Gamer, reviewer, history buff and business analyst. Living in Manchester, in the UK. I work as a senior business analyst and manager.
When I’m not at work, I:
* Write tabletop game and book reviews,
* Develop and market All Rolled Up dice bags with my wife,
* Wallow in a library of Tudor history books, and (occasionally)
* Write freelance RPG projects – like Paranoia, Maelstrom & Outlive Outdead
In continued celebration of Lovecraft’s 129th birthday today, there’s 10% off all physical Cthulhu Hack books, slim box sets, and dice trays—both square and compact—on the All Rolled Up web store.
That’s all the core books, as well as investigations—including Mother’s Love and the award-winning Valkyrie Nine—and supplements. And to round off the tabletop—the way I like to at game sessions and convention one-shots—there’s a range of official Cthulhu Hack dice trays. You can bind the dice to your will, even if the Elder Gods keep struggling.
The association between The Black Hack and The Cthulhu Hack is a funny old thing. In the 3 years that both games have existed, an explosion of other supplements and expansions of the former have appeared. In the meantime, TCH has drifted along a path of its own.
What does that mean?
It means that many elements of The Cthulhu Hack are backward compatible with The Black Hack and other games of The y Hack type (where y is an indeterminate take on the core TBH), but I never really write them to work without thought or due consideration. I’m not including that sort of note in the material associated with the game—I’m not declaring anywhere in the core game or supplements that they work out of the box with The y Hack .
I do declare, in a general sense, that The Cthulhu Hack material can be run with other Cthulhu game systems and that you can use other Cthulhu game system supplements with The Cthulhu Hack. Again, I’m not declaring compatibility—you have to do an amount of work equal to indeterminate value n. You can use The Haunter‘s investigation structure and story mining for anything, but something crunchier might need a moment.
I have run scenarios from Call of Cthulhu, World War Cthulhu, Achtung! Cthulhu, Delta Green, Trail of Cthulhu, Bookhounds of London. Cthulhu Dark and others on the fly. Aside from reading the material in advance, I did nothing much else except make the sort of prep notes I do for any other adventure I GM.
On the other hand, if you lifted the Investigation Resource mechanic or Special Abilities from The Cthulhu Hack and used them in a game of The y Hack, you would have to give some thought to the process. TCH has no levels, so anything that assumes the use of levels probably won’t work at all—or at least needs some thought. TCH handles advancement through investigations survived, but that isn’t the same as levels, per se.
Creatures from The Cthulhu Hack will probably work, but again—some of their Abilities might warrant tweaking to make them more potent against a gang of leveled characters.
Mother’s Love is a solid collection of scenarios, each easy to run, each easily adapted to the mechanics of the Keeper’s choice, and each entry exploring a different aspect of Shub-Niggurath. None of the three is unplayable, but ‘Ġgantija’ is the standout, presenting opportunity aplenty for some great roleplaying, almost like actors being offered juicy roles.
Reviews from R’yleh, Saturday, 20 July 2019
You can pick up the PDF as part of Christmas in July:
I love conventions anyway, but UK Games Expo offered the double-thrill at the start of June that I got to attend and I was nominated for an award – and that excitement culminated in Valkyrie Nine—one of this year’s releases for Lovecraft-inspired investigative horror role-playing game The Cthulhu Hack—winning an award. Twice.
Short-listed for Best Role-playing Adventure in the run-up to the event, this near-future investigation gathered up both the People’s Choice Award—voted for by visitors using the Expo phone app—and the Judges Award.
You can see the author, me, and All Rolled Up’s owner, Fil Baldowski, receiving the award from Tom Vasel and John Robertson (from The Dark Room).
You can pick up softback copies of Valkyrie Nine from the All Rolled Up web store. You can get the Valkyrie Nine PDF from DriveThruRPG, where it’s 25% off for the next nine days as part of their Christmas in July event (ends when July does).
I’m excited to announce that Valkyrie Nine has been shortlisted in this year’s UK Games Expo Awards for Best Role-playing Adventure—the same award for which Three Faces of the Wendigo won the People’s Vote in 2018.
Last year there was a Judge’s Vote and a Public Vote—I’m not clear at the moment whether this will be the case again. Whatever the case, the final results will come down to the public making their choice through the UK Games Expo app over the course of the weekend event.
Mother’s Love has been a massive leap of faith for me—one where I have wavered on many decisions. In the outcome, I’m deliriously pleased that it has turned out so well. I hope that you can come and see it in person at UK Games Expo, supporting the continuation of The Cthulhu Hack line.
Up to Three Faces of the Wendigo, The Cthulhu Hack was all me. I might have used the springboard of others in publishing something, like Convicts & Cthulhu, but essentially it was me doing the writing. Wendigo took that to another level—as I joined with two other writers. Even then, I used existing artwork to round out the final product and created some of the other elements myself.
