Part Twenty Nine: Happy New Year!

Three PDFs have been distributed to the Raiders via Backerkit, depending on the relevant pledge levels: Gothic Black & White Print Edition, Gamemaster Guide & Complete Rules, and the Dark Swamp Introductory Location & Scenario.

Backerkit seems to be having some issues with distributing files, especially with the Gamemaster Guide. We are hoping to remedy any gitches with Backerkit soon, so some of the rewards may not have been distributed yet to your Backerkit account. However, this may not happen until after the holiday, depending on Backerkit’s reponse time (they are usually very prompt).

Though layout is complete, we are still doing a few passes for small typos and such. You may see some of these (hopefully nothing glaring), but we are working to iron these out.

Designer Notes

Gamemaster Guide — Contains the core rules of the game plus a ton of additional material. The creature creation rules (in the Extraplanar Entities chapter), the faction rules (in the Organizations chapter), and much of the extra setting material were originally going to go into supplemental modules, but we decided to add everything we had to the gamemaster guide. The whole thing is conceived as a huge set of toolkits and guidelines for the d100 gamer. 489 pages.

Gothic Black & White Edition — Contains the streamlined core rules of the game. Essentially, you will notice a lot of overlap with the gamemaster guide, as the content is the same. However, we streamlined the rules, eliminating things such as combat maneuvers, etc., for gamers who want to simplify (and play with more of a “rulings over rules” mindset). We also kept in mind the fellow game designer who likes to customize and houserule (isn’t that all of us?). 260 pages.

Dark Swamp — The adventurer guide is half the content from the gamemaster guide (so if you have read that, then you have seen the material). Dark Swamp is an introductory scenario that was designed to be shipped with the adventurer guide. Way back when we created the playtest, we were not satisfied with the included scenario (which will most likely get a complete redesign) and wanted to create something new for the adventurer guide. The RPGPundit offered some advice about focusing on a “Robert E. Howard” setting, so we looked at “Pigeons from Hell” and his southern horror stories, as well as some other mythos stories associated with the enemy in the scenario for inspiration. The movie Skeleton Key and the show True Detective (the first season, as there is no second season in our imagination) also crept in as atmospheric influences.

Play Notes & Reviews

We are very much looking forward to hearing about your experiences with the game, and especially about player reports of “Dark Swamp” (even a summary of your play through, and projections of where players may venture next).

If you would like to send us those reports, and reviews of your experience that we are given permission to use in our promotions, please email them to mail@thecipherbureau.com. Please add "Play Notes — [your name]" in the subject heading and let us know if we have permission to quote you.

You can also let us know what locations you may like to see developed next in future expansions! We can’t wait to hear your thoughts.

What’s Different About This d100 Mythos Game?

We had some specific design goals in mind when creating Raiders of R’lyeh. A few of the bigger goals follow.

1. Open-ended for customization. Other d100 games — such as Eclipse Phase and Runequest (various editions, especially 6) — have divided skills into common and professional categories. We did so for various reasons, one of them being the ability to easily port the rules to different times and settings. Our Cultural Backgrounds, Combat (with its tactical rules for settings that can use them), Magic, and skill organization were organized to be easily ported to various weird settings: Weird West, Indy-Pulp, Great War, Night Land, Elizabethan-Solomon-Kane, Conan-Cimmerian, Batman-Mythos-Arkham (what!?) and so on…without the need for additional expansion material. The Common skills list (excepting Class & Credit in some cases), for instance, is appropriate for just about any setting, while the Knowledge, Science and Tradeskill skills can be easily customized for the appropriate time period. Kevin Ross — early on — offered advice about simplifying skills, and our dividing skills into a minimal Common skills list with options for adding Professional skills was one of our compromises in moving toward that goal.

2. We spent time refining investigation in the game, not by changing time-honored legacies and rules of the d100 system, but by layering in guidelines for facilitating mysteries, explanations, and examples for investigation-based scenarios. Circles of Influence (derived from other systems), Clue Webs and Scenario Nodes (inspired by several discussions at therpgsite.com and by Justin Alexander’s excellent three-clue rule and node-based design), Networking and Connections rules, Organization/Conspiracy Responses and Hierarchies (drawing influences from Kevin Crawford’s amazing games, roleplayingtips.com, Ken Hite’s work on Night’s Black Agents, and Elizabeth Sampat’s Blowback) were all designed to help facilitate this approach. Our focus from the beginning was to avoid investigations-on-rails.

3. Both Chris Birch and especially the RPGPundit — early on — suggested an “OSR” approach (admittedly a loaded concept at this point) in design — meaning pushing the rules toward sandboxes over railroads. Everything in the game was governed with this in mind (e.g., faction rules, location traits, clue web/node-based approach to scenario design). Kevin Crawford’s work and Justin Alexander’s blog both proved invaluable as inspirations in this effort. Dark Swamp as a scenario is an example of a node-based location, designed as a modular unit to be incorporated into a bigger conspiracy (akin to the various scenarios interconnected in Masks of Nyarlathotep).

4. We wanted a comprehensive mythos creature generator rather than just a fixed set of creatures that every player memorizes — and other mythos-based and weird setting toolkits for the d100 system.

5. We wanted mythos setting material (historical organizations, weapons, personalities, events, and so on) for the Edwardian/Imperial Age.

6. Options for “pulpier” Occultist and Occult Detective characters — akin to much of Lovecraft’s original material and most of Howard’s, and to the Occult Detectives in the works of various weird writers such as William Hope Hodgson, Arthur Machen, and so on — for players who want to incorporate pulpier magic into their mythos game.

7. We wanted a mythos-based d100 system with an OGL, one that others gamers could adapt as they see fit, with ongoing support for other designers to hack their own settings and derived rules. Going forward, we plan to create more locations, NPCs, and weird threats for the setting, and we look forward to seeing others using the system for their own creations.

December 31st, 2016


Part Twenty Eight: Final Laps

Layout on the main book is done — with the exception of a few details that we’re hoping to wrap up soon — and the entire final count is a little over 500 pages. We’re currently trying to determine how to condense the print edition to a streamlined 250 pages, with the total 500 pages broken up into the player’s and gamemaster’s guides.

Additionally, we are working on a better table of contents and much needed index (for each book), which will be very straight forward and completed in short time. In short, the hard work is done, and we’re aiming to get the files to the printer by November (the November date is still tentative and based on everything else going smoothly). Once the player and gamemaster guides are done, I’ll put PDFs up in Backerkit for the relevant backers to review, while we’re doing one last proofreading pass for last minute typos.

We are relieved — and I think the backers will be as well — that we are in the final stages.

The following lists the backers who contributed to Raiders of R’lyeh, and whose names will be added to the book’s front matter. If for some reason you do not see your name here, or see that the spelling is incorrect (these come directly out of Backerkit), you can email mail@thecipherbureau.com with the edit (please add "name change — [your name as it appear here]" in the subject heading.

