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.
In a thoroughly belated celebration of success, as Winner of the UK Games Expo Awards 2018 People’s Choice Award for Best Roleplay Game Adventure, you can find Three Faces of the Wendigo available for 20% off the normal PDF price at RPGNow and DriveThruRPG.
It was a pleasure to receive the support of gamers across the long weekend of the Expo and I appreciate every support offered – whether you’re picking up the latest supplement in PDF, grabbing a boxed set at an event, or running a game using The Cthulhu Hack at a convention.
If you have picked up a copy in PDF, I would appreciate reviews posted on RPGNow and DriveThruRPG, so gamers interested in the product can hear a bit more about what you thought. I appreciate the chance to talk with gamers at events about their experiences and sharing ideas on the Google+ community. If you leave a review (click on the product link on the right of the page, log in at the site, and then leave your review on the page), I hope we can expand the reach of the game even further.
Right now, I’m marshalling the creative forces behind the next trilogy of investigations, their focus on the cult of Shub-Niggurath, as first hinted at within the pages of The Dark Brood. Three great writers, new to the pages of The Cthulhu Hack, presently slave over the drafts of three fine adventures – and I’m getting the cold shivers already. Fear not, the horrors of the Wendigo might well pale in the face of what is to come…
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 cthulhuhack.com 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…
I have had a tiring but exciting time, meeting hundreds of gamers from amongst tens of thousands of attendees to the event in Birmingham, UK.
The biggest gaming event in the UK, the Expo has become a genuine high point for the tabletop year and I had a great time. Winning the award for Wendigo was definitely the cherry on the cake… or the generous scoop of ice-cream of the Cthuloid green jelly.
For those attending the big event (in less than a fortnight’s time), I will have all The Cthulhu Hack books with plenty of ‘new’ and new stuff. There’ll be:
Three Faces of the Wendigo, which isn’t new but up for the Best Role-Playing Adventure Award, that features three different adventures by three different authors concerning hunger, the wilderness and some tough decisions about survival!
the revised Cthulhu Hack Core Book includes an expanded page count for the first time – which allows for a more pleasant and open layout and the addition of more cross-referencing and an index – of sorts, and
The Dark Brood, a saddle-stitched smorgasbord of material around Shub-Niggurath, including three adventure seeds, half-a-dozen new spells, several new creatures and dozens of ways to mark the influence of the Black Goat on your game.
I’ll have white and black slim boxes (£25, three core books + character cards) and black or opaque deep boxes (£45, all the books books). I’ll also have Cthulhu themed All Rolled Up, dice trays, Insanity Dice (an updated design), and Cthulhoid dry-wipe counters. Probably other things that I have forgotten… all at booth 1-J26.
Who would have imagined that this spin-off from The Black Hack would be here to start a third year of publication?!
Hope to see many of you there.
That yellow block is where I am, with the main entrance into the hall at the bottom of that wide, white block in the middle. The red circle is the glorious Inked Adventures – and I’m on the other side of that yellow block, bottom right.
The Cthulhu Hack: Three Faces of the Wendigo has been nominated in the Best Role-Playing Adventure category at this years UK Games Expo Awards to be awarded at the event that runs from 1st – 3rd June 2018.
The adventure supplement takes the Wendigo myth – filled with supernatural horror, the wilderness, unfettered hunger and the darkness within – and presents three investigations written by three different authors with their own personal spin.
As The Cthulhu Hack runs fast and light, these adventures can all be run in a single (or maybe two) sessions, offering a ready dose of unsettling horror.
The unsettling horror for me would be that I’m shortlisted against two Chaosium adventures for Call of Cthulhu!
As a self-published game designer entering the third year of publishing The Cthulhu Hack I am thrilled to have been shortlisted for this nomination and I ask for your support. As an attendee at the event, you hold the key to the success of everyone shortlisted and I hope you will support Just Crunch Games (and my publishing parent All Rolled Up).
The Heart of the Wendigo
What can you expect from Three Faces of the Wendigo?
John Almack goes down a traditional route, setting hunters against the myth laid down by Algernon Blackwood. In the depths of the wilderness, who is the hunter and who the prey?
Richard August sets off into the mountains, setting the primal urge to protect against the darkness that taints the human soul. You have the means to bring justice but do you have what it takes?
While my own investigation finds a modern village on the edge of the wilds, seeking balance in the face of hard times. When you’re stranded in the back of beyond, who would turn down warmth and hospitality from a proud but hard-bitten community?
Get the book
You will find physical copies of the book available from the All Rolled Up/Just Crunch Games stall at UK Games Expo orw you can order it from the All Rolled Up web store.
Just Crunch sales of The Cthulhu Hack through All Rolled Up at UK Games Expo exceeded expectations, though I think I need to moderate the sales patter!
Setting down individual books, whether sold by themselves or as part of a box, this is the numbers in total from the three days of the event:
The Cthulhu Hack Core Rules
From Unformed Realms
The Haunter of the Dark
Save Innsmouth (part 1): A Student Documentary
Thro' Centuries Fixed
The Cthulhu Hack: Convicts & Cthulhu
Character Sheets (pack of 10)
Elder Sign d6
Overall, on a gut feeling rather than any hard stats, I think the sales rate was about 1 in 5 pitches, maybe 1 in 4. My throat would tend toward the lower rate of success!
UK Games Expo provides a fantastic opportunity to meet new people and sell your game to a wider audience. If someone listened and walked away without buying, I hope they’ll remember my spiel about the game and come looking later for the PDF or pick up the game through All Rolled Up.
