News 0 comments on Cthulhu Hack – First Quarter ’17

Cthulhu Hack – First Quarter ’17

An update on new releases, adventures and events for The Cthulhu Hack, as I’m conscious things have been a little quiet.

Key at the moment is work on a collection of three adventures with two other writers all themed around the same entity, taken from different angles and in very different settings. I sincerely hope that I will have this finished and published by mid-year, and it should be available in PDF and print.

On the back-burner, but in development, I have the GM Screen and Character Creation Cards. I have prototypes for both and they’re undergoing tinkering to get them in a state suitable for wider distribution. I haven’t absolutely commited yet to the format of that distribution; these will both be available as PDFs, but the physical versions might well follow if I can find a cost-effective printer.

In the background somewhere, I’m redrafting sections of the core book. This might be a v1.1 release or it could work itself into a v2. Only time will tell. I was driving toward a re-write for another connected project, but that has not been progressing as rapidly as I’d hoped.

Next major event will be UK Games Expo at the beginning of June, when I’ll be running a couple of games, but focussing primarily in my role on the stall meeting you, the gaming public. This will be just over a year since launch and I have been very happy with the uptake and reports back. I have appreciated all the feedback and the many reviews.

I will be tagging along with All Rolled Up to Gen Con 50, later this year, where I’ll spend Thursday afternoon running short sessions of The Cthulhu Hack. I also hope to run other games, spend some time on our stall, and maybe get a chance to wander around!

On a podcast front, I had a discussion with Paul of Cthulhu from the Cthulhu Breakfast Club at AireCon. Last week, I recorded a long chat that will be available soon, with sub-titles, in connection with Netcon, a Spanish virtual convention, where a box set is up as part of a whole collection of prizes under the All Rolled Up banner.

In unrelated news, I’m spending much of April writing twenty-six articles on Swedish-spawned dark fantasy role-playing game Symbaroum over on The Iron Pact, as part of the A-to-Z Challenge. While a bit of a distraction, my theme has been to add an element of Mythos and horror to the game – so, it should get me in the mood for more writing on The Cthulhu Hack.

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.

Releases 0 comments on Nocturnal Rites – a Free Quickstart

Nocturnal Rites – a Free Quickstart

the-cthulhu-hack-quickstart-rpgnowToday sees the release of a FREE Quickstart for The Cthulhu Hack, the game of investigation and cosmic horror. The Quickstart contains:A 2-page overview of the game and its core mechanics

  • A 2-page overview of the game and its core mechanics
  • A 2-page quickstart encounter “Nocturnal Rites”
  • Two pre-generated characters
  • A sheet of simplified character sheets

The character sheet works just fine as an alternative for the existing designs but simplifies the information on the front to make it easier for newcomers to pick up.

The Cthulhu Hack Quickstart provides just enough detail to play – and provide a perfect lead into the full game and the expanding range of supplements and adventures.

And this weekend, you can take advantage of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday Sale to pick up The Cthulhu Hack at 15% off.

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.


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 – 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.

Releases 0 comments on Convicts and Cthulhu

Convicts and Cthulhu

convicts-and-cthulhu-RPG-DriveThe circumstances of English settlement of Australia in 1788 are as unique as they are ghastly. Conceived as a self-contained prison, literally on the other side of the globe from the ‘civilized world,’ the colony of New South Wales was supposed to be somewhere that every “undesirable” element from Britain could be banished. What nobody considered was the potential for catastrophe created by the concentration of all the “dregs” of British society in a pressure-cooker environment supervised by gaolers who were not much better than the rabble over which they kept watch.

Many from both groups brought with them dark beliefs and worship of things best forgotten. Left unchecked far away from watchful eyes, some of those degenerations festered in ways they never could before. And while those from over the seas introduced their ancient gods to the continent of Australia, there were other forces that had slept in the land for long, long aeons.

This is the setting of Convicts & Cthulhu, a claustrophobic and remote microcosm in which horrors – both old and new – prey upon men and women unfortunate enough to find themselves sentenced to the penal colonies of New South Wales and its dependencies.

