers to create Call of Cthulhu scenarios set in different eras of Australian history, references back to these early defining moments of the nation were proposed by a few different people. In the end, two of the eight proposed scenarios had some relationship to the ANZACs (or other similar forces). These both made it into the final manuscript for Australian Aeons, a book that is in Chaosium’s forthcoming products queue (release date TBA). Because today is ANZAC day I thought it would be cool to share a few illustrations commissioned for those scenarios, all drawn by the uber-talented Reuben Dodd (of Sorrowking Studios).

The first scenario with a WW1 connection is Chad Bowser’s creepy story about the true fate of the AE-1, the very earliest Australia submarines which formed a part of the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (ANMEF). This group saw action in the seas north of Australia even before the ANZACs sailed for Turkey. At the time Chad was writing this scenario, the fate of this lost vessel remained a mystery — since then, its wreckage has been located. Here’s a couple of the illustrations created for the scenario:

The second Australian Aeons scenario with a WW1 connection is a modern day scenario written by myself and Vian Lawson which imagines a modern-day Cthulhu Mythos-related terror incident Sydney which has its origins on the fields of Gallipoli. This scenario actually received its first playtest on ANZAC day 2016 … here are a couple of its illustrations:

 


Brand new Greek-Language CoC7 sheets

Well, it’s been a bit quiet here on the blog … although there has been a lot of behind-the-scenes activity here at Cthulhu Reborn Underwater Lair, including the launch of a few new projects. I hope to share some news about cool new future releases sometime in the coming days.

We are also still working on the next in the Convicts & Cthulhu “Ticket of Leave” PDFs, although it is starting to look like that may not be released in April as planned but spill over into early May. It will be themed around colonial medical horror — so it’s strangely ironic that its delay is due to key folks getting ill. Maybe it’s evidence of the Curse of the Convict Sawbones at work!

One small activity that we *have* recently completed is the translation of both the 1920s and Modern-day CoC7e character sheets into Greek. This came as a request from a fervent fan of CoC who lives in Greece — where there is no current local publisher for the game — and wished that he and his players could use sheets in their local language. We were happy to oblige … with a lot of translation notes (we don’t speek Greek!). And since it’s always possible that there are other Greek-speaking gamers out there who might like to use these same sheets, I figured I would make them available for download here.

So … I present to you, the PDF version of the Greek-language 1920s CoC sheet, and the PDF version of the Modern-day equivalent. These files are also available on the Cthulhu Reborn downloads page (along with a lot of other cool character sheet designs). There are also JPG versions of front and reverse sides as well, if those are what you’re after.


The Handout to End All Handouts

Despite the fact that this blog is really supposed to be dedicated to promoting all the great Lovecraftian products released under the Cthulhu Reborn banner, every now and again we are seduced into promoting amazing things released by other people. This is particularly the case when said things heavily feature content created by us …

In this vein, we are extremely excited to be able to share with you the first sample pages for Absinthe in Carcosa, a huge “in world” prop/sourcebook thingamy to be published by Pelgrane Press as part of their hugely successful Kickstarter-funded Yellow King RPG. The concept behind this 192 lavishly illustrated tome is explained over on the Pelgrane Press website (by Robin D. Laws, no less!). We were involved fairly heavily in turning Robin’s concept into fully-realised faux scrapbook pages — contributing about 180 pages of Photoshop montage illustrations to make up the body of the book. And yes, that is a lot of things to Photoshop.

For a glimpse at a few of these, see below!

 


Ticket of Leave #10 Released!

Who would have thought, back when we published the Convicts & Cthulhu core setting (in May 2016), that it would go on to spawn 10 supplements! Certainly not us. But we are very pleased that the demand for Convict-related Lovecraftian game material has allowed us to explore many diverse corners of this dark and brutal world.

Ticket of Leave #10 is available right now as a 17-page PDF download from here on the Cthulhu Reborn blog, absolutely free. This release differs in format slightly from previous releases in the series in that it is almost entirely scenario-related material (as opposed to a mix of historical source material and game stuff). It’s also probably true that the specifics of this particular scenario are less tied to the Convicts setting than usual, making it transplantable to being set in other times and places.

This release is titled “The Doom That Came To Five Dock” and concerns a tale of devastating destruction in a remote corner of the convict colony. In the early days of European settlement, knowledge of the (very unfamiliar) Australian flora and fauna was very sketchy — and many lived in fear that strange beasts might roam the darker corners of the bushland. This scenario begins with a lurid story that suggests that one of the staging docks used by ferrymen as they ply the river between Parramatta and Sydney may have been destroyed — in a most unlikely way. According to a lone survivor, the wharves and buildings were not brought down by a storm, or freak tide, or even an uprising by the Aboriginal people. Rather, it was destroyed … by an enormous insectoid horror!

Keepers who have been itching to send their Convict-era investigators on a (literal!) bug-hunt, will find this the perfect scenario to slake that desire. Of course, in true Lovecraftian fashion there is also an investigative element as well … although, as usual knowledge of what is really going on does not necessarily equate to a quick and easy solution to the horror. Life as an investigator is never simple.

As with all of our Ticket of Leave scenario seeds, the Keeper is provided with three different ways in which the machinations of the Cthulhu Mythos may have become entangled in the affairs of mankind, providing several options for integrating the scenario into your ongoing campaign.

Ticket of Leave #10: The Doom That Came To Five Dock is available right now for free download from the Cthulhu Reborn blog, complete with game statistics for Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition (under Chaosium’s fan license). For complicated reasons associated with Intellectual Property restrictions imposed by Chaosium, we’ve also created a stat-free version released via DrivethruRPG — in all likelihood, if you’re reading this post, you’ll probably want the version with all the game stats.

We hope you and your group enjoy this bug-filled tale of horror and convict intrigue! We are hoping to continue with the pattern that we’ve established of releasing something new for Convicts & Cthulhu every couple of months — certainly if this one “sells” as well as the past few have done, then we will certainly keep this line of “mini” supplements going.


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