Actual Play, Podcasts 0 comments on Save Innsmouth Actual Play

Save Innsmouth Actual Play

The Whartson Hall Recording group playing Save Innsmouth: Chapter 0 with v1.0 rules and a strong notion of the connection to The Black Hack / Old School style of play (which I feel has lessened a little with the release of The Cthulhu Hack v1.5).

Interesting listening to anyone playing the game. I can run as many playtests and convention sessions as I want, but the real test comes down to hearing, witnessing or experiencing someone else running it.

Everyone will run the game their own way – and Save Innsmouth: Chapter 0 is a vague notion of an adventure, not to be run exactly as written. No one will ever play it exactly as I planned – but, it never was meant to be play to a plan. In the greater scheme of things, Save Innsmouth is a campaign still waiting to be written of which this is a teaser sketched out – in pencil – for a GM to do with what they will.

I’ve run it many, many times now and never once has this simple setup run out the same way.

Conversion, Solo Gameplay 0 comments on The House of Hell

The House of Hell

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 Wisdom. Dodging a trap, roll Dexterity. Releasing something or facing a melee attack, roll Strength. Just opt for a Save that feels right.

Investigative Resources are harder to judge. I’m tempted to use these as burnable resources. If you have a choice, keep a note of the paragraph you’re on and make it. If you turn to the choice and it either kills you straight off the bat or causes you to lose Hit Points, lose a dice from your Resources and go back to make another choice. I know… it isn’t entirely in the spirit of The Cthulhu Hack, but it at least provides a mechanic for that thing we all do anyway when reading a solo gamebook!

Blood-Curdling Adventures

Most standard fights will lend themselves to Strength or Dexterity, as normal. Take the Skill of your opponent, as listed, and divide by three, rounding down fractions. Check the Average Antagonist chart (pg 19 in the current core book) and assume they have that number of Hit Dice, for calculating damage and armour. Yes, you’re going to die.

Most creatures in the game will probably have 2 or 3 Hit Dice, inflicting 3 or 4 damage. You can actually choose whether to roll damage or suffer a fixed amount. When inflicting damage yourself, roll as you would in normal group play.

When you suffer any damage, deduct it from your Hit Points. Stamina deductions work the same way – coming off as Hit Points. When you strike a foe, the same applies – deduct whatever you roll from their Stamina.

Oh, and remember – you start this adventure off unarmed. Until the book tells you that you’ve found a weapon, you’re stuck tackling fights with your bare hands. And most enemies will have a point of armour, as 2HD opponents.

Night to Remember

The game includes the addition of Fear, on top of the standard Skill, Stamina and Luck. Whenever the book asks you to deduct Fear points, roll your Sanity resource instead. If you run out of Sanity, you lose the game – just as you would in the original by running your Fear up to the threshold. If you somehow uncover a way to restore Fear, add a die back to your Sanity.

Adopt a similar approach to recovery when handling Hit Points, restoring the amount indicate for Stamina.

Your Last Memory is…

The stab of sharp teeth. Yes, he got me. Indeed, I didn’t even get this far, as the Fear that struck before meeting him forced me to roll the d4 of my Sanity. Babbling in the face of this horror, I lost myself in the House of Hell forever…

Adventures, Releases 0 comments on Strength of the Wendigo

Strength of the Wendigo

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 with survival. There’s nothing stopping a GM running each of these investigations with the same group – they’re perfect for filling a trio of sessions with Lovecraftian horrors.

They’ve all been tested in “convention conditions”, so they might equally serve well as one-shot fillers or as games to take to a convention yourself and run in a 3 – 4 hour slot. One adventure comes with pre-generated characters, but the simple character generation of The Cthulhu Hack means that you can get up and running without preparation or use existing investigators.

On top of that, the simplicity of the system means that there’s nothing stopping you from using these adventures with other systems and substituting systems on-the-fly, if you wish. Whatever flavour of Mythos game system you prefer, they scale up or down in either direction – it’s why The Cthulhu Hack exists, not as a replacement but as an alternative. TCH shines when you just want to get your game on at a moments notice, but absolutely works for longer term games if you wish. Other systems angle toward the campaign first and, therefore, guide you through a more structured and thorough character generation.

