In Development, Patreon, Releases 0 comments on Leap of Faith

Leap of Faith

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 SecondfinalEdition.

I hope you enjoy it.

In Development 0 comments on Cthulhu Hack Covered

Cthulhu Hack Covered

In pursuit of an appearance and format I can iterate across The Cthulhu Hack range, I have been tinkering with the covers of the core books – including From Unformed Realms and The Haunter of the Dark.

I’m not committing to a finalised version yet – but after two years of organic development in the appearance across the range, it seems about time that uniformity emerged from the cosmic chaos. Well… just a little bit.

In Development 0 comments on The Cthulhu Hack v1.5 Progress

The Cthulhu Hack v1.5 Progress

Steady progress on the revised edition of The Cthulhu Hack, hampered only by the eldritch horrors of Real Life!

The book basically boils down into five sections:

  • Core Mechanics. This explains Saves and Resources, will particular attention to Flashlights and Smokes. Also includes mechanical discussion about Advantage and Disadvantage, Assistance (when you feel compelled to help) and Fortune (an optional re-roll mechanic).
  • Characters. Details the six different types of Save, then outlines Quick Characters with Archetypes and Freeform Characters. Currently also includes Wealth and Health; might shift the second into the next section.
  • Threats. Time, Movement and Fighting; then Sanity with a bunch of optional rules; Healing; then Antagonists; and finally, Chases.
  • Mythos 101. Quick overview of universe; Creatures & the Mythos; and then the esoteric business of Mythos Magic.
  • Adventure. Finally, Save Innsmouth has crawled into the end of the book, along with extra material around running adventures, and a random plot seed generator, too.

And, with OGL statement and a character sheet, that currently rounds out to 43-pages. I fully expect it to spread out into 44-pages, because I know where elements remain incomplete. All in all, that’s 15,000 words of material, which doubles the content of the current version.

I feel like I’ve made good progress. The new material doesn’t add flab to the game; it adds examples, optional material spun out of my own game sessions, and greater flexibility in creating your Investigators. I have also made the decision to add some interior artwork and reworked many of the tables. As with any game, you’re free to use material from this version or the original — they remain entirely compatible.

As a reminder, anyone buying the current PDF of The Cthulhu Hack has nothing to worry about – when I’m done, this version will be a free update in your Library. Of course, if you want it in print, you will need to buy again if you’ve already got a copy of an earlier version.

In Development 0 comments on The Cthulhu Hack v1.5 Started

The Cthulhu Hack v1.5 Started

Well, writing on The Cthulhu Hack v1.5 definitely got started. That’s all I can say for the moment.

Since running adventures over the weekend at UK Games Expo, I have had the chance to pull some thoughts together with my existing notes and get going. For the initial sweep, I have concentrated as much on removing material as adding new options or clarifications. Over the course of the year, my pitch at the stall and the gaming tables has tightened up – and when I wrote the Cthulhu Hack quick start / demo Nocturnal Rites, it provided a cool way to force me to get the core principles down in short form.

If you want to hear more and see regular updates, hit Join on The Cthulhu Hack Google+ Community page!

In Development 0 comments on January 2017 Update

January 2017 Update

Where did January go?

A quiet month with no releases, as my efforts have been focused under the hood, so to speak.

I have been wrangling writers for a trio of adventures to be released Quarter 2 or 3. I will be one of those writers, but the other two I’ll keep under wraps for the time being. The adventures will focus on the same driving force, but show how that idea can be extrapolated into quite different experiences.

Time and again, while re-reading Lovecraft, I have had this notion of fractured possibilities around a single entity, event or aspect of the story. You can take all you read on face value, or dig a little deeper.

More often than not, you need to cast aside the preconceptions that you have acquired through playing other games that use Lovecraft and the Mythos as their backdrop. Especially those that hail from the Mythos, that formless spawn of ideas by a multitude of creative minds.

The Cthulhu Hack returns solidly and unashamedly to Lovecraft, pure and simple. If you read something in an adventure, like Save Innsmouth: Chapter 0 or Thro’ Centuries Fixed, then that thing has come from my direct interpretation of Lovecraft’s words.

This is the reason why I included the entire text of The Haunter of the Dark in the supplement of the same name – as I wanted you to see my thoughts processes in the annotations. They arise from reading and re-reading Lovecraft, whether his stories, his notes or his letters.

I recommend you go back to the texts and give them another look next time you consider running anything Lovecraftian.

In addition to writer wrangling, I have been slowly re-writing The Blessing of St Agnes – a supplement originally put together as a generic fantasy adventure, but which I’m currently reworking for The Cthulhu Hack. Anyone who already has a copy of the PDF will get the updated automatically.

