Conversion, Mechanics 0 comments on Compatibility Hack

Compatibility Hack

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.

I hope that makes sense—and that you’re taking advantage of DriveThruRPG’s Christmas in July to pick up all manner of y Hack supplements and material, including The Black Hack and The Cthulhu Hack.

And if you’re up for new material or stuff you can convert with an amount of work equal to indeterminate value n, pledge your support through The Cthulhu Hack Patreon for as little as $1 a month.

News 0 comments on Cthulhu Hack Update

Cthulhu Hack Update

The Cthulhu Hack had a 2nd birthday last month and the line continues to grow. At the core, we have the three core books, along with two books of adventures, and other books filled with campaign materials, like The Dark Brood and Convicts & Cthulhu. Good moment for an update.

The Cthulhu Hack Website

It seemed like as good a time as any to put together a separate site – using the domain – to showcase the books and link to the sources from which you can buy them. That means I can focus the content here on development articles, news, event updates and other such posts.

Right now, the site has the main six books, but I’ll be adding the other materials soon. Each item has a short summary on the content and then buttons to take you off to where you can get hold of PDF or physical copies.

If you would like to see any other information on this site or want to see the books available through other channels, drop me a note through the Enquiries link.

More Cthulhu Hack

With The Dark Brood released in time for UK Games Expo, my mind turns to the close of the year when I plan another physical book release. I think a further PDF only product might be possible along the way, but fully expect the next book-in-hand supplement to arrive by late October, in time for Spiel.

At the moment, I have more than one product jockeying for position. I would ideally like the October release to be another set of investigations like the award-winning Three Faces of the Wendigo. However, I also have a supplement in progress about more non-Lovecraftian campaigns, steeped in pulp and magic, and a revision of the historical Australian setting book Convicts & Cthulhu.

I’m also open to suggestions – and even offers of writing talent! – from any interested parties. If you have an idea and want to pitch it for consideration, drop me a note through the Enquiries link.

French Cthulhu Hack

At this point L’Affaire Deluze by Les XII Singes doesn’t really need me to promote it, as the crowd-funding for the French edition of The Cthulhu Hack and associated campaign materials and adventure stormed through the basic target in about a day and now closes in on the 30,000 € stretch goal of a global map for the campaign.

If you’re up on your French and would like this sumptuous package of goodies, including maps, play aids, art book and more, head on over to Game On Tabletop to check out the details.

Black Hack Second Edition

On a side note, the heart of The Cthulhu Hack arose from the core mechanics of The Black Hack. More than two years down the road, David Black and Peter Regan of SquareHex have the Kickstarter for the Second Edition up and running – and you might want to drop over to see what they have to offer.

The Cthulhu Hack has found a route of its own in the meantime, so don’t expect a sudden and massive change to the mechanics in the current edition when the new Black Hack comes out. Paths have forked, but obviously once the game lies in your hands you can mix and match whatever elements work best for you.

Heck, I’ve been eyeing up giving The Mecha Hack a read to see whether I can cleanly and simply merge with TCH for some giant robot versus the Great Old Ones world-wrecking action…

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.

News 3 comments on Cthulhu Hack 2016 and Beyond

Cthulhu Hack 2016 and Beyond

I think that 2016 warrants celebration because of everyone reading this – and many who aren’t – who picked up a copy of The Cthulhu Hack or one of the supplements and adventures that followed.

The success of The Cthulhu Hack took me somewhat by surprise. It also filled me with a sense of creativity and energy that saw 200-pages of content crafted over a period of 6-months.

Just Crunch Games had 3,050 PDF sales in 2016. Roughly 40% of that came from paid sales, 17% out of Pay What You Want, and the rest were free downloads.

That’s a massive increase of sales over previous years – any period, for that matter. Again, I really appreciate the support, the feedback, and the reviews – which I have taken onboard and used in shaping products that followed.

I am aiming to either write or commission an adventure per month in 2017, except those months where I release something else.