However you choose to use it, Three Faces of the Wendigo – available now from RPGNow and DriveThruRPG, and soon through All Rolled Up – provides three different adventures, each with their own influences, whether Blackwood, Ithaqua or the rich folklore of the Algonquin tribes. I enjoyed bringing it all together – and I hope you get a thrill out of playing or running these investigations.

Adventures, Releases 0 comments on Three Faces of the Wendigo

Three Faces of the Wendigo

“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 two sessions. Written for The Cthulhu Hack, adaptable to any game of investigation horror.

These adventures contain mature themes. The Cthulhu Hack: Three Faces of the Wendigo available now in PDF, from RPGNow and DriveThruRPG. Available in print from the start of December – at Dragonmeet (2nd December) and then from All Rolled Up.

Hooks, Releases 0 comments on Brace For Impact

Brace For Impact

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, Running Tabletop Games 2 comments on Random Tables

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 them needing only a 6-sided die throw) to get your creative spark glowing.

Why such short tables?

Personally, the bigger the table the greater the stretch in content quality and focus. Even in From Unformed Realms, I used 6-sided dice as the basis of every roll and drilled down with the levels of detail.

It keeps things tight without any opportunity to resort to padding.

Don’t Stop

And you needn’t stop at the result thrown. I mean, you’re not beholden to the random, right? You can just choose something that seems right. Or, like a Story Cube, you can riff off the result and turn it into something that fits.

Found a keepsake? You should tie it intimately into the backstory of the owner, or compare it to something that an investigator carries – something they inherited or acquired.

Discovered margin notes in a well-thumbed book? Make the ink or hand-writing match something [Flashlight] found earlier in the session – or in a previous adventure!

Rolled a reference to decay? Make it mildewed wallpaper with odd stains that suggest electrical burning, or the sickly smell of food pulled into the holes behind the walls by vermin… who knows what else they might have carried back there.

Go with the flow of the dice, but don’t let it stop there. Adding the stamp of connectivity or some subtle reference to an ongoing presence or conspiracy can make all the difference – and I, in putting the table together, can’t add that essential and personal touch.

Happy rolls!


The Haunter of the Dark has been nominated for the Best Electronic Book ENnie Award 2017. You can vote now – through to August 21st – on the ENnie Awards web site: http://www.ennie-awards.com/vote/2017/

Events, Playtest, Running Tabletop Games 0 comments on Cthulhu Hack at UK Games Expo ’17

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 the game, run a quick round of character generation, explain the mechanics, set the scene and get running. On both occasions, the preliminaries ran to no more than 20 – 25 minutes. Also on both occasions, the game ran through until almost midnight (after which I had to clear up and walk the trail back from the Hilton Metropole to my own hotel).

Running the game wasn’t the challenge on the Saturday; it was being heard over the hubbub of five other games running at the same time in a confined space!

Characters

I used the Classless Cthulhu generation process for Saves and Resources, but used a pre-generated selection of Abilities and Advantages (see the picture below).

This worked really well, although I didn’t get the explanation of the Resource selection perfect until the second night. Basically, I followed the standard process for Saves, but allowed the players to list six scores and assign them; then each player could assign 14 dice to the Resources (Flashlights, Smokes, Sanity, Hit Dice, Armed, Unarmed).

I have used the 14 dice idea before – but these two outing at Expo suggest to me that fourteen weighs in as “generous”. I think, if you want to provide a brutal game you can drop the number of dice to 12 or 13. That means that a group of players have to rely upon each other much more and cannot simply stand alone against the horror.

You can read about Classless Cthulhu in an early article on this blog, and it will appear in the upcoming version of the core rules (as yet hanging somewhere between a v1.5 and a full on v2).

Adventure

My prep for the adventure involved reading through the whole adventure once and then going back to map notes.

My notes consisted of an A6 sheet with a map of the main site of the adventure and character sketches – the briefest of thumbnails in keywords – scattered around it. I wrote a room or location, then added the thumbnail biographies within. On the map, I added a coloured dot to connect the two. I used a third colour (red, for good reason) to pick out the location of the threats in the adventure – whether living threats or potential hindrances from traps or security.

I prepared the pre-gens using cards and some typed notes on the personality and background of each individual (not shown on the image). I also printed out some suitable passport pictures of people from the mid-1970s, which for some seemed to provide an essential grounding point for character, atmosphere and tone. Admittedly, much of the tone came down to the fantastic 70s hairstyles and one character’s impressive moustache.