			3rik de πrik
			Aaron Burkett
			Adam Alexander
			Adam Crossingham
			Adam Flynn
			Adrian Romero
			Ala Fedorova
			Alan B
			Alex EDWARDS
			Alex Jeffries
			Alexander Janssen
			Alexander Lucard
			Alistair Warmington
			Anders Håkon Gaut
			AndP
			Andre Roy
			Andreas Sewe
			Andrew Churchill
			Andrew Cowie
			Andrew Lee
			Andrew Walker
			Angelo J L Chiriaco
			Antoine Drouart
			Asa Enochs
			Avery Cahill
			Barry Backer
			Barry Preston
			Bart Gerard
			Battlefield Press, Inc.
			Beej
			Ben Mihill
			Benjamin Iannetta
			Benoist
			Bentley Burnham
			Bigbywolfe
			Bill Ashbaugh
			Bob Simons
			Boris Jjvc
			Brad
			Brandon Lemos
			Bret Kramer
			Brett 1324
			Brian Koonce
			Brian Moore
			Calum McDonald
			Cameron Manski
			Cameron Marschall
			Carl Hess
			Carlos Castaneda
			Charles
			Charles Myers
			Charlotte Bradshaw
			Chechu
			Chris DeBatt
			Chris Jarocha-Ernst
			Chris McNeil
			Chris Miles
			Chris Tremmel
			Christian Nord
			Christopher Baer
			Christopher Baerman
			Christopher Burrows
			Christopher Grant
			Christopher Lackey
			Christopher Newell
			CJ Romer
			Cliff Winnig
			Colleen Morgan
			Contesse
			coppercrane
			Courtney Cullen
			Craig Wright
			Cris Merta
			Curtis Y. Takahashi
			d70
			Dafydd Nicklin
			Dain Lybarger
			Daniel Ley
			Daniel Minton
			Daniel Nissman
			Daniel Stack
			Darren
			Dave Sokolowski
			David A.Prekup
			David Bresson
			David Esbrí Molinas
			David Jenks
			David Ryan
			David Singer
			David W J Smith
			Dawson Madness
			Dean Engelhardt
			Deborah A. Dunlap
			Dennis Hodel
			Doc Quantum
			Dolly B.
			Dominik Kolodzie
			Doug Bolden
			Doug Seipel
			Ed Coss
			Ed Kowalczewski
			edbury
			Edwin Nagy
			Ellis Goodson
			Endevor
			Engre Beilke
			Enrique Suarez Malo
			Eric
			eric priehs
			Eric Townsend
			Erik Renberg
			Esa Kankaanpää
			Ethan Nicolle
			Fabrice Gatille
			fantomas
			Flávio Giovane Miranda Sobrinho
			Fred Schiff
			FredH
			Gabriel Vaz
			Galahad de Corbenic
			Gareth Davies
			Gareth Green
			Garron Lewis
			Gary McBride
			George Gkafas
			George H. Webster III
			George Rothrock
			Glen Ivey
			Gonzalo Rodriguez Garcia
			Gordon Cranford
			Gregory Turns
			Guillaume Bernard
			Gunnar Hogberg
			Gustavo Iglesias
			H R Bailey
			Hari Bhanu
			Harry Nelson
			Harsh Realities
			Heinrich Helms
			Helder Lavigne
			Herbert Salades
			Hugh Ashman
			Hugo
			Ian McBride
			Iwan Lemmens
			J. Ruben Escudero Martín
			Jace Java
			Jacek Brzezowski
			Jack Tan
			Jacob Carpenter
			Jacob Leeder
			James Morton
			James Pierson
			James Unick
			James Van Horn
			Jason Bean
			Jason Blalock
			Jason Childs
			Jason Cotton
			Jason Crayne
			Jason Hancock
			jason lindsey
			Jason Pasch
			JAvier Perez Garcia
			Jean Durupt
			Jeff Hatch
			Jeffrey Vandine
			jellybelly
			Jennifer L Smith
			Jennifer Pawlik
			Jeremy Holley
			Jeremy Kear
			Jerzy Brzozowski
			jhon r. stronks
			Jim Calabrese
			Joakim Fältman
			Joe Schmoe
			Joerg Sterner
			Joffre Gutierrez Royo
			Johan Englund
			Johan Jonsson
			John Dadlez
			John Dahlstrom
			John Fiala
			John GT
			John Olsen
			John Steemson
			John Wilson
			Jonas Karlsson
			Jonas Schiött
			jonathan wilson
			Jordi Rabionet Hernandez
			Jorge Alejandro Vega
			Jorge Caballero Becerril
			Josef Kennig
			Joseph Austin Christopher Delaney
			Josh Buschbacher
			jowell hearn
			JR Geronimo
			Jussi Kenkkilä
			K Peterson
			karla Turner
			Karsten Brand
			Kate
			Keegan Fink
			Keith Mount
			Kelly Van Campen
			Ken D. Webber
			Ketil Perstrup
			Kevin Crawford
			kirkesque
			KJ Potter
			Kolja Dimmek
			Kris Hume
			Kurt McMahon
			Kyle
			Lars Holgaard
			Laura Matuszek
			Laurence J. Cornford
			lehmann
			Lin Wyeth
			Lippai.Peter
			Lisa Padol
			Liz Spain
			Luke McDonald
			Lynn Maudlin
			M. Sean Molley
			Marc Margelli
			marcied
			Mario Bacci
			Mario Rousseau
			Mark Grehan
			Mark Tresidder
			Markus Plötz
			Mathieu Giacomo
			Matt
			Matt Whalley
			Matthew Capizzi
			Matthew Robinson
			Matthew Robinson
			Matthew Storms
			Max Moraes
			Michael & Rebecca Daumen
			Michael B. Moe
			Michael Beck
			Michael Bowman
			Michael C
			Michael Crenshaw
			Michael J. Raymond
			Michał Kłosowski
			Mick Fernette
			Mike
			Mike Musteric
			MOLL
			Morgan Hay
			Morgan Hazel
			Morten Jørgensen
			Nathan Hill
			Nathan O. Ferguson
			Nathan Olmstead
			Nbaer
			Neal Dalton
			Neal5x5
			Nicholas Clements
			Nicholas Warcholak
			Nigel Holloway
			Nikdo
			nimdil
			Odysseus King
			Olivier LEFEBVRE
			olivierp10
			Ovid
			Owlglass
			pagurus
			Patrice Mermoud
			Patrick Walter
			Paul Baker
			Paul de Haan
			Paul Phillips
			Paul Watson
			Paulo M Djordjevic
			Peggy Carpenter
			Peter Reynolds
			Philip Wright
			Philippe Gamache
			Phillip
			Rachael McCormick
			Rachel Mizsei Ward
			RAEX GAMES
			Raffaele Passarelli
			Renato Retz
			Rene Suarez
			Richard Mundy
			Robert Andersson
			Robert Biskin
			Robert Freeborn
			robert kim
			Robert Parker
			Robert Thomson
			Robin Hampton
			Roborogue
			robyn boyd
			Rock Harris
			Rod Chanas
			Rod Meek
			Ronny Anderssen
			Rory
			Runeslinger
			Ryan
			Ryk Langton
			Sara B
			Sara Peters
			Schaeffer Tolliver
			Sean Nyhan
			Sean Sidky
			Sean Wall
			Seth
			shemjaza
			Sid Wood
			Sleet
			Sonja Bauer
			Sophia Owens
			sparky1479
			stephanie wagner
			Steve Ellis
			Steve Rubin
			Steven Darrall
			Steven Marsh
			Steven Thesken
			Steven Warble
			Stuart
			Tara Imbery
			tauther
			Temoore
			TenNapel
			Terrell
			Theodore Kabisios
			Thiago Augusto
			Thibaut
			Thomas Dahmen
			Thomas Di Paolo
			Thomas Jones
			Timothy Burns
			Tom Delegarde
			Tony Gaitskell
			Tony Reyes
			Top Deck Games
			Travis Arnold
			Trevor Towers
			Trevor Yarmovich
			Trip the Space Parasite
			Tristan Lhomme
			Umpherous
			Uwe Schumacher
			vigilare
			Vojtech Pribyl
			Vojtěch Zavadil
			Von Quiroz
			wesley cole
			Will Law
			William J. (B.J.) Altman
			William Stowers
			WL Frye
			Wynand Hart
			Wyng'd Lyon Creations
			Yomi Akins
			Yosef Maayan
			
October 21st, 2016


Part Twenty Seven: Responses

Although I’m not actively participating in RPG forums right now — largely due to the amount of work and mental energy that RoR requires — I am trying to stay current with feedback and comments as much as feasible. A few common comments and questions popped up on either forums or in email, and I wanted to post some responses here.

Comments and Questions

Is the delay of physical books due to the costs of printing and shipping?

Printing and shipping costs do not factor into the delay time. In fact, we are actually going to use a more expensive solution than we previously decided, which will handle all of the fulfillment; after the delay with the book creation, we wanted to go with a solution where shipping would be handled by people specializing in fulfillment, in order to expedite the whole process. We’ll share more when the books are ready to ship.

Was there a delay with any of the other writers or artist?

To be clear, Kevin Ross, RPGPundit, and Cliff Cramp produced fantastic work and finished their obligations to the game on time, and this has not factored into the delay at all. They were each amazing contributors to the project. Beyond his writing duties, Kevin Ross contributed valuable insight about the skills and offered some advice about fine-tuning the rules, as a consultant RPGPundit was instrumental early on with many of the nuts and bolts of the game (in just about every category, but especially in regard to the role of the occult), and as the color illustrator Cliff Cramp worked above and beyond to produce some of my favorite work from him. Any delay is solely my fault as the creator. I would eagerly work with any one of them again, given the opportunity to do so.

A lot of Kickstarters get tied up due to personal issues and crises; did something personal happen?

Some lifechanging issues have occurred during the production. Though problems like these are never anticipated at the outset, they do seem to occur at the worst possible times. I made the decision not to share the details of these personal issues. Though I believe in transparency with a project, ultimately — and unless they halt the production of a project — these issues aren’t the backers’ problems, nor will I use them as an excuse for the delay. As I’ve written in a past post, lessons have been learned from this first Kickstarter, and at this point we are working tirelessly to finish what we started on this first attempt despite errors made.

Despite the delay, the core rule book that we’ve seen looks great

The feedback we’ve read so far on the core rules book has been largely very positive, and we’re absolutely thrilled that backers are liking what they are seeing. Note also that the final book will have even more material.

What’s causing the delay, then, at this point?

Largely, additional material, including content catered especially for backer contributors. Early delays were caused by an entire rewrite of the rules based on play test feedback. Later delays were caused by fine-tuning and added content. One example is the Extraplanar Entities chapter, which was originally designed to be a few pages or a mere sidenote for the Evocation spell, but was then expanded into a massive chapter of material. A whole chapter was devoted to the sorcerer backers (with some suitably gross details...I’m looking forward to sharing the “Maw Maw,” as well as our version of the Worms That Walk).

In summary, we too often followed the impulse, “Wouldn’t it be cool if...” And unfortunately, each addition causes some rules tweaks and more revision. If we were to go back in time and do this all over again, we would have curbed this impulse, and most likely cut much of the extras offered in the launch and simply gone with a leaner core book. Thankfully, we are now past this impulse stage of adding in more material, and in the final stages of production.

The magic system is a bit less dangerous than expected

The higher level spells (at levels four and five and above) shouldn’t be. The magic system is designed as a bit of a toolkit for the gamemaster. The lower level spells are designated as “occult” spells, the kind that may be used by an occult detective or psychic, while the higher level spells are meant for the awful mythos (with much higher Rationality costs). RoR attempts to be useful for both nihilistic mythos campaigns and (for lack of a better word) pulpy adventures starring psychics and occultists as heroes. In future posts we’ll discuss ways of adjusting some of the settings in the magic system to accommodate both play styles.

There were more comments, but these were some of the ones we wanted to address immediately. We were also due for an update, and we apologize for the time that has transpired between communication.

June 20th, 2016


Part Twenty Five: Setting Creation Chapter

We had a question about what the gamemaster chapter and factions look like, so we’re posting a large preview showcasing some of the gamemaster resources: Setting Chapter Preview. As far as final editing and page count, the book looks like we’ll be able to get it to under 500 pages.

March 31st, 2016


Part Twenty Six: Progress Report

Just wanted to check in with a brief update. If you missed our last post, we showed a 30-page preview of the Setting chapter (which provides a good idea of the depth of the gamemaster resources).

In all, chapters will break down into:

Setting Creation (including a collection of organizations from the era, from intelligence agencies to detective bureaus and secret society lodges, as well as ideas for secret factions and cults within these organizations or as separate entities, NPC stats for warlords, criminals, soldiers, spies, thugs, beasts...all the added Kickstarter-backed NPCs and organizations...and more)

The Glove (an entire chapter devoted to RoR’s original organization, material added by our sorcerer-level backers)

Story Creation (including the structuring of nodes for a mystery or adventure, or combination of the two, allowing for free exploration by the players, a walk-through of the gamemaster worksheets, plot hook and patron tables, and more)

The Mythos (including all the creature stats, Ancient One hooks, and more)

May 3rd, 2016


Part Twenty Five: Setting Creation Chapter

We had a question about what the gamemaster chapter and factions look like, so we’re posting a large preview showcasing some of the gamemaster resources: Setting Chapter Preview. As far as final editing and page count, the book looks like we’ll be able to get it to under 500 pages.

