Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Cthulhu Mythos’

The Twelve Books of Christmas: Part Eleven

December 23, 2018 12 comments

My eleventh book of Christmas is The Dirge of Reason, a tie-in novella I wrote for Fantasy Flight’s Arkham Horror boardgame. It was part of a series giving an origin story for each character in the game, and my assigned character was Agent Roland Banks of the Bureau of Investigation (the FBI not being founded until some nine years after the game’s date of 1926). I researched 20s slang and did my best to channel Dashiell Hammett in this tale of a boy-scout agent forced into a situation where the rules – not just of the Bureau, but of physics and sanity – no longer make sense.

The story itself has a longer history. I first came up with the basic idea around 1982, when I had just purchased the first edition of Call of Cthulhu and was running a campaign for my college gaming group. I wrote up the first part as an adventure and sent it to Chaosium; I received a very nice letter back from Sandy Petersen himself, telling me that he liked the adventure and planned to use it in the Second Cthulhu Companion.

When that book was published in 1985, though, my adventure – then titled “Rhapsody in Fear” – was not included, so I approached Games Workshop, who had just started publishing small Call of Cthulhu adventures including the excruciatingly-titled Trail of the Loathsome Slime and the double feature Shadow of the Sorcerer and The Vanishing Conjurer (for which I wrote a sequel, “Ghost Jackal Kill,” which was published in White Dwarf #79). I got another nice letter back, this time from Call of Cthulhu editor (and future Fighting Fantasy honcho) Marc Gascoigne, encouraging me to develop the adventure further. But then I was offered a job at Games Workshop developing Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, and all things Cthulhu went on a back burner.

Fast-forward twenty-five years or so, and I was writing WFRP for Fantasy Flight’s third edition when I heard of the proposed Arkham Horror novella line. I put “Rhapsody in Fear” forward, and this time – with a new title and a few changes – it was published. In addition to the story itself, the handsome hardback package includes a lavish color section with reproductions of various documents from the story, and some exclusive game cards relating to the character of Roland Banks. As a side-project (my eleven-and-a-halfth book of Christmas?), I was hired to write more short fiction featuring Roland and a few other game characters for the imposing tome The Investigators of Arkham Horror.

 

While The Dirge of Reason was written as a game tie-in, I made sure that the story, with its mix of hard-boiled action and cosmic horror, would be accessible to readers who are not familiar with the game. Here is what some reviewers had to say about it:

Pulp fiction of an agreeably lowbrow caliber. That’s not a slam. It’s exactly what I wanted, and exactly what I got.”
– Goodreads

A fun read …I expect I’ll read it again several times over the years.”
– Amazon.com

…and the book’s page on the Fantasy Flight web site is here.

Tomorrow I cover the last of my Twelve Books of Christmas. If you’re not done with your Christmas shopping, or if you are expecting to receive some gift tokens, take a look: you might find something you like. Links to online retailers selling this and many of my other books can be found on the My Books page.

Click here for Part One: Colonial Horrors.

Click here for Part Two: Nazi Moonbase.

Click here for Part Three: Werewolves – A Hunter’s Guide.

Click here for Part Four: Theseus and the Minotaur.

Click here for Part Five: The New Hero, vol. 1.

Click here for Part Six: Knights Templar – A Secret History.

Click here for Part Seven: The Lion and the Aardvark.

Click here for Part Eight: Thor – Viking God of Thunder.

Click here for Part Nine: Tales of the Frozen City.

Click here for Part Ten: Blood and Honor.

Click here for Part Twelve: More Deadly than the Male.

 

Advertisements

Colonial Gothic: Lovecraft

September 9, 2015 5 comments

Cover small

Preorders opened yesterday for the new Colonial Gothic sourcebook, Lovecraft. It is available in PDF, ePub, and Kindle formats as well as the physical book. It’s also something I’ve been looking forward to for some time, and here’s why: it is the first time in almost 25 years that I got to work with Tony Ackland.

If you are a fan of Games Workshop’s products from the 80’s, you’ll be familiar with Tony’s work. Tony was instrumental in establishing the look and feel of the Warhammer world, and I worked very closely with him on the first edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. We also hung out a lot after work a lot, playing Go and talking about everything from World War II aircraft to the campaigns of Napoleon to fossils to classic horror books and movies. A significant quantity of Bass Ale was involved too, I recall.

It’s hard to pick a favorite out of Tony’s enormous output from those years, but I was especially impressed by his monster illustrations for the hardback 3rd edition Call of Cthulhu rulebook published under license by Games Workshop in 1986. For many British players, it was the first edition they could actually afford: the earlier boxed sets, imported from Chaosium in the States, were ruinously expensive.

When he retired, Tony taught himself to use a drawing tablet by creating pictures of – you guessed it – creatures from the Cthulhu Mythos. Every few days, it seemed, his friends would find another batch of unnamably blasphemous goodness in their email. And that’s when I had an idea.

I had been helping Richard Iorio of Rogue Games with the Colonial Gothic product line for a few years. We had talked about a Lovecraft-themed product often. While set in his own “present day” of the 1920s and 1930s, many of Lovecraft’s stories harked back to Colonial times, and in fact Richard had pitched “Cthulhu 1776” to Chaosium before deciding to launch Colonial Gothic through his own company. Tony’s illustrations were an opportunity too good to miss – and I think these new images hold up very well against the Call of Cthulhu bestiary from almost 30 years ago. I’m delighted to see this book come out, for personal reasons as well as professional.

The book covers the best-known gods and beasts of the Cthulhu Mythos, but there are many things that we couldn’t touch for copyright reasons (click here for more on the complex copyright issues surrounding his work and those of the other Mythos authors). If you should happen to want to use another Mythos creature in a Colonial Gothic adventure of your own, converting the stats from Call of Cthulhu is a fairly simple matter. Here is a rough method based on creatures that are common to both systems: the GM may need to make minor adjustments according to personal taste and preferred play style, but this will provide a reasonable starting-point.

Note: these guidelines are given for personal use only, and are not intended to challenge any copyrights held by Chaosium, Inc, or any other party.

Attributes
Might = CoC STR x 0.6
Nimble = CoC DEX x 0.46
Vigor = CoC CON x 0.44
Reason = CoC INT x 0.57
Resolution has no directly comparable stat in Call of Cthulhu. I recommend picking something suitable, bearing in mind that the human average is 7.

Skills
Start with the governing attribute score and adjust according to the needs of the adventure. For more accurate conversions, Call of Cthulhu uses a percentile skill system, so GMs with good math skills can calculate the odds of 2d12 results and come up with a conversion table if they wish.

Attacks
Colonial Gothic non-weapon attacks are attribute-based, so it is easy to assign attack damage. If the GM doesn’t mind a little work, it is possible to derive a damage score by cross-referencing CoC damage with damage from weapons that are common to both Colonial Gothic and Call of Cthulhu (or another Basic Role Playing game, such as Runequest).

Traits
Most creatures of the Cthulhu Mythos have Fear and Horrific Visage to reflect their effect on an observer’s Sanity. The severity of each of these Traits should be proportional to the creature’s SAN loss rating in Call of Cthulhu. Use the creatures from Colonial Gothic: Lovecraft as a guide. Other Traits are at the GM’s option: the book lists several new Traits for Cthulhu Mythos creatures.