Most of the first hour of the game revolved around the briefing and travel to the adventure site. The next hour dealt with investigation of the keyed location. The final hour, the descent into madness and death. Well, for some at least. A coda at the end outlined the fate of those who survived.

In the session on Friday, one player noted – mid-coda – that the revelations must surely mean a Sanity role for his character. Reduced to just a 1d4 in his Sanity resource, he thankfully rolled a 1. To have rolled anything else would have been to spoil the moment, so I’m thankful to the Fates of the Die for watching over my games.

The Friday session ended with three dead, one permanently insane, and the final character alive, but sorely reduced in all aspects. The Saturday session ended with three dead and two survivors, both likely to never serve on active duties ever again — or even to fit well into ordinary open society.

Hit Die

I experimented in both sessions by making the Hit Die a resource rather than a simple method for calculating hit points. Struck by an enemy, the player rolled the Hit Die and a 1 or 2 indicated a decline in health. I don’t feel that the outcome worked, but want to give it more thought. It just seemed to make the characters too resilient — or maybe the players just rolled too well. It does mean that the characters can handle scuffles and physical confrontation without dying early in the adventure – while they have the opportunity to fail through the dwindling of their Sanity and Investigation resouces.

I won’t make a judgement on these two sessions alone. I might be tempted, as with rolling temporary insanities on a failed Sanity roll, to create a temporary injury table. Rolled a 1 or 2 on the Hit Die means not just a drop but a genuine temporary disability. If the horror snaps your arm when you roll a 1 or 2, you won’t push on and keep fighting — you’ll reassess your poor life decisions and try to find another way.

Response

The players all appeared to enjoy their sessions and many commented favourably on the lightweight system. One noted that he’d only played one Mythos-themed game before, with Call of Cthulhu 6th edition, and had struggled with the sheer weight of numbered presented on a single character sheet. The Cthulhu Hack obviously sways wildly in the opposite direction – and that made it an easy in for newcomers and those put off by mechanical complexity.

On top of good feedback, several players also came around the next day to pick up copies for themselves. The white Slim Box version with the new green tentacle halo around the Elder Sign sold particularly well – with only two copies left at the close of the weekend. I’m really happy with the outcome of the whole weekend — and I hope that those who picked up a copy of the game have the chance to play and enjoy it themselves.

But, if you didn’t pick up a copy, remember that DriveThruRPG and RPGNow’s OSR Extravaganza has the core Cthulhu Hack books available for 15% off (or more) until June 11th. Pick up The Cthulhu Hack, From Unformed RealmsThe Haunter of the Dark, Save Innsmouth and Thro’ Centuries Fixed from the Just Crunch Games page for at least 15% off.

Running Tabletop Games 0 comments on Advantage and Disadvantage

Advantage and Disadvantage

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 you can add some zest with a description of the distant sound of their adversaries. The hard stuff will be here soon enough to take them down a peg or two.

Now, if the same character were being pursued through the tunnels and they didn’t have any climbing gear or a decent light source — maybe they just have a Zippo lighter — then, yes, that’s a Disadvantage. Unprepared and truly ill-equipped, they absolutely warrant a Disadvantage on their roll. Further to the last article, I think the GM could argue against the scholarly types making that roll with an INT Save, because they don’t have time to ponder the best route down. If they insist on going down that hole in a hurry, in the flickering light of a Zippo without any proper climbing equipment, that’s a DEX Save with Disadvantage and not doubt.

A really zealous player with a mountain climber character might argue, but at best I’d suggest you let her roll a straight DEX Save — any Advantage simply cancelling out the Disadvantage. Otherwise, the cirumstances amount to enough negatives in respect of prep to impact everyone.

As a GM, you should let the players make the call whether they want to risk the climb down or stand and fight. Don’t wait until they’re committed to the foolhardy descent before revealing they’re going to die!

When they make their decision, they’ll have only themselves to blame; next time, they might prepare a bit better before going down any holes in pursuit of the Mythos.

As a GM, just remember that Advantage and Disadvantage relate to preparation. If a task is easy, don’t roll. If it’s really hard, don’t let them roll — tell the player of the antiquarian that if they insist on climbing down a hole in the dark without a rope, they’re going to slip, fall and die. If circumstances are testing — like darkness or high winds — then preparation will determine whether to apply Advantage and Disadvantage.