March 31st, 2016


Part Twenty Four: 300-page Core Rules Document

In the next few days, you can expect an update to your Backerkit account: the newest Core Rules Document with some fixes and updates. We’re just going through to check for any accidental or egregious typos. With a few updates, it comes to a nice round 300 pages — a Tome of Toolkits!

Outside of some typographic fixes, you can look forward to the following included material:

—Military ranks of the period (armies and navies) and suggested skill point allocations for soldier or sailor character creation

—British ranks of peerage (e.g., how are dukes addressed, what are the differences between a marquess and a viscount, how are ladies addressed if single or married, children of nobility)

—Boston police department structure and ranks of the period (from the Board of Commissioners to reserve officers), Boston jails, and suggested skill point allocations for Boston investigator or police-based character creation

—Same as above, but for Arkham’s police (based on historical details of the period, historical Salem, etc.)

—Departments of Miskatonic University and a few more academies, societies and institutions (e.g., Lahore Museum in Punjab, King’s College in Cambridge), some of which will get deeper coverage in future expansions

—Chase rules added to the Game Mechanics chapter (7 pages worth, condensed down from our original material into a nice, concise, digestible set of rules; with chase actions and reactions; for foot, mounts, vehicles, or a combination; including vehicle hit locations)

—Average voyage times to major ports, and calculating voyage times based on vessel type (e.g., sailing, tramps, ocean liners) and other conditions

—Average travel times by train, in Europe (e.g., from Paris), on the Trans-Siberian Express to Vladivostok, etc., throughout the U.K., and in the U.S., including mythos hotspots from fiction sources (e.g., Howard’s south, Campbell’s Brichester, Lovecraft’s Dean’s Corners and Foxfield, etc.), and calculating travel times based on train type (e.g., old, high-speed) and other conditions, famous passenger train services (e.g., Orient Express, Nord-Sud Express, Peninsular Express)

—New Knowledge and Tradeskills essential for using the extra material added by our sorcerer backers, including: Education, Electrical Repair, Telegraphy and Espionage (including tradecraft specializations); rewriting or slight additions to a few other skills (such as Tactics and Command)

—A few fixes and updates to some of the professions, including rules for creating a spy recruit (the old spy listing is now included as a seasoned intelligence agent) with new special abilities (e.g., Handler or case officer)

—Set pieces added to the Game Mechanics chapter (including a couple examples; there will be more set pieces in the gamemaster resource chapters and in future expansions)

—OGL included

—Probably some more that I am forgetting, but you get the idea...

Along with these updates, we’re moving quickly through making sure the gamemaster resource chapters are top-notch, and we’re making headway on the other expansion material (e.g., Secrets of Sargasso Sea, which we’re especially excited about; player’s guide...), and will be revealing in the near future our ideas for future expansions and changes to the website. See you in a few days!

February 29th, 2016


Part Twenty Three: The Glove Chapter Excerpt

The following is for gamemasters only!

Our last post revealed some details about the Glove (included as a major organization in the gamemaster chapters of the final book). The following is an excerpt from the chapter devoted entirely to the Glove. (Note that the final editing pass may slightly change or augment some of the text you see here). We’d also like to mention that — even though we’re not posting them here — the Sorcerer-backer villains are very nasty characters!

...

The Orient House at No. 1 Waterfront Street

The Orient House was a warehouse — located at No. 1 Waterfront Street in the now-haunted docks of east Arkham — once owned by the Orient Shipping Company but later acquired by Bozeman when the company moved its facilities to Boston. The darkened two story structure flanks the northern edge of the Miskatonic River’s estuary and feeds out into the Atlantic Ocean — isolated on a pier once dedicated entirely to the company’s operation. Now the entrance, accessible only by a quarter mile walk from Waterfront Street, is guarded by a two story wall (lined at its top with mortared, shattered glass), a cast iron fence (still emblazoned with the Orient Shipping Company’s monogram), and four vicious mastiffs trained by Lloyd Gros.

In its day, the Orient House employed a motley crew of 300 foreign laborers, and covered an area of approximately 20 acres, with three entrances on the Miskatonic and three on the Atlantic, a water-room housing five vessels, a storage capacity of 50,000 tons of goods (plus its cellars and upstairs offices), and a furnace and sweeping chimney (where in colonial days confiscated goods, spurious gold and silver wares, and adulterated tea and tobacco would be incinerated). Today, the warehouse’s storage facility and vaults contain smuggled goods and peoples coming in and out of Arkham under the cover of night, as well as Innsmouth-marked gold and silver bullion (amounting to $250,000), and several off-the-books occult artifacts (stacked in crates marked with six-digit identification numbers and addressed to various ports throughout the world), all isolated by Bozeman and the Arkham Commission for Antiquities.

The Vault

The bullion and a few select artifacts are kept inside a twenty-by-thirty foot vault. The vault is constructed of steel-reinforced concrete, and fastened to a thick concrete foundation secured to the ocean floor beneath the docks. Its walls and door are 2 and 4 feet thick, respectively. The lever on the door is a theft-proof combination lock which works on a timer — meaning that its mechanism may be turned only from 3 a.m. to 4 a.m. each morning, a window of time too short for any concentrated series of skill checks attempting to overcome the (Engineering 120%) lock. Any attempt to force the mechanism outside of this window will immediately fasten the door with internal reinforced steel rods. However, a successful Engineering or Mechanisms roll will reveal to the observer that small grooves in the vault’s door frame — designed to prevent the door from being levered open — may allow enough room for an explosive ingredient such as liquid nitroglycerine to be introduced. With a successful Explosives check, one may know: how to produce such an ingredient (by boiling dynamite in a kettle of water and skimming the nitroglycerin off the top); how to safely transport the nitroglycerin to the vault’s location without unwittingly setting off a premature explosion; and, how to drip the volatile liquid into the door grooves to blast the door open.

{Vault contents and its occult artifacts are not detailed in this excerpt}

Outside of Bozeman, only Lloyd Gros knows the protocols for successfully opening the vault. However, any skill check attempting to Intimidate (or otherwise threaten) Gros (or his family) will prove Daunting; he’s a hardened police officer (who sees his family as expendable) and he’s simply more afraid of his employers. However, Gros is weak when it comes to sexually aggressive women, and may succumb to divulging information after a successful opposed check of a female’s Seduction versus his Intuition of 51%.

The Patrol

A patrol of a dozen immigrants are always present — all of them inhabiting (and never leaving) the property — and checked daily by one of Lloyd Gros’ detectives (most typically, Virgil Wright). Each of the immigrants speaks broken (almost barking) English, and not one of them looks ethnically related to the Chinese, Portuguese, Polish, Greek or Italian immigrants common to the industrialized factories of Boston or north Arkham — though an outsider may see a resemblance to one or more of these ethnicities in any one of them. A relevant Knowledge check (e.g., Anthropology) may suggest any one of the following scant details about the culture of the immigrants: that their religion in a superficial way resembles that of some Western African tribal groups or related Voodoo sects; that their facial features somewhat suggest Asiatic or possibly native-American origins; that their dwarfish statures may place them in any number of isolated jungles in South America, interior Africa or central Asia; or, that their language sounds remotely Basque.

There is something unnatural and off-putting about their mannerisms and movements (not to mention their religious practices involving chickens and bloodletting), and even Lloyd Gros and his men feel uncomfortable around them (sharing in private all manner of imprecise racial slurs to describe their “swarthy, oily and inhuman faces and habits”). Virgil, especially, would enjoy ending each one of them, given the opportunity or command to do so — and never enters the Orient House facilities without a loaded pistol. Strangely, each of the mastiffs also appears uncomfortable around the immigrants, slinking in a wide circle around them when they approach, always with a tail tucked low.

The immigrants live in a tenement haphazardly constructed at the back of the Orient House docks and consisting of four shanties — with each shanty containing: an unkempt chicken coop; four crude beds; a littering of garbage and bones; an assortment of utensils, machetes, hatchets and cleavers hanging from the ceiling like gruesome wind chimes; several rudimentary stoves made from tin cans and alcohol; and, shipping crates (repurposed for the storage of rusted equipment, ratty clothing, M1895 Lee Navy rifles in badly treated conditions, and ammunition boxes).

In the fourth shanty is erected a three-foot tall amorphous sculpture — made from chicken bones, human vertebrae (identifiable with a relevant skill check), and excrement — and encircled by candles made from wax and human fat.

Only a mythos-based Occult skill may identify the immigrants as Tcho-Tcho and the true nature of their statue as a shrine dedicated to their foul gods, Lloigor and Zhar the Twin Obscenities — though simply seeing and smelling the sculpture (and being swarmed by its attendant cloud of flies) results in a Rationality check testing Fortitude (Normal), for –1d4 points of potential dread.

The Orient House Tcho-Tcho (routinely shipped in by one of Bozeman’s overseas contacts) are faithful minions of the deep ones in Innsmouth — though they are ordered by Prudence Dow Peabody to follow the instructions of Bozeman and any of his lieutenants (such as Lloyd Gros). Bozeman knows the savage creatures will turn on him or his employees if the deep ones order them to do so. Their instructions — beyond following the day to day upkeep of the Orient House — is to capture any intruders and keep them imprisoned until instructed otherwise, or — in the event of a casualty — to hide any bodies until Bozeman, Gros, or any other known associate arrives to ameliorate the situation. Though the Tcho-Tcho reluctantly follow these orders, they are gnashing their sharpened teeth and eagerly awaiting any allowance to savagely kill intruders (or Bozeman and his associates).