At the moment that “something else” includes Unspeakable Hacks – or Unaussprechliche Hacken, whatever I end up calling it – (optional rules for Cthulhu Hack), The Blessing of St Agnes (an adventure for TCH or compatible Hacks), Save Innsmouth (a collection of connected adventures linked to the eponymous seaside town) and The Cthulhu Hack Character Cards to speed and expand character generation.

I also plan to write a version of The Dee Sanction for release by mid-year, my long-gestating game of Elizabethan espionage and covert Enochian intelligence. That will include a short adventure and another adventure will follow, based on the games I’ve run playtesting the concept over the last two years.

Thanks again for all your support – and a Cthulhu Hack Fhtagn for 2017.


Reviews 0 comments on I Can Endorse This

I Can Endorse This

Cthulhu-Hack-Dice-Tray-All-Rolled-UpNoted a nice summary review by T to the E to the O in the Google+ RPG Enthusing community of The Cthulhu Hack:

I’ve read through it, and quite enjoyed seeing how The Black Hack was further hacked for the sake of Cosmic Horror.

In The Cthulhu Hack, researching, recalling, and noticing things are handled using a Flashlights die. In the same way, chatting people up, persuasion, and interrogation are handled with a Smokes die. This metaphorically lines up with the illumination, and social misdirection that might go on during such adventures. I am a bit more literal, so would call them the Investigation die and Communication die though, or something along those lines.

What’s great about it, no matter what they are called, is how the Usage die mechanic is used to make either a finite resource (you run out of ideas, or get fatigued) that can be replenished, and presents a form of risk, in that way.

They have also done up a rather brilliant three page summary of Mythos. Using, by their own confession, totally out of context descriptions to frame incomprehensible intentions into something digestible, and workable for a new gamer, or someone that is just new to running games set in Cosmic Horror.

Many worthwhile ideas, and the extraordinarily portable dice tray pictured below also seems worthy.

You can pick The Cthulhu Hack up on RPGNow or boxed through ENnie award nominated All Rolled Up.


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 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.

Mechanics 5 comments on The Hacked Haunting

The Hacked Haunting

The-Haunting-for-Cthulhu-Hack-TALLIn running one of my playtest sessions for The Cthulhu Hack, I decided to use an old Call of Cthulhu classic – The Haunting – to see if I could handle a conversion.

You can get hold of the original for free as part of the Quick Start for 7th Edition or earlier editions. I remember playing The Haunted House (as it was called) back in the mid-80s, when we used 2nd edition Cthulhu, clustered around a desk in a classroom at lunchtime. My investigator managed to escape with his sanity but lost either an eye or an arm… I can’t remember which.

I wanted to make the conversion such that I could easily pick out the Flashlight and Smokes rolls that power the investigative side of The Cthulhu Hack. I also fancied making the notes a single sheet and giving the whole thing a bit of locational structure – so you start in the top left and work down to the bottom right. Location investigation across more than one cell of the sheet shares a colour and a bold title. The middle and bottom have the top, middle and basement of the house.

You can access the online version of the Cthulhu Hack-ed Haunting one-sheet adventure outline from Google Drive. I’m still fiddling with it, so thought a live document would be the best approach.

I’m not claiming this is the ideal way to write an adventure or the best way to do a Hacked investigation – but I wanted something that had a structure that would work for me. Running a playtest of The Cthulhu Hack I wanted to focus on the game mechanics and flow as much as anything, so I needed visually accessible information.

If you read through the original adventure and then check the sheet, I think that I cover the bases. I added one or two extra elements that I never needed to use (like the possibility that the final encounter might have an extra twist or that I’d need more combat). Just in case someone had played before, I wanted to have the option for a different cause and tried to pepper references to both amongst the clues.

Might just be an insight into the way my mind works – but I hope it also shows how I see Flashlights and Smokes work in The Cthulhu Hack.