You can pick up The Cthulhu Hack and a range of adventures and supplements at RPGNow – currently all 30% off as part of the GM Day Sale, until 13th March 2017.

Running Tabletop Games 0 comments on Handling Threat

Handling Threat

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 have to agree to a bargain like this if it doesn’t make sense. Maybe the only way forward has to be through physical stress and the Threat won’t wait; or, if the character takes too long researching in the library, the Threat will escalate to encompass a wider area of impact or an adversary will claim a victory unopposed, complicating a later encounter.

If a teacher of the Classics opts to climb with a physical Save – despite low scores – the player could argue that the teacher simply takes his time to make the descent. The GM might agree to offer an Advantage, but bargain that a failure will not be from a damaging fall, but capture by the strange pursuer crawling through the shadows of the tunnel.

I suggest that players have plenty of opportunity to get themselves hospitalised or institutionalised during the course of an adventure in The Cthulhu Hack without robbing them of some sense of progress. If you follow the path of nurturing a more Lovecraftian approach of intellectual characters over sluggers and brutes, asking for Strength Saves every 10 minutes seems churlish.

Running Tabletop Games 0 comments on The Listening Game

The Listening Game

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 me to get a handle on each player as much as their character.

Save opens the possibility of investigating retrospectively. By asking a question about existing knowledge, the characters have the opportunity to roll Flashlight or Smokes to find out something BEFORE the adventure started. Rather than make this an info dump – which it absolutely could be – you can run these as mini-scenes with one or more character involved. I got the feel that the sense of urgency in this group was stronger than the desire for more information – survival mattered more as the situation panned out and the environment became more clearly defined.

However, the digital camera and iPad allowed for other opportunities to do flashbacks, as confused characters checked back through their footage looking for things that they might have missed on the outward journey to the start of the adventure.

As we progressed through the adventure, I continued to read the players rather like checking the dials and readings as you drive. Speed, temperature, fuel – they’re all relevant to both! As it happens, I could see the players enjoyed the fast pace and didn’t need a break, so we pushed on. It kept the action flowing and the tone of the game fast-paced, while also considering each player and their character. Individuals have their own tells that you need to be attentive to, ensuring you don’t hold the spotlight too long in one place, or giving leave to lead where the players seem receptive and open to it.

Save on this occasion ran to just over three hours, at a fair pace. With more background detail and a little physical conflict, that could easily increase to four or five hours. I wrote it for a single session – and my experiences so far have always involved a brief introduction and character generation. The Cthulhu Hack is quick to start-up and a little pre-session prep can keep their intro short and tight. If you get The Cthulhu Hack Quickstart, it explains the core mechanics in two short A5 pages. If you’re running the game for the first time, it might be useful to have that to hand and tick off the words in bold – I usually highlight key terms that way to make it easier for the GM to spot.

I find the feedback I have had from groups that have run it useful – and aim to use those responses to improve the focus and support in future adventures. I aim to release more short adventures in 2017, intended for one or two short sessions or a long one – with room to shorten or expand as the situation allows. I recommend you join The Cthulhu Hack Google+ Community if you have any questions or want to provide feedback.

3rd Party, Adventures 0 comments on Debate Night in America

Debate Night in America

debate_night_in_americaTwo 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.

thro-centuries-fixed-debate-night-in-americaThe 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 also found that a reference at the start of the final paragraph on page 18 had me thinking that you might have a cross-over with Thro’ Centuries Fixed – and my inference yesterday that I see a campaign potential in the mix. You’ll get it if you’ve read both adventure and the source story for Thro’.

Nathan has made Debate Night in America available as a Pay What You Want and I ask you to donate a fancy coffee’s worth for his effort!

Adventures, Source Material 0 comments on Thro’ Margins Fixed

Thro’ Margins Fixed

thro-centuries-fixed-the-cthulhu-hackSince 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 all over it on first read-through, I think it also has the potential to kick off a campaign. The weird thing about the campaign angle for me is that this could be a campaign with the characters – or it could be a campaign that follows on from the premise and purposes established, but using other characters.