In the event of a total siege by authorities, the Tcho-Tcho are to entrench themselves in the warehouse with their rifles (as they have been taught various sniping tactics by Virgil Wright) — until Gros’ lawyers arrive with their legal countermeasures. If given free reign, the Tcho-Tcho would prefer to use only a few snipers to confuse any intruders, while the rest of the contingent sneaks from the shadows and through the facility’s network of smuggling tunnels — employing claws, teeth, cleavers and machetes — killing their quarries outright or capturing prey alive for ritualistic torture.

Though the Tcho-Tcho know how to summon the deep ones, they rarely do. Outside of Prudence and a few other human-appearing hybrids, the deep ones never expose themselves at the Orient House — save for a few select nights during the year (one of them being Walpurgis on April 30th) devoted to the Twin Obscenities. On these dedicated nights, for payment to the Tcho-Tcho, a group of deep ones rise from the greasy water at the edge of the Orient House with two attendant shoggoths. As the Tcho-Tcho believe the shoggoths to be the living avatars of their gods, the deep ones allow the Tcho-Tcho to sacrifice twin victims (whose captures are arranged by Bozeman) to the monsters — which, in mere seconds, rend, tear and suck the victims apart while the Tcho-Tcho dance and writhe in orgiastic ecstasy. During the ritual, the terrified mastiffs are kenneled in their quarters near the Orient House entrance. Anyone suffering to witness this scene must make a Rationality check testing Willpower (Hard), for –1d20 points of shock and awe. If exposed to outsiders during the ritual, the deep ones and their shoggoths will immediately retreat into the water, while the Tcho-Tcho savagely attack.

...

January 30th, 2016


Part Twenty Two: The Glove

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“I am sure that V— knows only a fragment of the horrible truth, so that I am indeed unprepared and defenceless. What of the line before old Claes? What he did in 1591 could never have been done without generations of evil heritage, or some link with the outside. And what of the branches this monstrous line has sent forth? Are they scattered over the world, all awaiting their common heritage of horror?”—The Diary of Alonzo Typer

We were hoping to have another big download before Christmas, but we’re not quite there yet. We know people are asking for their books, but we also want to make sure the gamemaster chapters are as solid as the Core Rules document.

So today, instead, we wanted to reveal a little about what kind of material is going into those chapters. The Glove, which was a little over a page of material in our original game document, has now been expanded to an entire chapter of conspiratorial content — thanks primarily to our Sorcerer level backers: Brett Bozeman, Doug TenNapel, and Jason Blalock (who themselves will figure prominently as powerful adversaries in the setting).

Players may want to skip this update with very minor reveals...

The Glove is merely one unofficial name for the group, who plot in the shadows behind the events of history. They are financiers of sorts — and puppeters, of course — tasking their agents with carrying out their multifarious agendas.

The Edwardian was an age of old money families and industrialist upstarts merging interests to consolidate power and control over the globe. Many a conspiracy theory follows the connections of the Morgans, the Rockefellers, and the Rothschilds (and the web of the other established dynasties as well as supposed Illuminati figures) — the Houses and corporate interests of the Glove would fit nicely in their company, with the added detail of their bloodlines connecting to ancient horrors.

The Glove is an octopus of businesses and powers — reaching into oil, gold, and other resources, and especially into information (both intelligence and occult). Many private interests may not even know they are unwitting pawns or business fronts for these families.


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The Glove takes inspiration from several sources, one being the history of the Edwardian and the actual politics and practices of these emerging corporate and banking dynasties. Lovecraft also points to several old money families and European dynasties, the stories of which we mine for material (looking quite often at his less exploited ones for content).

Additionally, the Glove is designed to fit into the loose Lovecraftian canon (suggested by his core stories and the generally accepted mythos timeline) and to easily connect with other published scenarios — for the gamemaster looking to create these connections — many of which provide occult Macguffins that would be of great interest to the old families.

Lastly, a variety of player types have been considered when devising the Glove’s schemes and plot hooks. We considered the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark — where military intelligence agents approach Indiana Jones with a mission of great importance — as the quintessential patron and plot hook scene. It would be easy to simply make these intelligence agents unwitting representatives of the Glove’s interests. However, for the everyman characters, we wanted clear reasons for the Glove to approach them, as well, and the chapter provides enough resources for petitioning these more unassuming types.

The Glove also answers a question about the secrecy of the mythos, and why certain mysteries just remain unexplored or at least obfuscated from the public. Do factions of the mythos have plans to infiltrate and colonize us, not necessarily dissimilar to the ways in which an imperial power would control the Congo or any other “less able” peoples? Would they need willing human agents to carry out their plans? We’ll let that question sit for a while...

We’re excited to show you the final gamemaster chapters, including the complete material for the Glove. For now, we want to wish everyone a fantastic holiday!

December 23rd, 2015


Part Twenty One: More Backer NPCs

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As previously promised, here are two more Kickstarter-backer, NPC entries from the final sourcebook (and again: spoilers for gamemasters only!)

Lynn Maudlin suggested to us that her character be a ‘a little bit shady (e.g., Mme. Magdalen, who holds seances rather Arthur Conan Doyle-esque but is ultimately confronted with spiritual reality, who might go mad, might become a nun, who knows?!)’ and to ‘think Tim Powers kinds of characters.’

Kirk Barrett provided some fairly detailed bulletpoints for a smuggler or occultist character, providing details about the Black Hand, his character’s occupation, his source of injuries, and even his stock weapon.

We took the writing prompts and came up with the following.

Lynn ‘Mad’ Maudlin

Born in 1859 (in Chicago), Lynn Maudlin was a musician and Bohemian in her youth, traveling throughout America and Europe, meeting fellow eccentrics, and reading fortunes as ‘Madam Magdalen.’ She made numerous alliances during these travels, including one with fellow mysticist Edgar Cayce, and another with William James — through whom she would later meet and befriend Henry James (author of Turn of the Screw), writer and designer Edith Wharton, and Theodore Roosevelt (a former student of James’), among others.

Her associations with several psychic research groups — such as Cayce’s Association of National Investigators in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, and the American Society for Psychical Research in Boston, Massachusetts — would only widen her social network in America and abroad. By 1910, she could include in her résumé such clientele as Woodrow Wilson, Thomas Edison and even Calamity Jane (now deceased). She was also acquainted with the late Moses Polock (renowned antiquarian and rare book dealer); the friendship would eventually inspire Lynn’s interest in the rare books trade.

By 1901 — after acquiring a rare books collection through a private family trust, and using seed capital from her literary friends — Maudlin established Mme. Magdalen, Ltd. Headquartered in a back shop and basement at 1312 Chaffee Avenue in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the independently owned dealer has now become one of the most prestigious rare antiquarian booksellers in the United States — and perhaps in Britain as well.

Maudlin’s largest competitors in the rare books trade — Abraham Simon Wolf Rosenbach (the nephew of Moses Polock), located in Philadelphia, and Gabriel Wells, located in New York City — are both resourceful rivals. However, Maudlin successfully monopolizes the Bible and occult text markets, by leveraging her specialized network of associates — often to the frustrations of Rosenbach and Wells.

By 1910, she claims Julius Rosenwald (of Sears, Roebuck and Company), J.P. Morgan, and Harry Elkins Widener (whose name will later be memorialized in the Widener Library at Harvard), as former or current clients. Various trusts at Harvard and Miskatonic Universities, and numerous other undisclosed patrons, also employ her services. Additionally, Maudlin periodically provides pro bono work for the Pinkerton National Detective Agency — for which she is fed inside information about black market and other criminal dealings — as well as for the church — through which a multitude of sordid but useful rumors flow. Maudlin keeps on retainer several investigators (one of whom is an ex-Pinkerton) who acquire these rare manuscripts — some even scouring the globe — for her high profile benefactors.


Shadow Out of Time: Maudlin is still sorting out what happened to her when she was eight years old, during a three month period she cannot remember; unbeknown to her, she was abducted by the Yith (for some unfathomable reason), transported psychically across time and space to an alien outpost, and granted privileged access to their academic quarters. She also met other abducted victims during her incarceration, including a King of Norway from 990 A.D., book collector Harry Elkins Widener from 1912 A.D. (who himself would be returned to his body on the morning of April 12th, on the RMS Titanic, only to drown within hours of its sinking), and a fantasist from 2000 A.D. After the ordeal of being trapped — as a mental essence — in the alien Yithian body — she was eventually returned to her own human form (existing in 1867). Though the Yith removed her memories of the experience, a piece of her host’s consciousness remained lodged in her psyche (appearing as a periodic, hypnagogic suggestion of angelic visitation). After returning to her own body, and with some rehabilitation — learning to speak again — she then lived a reasonably normal life (but one still haunted by dreams of her lost time). The experience left in her both a Psychic Sensitivity and a Mythos Intuition, which she presumably puts to use in the resolutions of her particular business interests. These ‘abilities’ are also problematic, causing an abnormal obsession with conspiracies, puzzles and book (especially esoteric) hoarding.

Bibliomaniac’s Collection: Maudlin’s ‘other’ private collection exists in a secret, windowless and locked room beneath her shop, a dungeon of sorts with ceiling-high, maze-like shelves and an office (storing a wine rack on one wall and a wood-burning stove in the corner). The entrance to the downstairs is through a vault door, hidden behind a trick bookshelf. This area, and its contents — as well as any information about the mythos or contact information for the ‘real’ book trade — are available only to allies and other important clients.

Campaign Leads (see AL AZIF, ALEPPO): For her special clients, Maudlin’s sideline — a natural outgrowth of her business — is secrets. Unlike most booksellers, she knows several (inaccurate) rumors about the origination of Al Azif, and can pass on several leads to foreign contacts and nodes — most likely in Aleppo; however, depending on the gamemaster’s discretion, any of the AL AZIF leads may be suggested (e.g., Providence, Sanaá, Damascus). As an adversary, she may offer a red herring, or — as a last resort — call in a favor from one of her clients or contacts (e.g., The Widener Estate, Kolodzie, The Burkett Detective Agency, The Pinkerton Agents, Boston’s Sherlock Holmes).