When I decided to extend the ideas presented in The Dark Brood—my very positively received take on the entity Shub-Niggurath—I chose to leap into the abyss and bring on-board three writers broadly unknown to me and commission the majority of the artwork. Last September, there was definitely a moment when I thought, “Should I have done this as a Kickstarter?“
I was commissioning three pieces of original writing, with three pieces of original art, plus a map—and at that time I didn’t really have a clue what I was putting on the cover, although I had a fallback. I knew that I would need to do all the editing and layout myself, with some dependable friends to provide proofreading, but the content would all be commission work.
That was scary.
It grew more scary as time slipped by. Passing Dragonmeet at the end of the year. Then rolling into the New Year. I could feel the presence of mid-year and Expo, a looming shadow. I realised that it needed to get done before then, because there’s some measure of fanfare and gamer-access at an event pulling in attendees in the tens of thousands. That face-time with existing players and newcomers makes all the difference.
As the final texts came in—after multiple tweaks and shuffles—invoices were raised, paying for word and art. That remained really scary. I’m still worried, I’m not afraid to admit. When you invest so much money—for which I have my publisher All Rolled Up to thank to no small measure—and time—time enough for me to sketch out, playtest, write and publish another investigation—in one thing, the outcome demands even more of you. Now I have the promotion to consider—the exposure, the play, the reviews…
If early feedback has anything to offer, it’s positive. I’m torn by the delight of seeing the hardback for the first time on Friday—a decision made because if you’re all in, why not really go ALL IN—and the prospect of the remaining work to come. And remembering that there are other projects yet to come, great stuff that means I don’t really have time to stand still—Deadbeats. Island of Ignorance. De Cultis Ineffabilibus. And the Second—final—Edition.
All Rolled Up have just taken delivery of the new hardback investigation collection for The Cthulhu Hack—Mother’s Love.
A 76-page collection of three investigations, written for The Cthulhu Hack but usable with any system. The book is hardback with a red ribbon bookmark, with a wraparound cover by Wenqing Yan.
The collection of three brand new investigations are all set in the late 20th and early 21st Century.
Deep Roots – In 1950s Canada, officers of the law and Children’s Services investigate a double murder and kidnapping that seems to connect back to an abandoned orphanage, in the backwaters of lumber country.
Gift of the Flesh – A team of animal activists seek to infiltrate the abattoir of a company growing rich on the sale of luxury meat products, with evidence of shady practice and possible bribery of European food standards regulators.
Ggantija – In celebration of the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s Death, theatre director Peter Catterick organises a special performance of The Tempest held in the Neolithic Temples at Xaghra. But rehearsals descend into dark events and suddenly the actors find themselves pursued by something far worse than critics or paparazzi.
All Rolled Up has posted Mother’s Love up in their web store. Copies will also be available wherever All Rolled Up/Just Crunch Games attend conventions in the UK.
This weekend sees the release of a new investigation, Valkyrie-9. After a bunch of playtesting sessions, the time seemed at hand to set the adventure loose on the unsuspecting public. I had a lot of fun running the adventure across several events, each time with a completely different experience and outcome.
Valkyrie-9 finds the players taking on the roles of support drones on a Moon base experiencing massive power and systems failure. Emerging from re-charging into a clear emergency, they have to piece together the thread of events and seek to restore order.
However, something I heard around the sign up sheets was – “I don’t do robots” or “I don’t do science fiction.“
Character Character Character
There’s not much I can do about the whole business of not wanting to play a mechanical drone, beyond asking, “Why?”
Role playing games constantly ask that you put yourself in the place of an unfamiliar character with motivations and beliefs that cannot possibly map to your own.
In this instance, the adventure is about the investigation and the strange situation – but the GM can also reinforce that these drones are advanced and highly capable constructs. Think R2-D2 from Star Wars or Huey, Dewey and Louie from Silent Running – or somewhere between the two.
It’s a one-shot, so they’re not committed to running an artificial character long term – and little about the character imposes restrictions on how the player plays them. Yes, they won’t be engaging in emotional responses or spawning some budding romance, but they’re not cold and indifferent. The drones have been around the Valkyrie site for almost two years and spent time in the company of the crew for half of that; they’re stalwart companions with a vested interested in resolving the current emergency.
Not Science Fiction?
Is the year 2073 science fiction to begin with? Or simply Near Future?
Many players expect all Lovecraftian tales to take place in the past – which probably represents a more alien environment that 50 years into the future! The GM selling that time difference must surely be simpler than understanding life 100 years in the past?
If 2073 causes genuine consternation, you could run the adventure in 2020, using a blend of alternate timelines and a healthy splash of real world conspiracy theory.
While one conspiracy suggests that the whole landing on the Moon business never happened, another suggests that visits to the Moon never stopped in the Seventies.
While we see efforts to colonise the Moon as works in progress or simple pipe-dreams, others believe that the apparent loss of interest in lunar exploration amounts to nothing more than a cover-up for a thriving Moon community, possibly funded by more than one Superpower.
