Busy

Little while since I last posted, mainly to due to being extremely busy!

I’ve been working on a number of projects:

Call of Cthulhu 7th edition – working with artists to develop colour plates, rulebook art, scenario art and maps.

This have taken a lot of time, finding and working with artists and putting further development in the art briefs to make sure they capture the essence that is required, answering artists’ questions and approving concept sketches. I’ve seen some fantastic concepts and the final, finished art is trickling in now – I’ve been really impressed – and I hope everyone else is too.

Call of Cthulhu Keeper Screen – gathering and developing data that will go on to the Keeper side of the screen. Honing down the information so that its useful, readable and easy to follow. Trying to redesign text into graphic/tables requires a lot of thinking!

Cold Harvest – a great scenario by Chad Bowser set in 1930s Russia. Lots of great characters and great premise.

7th edition card decks – sourcing period photographs to match with the characters I’ve designed and working with artists for the Phobia and Events decks, these should all look marvellous when they come together in layout.

Cthulhu Dark Ages – refining and editing the work being done by Chad Bowser.

Secret Project 1 – early days, but gathering a writing team and look to have some good people in place.

Secret Project 2 – working on art briefs with the author.

Keeper Companion (revised) – editing and updating the existing volumes in to a new single volume, and looking at what would be cool to add.

Secret Project 3 – finished editing and development, art briefs done and with a great artist I’ve not worked with before, whose character art is spot on.

Well that’s probably enough for now!

I will be at Dragonmeet London this coming Saturday, so if you are there say “hi’!

Gencon- Day 3 & 4

Wasn’t running games on Saturday or Sunday, so spent most of the time on the Chaosium booth, interspersed with forays on to the dealer floor. Saturday was busy, very busy. Lots of people around the booth, so I spent a lot of time answering questions about 7th edition, as well as helping people decide on which campaigns / scenarios / supplements to purchase. I really enjoyed talking to both new and old Call of Cthulhu players – probably some of the nicest people around!

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Some of the fiction titles on the Chaosium booth

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A printed out Horror on the Orient Express manuscript on the Chaosium booth – with my scenario!

 

I managed to purchase a few fezzes as presents before all of the Cthulhu ones sold out. I think Fez-o-rama will be back next year! Also picked up a copy of the new Firefly RPG for a friend, as well as a few choice items including Sense of the Sleight of Hand Man dreamlands campaign by Dennis Detwiller from Arc Dream, which had arrived on the stand on Saturday, and also a blow-up tentacle (coz you need one of them… right?)

Went to lunch with the San Detour guys (French Call of Cthulhu licensees), who are a great bunch of people. I was honoured by them showing me a few snippets of new artwork – absolutely lovely stuff.

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The giant balloon Cthulhu!

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Some say that my time on the Chaosium booth was starting to affect me… I just don’t see it… ; 0

 

Sandy Petersen (of Call of Cthulhu fame..!) was at the Chaosium booth all day, running demo games of Cthulhu Wars (which looks fabulous). Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to play in a game myself, however everyone that did seemed to have a great time. I can’t wait for my copy to arrive… Sandy was on fine form as ever and later that evening we had a combined Cthulhu Wars and Horror on the Orient Express backers dinner at St. Elmo’s steakhouse. Mark Morrison and Penny Love joined us and Sandy for a great evening.

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Me and Sandy…

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Cthulhu Wars and Horror on the Orient Express backer dinner – before the shrimp cocktail massacre!

 

Sunday came around too quickly. Gencon was near its end. I again spent the day on the booth talking to backers and others who wanted to pick up a copy of the 7th ed Quick Start Rules. I managed to find the Game Science booth and stocked up on dice whilst chatting to Lou Zocchi.

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Me, Charlie and Paul

I’d last been at Gencon a few years ago, whilst running Black Industries. I’d had a great time then but this year it was even better. I’m already looking forward to Gencon 2014!

GenCon Indy – It begins…

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So, tomorrow I fly out to Indy and am looking forward to it!

My schedule is looking a bit like this:

  • Thursday am – on the Chaosium booth
  • Thursday pm – running C7E Kickstarter Backer Game
  • Thursday evening – C7E Kickstarter Backer Dinner
  • Friday am – on the Chaosium booth
  • Friday pm – running C7E Kickstarter Backer Game
  • Friday evening – dinner with Sixtystone Press
  • Saturday 2pm-4pm – on the Chaosium booth
  • Saturday evening – Cthulhu dinner with Sandy Peterson and Chaosium
  • Sunday 2pm-4pm on the Chaosium booth

Come say hi when I’m on the stand.