Sava Puško (alias: Kirk Barrett)

The Serbian smuggler Sava Puško was born Sava Dušan Petrović (January 12th, 1873) on his family’s estate in Vlaha (a medieval village a few miles outside of Rakovica, Belgrade).

As a member of the well-connected Petrović dynasty (second cousins descended from Đorđe ‘Karađorđe’ Petrović, from the House of Karađorđević), Puško inherited a position in the family business — chiefly involving the exportation of pigs out of Serbia, and the evasion of aggressive economic and political sanctions imposed by the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the House of Habsburg.

Puško’s other business was the illegal import and export of munitions (and other expensive goods) — using the family business as cover and its shipping alliances as accomplices — brokering agreements with various countries such as France and Bulgaria, and undermining Austro-Hungarian interests in Serbia. After Austria closed its borders to Serbian pork in 1906 — as a punitive action against Serbia — Puško’s smuggling profits increased three-fold.

After the family’s successful investment in the brutal assassinations of Serbian King Alexander Obrenović and his wife, Queen Draga — in the May Coup of 1903 — the Petrović clan gained political capital and Puško became a paid asset working under Serbian spymaster Rade Malobabić (a key figure in the Black Hand, the secret society responsible for the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in 1914). Puško’s shipping experience made him the perfect kingpin of Malobabić’s smuggling operation — moving weapons, medicine, liquor, people, and other contraband through various channels open to the Petrović pork trade.

In addition to the Petrović connections to several Eastern Orthodox sanctuaries (some of which provided safe houses for Puško’s underlings as well as the temporary warehousing of illicit goods), the family merchant vessel business in Thessaloniki (their capital ships being the Aglaia, the Thalia, and the Krinaia), and their overland black market routes throughout Serbia, Puško now possessed the tacit cooperation of customs officials and intelligence officers in Serbia and its bordering territories. These connections would later provide the infrastructure for the Black Hand’s smuggling network. By 1910, very few illicit goods or foreign agents could move through the region without the alerted attention of Puško or his handler, Malobabić.

Puško is a sinister and imposing figure. One side of his face is etched with an almost symmetrical burst pattern — the result of a bad deal with a Sicilian agent in Aden (by the name of Filippo Tarantino), who scarred Puško (with a vial of acid) for a crate of British rifles and approximately ten thousand pounds. Years later, rumors floated through the Mediterranean that Puško tracked Tarantino to Porto Empedocle, captured the Sicilian after a brutal firefight, and shipped him as prisoner to Vlaha (where he fed the thief to his pigs after extorting a hefty ransom for his release from the Tarantino family). Puško has since grown his hair and beard overlong — to better conceal the scar — looking a bit more like a mad mystic out of the steppes of Russia than a lieutenant for Serbian intelligence.

Along with the scar, Puško’s other trademark is his personal use (and avid collection) of weapon prototypes. His current treasured sidearm is a Stevens Model 520 pump-action slide shotgun, a prototype gifted to Puško through a Mormon missionary and gun dealer (and close associate of American gunsmith John Moses Browning) operating in Thessaloniki.

Puško uses several aliases, including Sava Jovanović, Dušan Jovanović and Kirk Barrett — the latter of which was the identity of a British gunrunner and intelligence officer in Thessaloniki who Puško coldly murdered in order to acquire the agent’s Greek territory.

Puško’s business is headquartered outside of Belgrade, on his family’s estate in Vlaha (an eternally feudal village near Rakovica). The estate is a renovated citadel surrounded by stream-lined rolling hills and picturesque forest. Vlaha itself is a medieval village serving the Petrović family — a clan of seventy divided into two warring factions entrenched across Belgrade — with its rural acreage of once struggling vineyards now converted to the tasks of raising and slaughtering pigs (the stench of which, on warm days, is noticeable from the city).


Cult of Cthulhu: The village also happens to be the site of a burgeoning yet still invisible Cthulhoid cult — known only as the Brotherhood of Vlaha — masking itself as an autonomous Orthodox sect unaffiliated to any diocese and unrecognized by the Patriarch of Serbia. The cult is the unassuming (and therefore overlooked) hobby of Puško’s deranged uncle Mihailo Petrović, a defrocked exile from the Orthodox church obsessed with Vlaha’s natural history. In actuality, the cult is nothing more than a dozen pig farmers, and three of Puško’s wayward brothers, attending the family chapel — a weather-beaten Serbo-Byzantine structure built over the family crypt. Unbeknownst to Puško, however, Mihailo has discovered an immense prehistoric cavern beneath Vlaha, littered with ancient Vinča remains and other evidence of cannibalistic rituals — including those of the Serbian families predating the Petrović dynasty by several centuries. Though Mihailo’s sect follows much of the Orthodox liturgy, Milhailo has subverted its symbolism to mask the true nature of their worship.

Inhuman Bloodline: Puško is most likely not yet aware of the strange blood that runs in his veins, nor of the mixed ancestry of his estate (a realization already made by Puško’s uncle). If Puško comes into contact with a true mythos artifact, or somehow succumbs to a mental disorder, he will quickly become obsessed with the exploration of this inheritance — to the detriment of anyone who challenges this newfound passion.

Campaign Leads (see SMUGGLERS, KOLODZIE, THE SORCERERS): It is unlikely that Puško would directly work with (or for) the adventurers, unless they were likely connected with an object of inestimable value (e.g., Al Azif or another equally invaluable treasure) or allied with Kolodzie (whose network is wide enough to engage Puško’s interest in his operations). If Puško is not yet involved with the mythos, he may serve as a smuggling node for a larger conspiracy (e.g., the Glove). If and when he becomes engaged with the mythos, he will turn his shipping business into a front for an expansive seafaring syndicate (in service to the forces of Cthulhu).

November 24th, 2015


Part Twenty: Gamemaster Resources

As noted in September’s post, the gamemaster chapters focus quite a bit on gamemaster (and scenario author) resources.

Here are 8 pages of gamemaster resources.

The gamemaster resources chapter will walk the reader through each of these worksheets (these effectively provide an outline of the major sections of the chapter); in practice they are designed to help a scenario writer (using RoR or another system) brainstorm usable content quickly, and a gamemaster organize a growing campaign into its various nodes and other elements.

Not all worksheets are necessarily required at all times. Think of each of these as a tool for its specific task. Some scenarios may best be created with the “Adventure Worksheet” or “Encounters Worksheet,” while others may require various interrelating nodes (e.g., major NPCs and stock characters, various global regions and locations, a collection of MacGuffins and other objects, factions).

There’s been a bit of a delay since our last post. We’ll remedy that with another update soon (we have several updates to get out that have been piling up while we finish editing and layout on the print edition). One of the updates may be another Ancient One from the print edition or another backer NPC profile. We’ll try to get two more updates out before the end of November.

November 9th, 2015


Part Nighteen: Adventure Design Worksheet

The gamemaster chapters focus quite a bit on structuring scenarios or analyzing preexisting scenarios — especially ones involving the exploration of clues and leads — and organizing these scenarios into a larger campaign.

Here is a look at one of the organizational worksheets:

Adventure Design Worksheet [Edit: check Part Twenty update]

The adventure creation chapter will discuss these various elements in more detail. Time permitting, we’ll walk you through a worksheet in a future update.

We’re currently working on the final layout of the gamemaster chapters. Once this is done, we’ll be wrapping up the final illustrations as well. As you can see with the previousy released Core Rules Document, the game became bigger in scope than initially planned.

In fact, what you’ve seen is HALF of the final material! We’re challenged now with keeping the final print book’s page count down, without sacrificing too much of the extras that we wanted in the book (especially considering the backer characters, backer sorcerers, and expanded Ancient One sections, etc.).

September 12th, 2015


Part Eighteen: Backer NPCs

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If you missed the Core Rules document release update, the link to it is here. It seems to be getting some positive buzz, and we’re really thrilled to hear it. Our hope and plan is that when the entire document and support material get into the wild, once the backers are fulfilled, the game will live and grow. We have quite a few plans for supporting and exanding the game, which we’ll discuss in a future update.

For the next few updates, we want to warn you that the material is for Gamemasters only, and may contain some spoilers. We wish we had indicated this with the Tsathoggua update!

That said, today we wanted to celebrate those backers who offered to be a part of the setting. Among them (and I hope we aren’t missing or misspelling anyone here; if we are we’ll catch it on an edit!) are: Brandon Lemos, George Rothrock, Scott Turns, Lynn Maudlin, Mark Tresidder, Peggy Carpenter, Travis Arnold, Aaron Burkett, Andre Roy, Bret Kramer, Dominik Kolodzie, Christian Lehmann, Jorge Alejandro Vega, Kirk Barrett, Mike Caballero, and Stuart John Hamilton. Our major sorcerors (greater in power than Joseph Curwen, and each becoming a major antagonist in the setting and in any potential expansion material in the future) are Brett Bozeman, Doug TenNapel, and Jason Blalock.

These backers pledged as heroes or villains (or sorcerers) — and in a few cases as antiheroes — and many contributed ideas they’d like realized in their characters (which will all end up in the sourcebook). We found the creative writing challenge a blast; it was difficult in some places, and especially with some of the wilder ideas, but was also fun seeing how to integrate these into our setting material. The process was very similar to the collaboration between a gamemaster and players. Oftentimes the best ideas come about in that synthesis of personalities.

