The House of Hell
Conversion , Solo Gameplay / November 18, 2017

It was an experiment in the possibilities of solo gaming that occurred to me at work. I genuinely have no recollection of why this struck me when it did, but I had the thought that one or two of the classic Fighting Fantasy books might provide an interesting challenge as solo sessions for The Cthulhu Hack. Recently re-released, could I fend off the threat of the House of Hell? And how? What adjustments did I need to make? Hapless Wanderers Create a character as normal for The Cthulhu Hack. That means rolling all your Saves and setting the dice to your investigative resources. You don’t really needs to consider Special Abilities – if you want to give yourself a break, assume that you have the option of Topped-Up Hip Flask that can restore D6 hit points once per session and On The Hop that allows you to burn a Flashlights or Smokes to score an automatic success with an attack. When the book asks you to Test Your Skill or Test Your Luck, make a judgement on what Save to roll, with a touch of honesty. If you’re in a situation with people trying to overcome your sense of self or with hypnosis, it’ll be Charisma. Genuine luck, roll…

Strength of the Wendigo
Adventures , Releases / November 18, 2017

The remit for Three Faces of the Wendigo – write an adventure with the Wendigo at the heart of it. In the hands of three writers you get three chilling takes on the same theme with a very different perspective. Each writer – Richard August, John Almack and myself – came at the tale independently. John kicked off and completed his investigation, “Lovely, Dark and Deep“, first – a story set in the Jazz Age, but far, far away from the bright lights and the music. If there’s commonality in these adventure, it comes from exposure to the distant wilds, the rugged settlements and territories far from the beaten track. John noted: “What I really like about this anthology is that the relative strength of the Wendigo depicted in each scenario perfectly matches the era in which it is set.” Indeed, the entity at the heart of “Wolves in the Mountain” sets a high watermark in malevolence – but each adventure will have the investigators questioning their slim possibility of survival in the face in the inhuman horrors. “Wolves” and “Tainted Meat” lie at least a century apart, but both tell a story about communities pushed to extremes and challenged…

Three Faces of the Wendigo
Adventures , Releases / November 14, 2017

“That stern quality of the tangled backwoods which can only be described as merciless and terrible, rose out of these far blue woods swimming upon the horizon, and revealed itself. He understood the silent warning. He realized his own utter helplessness.” – Algernon Blackwood, “The Wendigo” Three authors. Three chilling tales of malevolence and inhuman appetite for The Cthulhu Hack. Three Faces of the Wendigo features: Wolves in the Mountain by Richard August A man staggers into an isolated town with a story of murder and madness. A small group ventures into the wilderness, in search of the truth. But out in the mountains there lies something darker and stranger than they can possibly imagine… and blood. Lots and lots of blood. Lovely, Dark and Deep by John Almack Wherein the investigators go on a hunting trip in the Canadian wilderness, but soon wonder who is the hunter and who the prey. Tainted Meat by Paul Baldowski Out in the deep woods, a tiny settlement has fought to survive and won. When the travelling investigators arrive, they find proud, tough people and are welcomed with warmth and hospitality. Hard times behind them, why would anyone want to leave? Designed as stand-alone investigations, suited to running as one-shots or over…

Brace For Impact
Hooks , Releases / July 25, 2017

For those moments when your players hit the JUMP button too soon or warp right out of the path the adventure has set for their rendezvous with doom, Brace For Impact! takes a leaf out of the random table book established by From Unformed Realms. Brace For Impact! offers 18-pages packed with tables presenting high sci-fi encounter seeds based at the point of arrival for your unsuspecting characters, with room for taking notes and generating odd details like a ship names, types of debris, and failing systems. It won’t replace an adventure – but, at a pinch, it will create the seed for an encounter, the in media res moment for a mission, or distract the players just long enough for you to improvise the meat of something else.

Random Tables

I believe random tables have their place in the creative process. Like my collection of Rory’s Story Cubes or my three volumes in the classic Central Casting books by Jennell Jacquays, the table often provides an essential spark to my creative process. I don’t always include a random table in my books, but when I do there’s a damned good reason for it – it’s about introducing a spark or adding some spice. The Haunter of the Dark has 9-pages of random tables sandwiched between the guidance on creating and structuring adventures and the annotated story of the fate of Robert Blake. Connections Each of these tables ties neatly – and intentionally – into the story. Entered a site with a century long tie to a strange sect? Rummaging through the drawers of a forlorn artist? Tracking down a disgruntled ex-cultist? Broken into the cellar of an abandoned building? Picking up a copy of a local paper? Stumbled through the door to find a crumpled note lying in the dust? It’s all here and more. Whether you’re creating your own adventure or filling out the grey areas in a pre-written investigation, there are 20 short tables here (almost all of…