Call of Cthulhu 7E Quick Start Rules Released to Kickstarter Backers!

Great news!

The simplified, core rules for Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition – the Quick Start Rules – have just been released by Chaosium to the kickstarter backers via update 46. The rules include the scenario ‘The Haunting’, as well as the story write-up of that same scenario, which was used episodically during the kickstarter – the story provides newcomers to the game with a version of how the scenario might go.

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Quick Start 7th Edition Rules!

I’m really pleased to see the Quick Start out at last, and particularly glad it’s out in time for GenCon! I hope all the backers enjoy reading and playing with the basic rules and look forward to reading their comments (and hearing them at GenCon)!

Cthulhu 7th Edition Card Decks

Around two years ago, I had the notion of putting together a series of card deck for Call of Cthulhu. Each deck would focus on a key thing, like a collection of everyday non-player characters, a collection of villains (cultists, thugs, criminals), a deck of monsters and so on. The idea being that a harassed Keeper could simply hand out or use any number of these cards to help them during a game.

Picture this… the players have decided to go ‘off reservation’ into an area of scenario that you didn’t plan? No problem, pull out a card from the NPC deck – they have met ‘Frank the Handyman’. Now the players have decided to start a fight in bar – fine, pull a ‘Thug’ card from the villains deck. One of your player character’s just died/went insane about 30 minutes before the end of the session? Need a character they can play to keep them interested in the final 30 minutes? Pick an NPC card from the deck – perhaps they like the character so much they develop it fully next time into their investigator. And so on…

Anyway, I played with the idea of having a series of decks – characters, monsters, weapons, spells – having these would then allow you to create ‘scenario’ decks, where each card gave you a recipe for a scenario. For example:

Scenario Card A

Randomly draw or pick the following:

4 x villain cards

1 x monster card

5 x spell cards

5 x NPC cards 

Decide which villain is the leader (give all the spells to them).

The other villains work for the leader.

Decide which NPC has been ‘eaten / killed / captured’ (decide which)

by the monster (known as NPC 1).

The monster has been unleashed by the leader (decide a cult name) and will

eat / kill / capture the another 4 NPCs over the next 4 days.

The investigators have been approached by one of the NPCs to

find out what’s happened to  NPC 1.

Well, you get the idea – not sure this kind of scenario card would actually work, but the idea interested me.

I never really did anything with the deck of cards concept until we began to plan the Call of Cthulhu 7th edition kickstarter with Chaosium. The card deck idea reached out of the dark recesses of my mind and I proposed the idea to Chaosium as a possible stretch goal. The Chaosium gang liked the idea, so we discussed exactly what decks we could do and which would be most useful for Keepers. Interestingly, a couple of different playtest groups had proposed card ideas – so the notion had obviously crossed a few people’s minds.

In the end we decided on:

A deck of Curious Characters – these would essentially be fully stated NPCs (inc. skills and weapons, backstories) that the Keeper could draw upon whenever he or she needed a character in the game – the cards would serve a double purpose in this respect: the Keeper could use the character card ‘as is’ with the stats and character portrait, or simply just use the portrait as a visual player aid (assuming the Keeper was using an NPC already stated in the scenario). Additionally, if a player needed an investigator at the drop of a hat, then one of the character cards could do the trick.

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An early prototype (with errors!)

A Weapons & Artefacts deck – a selection of common and unusual weapons, each fully detailed on a card, as well as a few Mythos artefacts that could fall into the investigator’s hands. Each card would tell the player all the weapon stats (range, damage, etc.) and also any special rules or information. If an investigator picks up a weapon in mid game, the Keeper can toss the appropriate card to them and get on with the game – rather than have a) find the weapon stats in the rulebook,  and then b) read the stats to the player while they write them onto the investigator sheet – all of which stops the game. Giving a player a prepared card saves time and allows everyone to keep their focus on the game in hand.