There were quite a few requests for occult detectives. We resolved to make each detective unique, and loosely based on archetypes in the source material. We’ve got a Jules de Grandin type (as a scion of a French shipping company), on one end of the spectrum, and a female Sherlock (who inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) with an eidetic memory and haunting memories of meeting H.H. Holmes on the other, with a variety of permutations in the middle (such as a British lord based loosely on Dunsany). Some backers gave us a fairly straightforward directive — such as being the setting’s Indiana Jones; others were quite varied in their ideas — with concepts for a smuggler’s backstory, special weaponry, connections, and thoughts about his involvement with the mythos. One backer suggested her character pay homage to the work of Tim Powers. With villains, we had requests for a forensics scientist with questionable hobbies, a serial murderer, a criminal mastermind (with an almost impossible resume of talents and experiences), a gentleman thief, and a master spy with global connections. Doug TenNapel (creator of Earthworm Jim and Catscratch) asked us to somehow include “worms” and “cats” in his magical repertoire. We had to balance all of the requests with the adventure horror setting we were aiming to achieve.

One challenge was making sure some modern names fit with the setting. With a few names, and where we could get away with it, we offered aliases, monikers or abbreviated forms as alternatives. We also tried to use the etymology or history of the last names somehow. Surnames like Caballero, Maudlin, and Rothrock suggest cultural histories; we tried to tap into these etymologies where we could.

Generally, we tried to include with each backer description several plot hooks, organizations, and connections to historical figures (without overdoing it with these name drops).

Here’s an example of one of these descriptions from the final sourcebook (and again: spoilers for gamemasters only!) Jorge Alejandro Vega suggested to us that his character — as a child — suffer through Mexico’s civil unrest, and perhaps be changed into something monstrously vengeful. We took the writing prompt and came up with the following.

Jorge Alejandro Vega

The true history of the criminal cult known as Sangre Sagrada (“Sacred Blood”) — and its elusive leader, Jorge Alejandro Vega — is occluded by rumor and superstition. Based on conjecture, Vega was born — sometime between 1880 and 1885 — in Morelos, Mexico to a wealthy hacendado family.

The Vega hacienda — as the legend recounts — expanded its plantation and mercantile operations rapidly under the imperialistic leniency of President Porfirio Díaz, subsuming neighboring businesses and subjugating the village locals under draconian rule. After falsifying land deeds and razing the township for railroad development, the Vega dynasty suffered a torturous and bloody retribution. Though an offshoot of the rebel Gorras Blancas was accused locally for the massacre of the wealthy Vega landowners — 23 in total murdered, including 3 loyal servants — Díaz loyalists in Mexico City blamed native vengeance. Justice against the peasantry was swift and brutal.

Folklore in Morelos suggests a different motive for the revolt, one involving the Vega family matron, Ivana — an alleged witch of criollo ancestry — and her heretical proclivities. The hacienda ruins in Madrina del Valle remain unvisited to this day, enshrouded in overgrowth and haunted by rumors. Descendants of Morelos whisper of El Ahijado del Valle (“The Godson of the Valley”), the child Jorge Alejandro who escaped his family’s fate and now stalks the land, forever seeking gruesome revenge and fulfilling his mother’s monstrous obsessions.

Years later, Sangre Sagrada emerged in the chaos of the Revolution; or, perhaps, it was eternally present — incubating in the blood-soaked soil of Mexico City’s history and infesting its corridors as inevitably as weeds. No one knows when the small makeshift shrines — with their gilded crucifixes flanked by clay corpse-like statues of El Padrino and his escort La Madrina — started appearing on street corners or among the crowded tianguis. As quickly as they are destroyed, new effigies seem to materialize.

Adherents of the sect — criminals, smugglers, occultists, prostitutes, and, clandestinely, key figures in Mexico’s leadership — all know about San Cipriano di Antiochia y Guardián de la Sagrada Fe (“Saint Cyprian of Antioch and Keeper of the Sacred Faith”). The mendicant style structure is a compromised Catholic church located at Sor Juana de la Cruz Street 16 in the Copal barrio — a labyrinthine criminal marketplace in Mexico City predating the Spanish conquest. The conquering Spanish constructed San Cipriano atop an Aztec temple once devoted to Mictlantecuhtli and Mictecacihuatl (married gods of the underworld). Cultist excavations in the church cellars have unearthed several twisting chambers and tzompantli (“human and horse skull racks”) attributed to their worship. While the San Cipriano chapel serves a thinly populated Sunday service as a pretense (using a defrocked clergyman as its bribed official), its actual criminal affairs transpire in these torchlit catacombs.

Copal itself is perhaps the oldest of the barrios in Mexico City, called locally El Baluarte (“The Stronghold”) and known for its steep and narrow tenements, colorful and smoke-filled tianguis, and disorienting alleyways and corridors. It was a violent criminal and mercantile center under the rulership of the Aztecs, and has only grown more fortified in its present state. Vega has spies and thugs everywhere.

Vega operates his cult from this base in Copal, promising his adherents magical protections and prophetic visions. It was during his black pilgrimage to Mexico’s forgotten corners, long after the destruction of his ancestral home, that he bargained with higher powers for this secret knowledge. In his communion with the gods, he was promised an eventual rebirth of the Mexico of old — with himself seated at the apex of its greatest temple. The gods led Vega to San Cipriano, and planted in him a mission to renew an Aztec kingdom devoted to Huitzilopochtli — the “All-in-One” — and the other Ancient Ones.

Vega’s operation services criminals of all types — but especially key officials in government secretly opposed to a modernized and democratized Mexico. He has allies in both the office of President Porfirio Díaz and the inner circle of Francisco Madero. His most devoted spy is Mäda Protz Schenk-Schreier, an upper class German-Mexican intimately close to Madero’s family, and with ties to Madero’s occult advisor Heinrich Arnold Krumm-Heller. Mäda’s public identity is that of the bohemian heir to the German Schreier’s global holdings (including their Yucatán Xaltocan Brewery). Her private and zealous loyalty, however, is to Vega and his seductive promise of divine power.

On the surface, Vega brokers information gathered by his network of spies, prostitutes and criminals, using blackmail and extortion as a secondary source of revenue. Sangre Sagrada is used largely to recruit the lost, the disaffected, and the victims of Revolution as informants and enforcers. He also collects tributes from drug traffickers (moving cannabis, opium, hashish, laudanum, and whatever contraband can be obtained and sold in the city), from a neighborhood brothel, and from other approved criminal enterprises operating in his barrio.

The tertiary business he keeps secret from all but his most protected clients, however, is human trafficking — with an emphasis on making specific individuals disappear forever. Only Mäda, a few key lieutenants, and a collection of well-paying spectators know the fates of the unfortunate victims sent to Vega for disposal. Vega tortures and sacrifices these individuals to Huitzilopochtli, supposedly drawing occult power and knowledge from their pain. In the last few years, he has moved this disposal operation from his hideout in Copal to a hacienda and silver mine in the Mexican Sierras, where he and his inner circle have consecrated the estate for the worship of their dark lords.

Unbeknownst to Mäda, Vega is scouring Mexico’s occult underworld for a rumored resurrection formula (allegedly capable of bringing back his mother, Ivana, from the dead). If he can find the reputed spell, he will use Mäda’s physical body as a host for Ivana’s rescued spirit. He has already found several pages of an Aztec Codex that he believes contains information vital to the task. Vega is currently looking for an expert in Nahuatl to decode its secrets.

August 24th, 2015


Part Seventeen: Core Rules Document Coming Soon

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We’re just wrapping up some last minute adjustments on the Core Rules document (“Cthulhu Unleashed”), and you can expect your PDF — if all goes according to plan — well before GenCon (it will be uploaded to your Backerkit account, and we’ll send everyone a reminder through Kickstarter).

The impending packet represents the Core Rules (which will eventually be attached to an OGL, when released to the public in a few months), in full glorious layout (but sans the final illustrations and sourcebook material). What you are getting is the entire playable system months before it goes live. When these rules do go live, they’ll live forever on our site, and be open to others wishing to hack RoR for their own games or settings.

Here’s a breakdown and page counts of the content found in the completed Core Rules document (by chapter):

Chapter 1: Character Creation (including Edwardian era archetypes, connections, circles of influence and social networks for plot hooks) 43

Chapter 2: Skills (including an appended section for automatic clues, various investigative notes, searching, canvassing and researching, and networking and tapping social networks for new leads, news and plot hooks) 27

Chapter 3: Wealth & Equipment (including New England architectural styles and toolkits for generating ancestral estates and other houses of society) 29

Chapter 4: Game Mechanics 21

Chapter 5: Horror, Shock & Sanity 7

Chapter 6: Combat (including quickplay and tactical rules, as well as toolkits for designing new Fighting Methods) 15

Chapter 7: Magic (including a slew of toolkits, such as Spacetime Gate and occult tome generators, and guidelines and tools for designing unique Occult Paths) 55

Chapter 8: Extraplanar Entities (for generating unique extradimensional entities inspired by authors of the Weird, and especially focused on the use of the Evocation spell) 37

Total pages (not including the front matter, nor the various appendices for getting you playing “out of the box”) 234

(Also included are front matter and some appendices)

Our next update — coming soon and before GenCon — will include the Core Rules document. See you back here soon!

July 10th, 2015


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Part Sixteen: Monster Stats and Layout

Earlier, we looked at an Ancient One (and its page layout). Now let’s look at the stats (and layout) for a “standard” creature: the Great Race of Yith...

Great Race of Yith

April 8th, 2015


Cryptocurium Statue

We’ve completed several chapters of layout, and will be posting more soon. In the meantime, here’s a look at Jason McKittrick’s (Cryptocurium) custom prop designed for the game.

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March 14th, 2015


Part Fourteen: Frameworks

We wanted to send out a small update, so we’re sharing a framework from our campaign chapter. Frameworks help groups of characters devise a reason for coexisting as a team, and provide some compatible backstories for players. Each framework also serves as a kind of “series pitch” for a campaign, with setting details, possible hooks, and style notes. The idea is shamelessly inspired by Ken Hite’s Trail of Cthulhu (and the concept was also utilized by Steve Kenson in Mutants and Masterminds). They’re a great help in discussing expectations of genre and focusing a campaign around these expectations.