The daughter of a local businessman vanishes overnight and evidence quickly reveals the possible involvement of a cult mixed up in misguided pursuit of power through occult channels. However, the investigators soon find that nothing could be quite so simple…

Finally, I’m working on a refinement of the core rules to better support the development of the optional ones! In spring it will be a year since I started tinkering with the rules of The Black Hack. Since then, I have run enough games and made enough notes to know that things have moved on organically. Refining the core means I have a sort of ‘bible’ to work from when putting other supplements and adventures together – and should allow me to better focus on things like Unspeakable Hacks and character creation cards.

Extras, In Development 1 comment on Save Innsmouth Kit at Dragonmeet

Save Innsmouth Kit at Dragonmeet

The “Kit” I used to run a session of Save Innsmouth: Chapter 0 at last weekend’s memorable Dragonmeet, minus the All Rolled Up game roll and The Cthulhu Hack dice tray.

The players each had their character’s image – and name – out in front of them on a simple clear plastic stand. I wrote the name on with a dry wipe Correctable pen, which means I can reuse the pictures for a future con game. The images themselves came from a random Google Image search – then I made them all black-and-white.

The character sheet in the image is the laminated version from The Cthulhu Hack Quickstart. Very handy – although, I actually used A4 blow-ups of the character sheet design to keep things clear and simple!

The prototype deck of Character Generation cards worked out really well. As players in the game have commented (on my Google+ Cthulhu Hack Collection), they meant you could quickly reference the character’s key Special Features and it could work really well as a rapid random character generator. Each card shows whether it’s an Ability or an Advantage – so, separate them and deal two Abilities and an Advantage to each player.

Every possibility I will use Kickstarter or similar to fund the production of these card decks – so, keep an eye out for that one.

And, the Gamemaster Screen – well, that’s a seriously prototype piece of kit. At the moment, I just have a bunch of tables from the core rules on the reverse. It has got me tweaking some of the tables, but at the moment I have a lot of thinking to do on what best to add on here for the benefit of an overworked GM!

A lot of things to think about for 2017!

In Development 0 comments on Cthulhu Hack Demo Pack

Cthulhu Hack Demo Pack

the-cthulhu-hack-henning-fcvr-v1I’m currently working up a Cthulhu Hack Demo Pack, which will include a 4-page booklet with a 2-page overview of the game, for players and GM alike, and a 2-page demo adventure, designed to run in 15 minutes or so for 1 or 2 players. To round that off, it will include two pre-generated characters using a simplified version of the current character sheet.

The character sheet keeps things straightforward, provides some explanation in-situ about how to use Saves – and looks great when laminated!

(I leave the lamination to you! I have no current plans to make laminated character sheets available through the online store at All Rolled Up or conventions… Unless I can work out a much simpler way of creating them.)

The adventure could be expanded if you want; you can use blank character cards to create additional pre-gens for a larger group. As the demo pack includes limited information (for space reasons), it doesn’t explain the different Classes from the core rules – so, all characters are just Investigators and I plan to use the Classless character creation system to put them together.

I hope to have the demo available by the start of December, released through RPGNow and DriveThruRPG.


In Development 0 comments on Weird Science

Weird Science

wp-1476949254592.jpg“Non-Euclidean calculus and quantum physics are enough to stretch any brain; and when one mixes them with folklore, and tries to trace a strange background of multi-dimensional reality behind the ghoulish hints of Gothic tales and the wild whispers of the chimney-corner, one can hardly expect to be wholly free from mental tension.”

― H.P. Lovecraft, The Dreams in the Witch House

One thing I aim to do in Unaussprechliche Hack, next year, is to expand upon and loosen the system for handling ‘spells’ and tomes in The Cthulhu Hack. While I appreciate the value of the 0D&D roots that support the simplicity of the game and ease the process of introducing newcomers and old hands to the system, there’s no need for something quite so regimented as levels.

It makes sense in a fantasy setting with focused practitioners to allow them incremental access to ever more powerful magic. On the other hand, investigators in The Cthulhu Hack are as likely to find a treatise on the summoning of extradimensional flying mounts as they are to uncover a margin note on the distraction of the human mind with a simple charm.

(So, for example, characters can get access to an Elder Sign charm in The Haunter of the Dark despite not necessarily meeting level requirements — because circumstances make sense and restrictions exist to stop them overusing it.)

The key to Lovecraftian magic lies in the understanding that science and spellcraft lie side-by-side, strange bedfellows kept apart only by humanities lack of comprehension. Alas, to attain complete understanding and true perception tends to stretch the faculties of the human brain beyond breaking point – thus, the significant negative impact on Sanity suffered in learning even one spell.