A deck of Phobia cards – each card details the effects of a phobia, mania or bout of madness. Again the aim is keeping the pace of the game foremost in mind and avoiding unnecessary pauses in the game whilst the Keeper takes a player aside to explain their insanity to them. Passing the selected card to the player, allows the Keeper to keep the game moving whilst also ensuring the player has enough information to ‘enact’ their investigator’s insanity or bout of madness. The card is designed to provide guidance as well as provoke questions for the player to answer – allowing them to tailor the insanity to their investigator appropriate to the situation and conditions of the insanity’s cause. The information on the card provides enough to get them started but also assists them and the Keeper in further developing the game’s story beyond what’s written on the card.

Finally we have the Unfortunate Events deck – here are all manner of ‘Keeper Notes‘ that could be passed to a player during the game. Each card describes something that has just happened and its immediate effect upon the investigator. Sometimes the information will be clear and unambiguous (“whilst searching the room, you have found a small golden pendant inscribed with a strange symbol“), or more obscure (“you think you saw someone  watching you – are you being followed?“) The cards have to be generic enough to be of use in multiple situations, yet specific enough to be worth using. I see them as useful little Keeper aids to help keep the player’s guessing and to build tension (i.e. I hope that getting one of these cards becomes something to be feared by the players!)

So far, both the Phobia and Weapon decks are complete and with Chaosium for design and art. The character deck is halfway through being written – it’s the longest of all of the decks to write (imagine stating up 40+ NPCs, with full skills and backstory details!) Once the character deck is complete I’ll move on to the event deck. I think the event deck will be challenging – making sure I have a broad enough range of ‘events’.

Missed Dues, Part 4: Playtest Conclusions

So the scenario is written and I’ve playtested it with three very different groups to figure out any loop holes, errors and if anything is missing.

Across the three groups were a mix of newish to veteran Call of Cthulhu players, with both genders represented. All three groups went at it in very different ways, however all seemed to end up (by their own volition) in a similar pickle by the end.

It’s always interesting to see how much ‘Mythos meta knowledge’ comes in to play in each group. Some steadfastly rely only on the information provided in game, attempting to keep things within the scope of their character’s rather than the player’s knowledge. Others can’t help themselves. Each is fine with me in a playtest as I get to see how different people’s minds interact with the scenario, which helps to focus on whether I have put anything too obvious in. From this, I decided that one of of player handouts was a bit too obvious, so I redid it, toning down the Mythos references, which had the effect of making it more puzzling for the next playtest group – which worked much better and had them guessing rather than ‘knowing’ what was going on.

By dint of the fact that each session I ran had different time constraints (from 4 hours to 2.5 hours in range), I was able to focus on what where the key drivers in the scenario – what the major hooks were that sent the players chasing down particular avenues. I find this useful as it allows me to know the rough timing of key scenes, thus in a convention game I’ll know when to press on and when to allow the players time to ponder their situation. As the scenario reaches its climax, it seems from experience, that it really begins to gather pace – hurtling the investigators towards a tension-filled and satisfying close.

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Nothing to do with Missed Dues, but cool never-the-less!

Of course the playtest did ensure I spotted one major error! I realised mid game that I had forgotten to include the stats for a very important NPC! During the game I winged it, but afterwards spent a good amount of time putting the NPC’s stats in and double checking the stats of the NPCs already written in. One of those situations where you have convinced yourself  that you have done something, when in reality you have not. Thus, always good to double check the important stuff!

Finally, I did a last proof read for typos and whatnot, corrected a handful and it was done. I sent the final ms, handouts and pre-generated investigators to Chaosium for them to layout and print ready to give to the players who had supported that particular pledge level in the kickstarter.

I should give a mention to Dean Engelhardt who was totally marvellous in helping to put together a set of investigator sheets (based on his new design for 7th edition) for the games. Dean’s done a great job with the sheets, making them do all the maths, so the rolling up process is speeded up considerably. The sheets look fantastic. Dean has loads of cool free stuff on his website – go check it out.

Missed Dues – Player Handout

Great news – I needed to create a player handout for the Missed Dues scenario and I’m really pleased that Sam Lamont has offered to create it for me, which means it’ll actually look very cool!

Sam is a wonderful artist – check out his gallery (link below). Recently he designed a new card game called Epic Death (funded via Kickstarter). Having playtested the game I can say it’s great fun and well worth a look when it’s released.

Here’s the links:

http://www.moonskinned.co.uk

http://www.facebook.com/epicdeathgame?fref=ts