The core rules provide several, such as “Bureau of Investigation” (what it sounds like, based on the precursor to the FBI and the political intrigues of early federal law enforcement in America) and “Horror of Chapel Hill” (for a more fatalistic and conspiratorial backdrop). Here’s the introduction to “Arkham Ghost Society” (if you want to see a complete framework in page layout, there is a link to one at the bottom of this post):

The ghost society — a circus of fairy-chasers, charlatans, so-called psychics, crackpots and debauchers — was an embarrassment to the university and to the name of Arkham. Headquartered in a colonial estate owned by their rather eccentric ringleader, the ghost society infiltrated the academic network with their outlandish theories, and traveled the expanse of New England with their ridiculous methods. They partnered with yellow journalists and a profiteering mayor to paint the local university as an “Illuminati Headquarters!” and the town as a “Legendary Haunt of Specters and Strange Phenomena!” It wasn’t until the members of the society all went missing that any of their theories were taken seriously. When the first body part materialized in a factory in Old Town, the Chief of Police suddenly found himself in the vortex of a real conspiracy. Within weeks, a few family members related to the ghost society also went missing, and then more body parts showed up in the French quarter, at Monolith Hill, and in the Hockomock. After exhausting any leads, and finding himself out of his element entirely, the chief relented under pressure from the mayor, hiring “honest-to-goodness experts!” And by experts he meant dilettante detectives, occultic specialists, celebrity authors, and ghost hunters, the kinds of people who could provide wild insights about the founding ghost society and its investigations. It is with great reluctance that the chief hires your team.

Setting

Adventurers begin their assignment at the ghost society’s headquarters (now their headquarters), with its labyrinthine basement of newspaper stacks, its cabinets of curiosities, its dossiers of theorized conspirators, and its collections of grimoires. They have access to the chief’s deputies, to a forensics room — more accurately the appropriated shanghai tunnels beneath the nineteenth century Usher House, staffed with a rather green physician from the university — and to a vehicle and driver. Though players, for now, have the backing of the mayor and by extension local law enforcement, this support may grow cold if missteps by the investigators lead to political liabilities for the mayor. A concerned third party may also step in and complicate matters. Investigations take place in Arkham and its neighboring cities (including Boston, Salem, and any other convenient locale deemed appropriate for an investigation) — though this framework can easily be transplated to any other township home to creepy conspiratorial intrigues.

The eccentric cast of the original club and the nature of the conspiratorial threat is left for the gamemaster to develop, as any number of possibilities exist for this background. However, if inspiration is needed, then various character seeds may be found in the “Setting” section.

January Comet: After the appearance of the January Comet, there is a troubling resurgence of cult activity, inexplicable disappearances, and all manner of strange occurrences across New England. Rumors among the criminal world even suggest a horrible conspiracy connecting these activities to powerful families and bloodlines.

Style

The framework can satisfy a number of variations, from pulpish action to lurid noir to nihilistic horror. By default, the framework is designed to accommodate occult detectives acting in a setting similar to the one portrayed in Lovecraft’s “Call of Cthulhu,” though a more action-oriented setting — such as the one depicted in Robert E. Howard’s “Skull-Face” — could also work. Initially, knowledge of any mythos is intermingled with local folklore and urban legends, or confused with whatever occult theories an investigator brings to the table. The true mythos elements — and the big horrible truth behind all these sinister threats — are slowly unraveled as the adventurers wade deeper into the conspiracy.

Angell Boxes

An Angell Box — so named for Professor Angell’s evidence collection in Lovecraft’s “Call of Cthulhu” — is the library of paperwork and artifacts left behind by a previous investigator. A gamemaster may use such a device to provide new plot hooks (as the need for them arises). Likewise, the group may ask to search their Angell Box for any more leads, or for new insights about cold cases in light of recent evidence. Lastly, enemies may steal or destroy the contents of such a collection, an event which precipitates its own plot hook. In this particular framework, the Usher House’s basement serves as a rather large Angell Box for the adventurers.

Want to see a complete framework (in page layout)? Click below!

“Treasures of the Blood-Stained Gods” Framework Example

See you soon!

February 20th, 2015


Part Thirteen: Let’s Look at an Ancient One

As promised, we’re sharing an Ancient One with you (Tsathoggua to be specific). These pages are for gamemasters only as they may spoil surprises for players. In RoR, one of our early design goals was to make the Great Old Ones more than just a collection of stats. The core book does provide a general stat block — usable as is for any Ancient One — but we kept the information for the individual entities free of such revealing mechanics. Rather, Tsathoggua and his kin are described with numerous toolkits and options for long-term campaign play. The goal is to make an Ancient One cast a shadow over the campaign as an overbearing and everpresent threat.

Hope you enjoy this look at Tsathoggua!

Ancient One Sample Layout

See you soon.

February 6th, 2015


Part Twelve: Creating Mythos Tomes

A few more pages for you to check out...these being very table-heavy, showing the kinds of toolkits to expect throughout the book. In a week, we’ll be uploading some more pages detailing how RoR will showcase an Ancient One (Tsathoggua, to be specific). After that next update, we’ll be busy wrapping up editing and final layout on all the player sections and getting those to backers as soon as possible.

Raiders of R’lyeh Sample Layout

See you in a few days!

January 29th, 2015


Part Eleven: New Character Sheets!

We are making headway on the game. We wanted to share the new print-ready character sheets. Hope you enjoy them!

Raiders of R’lyeh Sample Layout

January 10th, 2015


Part Ten: Some More Layout!

Before we head into the holidays, we wanted to share some more of what we’re doing in the layout stage. Some of the rules you see in the sample are optional/roleplaying tools for players. We’ve also included one of our Raider patrons who will be worked into the setting.

[PDF edited and reuploaded December 25th, 2014]

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Click the image or the link:

Raiders of R’lyeh Sample Layout

Happy Holidays!

December 23rd, 2014


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Part Nine: A Look at Layout

Backerkit

Just a quick note. If anyone needs to change their address or information, they can do so by logging into Backerkit (you have access to your information throughout the entire campaign): https://raidersofrlyeh.backerkit.com/

Schedule

We are aware that we have not met the expected deadline. Please be assured that we are working full time on the book, and that any delays are simply due to the massive workload of the material. As we mentioned in an earlier update, as this was our first Kickstarter, we made some gross underestimations on our production schedule for a book of this scope, and are learning as we go on this first effort. If we did this over, knowing how the core book would grow (and understanding some of the pitfalls), we would have given this project a year ETA, at minimum, to begin with. However, we are working diligently and the book is looking amazing. We are really proud of the work and cannot wait to get it to you.

Just so you know, every consultant has long ago submitted all material — so the project is waiting on final layout and a few last minute fixes. The final draft (with considerable rewrites) totaled over 600 pages. We initially made a best guess estimate of the length, but it ended up three times longer than initially anticipated. This is a small team (with all content now in the hands of one person doing layout and final editing), so it’s taking some considerable time. For me, personally, this is my full time job right now (and has been for some time now) until the book gets out.

Updates will continue (and we’ll do our best to make them more frequent), so backers can be assured of work completed, and progress being made. Regarding answering the exact date question, we’re choosing updates over moving a goal post continually, as we know missing deadlines (and expectations) increases frustrations. The last thing we want to do is raise expectations again, only to miss another deadline. When we actually do post an exact date again, it will be accurate, as we won’t be promising another deadline until we know for sure nothing else will delay it on our end. If we miss a comment on the Kickstarter page — or have lacked a presence on social media as of late — we apologize. It means we are completely invested in production.

We’re grateful to backers who have shown considerable patience with the lateness. We certainly understand any frustration with the Kickstarter taking longer than the originally estimated window, and we do not want to take your patience for granted. We’re doing everything we can to expedite this — within reason. Just know that a Kickstarter can be a huge learning curve the first time out, but we know the final product will be a book you’ll be proud of owning.

Again, thanks for the support and understanding.

Layout Samples

On a much brighter note, we wanted to share some layout pages. For the most part, these are final — though some last minute tweaks may happen here and there. In creating the book, we wanted to balance two needs: clarity and evocation of setting. We decided on subtle motifs (and a white background), opting for readability over excessive ephemera (and clutter). We upgraded our typeface to a better choice, which looks fantastic (and looks more balanced on the page). We’re sharing some table-heavy pages, as these are typically the hardest to design in a book of this type, and I think the typeface works really well for the challenge. For now, here’s a look at the spy and a particularly content-heavy mythos spell.

Note: the final print edition will be in black and white (color accents reduced to grayscale), but its accompanying PDF will have the color accents you see in this preview.

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Click the image or the link:

Raiders of R’lyeh Sample Layout

Enjoy.

December 7th, 2014


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Part Eight: Halloween Update

We wanted to send out a Happy Halloween to our backers, with a brief update.

Outside of the question about progress on the game, the other most common question we receive in our email is one about future expansions. We wanted to address all of these queries with a definitive YES — we do have plans for expansion material for 2015 and beyond. However, we are so busy getting the core rules (and accompanying online rules and resources) out to backers that we will not be posting any expansion plans or news until backers have their core game.

As far as looking for scenario writers and artists — and to those who have voiced an interest in writing or illustrating for RoR — we will be looking for help in the future. However, again, our first priority is getting the core game out to backers, before we move into phase two. We’ve learned quite a bit about Kickstarters and production in this first effort, and will be considering more efficient ways to expand the game and its expansion materials in the future. Several backers have contributed some wonderful advice about moving into the future, and we look forward to growing as a fledging group of creators.

For the Raiders: we will next be releasing to backers the core rules document, with its open license, well before these rules are posted online for the public. We’re just getting a few items in order before doing so. Layout on the final book is also progressing, and we’ll be posting more as this develops. If you missed any of our earlier releases, then we’ve collected them here for your convenience. There are over 200 pages of material for you to review. As we move deeper into layout, we’ll be releasing layout pages as well.

For those who missed them:

Download Revised Character Creation Rules
A Look at Harley Warren
Download New Character Sheet
Download Excerpted Rules Samples

Have a wonderful Halloween, and we’ll see you back here soon!