Cthulhu Hack at UK Games Expo ’17

UK Games Expo sprawled across the last weekend. I have spent much of that time standing up, behind the Just Crunch Games stall, regaling people with the virtues of The Cthulhu Hack. As if getting up at 6.30am to hit NEC Hall 1’s floor for 8.30am wasn’t enough, I also signed up to GM games in the 8pm slot (a scant two hours after the trading hall closedown at 6pm). Evening Games I ran two sessions of “Operation Header” from Cubicle 7’s ‘Covert Actions‘, a scenario supplement for the Kickstarter funded ‘World War Cthulhu: Cold War‘. As it was only released to backers as a PDF last week, I figured (A) no one was likely to have read it and (B) I could show how easy it was to convert any Cthulhu game’s scenarios to TCH on the fly. While I considered running a different adventure on the Saturday, I enjoyed the Friday game and it seemed silly to not give it another run out. To be clear from the outset, the version of the adventure I ran stripped out a lot of the finer details from the adventure purely out of necessity. I had 4-hours (at most) to introduce…

Advantage and Disadvantage
Running Tabletop Games / March 6, 2017

Nobody said it was easy / No one ever said it would be this hard… The Cthulhu Hack includes a section on Advantage and Disadvantage that I think warrants a little consideration. To be clear, Coldplay got this one spot on. Top marks to them. When you see a character Class offering Advantage on something, it isn’t because the character finds it easy. A character with a Special Feature that offers Advantage does so because they’re prepared. A character’s occupation or background offers them a perspective or a professional appreciation of something that means when they come to try and exercise their skills under pressure, they do so with benefit. If you, as a GM, believe that a threat is easy to avoid, don’t ask for a roll. To return to the example from the last article about a hole to climb down, if that hole is rough, sloped or has corroded rungs hammered into the side, don’t ask for a roll. It’s easy – so, throwing dice won’t add anything to the experience. Indeed, you may well find that throwing dice breaks the narrative flow. Have the players describe what they do when they reach the hole – and…

Handling Threat
Running Tabletop Games / March 3, 2017

Characters in The Cthulhu Hack handle Threats in different ways. Sometimes, the situation doesn’t allow any kind of decision making; or at least, it doesn’t allow any careful finessing. A teacher battering seven shades of hell out of a bully in a car park might Save versus the Threat with Strength or Dexterity, dependent on if the teacher choosing to wrestle or evade. The same teacher faced with a ragged hole in the ground and no rope or climbing gear to speak of might also look for options. Strength and Dexterity, again, might prove the most obvious approaches, but maybe Intelligence would allow a teacher to eke out some assistance from the environment – roots, for example, or the careful knotting of torn fabric from an overcoat. If the teacher gives lessons in Physical Education and opts for Strength, the GM could offer an Advantage. If the character was a stevedore or sailor, the GM might offer Advantage to make the Intelligence Save. A player might also offer strong argument about time. Time offers a way to relieve a degree of pressure without necessarily reducing the threat – or possibly haggling for an increase in potential harm. The GM doesn’t…

The Listening Game
Running Tabletop Games / December 29, 2016

Save Innsmouth benefits heavily from listening to and acting on the players’ responses. A Gamemaster should always be listening and taking notes, but noting the mood, tone, individual response and banter can prove valuable tools in setting the dials and measuring the pace for the adventure. A tired group of players need more push and adrenalin, while an inquisitive party might still want push, but also deserve the attention to detail they desire. When I ran Save Innsmouth at Dragonmeet, I asked about the relationships of the characters at the start as we generated their stats in session. I had them give me a narrative synopsis of the character before the game and chose Abilities and Advantages using the Classless Cthulhu guidelines. As they settled in and had a look at the Abilities, they started to bounce off each other a bit. I let them choose their gear, so they opted for things like an iPad, digital camera and so forth, as well as camping gear. When the adventure started proper, I asked them what they were doing — and over the next few minutes added a player, got feedback on their mindset and first action, then moved on. This allowed…

Debate Night in America
3rd Party , Adventures / November 8, 2016

Two powerful figures square up for a final debate certain to spell defeat for one – and recent media attention seems to have swung hard one way. The investigators have a chance to uncover the truth, but they have precious little time to do it and an immovable deadline looming. I’ve been a fan of Nathan Hill since I picked up a copy of his excellent sci-fi game Foreign Element – and then ran an adventure on a suspiciously orange planet. Nathan has chosen a particularly apposite moment to release Debate Night in America, an adventure he’s written for The Cthulhu Hack, but suited to any game of conspiracy-fuelled, supernaturally-steeped investigation. The adventure invites a sense of impending doom in a very strict, tight timeline – and I might even suggest you could swing something close to an actual countdown by running it at a pace of 15 or 20 minutes real time equals 60 minutes game time. An actual clock on the table that you advance, with the absolute certainty that the televised debate goes ahead at 7PM – that should have the players focused and increasingly frantic. Entirely viable as a one-shot for an evening or a convention game. I…