The games I ran in the evening definitely felt valuable – both as a chance to introduce new people to the game (and, indeed, to gaming in the Mythos in general) and an opportunity to playtest new ideas. I recommend the approach to independent game designers – to both sale by day and run games, whether as a demo alongside the stand or in the downtime outside the sales room.
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).
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!
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).
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.
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.
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 Realms, The Haunter of the Dark, Save Innsmouth and Thro’ Centuries Fixed from the Just Crunch Games page for at least 15% off.
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!
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.
I will be attending UK Games Expo this year, as I have for the last half-a-dozen years, with the plan to run games and man the stalls for Just Crunch and All Rolled Up.
UK Games Expo runs for three days and explodes across both the NEC and local hotels, offering game-players of all interests the chance to see, play and buy games, old and new.
I have a stall of my own, where you will have the chance to pick up copies of all the books in The Cthulhu Hack range – which, I hope, will include some new material by the time June rolls around.
In addition, I will run two evening games, on Friday 2nd and Saturday 3rd June. I have made these intentionally generic in the RPG Event offerings over on the UK Games Expo web site. While I realised making these generic would not sell them, I didn’t want to tie myself down to offering something with certainty.
I hope to have many options to offer in terms of adventure – and might even open it to the players on the night to choose what they’d like to play.
I recommend dropping over to the site to see the games running across the spectrum – and you can find The Cthulhu Hack games and many others in the Role Playing Games Event section.
Preparation for UK Games Expo next weekend has kept everyone busy for the whole weekend (the whole of last week for that matter). A lot of stickers, labelling, bagging up and more besides.
For you, the positive side is that I have ten The Cthulhu Hack Bundles ready for Expo, though there’s the possible I might have the chance to prepare more. You can order the TCH Bundle from All Rolled Up and if you plan to be at Expo make sure to communicate that. Pop it in the Where Should We Send Your Order Field? that you want to pick up at Expo – and then you can pay on the day at the event.
The bundle contains: 44-page The Cthulhu Hack A5 booklet, five double-sided expanded Character Sheets and the A5 white plastic storage box with branded matt vinyl sticker.
You’ll need to pick up by close of the trading hall on Saturday. If you can’t pick up or arrange for someone else to pick up, we’ll put them on open sale Sunday – as we don’t want to hold on to stock as we’d rather not take it home!
A little over two weeks since the release of The Cthulhu Hack, I’m overjoyed about the response. Not only have I had a chance to play more Cthulhu as a result of the book – which works for me because I have been investigating the unnameable horrors since the early 1980s and you can never get enough – but others now have the simple tools to get their own game up and running in no time.
At DriveThruRPG, The Cthulhu Hack now rates a Silver Best Seller – for which I give thanks. I certainly didn’t have any idea that the hack would take off like this and appreciate your support. Play some games, spread the word, send me feedback – I appreciate everything you do.
With UK Games Expo looming, I now have a couple of boxes of physical game product in the house. I have a couple because initially I ordered a few and then I realised that this might not be enough after posting about it on Google+ and Facebook. I have made the book available online through the All Rolled Up store for those who can’t make it to Birmingham next weekend – or who can’t wait that long to get hold of a copy!
On the writing front, I have two projects in the works. As well as the companion volume, Der Unaussprechlichen Hack, I have been sketching out something that lies between a supplement and a how-to adventure. Given the way The Cthulhu Hack uses resource management of investigation within the team as well as more standard do-or-die Save rolls, I wanted to show how you can take an existing story or adventure and convert it.
The supplement will include the adventure notes, marginalia on some of the decisions and alternatives, at least a couple of maps, a few random and reference tables and whatever else seems to make sense. Right now, I aspire to get this all crammed into a fairly slim booklet, if not a single double-sided A4 sheet. I’ll see how it pans out and I hope to have the core text drafted very soon.
I had the pleasure of coming home yesterday to find a box waiting for me. Inside, 40 copies of The Cthulhu Hack ready for sale and taking along to UK Games Expo.
I’ll be running games in the morning on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (not Hack games), but you can find me in and around the All Rolled Up stall on X-Wing Avenue in the afternoons.
If you somehow can’t find us – I’m also swapping copies with Peter Regan for Black Hack softcovers. So, you can get your dose of physical Hacks from the Squarehex stall.
The physical copy includes a copy of the character sheet – right at the back – but you can download the sheet for free from RPGNow / DriveThru. The download includes both the basic sheet and the extended ‘I have high hopes for character development’ version, which includes space for a character portrait, notes, character Special Features and a section for your character’s Last Will and Testament.
As with the copy currently available as a PDF, the softcover, perfect bound edition contains a reorganised game. You have sections on:
Creating a character,
Wealth and gear,
Time and movement,
Fighting and defense,
I favour margins for scribbling and clear text – so nothing too small, except where the A5 format necessitates it. I’ve run several sessions now and I’m happy with the core and I’m gathering ideas for optional stuff to go in Der Unaussprechlichen Hack.
I welcome feedback from your own play sessions, particularly relating to emulation of game elements from horror / sanity / stress / Mythos specific situations.
I would really love to hear how you’ve used the system, especially if you’ve tried a conversion of adventures from other Cthulhu-focussed games or horror investigation systems. I’ve had a positive experience, but I wrote the darn thing!
I also welcome reviews of the PDF or physical book on whatever sites or social media outlets you favour. Any sense I can get of how the system might adopt, adapt and overcome helps shape future releases. I have plans, but plans can change!