Just as we can’t truly grasp the worldview of even the most simple creatures with which we share a common world, the cosmic manifestations of the Mythos possess senses and cognizance far beyond our imagining. In practice, akin to cyphers in Monte Cook’s Numenera, spells used by humanity are just the shadows and smokes given off by much greater and significantly more potent ‘technologies’ or applications of exotic sciences.

We’ll see if I can get that across in the optional rules for spells to come in 2017!

Horrors, In Development, Releases 0 comments on Lean and Lulu

Lean and Lulu

Fernand0FC under Creative Commons
Fernand0FC under Creative Commons

All the evil in the universe was concentrated in their lean, hungry bodies. Or had they bodies? I saw them only for a moment; I cannot be certain. But I heard them breathe…

Keeping busy here, with more work on The Haunter of the Dark for The Cthulhu Hack ongoing and ideas trickling in for Unaussprechlichen Kulten, which will provide options for expanding or swapping out features of the game, along with dozens of tables for random content.

In the meantime, you can find another article from Mark Chance, presenting his take on Flying Polyps, Formless Spawn of Tsathogghua, Ghouls, and the Hounds of Tindalos for The Cthulhu Hack.

And you can now get physical copies of the core Cthulhu Hack rules from the Just Crunch Lulu store.

In Development 1 comment on The Cthulhu Hack Cover

The Cthulhu Hack Cover


I have proof copies incoming from two sources for The Cthulhu Hack, and I’m looking into other alternatives. A wraparound affair that uses the front image in a mirror version for the back – along with a little blurb.

One of the proof copies is perfect bound, the other saddle. I have a liking for the saddle, but ultimately we’ll see.

I continue to seek alternatives for a better quality – and a hardback version. The hardback would have to wait for more material. I would likely add material from one or two upcoming supplements to make the hardback worthwhile.

I’m pondering get a physical copy of From Unformed Realms sorted out for conventions and sale through the All Rolled Up web store.

2016-07-03 17.46.09

Currently also sourcing a possible cover image for The Haunter Hack. However, the whole focus of this supplement still hangs in a bit of a creative limbo – I’m not 100% sold on what works for the best.

Ultimately, it’s about getting a Cthulhu Hack adventure together using existing material and the process you might go through to do that using The Haunter of the Dark as a base. This is about rooting out the Saves and highlighting the Resource rolls. Expanding narrative and structuring an adventure for one-offs, convention games and beyond.

I have spent the whole weekend going through the text of the short story for the umpteenth time. Considering this was Lovecraft poking fun at another author, I have been having great times with it – stretching the angles out and unraveling the potential.

Raw text running to a couple of dozen pages at the moment and not nearly finished yet. Seems likely to run to about the same length as the core book in the end.

In Development 0 comments on The Cthulhu Hack – June 2016

The Cthulhu Hack – June 2016

13548854_10153753405271173_614543532_oI just wanted to post where I was up to on the current stack of upcoming material for  The Cthulhu Hack.

Expect a slightly updated copy of the PDF of the core rules in the near future. As well as including a new Cthulhu cover image by talented artist Henning Ludvigsen – along with the existing ones so you have the option to do home printing with whatever version you prefer – the rules will have a minor tweak or two. There’s nothing major – just a little clarity. For example, David Black recently posted a clarification for Advantage and Disadvantage that makes perfect sense to include in the core.

I have a partially completed draft of Convicts & Cthulhu that I’m working through a second time to fill in the gaps and plug holes. This will be a supplement to support playing convicts and guards in 19th-century penal colony Australia, as detailed in the excellent Convicts & Cthulhu supplement by Cthulhu Reborn.

I also have a slightly less than complete first draft of The Haunter Hack, which guides you through the process of using Lovecraftian stories as a basis for simple games of The Cthulhu Hack. The text will break down elements of the story into Flashlights, Smokes, antagonists and Sanity sinks, offering a usable adventure and considered guidance on creating adventures yourself.

And somewhere off in the middle distance, I can see Derr Unaussprechlichen Hack – which needs to gather enough material before hitting PDF – and Doom in Dunwich – a randomized sandbox village generator, which you can easily team up with From Unformed Realms for unpredictables forays into the Unknown.

In Development 1 comment on The Cthulhu Hack v2 in Print

The Cthulhu Hack v2 in Print

the-cthulhu-hack-inverseNow that The Cthulhu Hack has been out for a week, I have had the chance to play another session with the rules and get a lot of feedback from people.

With UK Games Expo fast approaching, I will have physical copies in hand, but they will be specific to the event. With a short time frame for printing, I’ll be going with Lulu for print – because they are quick and reliable. I have used them many times before for short print runs.

In the longer term, I’m getting quotes from other printers because I would really like to have a matt cover and Lulu only do the glossy variety for books the size I’m doing. Unless I add more content and opt for a hardback!Finding another printer that offers what I want means shopping around. I will also need to see and approve proofs before printing. That will mean such copies will be available AFTER Expo some time, probably toward the end of June.