Thro’ Margins Fixed
Adventures , Source Material / November 8, 2016

Since I wrote The Haunter in the Dark, my appreciation of Lovecraft’s stories has changed considerably. I find myself unable to simply read one of these tales; I have to take a mental scalpel to them to slice them into gameable slivers and chunks. I still enjoy the stories; I actually feel like I’m getting more enjoyment out of reading each one because of the extra layer of activity. As The Cthulhu Hack: The Haunter of the Dark suggests, I find I now read each story a couple of times and come away the second time with a wealth of ideas, potential gameable material and a lot of questions. When I prepared Thro’ Centuries Fixed for publication, I presented it in a format with a wide margin on one side. While I’m not 100% committed at the moment to the idea of this being a physical print product, I am 100% certain it isn’t quite finished yet. I have the need to fill that margin with notes. I’m re-reading the source story for the third time. I have thoughts. I’m certain to find facets that warrant dwelling on, extrapolating from, and expanding along new lines. While this modern adventure has one-shot written…

Thro’ Centuries Fixed
Adventures , Releases / November 4, 2016

You wake groggy; your body stiff, your sight obscured. You stir; vigour oozing slowly back into your muscles like you’ve slept for an age. As your vision clears, you find your surroundings unfamiliar, the colours and light queer. You struggle to call out for help, but cannot find the words; You struggle to remember much of anything – were you drunk? Drugged? Sick? Perhaps, with hindsight, you were better not knowing… Thro’ Centuries Fixed is a new adventure for The Cthulhu Hack or your Mythos-based horror investigation game of choice. A modern era adventure, flexible enough for a one-shot or a short series of sessions.

Cthulhu Hack Adventure Submissions
Adventures / November 2, 2016

I’m currently considering submissions (and commissions) for The Cthulhu Hack adventures to fill out the release schedule for next year. I have half a dozen things already mapped out – including an optional rules supplement, a campaign book, and a GM screen – but, I would like to have something new released every month. Adventures will be between 4,000 – 8,000 words, would see release as a PDF (with the possibility of physical compilation at a later date), and compensation would come as an agreed percentage over the first year of release. If you have an interest, I’m looking for brief proposals – no more than a hundred words. I’m not setting down any commitments or making any promises. I will take note and get back to you when the time comes. Actual rates for any commission will come as part of our individual discussion – and as a small self-publisher, I absolutely reserve the right not to pursue anything that won’t benefit both parties. Long term financial security and fame does not lie at the other end of this email address (for either of us!). Understanding the mechanics and approach of the game will help a lot – as any…

Save Innsmouth
Adventures , Releases / October 12, 2016

It seemed appropriate to have an adventure out in time for Halloween. I didn’t want to constrain myself to a Halloween specific theme – I just wanted to write something suitable for a session of play to serve as quick horror fodder or an introduction to The Cthulhu Hack. Save Innsmouth is that adventure –  to be released at Spiel tomorrow and RPGNow / DriveThruRPG from Friday, 14 October. You’re all students at Arkham’s renowned Miskatonic University. Between terms, you’re taking the opportunity to go hiking. You’ve taken an interest in the newspaper and local TV reports of construction in the north-east, along the coast, that will see a piece of history, a town preserved since Prohibition times, bulldozed to make way for a luxury health spa resort. This will be the last chance to see the place intact before The Man clears away another chunk of America’s heritage in the name of progress. This Cthulhu Hack adventure is designed as a stand-alone scenario and can be run as a one-shot adventure over a single sitting from three to four hours of real time. And… It’s just Chapter 0 of an adventure campaign coming out in 2017.

Convicts and Convictions
Session Reports / September 12, 2016

For the second weekend in a row, I ran a game of The Wood at Cobbler’s Nob, set in the Convicts & Cthulhu setting. The first time, at Go Play Leeds, the adventure ran a lot differently to this weekend, at Concrete Cow in Milton Keynes. This Cthulhu Hack adventure starts with character generation, during which I explain that by the start of the adventure the players need to have chosen who will be the guards and who the convicts, with numbers favouring the latter. At both events, the sessions showed that character generation slips by smoothly with a minimum of fuss – and in the Cow session I managed to run a second character generation midway through in a couple of minutes, when one convict died and we needed a replacement. In both adventures, the investigation has led to the characters seeking out expert advice and then coming face-to-face with the horror behind the threat. In the former case, the group took the gung-ho approach; in the latter, the considered one, taking a proposal to the locals that perhaps they should back off. Interestingly, the events in the second adventure wouldn’t have panned out the way they did if…

Horrors and Derelicts
Horrors , Session Reports / July 19, 2016

Following on from Mark Chance’s read through review of The Cthulhu Hack, he has now posted up four new Horrors For The Cthulhu Hack – the Chthonian, Dark Young of Shub-Niggurath, Dimensional Shambler, and Fire Vampire. I like the use of Improvised damage as the reduced harm to the essentially immaterial Fire Vampires from gear that smothers. Nice use of the available mechanics. I also posted a brief overview of my first session of The Derelict, Chaosium’s special release for Free RPG Day, that you can now pick up as a physical book through Lulu. Finally, I liked the use of old book covers in Mark’s horrors article – so, I recommend digging through a few old pulpy covers when coming up with ideas or imagery for your sessions. While some of the covers don’t exactly inspire, the more psychedelic efforts are great.