2016-07-03 17.46.09As I explain in Haunter, you should always keep notes when you’re reading or have a highlighter handy. I have two copies of this adventure printed out and plan to have it looking like my copy of Lovecraft’s The Haunter of the Dark in no time at all. I try to scatter pens around the house specifically to facilitate and accommodate my need to annotate – else I fear I’m going to forget something before I have time to take note.

I think it might be too fresh to start citing ideas here – because I wouldn’t want to spoil it for anyone playing it. Instead, the campaign ideas and possible cross-reading / viewing will get themselves a place in those margin notes I haven’t finished writing yet.

Now you know. When you print it out at home and wonder why I’ve left all that white space, you can be assured that it won’t all remain open and airy forever. I have marginalia incoming.

And, for that matter, by leaving those wide margins I’m empowering you to fill them.

UPDATE: The current version of Thro’ Centuries Fixed includes extensive new margin notes, a map of the adventure site, and tweaks to the text.

Adventures, Releases 0 comments on Thro’ Centuries Fixed

Thro’ Centuries Fixed

thro-centuries-fixed-the-cthulhu-hackYou 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.

Adventures

Cthulhu Hack Adventure Submissions

the-haunter-2I’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 proposal provided that needs considerable work in editing will attract less favourable return!

I’m seeking submissions of classic Lovecraftian investigation in any period or setting not tied to any other publisher – so, it’s possible if I like what you’re suggesting we might need to wrangle the subject matter firmly into the public domain.

If that sounds of interest, send your proposal to commissions AT cthulhuhack.com – and I’ll confirm my receipt in due course. Then, I’d suggest you settle back into the humdrum of the real world while I work through the possibilities.

Adventures, Releases 0 comments on Save Innsmouth

Save Innsmouth

wp-1476272506929.jpgIt 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.

Session Reports 0 comments on Convicts and Convictions

Convicts and Convictions

convicts-and-cthulhu-RPG-DriveFor 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 the convict hadn’t died. The player played a free colonist as their second character, a resident of Cobbler’s Nob, and they mirrored the feelings of the settlement well. When the truth started to become clear, they agreed with the guards that the way ahead might be to step back. However, it took some thoughtful words and careful planning to get the job done.

The system held up well, with less sanity-shattering moments in the second session. The first group really did take the rollercoaster approach – and only one survived. They both found a way to avert the threat of the horror, but just took it in completely different directions.

I will try to gather up some notes on the adventure – which came about through reading various source materials, including some aboriginal myths and stories. In the analysis, the horror might be Mythos driven, but could just be something supernatural – I think it might be something left to the individuals playing the adventure to decide.

I’m happy with the way The Cthulhu Hack: Convicts & Cthulhu plays as a setting and I can see a lot of interesting potential in returning to Australia.

Pay What You Feel It’s Worth

I would ask, if you have good experiences reading, running or playing The Cthulhu Hack: Convicts & Cthulhu, that you pay what you think it’s worth – as I’ll say openly that 85% of purchasers, thus far, have taken the option to pay nothing. This has affected my plans to convert and release The Keepers of the Woods, which I would also make available PWYW. The effort involved in putting these books together is no different to any of the other Cthulhu Hack books, with fixed prices and the artists have been paid regardless.

Again – to be open – in both cases, the product has been released PWYW because of the complexities in the licensing, not because of a particular gimmick or wish to experiment. I love the C&C setting and the Keepers adventure – and they have both figured heavily in my testing of the system. Keepers will likely come later in 2017, rather than last quarter 2016. Under any other circumstances, C&C would have been a $2.50 PDF with a physical copy comparable to The Cthulhu Hack in price.

You can go back and purchase a second copy of Convicts & Cthulhu at a higher price than the original – and that will make all the difference. It means I continue to support great art for the covers and spend time writing new material. I can also start looking into interior art for future releases and re-releases. I also appreciate your reviews and taking the time to rate or review any Cthulhu Hack product helps other gamers make their decisions to buy into the game.

The physical copy of TCH: Convicts & Cthulhu is also Pay What You Want, but with a minimum set at my cost to get the product printed. You’re paying for the layout, printing, the physical product, and the transit – anything else I leave to you. I expect to have it available, initially, only in the boxed sets on All Rolled Up and on the stall at events, including Furnace, Spiel, and Dragonmeet.