Finding another printer that offers what I want means shopping around. I will also need to see and approve proofs before printing. That will mean such copies will be available AFTER Expo some time, probably toward the end of June.

Version 2 Cometh

Right now, I’m working on Version 2 of the core rules. Obviously, anyone who already has a copy through RPGNow or DriveThru will get that update automatically through their Library.

This will be the copy that goes to print – and it seems to have expanded to 43-pages in the process. Version 2 includes two A4 covers – one black, one white – so you can choose how hard you want to punish your printer! It will also include the existing character sheet alternatives – basic and extended.

The possibility of a meatier boxed set version with more content and a couple of adventures – well, that might be in the offing if enough interest exists. Any rumours of an All Rolled Up would be purely circumstantial…

Review The Cthulhu Hack

If you have had the chance to play, I’d love to hear about it. Better yet, play more of it. Tell your friends about it. Convert existing adventures and tell me about it.

I’ve had positive feedback from the sessions I’ve run with the ruleset and next week I hope to have the chance to play in a game run by another GM. You can post feedback here or on Google+ – and reviews on the PDF at RPGNow, DriveThru or elsewhere are always appreciated.

In Development 0 comments on More Cthulhu, More Cake

More Cthulhu, More Cake

black-hack-white-boxI have a birthday weekend ahead of me, so unlikely to spend much time actually creating any new content or materials. However, that’s not to say that I haven’t been at work on some level or another.

I have ordered proof copies of a couple of format styles for The Cthulhu Hack book with the aim of having these available at UK Games Expo. While I will be running games in the mornings, I will be on the All Rolled Up booth upon X-Wing Avenue in the afternoons – and you should, I hope, have the chance to pick up a copy from there.

On that sort of level, I’m left wondering whether a Kickstarter (a small one) would be the way to go for a more satisfying print-run of the Hack. I have to say The Black Hack that Peter Regan pulled together made for such a satisfying package, booklets, screen and all. That’s the reason that I have taken such pleasure in ‘blinging the kit’ out further, with carry box, dice bag and so forth, when taking the game out on the road to events.

Whatever the case, I have a set of Hacked screen inserts in mind and something similar to Sorrowset, which makes perfect sense for The Cthulhu Hack. I mean, Dunwich would probably be the way to go, with more than a hint of fish in the air.

In Development 0 comments on Black Hack Hack Back

Black Hack Hack Back

After a long and unenforced hiatus, I’m working on something new. One of those unplanned moments when you realize that an idea needs to find a voice or leave you sleepless.

David Black recently released The Black Hack after a long period of playtesting and development. The Hack takes the essentials of 70s old school tabletop and boils it right down to the simple basics, but with a nod or two to modern sensibilities. The game does away with too much book-keeping through a rather clever use of dice to manage dwindling resources… and that got me thinking.

This weekend, I’m running a game of The Black Hack at Patriot Games Indy Games day in Sheffield. Instead of a straight fantasy game of the Hack, I wanted to try something different, so I created a character sheet.

From there, I’ve created my own hack of the Hack – and all being well I should have the whole thing available for release in short order. Featuring extra rules on dwindling sanity, madness, more monsters, 1920s equipment and a neat character sheet design!

Look out for Hack Call (pronounced hackle for your convenience) coming to One Book Shelf soon.



Adventures, In Development 0 comments on The Sanction of St Agnes

The Sanction of St Agnes

The Blessing Of St Agnes on Amazon UK

As I’m currently in the (long term) process of putting together a game system – called 214 – it seems very likely I’ll use some of my own material to put the crunch through it’s paces.

My adventure The Blessing of St Agnes puts the player characters in the situation of seeking out the fate of a kidnapped girl. Faced with a pleading, tearful (and wealthy) patron, the characters investigate about the potential fate of the girl and track clues across the village and local countryside attempting to track her down.

While the adventure has a dungeon aspect to it, various alternate plots and antagonists mean that no two versions of St Agnes will be the same. The ploys and questionable intentions of those responsible for the girls disappearance will alter the way the PCs have to deal with the situation and (hopefully) return her safely.

In addition to details of the Chapel of St Agnes and various individuals of significance, the adventure features an appendix with additional content to include, generic monster details, and – in this physical form – several handouts scattered around the book.

Given the suspicion and distrust surrounding the situation, from the PCs towards the locals and vice versa, the adventure will run well with 214. I may add further new material to the adventure – available to all – to support this use. With some thought, focus and a little pruning, I dare-say I can use this as a convention game next year (or perhaps for Hangout sessions, when I get around to running some!).

You can pick up physical copies of The Blessing of St Agnes on Amazon UK or in PDF format from RPGNow.