Releases 0 comments on The Cthulhu Hack on RPGNow

The Cthulhu Hack on RPGNow

Available on RPGNow

I’m really pleased to announce the official Version 1 release of The Cthulhu Hack through OneBookShelf websites. After a crash course in hacking, drafting, writing and playtests, the 42-page hack of The Black Hack takes the fast playing OSR system into the world of H P Lovecraft.

Battle cultists and the servitors of the Mythos, while the Old Ones slumber, undulate or cavort at the heart of galactic chaos. The simple system makes converting most investigative adventures written with Lovecraft at heart a breeze; the elegant application of the Usage Die mechanic makes investigation effortless.

The book includes creatures and servitors of the Mythos, spells for those willing to blast their sanity and a brief overview of the core Mythos in a 101 for the Lovecraftian beginner.

On top of that, you get a twin character sheet PDF on A4 with room to record your investigator details.

Available through RPGNow and DriveThru for $2.50.

Playtest 0 comments on Each To Their Own

Each To Their Own

DetectiveBook_confession-of-a-corpseLast night, at my local gaming group, I ran The Keepers of the Woods – the winner of the RPG Geek One Sheet GUMSHOE adventure contest last year, written for Trail of Cthulhu. The investigators head down to Devon to following up a postcard from Professor Margaret Blackwood and a report of her demise in the road accident.

It provided me with the opportunity to run an adventure on the fly using The Cthulhu Hack, the rules for which have got to the almost-done stage. I have been looking to some close gaming friends for feedback and a bit of light proof-reading, so I hope to have the hack out today or tomorrow.

The group generated characters at the start of the session and we plunged into the adventure after 10 minutes of dice-rolling and traditional Old School bemoaning-poor-rolls. We had an Archaeologist (Norris), a Bodyguard (Jack) and a Professor of Folklore (Gwen). Most of them had weak-to-average stats and the Bodyguard managed to roll just 6 hit points, so they had all they needed for combat-lite investigation.

The session went well. Flashlights and Smokes slid easily into place whenever the adventure offered the chance to glean information. Jack managed a single Flashlight roll before rolling a 2, which left him unable to offer much assistance with finding anything for the rest of the adventure. Those better suited to the task stepped down a die or two, but they can probably expect to reach the end of the adventure without ending up completely in the dark. Unless they have a TPK, which might be the more likely end game given their weak physical potential.

After the session, we had a discussion about whether the game needed five Classes. Oddly enough, the Bruiser had target written all over it for this question. Does a Lovecraftian game need a warrior class?

The Bruiser works like a standard The Black Hack Warrior with all the same Special Features and the minimum Usage Die for investigative skills. In other words, they have a 50-50 chance of failing either Flashlights or Smokes tests from the start. Once those go, the Bruiser player has to hope for a fight or some straightforward intimidation. Once burned out on these tests, they don’t come back until the next adventure under normal circumstances.

Firstly, if you compare with classic Call of Cthulhu, having a 50% chance of doing something off-career – like Library Use for a Soldier – sounds like good odds. How many combat-focussed characters in CoC put more than a smattering of points in the scholarly pursuits?

Secondly, if you want to investigate, be an investigator. While you roll for your stats randomly, as per The Black Hack core, you choose your Class. Even if you roll STR and DEX as your best stats, you have the option to swap two scores – so, exchange STR for WIS and be a rogue-type instead.

Thirdly, you need to have some table banter going and the GM needs to be upfront about the adventure. Will the investigation have an opportunity for brawling? If not, don’t make the Bruiser an option; recommend the alternatives and walk the player through the options. If the adventure has pulp elements, fine – a Bruiser will work. In a classic Lovecraftian exploration of esoteric literature and non-Euclidean property management, choose something else.

Beyond 1st level (I like to think most games of The Cthulhu Hack won’t need to refer to the sections of Experience and Advancement much), the Bruiser has an extra attack per level and can add dice to the pools for Flashlights and Smokes. Survivors learn to get better and that includes the fighting-types who realise that all avenues can’t end with a fist fight.

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.