  • Themed options for character development, including pre-sentence Occupations
  • Random Offences for convicts, from Highway Robbery to Theft of Bacon
  • Summary notes on the setting, including settlements and scarcity of Equipment
  • Rules on Shock and new Creatures of the Mythos – including the Bunyip
  • Short Adventure Outline – Longships and Short Fuses – with map by Pär Lindström

This supplement allows you to get up and running in this dark and strangely claustrophobic historical setting using the simple rule set of The Cthulhu Hack. You will need The Cthulhu Hack core rules to play. This book covers changes to character generation, equipment, firearms, antagonists, and also includes an adventure.

For more on the core setting, download Convicts & Cthulhu.

This product is released for free as a Pay What You Want product. You’re free to download this supplement for nothing, as with the expanded setting material of Convicts & Cthulhu. If you choose, you can pay more than nothing to support the continued expansion and development of the product line for The Cthulhu Hack – but I’m happy to leave that down to you.

Adapting, Adventures 0 comments on Adopt, Adapt and Overcome

Adopt, Adapt and Overcome

old-manor-and-graveyardWhile clearly named The Cthulhu Hack, in honour of the dread Old One, the nature of the Hack means you can handle any investigation using the system’s associated mechanics. Both Smokes and Flashlights serve as a medium for a little luck, a bit of insight and a knack for finding the half-hidden or forgotten.

Like the investigators in a US procedural or a British Christie-style murder mystery, the Cthulhu Hack‘s investigation rules give essential clues mixed with the tension of a dwindling pool. In a non-Mythos game, you could swap out Sanity for Fatigue or Stress – they all stem from the same source, but Sanity has a strong connection with certain types of game.

There’s also nothing stopping you from folding the idea back into The Black Hack or one of the other derivatives – or using The Cthulhu Hack system with fantasy or sci-fi trappings. The Career Paths might need a tweak and you’ll need to improvise the equipment list a bit – but you could also just co-opt that sort of thing from a favoured setting.

Blood and Lumber

Take the Shadow of the Demon Lord, for example. The recently released adventure Blood Will Run involves the characters investigating the disappearance of twin boys in a small village. Stereotypical genre tropes can get the investigators on board, with a letter from their uncle, a newspaper cutting or some other tenuous association with the settlement.

Before running the session, the GM needs to read through the adventure – and I would recommend printing it out and have two colours of highlighter to hand. Three if you can manage.

As you read through, highlight any sentence where the investigators might:

Spot, uncover, trip over, research, stumble, recall or otherwise discover something – that’s a FLASHLIGHT.

Overhear, carouse, interrogate, coerce, fast talk, bribe, claim common kinship or otherwise extract information through social connection – that’s a SMOKE.

If you have that third highlighter in hand – mark any instance where the adventure either threatens direct harm or would cause pain, damage, distress or similar. That sounds like either a SAVE or a test of SANITY – in either case, the player will need to roll.

Some Examples

Reading from the beginning, I started making notes, some of which I include below. In reading, if you get any sense of a piece of information, a find, a muttered word or a threat of danger – highlight it!

  • FLASHLIGHT   The village of Cheqwood has a long history in the lumber trade, providing highly prized wood to craftspeople and artists far and wide. The limited supply makes for fierce, even violent, competition.
  • FLASHLIGHT   An ancient charter, signed centuries ago, limits the quantity of lumber the village can take from the wood, backed by royal decree. The inhabitants have never tested these limits and the settlement has never really grown much as a result.
  • FLASHLIGHT   One of the glass panes in the windows bears the slightly greasy, smudged handprints of a child; it appears as if one pressed close to the window to spy any activity within.
  • SMOKES   Someone has been disturbing graves of the departed in a disused private ground near the old manor. When the village turned out to find the missing boys they found several graves dug up and desecrated.
  • SMOKES   Clyde, something of a spokesperson for the community, had a raging argument with the local blacksmith, out in the street in front of The Black and Staff pub. The ‘smith claims Clyde’s children stole from him, but absolutely denies any responsibility for their disappearance.
  • CHA SAVE   Speaking with Clyde runs the risk of pulling too many chains and turning his stress into outright rage. A thumper by nature with the physique to match, failure to make the Save will shift him to hostile reactions until calmed by a local or restrained.

And so on… I don’t want to spoil the adventure, but you’ll have opportunities to test Sanity and a possible fight or two to keep the Bruisers entertained.

The adventure in this example needs some tweaking to remove fantasy elements – like elves – but the core of an abduction and a stressed out community stands. With little more effort than reading the adventure – and a few highlighters or similar in hand – you have a fresh adventure to add to the stable.