In that case, set the investigation in an alternate now, where colonisation of the Moon continued to fascinate the Superpowers and their scientists, but the efforts became secret. It might even tie in more effectively as a Lovecraftian adventure that what should be in plain sight has been obfuscated from the masses.
Perhaps the Valkyrie project seeks to find more than just rare minerals – it might have an imperative tied into the imminent collapse of Earth’s eco-system, seeking sources of minerals, water, power or other resources.
Valkyrie-9 is available to download, as a PDF, from DriveThruRPG. The investigation will also see release in print through All Rolled Up.
I admit, this partially arose as Jonny had made one himself, but also because last time I ran a game of Bookhounds I had created a simple library bookplate-style character sheet (matching the Gumshoe character format).
On top of all that, I kicked off the Paul Baldowski is creating role-playing content for The Cthulhu Hack on Patreon in late November. The idea was to support the ongoing development of The Cthulhu Hack in a building block fashion; so far, in 6 weeks, it’s generated two extended entities – the Dimensional Shambler and Rhan-Tegoth – plus an optional rule for Special Abilities. There’s another entity write-up in progress – and the creative fuel will mean a lot for releases in 2019.
For the last several months, I’ve been holding up the progress of the next set of investigations. I’m absolutely to blame for this because the process of reviewing and providing feedback has been one I’m not great keeping on top of. However, all four writers have had feedback this past week – so, January should see a finalised set of adventures, and most of the art should be in place, too. On that basis, I have expectations of a Spring release for Mother’s Love.
The three adventures continue on from The Dark Brood, taking the business of Shub-Niggurath and spinning it out across the globe. Like Three Faces of Wendigo, the investigations don’t specifically make up a campaign – but a GM can make of them what they will; you’re responsible for introducing any connective tissue to make them into a joined up campaign if you want.
Another bubbling work-in-progress will come in the form of a optional rules set, the dread tome De Cultis Ineffabilibus. Part of this will be bestiary-related, something for which I owe my Patrons thanks. The time spent in creating back story, plot hooks and new mechanics around Lovecraft’s many creatures will make this an interesting addition to the arsenal of anyone running The Cthulhu Hack.
While the publication of the current edition of the Core Rules added extra mechanics and optional rules, many ideas remain. New material hovering in playtest include mechanics for additional creatures, magic, tomes, combat and more – with some material lingering half-formed as marginalia and scattered notes. You can also expect an adventure or two, and a guest writer will provide some of the material – primarily around adding a little more pulpy action to your Cthulhu Hack investigations.
Then we go further afield – with the possibility of two setting supplements. One has been around for a while, but will see a re-write and a re-title: a return to penal colony Australia in Island of Ignorance. This will include updated and expanded material on character creation, with a brief overview of the flavour and material of the environment, as well as an adventure and a bunch of expanded creatures. The original supplement came out with 6-months of the original edition, so you can expect some updates.
The other supplement, tentatively called The Dark of the Moon, sees The Cthulhu Hack heading into the vast darkness of space. At the moment, this includes material to expand character creation, additional mechanics for handling the environment, new and expanded entities of the Mythos, and at least two adventures.
And along with all this, the Patreon content will continue to trickle out month-on-month – along with playtesting of investigations and mechanics at any events I attend that don’t demand I spend 100% of my time at the stall!
Thanks everyone for your support in 2018 – and you can still grab The Cthulhu Hack at a discount until midnight – and I’m looking forward to seeing what 2019 brings!
I set up a Patreon page a week or so ago to support the creative endeavour for expanding The Cthulhu Hack line, in support for your patronage, you get access to content not available to anyone else.
At the most basic level, that’s posts on here and the Patreon page. At higher levels, you get early access to draft material that will eventually make it into other publications down the line – as well as playtest reports and notes.
Thus far, there’s a token-based alternative to Special Abilities and a in-depth look at Dimensional Shamblers, expanding the detail from the Core Book for this blink-and-you-would-miss-it creature that deserves more attention.
More will follow, culminating in further expanded releases to the wider public including some – but not necessarily all – of this material. As a Dweller in Darkness, you get complimentary PDFs of all future releases for The Cthulhu Hack through DriveThruRPG (where the Black Friday Sale is still on).
I’ve created – and teased – the Lovecraft Special Edition boxes. While the white box may well become an on-and-off special, the red (“Red Hook”) deep box is a limited edition because I don’t have access to any more stock once these have gone. I originally used the red boxes for a Gen Con special with a different design (in 2017); these Lovecraft ones will be the last of them.
As a Patron of The Cthulhu Hack, you have first dibs. As a Special Edition, both the white and red boxes run to £10 each. You can order them separately (empty) by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or get additional books and accessories to go inside by placing an order through the All Rolled Up web store and noting “Red Lovecraft Just Crunch” (or “White Lovecraft Just Crunch”) in the Where Did You Hear About Us? box.
If you’re coming to Dragonmeet, I’m happy to set the box aside for you. State “Dragonmeet Pick-up” in the Where Should We Send Your Order? box.