All Hallow’s Eve, 2014


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Part Seven: Rules Samples

This downloadable document contains excerpted sections from the entire ruleset, and not the entire rules (which come to roughly 600 pages — prelayout!). However, this content does offer a broad overview. This is released exclusively to backers as a sneak-peek into the progress of the project. Also please understand that — as Raiders is still in production — the final book may have slight changes (and a final sweep of editing) as we work out the last details.

And if you missed the earlier character creations rules, you can go here to find them.

Please note that this material is devoid of any layout design and that a few sidebars of information are not included. The final material may vary slightly from what you see here.

We’ll leave this download up for a few days. Please enjoy them.

Download Excerpted Rules Samples

October 1st, 2014


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Part Six: A Look at Harley Warren

“And why Harley Warren did not return, he or his shade — or some nameless thing I cannot describe — alone can tell...”—H.P. Lovecraft

First, if you have not see the last update, where we released a preview of the character creation rules, check them out here. We used these standard rules to create the following occultist character. If you don’t know Harley Warren from Lovecraft’s story, “The Statement of Randolph Carter,” you can easily remedy that now.

The three chapters comprising the magic section of the RoR core rules (a whole toolkit of material), including the occult and mythos magic chapters, and the chapter on spectral entities, come to amost 150 pages in total — this is pre-layout so page counts will be lower in the final book. We put a Harley Warren character build together to show what a lower level occult hero will look like in the game. The character creation rules — to which you have access — were used (you don’t have access, YET, to the magic rules, obviously, but that update is pending).

Some quick notes

Harley’s skills were built using the “scholar” and “expert” options. With the optional Intelligence bonus, Harley received 200 free skill points, plus another 20 with his Higher Learning. Language (Spanish), Knowledge (Cartography) and Mechanisms would have been bought at some point after character generation, with his earned Improvement Points. He’s also since reduced 13 Rationality points from his original 84% (due to his war experiences and occult studies). Outside of the Intelligence bonus option, this is a conservative chargen more in line with a Lovecraft ethos than with a Howard actioner. Harley would be a strong candidate for an investigative game. Note that copy and original character material is from Kevin Ross (extracted from the upcoming ARKHAM SOCIETIES OF PSYCHICAL RESEARCH expansion that was part of the Kickstarter), and edited by me with the new rules updates...

Harley Warren — Occult Researcher (age 32)

One of the more famous — or infamous — individuals in the Boston psychic research community is occult investigator Harley Warren. Warren reportedly fought in the Spanish-American War, and afterward applied himself to academic pursuits which soon became increasingly esoteric in nature. Warren has been living in Boston the past few years, having moved here from South Carolina to make extensive use of various branches of the Harvard University Library. While living in Boston he was briefly a member of the American Society for Psychic Research before its relocation to New York in 1906. Warren’s interests range from archaeology to mythology, magic, and demonology.

Harley Warren is an aloof, powerful-looking young man, with a sardonic, almost mocking sense of humor. He is well-versed in a variety of occult subjects, but usually keeps his knowledge close to the vest. While secretive and somewhat obsessive, Warren isn’t a threat to anyone but himself. He has casually investigated a few weird local cases of ghosts, witchcraft, and other hauntings, but his interests at this point are more of a scholarly nature: in particular the volumes of occult and Cthulhoid lore to be found in the libraries of Harvard and Miskatonic Universities. If befriended, he might accompany others in their investigations if he believes a case might be of a particularly arcane nature. (Unfortunately, Warren’s quest for knowledge will lead him to a fateful appointment in a lonely swamp in Florida a few years hence, in the company of Randolph Carter, whom he has yet to meet.)

Harley Warren comes from a well-respected lower middle class family, with a few connections in the southeastern United States. Harley Warren is also known in academic circles (his signature skill is Research). He starts with 3 contacts and 2 rivals (all academic), and one upper class ally allowing access to her special collections.

STR 14
CON 14
SIZ 15
DEX 13
INT 14
POW 13
CHA 12

Action Points 3
Damage Modifier +1d2
Might 6
Essence Points 13
Move 10
Initiative 14
Hit Points 15 (Wound 8)
Rationality 71% (Trauma 7)

Skills: Athletics 52%, Brawn 54%, Class & Credit 22%, Common Knowledge 68%, Conceal 27%, Create Art (Writing) 40%, Deceit 26%, Detection 62%, Etiquette 36%, Evade 26%, Fighting Methods (Infantry) 52%, First Aid 37%, Fortitude 28%, Influence 25%, Intuition 47%, Knowledge (Archaeology) 38%, Knowledge (Cartography) 28%, Knowledge (Cryptography) 28%, Knowledge (History) 53%, Knowledge (Theology) 43%, Language (Latin) 38%, Language (Spanish) 28%, Mechanisms 27%, Native Tongue 68%, Occult (Demonology) 55%, Research 63%, Stealth 26%, Streetwise 40%, Swim 28%, Unarmed 42%, Willpower 61%

Special Abilities: Second Language (Latin), Higher Learning, Academic Authority, Private Collection

Occult (Demonology) 55%: Banishing, Binding, Evocation (Goetic Demons), Invocation (Mercurial Erudition), Ward of Protection

Mercurial Erudition (Intensity 1). Increases Research by 10%. Produces nervousness and arouses the attention of elementary spirits.

Fighting Methods
Infantry (Rifle, Pistol) 52%

Weapons
Colt Single Army Action revolver (.45 Colt) 52%, 1d12
Springfield Model 1892-99 rifle (.30-40 Krag) 52%, 2d8
Empty-handed 42%, 1d3+1d2


Special Equipment Notes
Every occultist needs a few esoteric texts. A quick look at Harley Warren’s collections reveals the following (these were quickly rolled up from the “Occult Texts” tables in RoR’s “Mythos Magic” chapter): a rare edition of Cultes des Goules, “Theories of Non-Euclidean Geometries and n-Dimensional Manifolds” (Bernhard Riemann 1864), Robert Boyle, Franciscus Sylvius, Ramon Llull, René Descartes, Johann Joachim Becher, Book of Dzyan, Picatrix, Coffin Texts, Poligraphia, Daemonolatreia, Alphabet of Sirach, and of course, Key of Solomon and The Book of Abramelin.

Progress

I know the Raiders will be looking forward to seeing more content as we move through layout, as well as some sample layout pages — and we’re putting those together for you now. This month should be more dense with material; we’re planning on getting you more ASAP. See you back here soon.

August 31st, 2014


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Part Five: Sneak Peek at Character Creation Rules

A sneak peek at the character creation chapter, over 60 pages of new rules, exclusively for the Raiders!

We’re plugging away on RoR, wrapping up editing, and moving into final layout. For ALL of you who have been so patient, we wanted to offer a behind-the-scenes look at the character creation rules (with an updated character sheet), which is indicative of the major changes made to the entire book. We know it’s not the final book — YET — but we wanted to offer you something while you wait. This has been quite the journey, and you’ll see in this update how much work has been put into rewriting and fine-tuning the rules you saw back in the playtest.

Please note that this material is devoid of any layout design and that a few sidebars of information are not included. The final material may vary slightly from what you see here. The working draft of the revised character sheet is also not in its final layout — though it does indicate the organizational form it will eventually take.

We’ll leave these downloads up for a few days. Please enjoy them.

We’re moving inexorably to your finished book. We can’t wait for you to see it. And we are quite aware how patient the Raiders have been during this Kickstarter. Thank you, once again, for being so supportive of this journey!

Download Revised Character Creation Rules
Download New Character Sheet

July 30th, 2014


Updates for Non-Kickstarter Backers

The following post is for backers who pledged through PayPal, but are not able to see updates in the private Kickstarter blog. If you are a backer who has been following the regular Kickstarter updates, then this post will be redundant. This collects the relevant updates into one location to catch PayPal backers up to speed.

In winter, we made an announcement that Raiders would be delayed until late spring. Shortly after that, I suffered a medical emergency with my eye that put me out of commission for a month. Fortunately, I have mostly recovered and the project is going very smoothly. We’re still shooting for a late spring deadline, though the setback affected our timeline somewhat.

What follows are some past updates taken directly from the KS page...


Our Kickstarter update from March 21st

Apologies for fewer updates this month.

Late in February (only a mere few days after the last update), I suffered a pretty serious medical emergency. I have been holding off reporting this to backers, as I felt it was largely irrelevant to the Spring schedule. I wanted to make sure I had a prognosis before disclosing anything publicly. I also did not want to unnecessarily worry backers. However, I do think it is important to let everyone know why updates have been less frequent. Late February, I had a sudden and inexplicable slight blindess in my right eye. For two weeks, any light entering the eye caused acute pain close to feeling like a knife going into my orbital sinus. Any light in the eye caused excruciating and debilitating pain. For two weeks, lying in a dark room was the only thing that I was capable of doing without intense pain in my eye. A trip to Urgent Care caused me to be sent immediately to the Emergency Room, after the doctor thought I was suffering from glaucoma. The ER physicians then told me (erroneously) that I had a viral conjunctivitis. Two weeks later, and after wading through our labyrinthine medical system, I was finally admitted to a retinal specialist who diagnosed me with some form of uveitis, the source of which is completely unknown (it could be linked to something more systemic and serious, but hopefully it is “just” an eye issue).

Because of the weeks it took to get to the eye doctor, my eye now has permanent damage, scarring, and opacity over my vision. I may be suffering with something chronic, or something far worse and threatening (though I have zero symptoms of any of these other related diseases, thank God). As an artist, this is a terrifying threat. My eye is a precious commodity, and this has been a very traumatic experience. The physician is also incapable of giving me a clear prognosis, as uveitis (as I am fast studying) has a myriad of causes and related diseases that are near impossible to track.

I have never suffered a serious illness in my life, and this — at the worst possible time — was a terrible surprise.I am very sorry that this is happening, as this should not be a concern for backers who put their trust in a project’s completion, regardless of complications. But after discussing this with the RPGPundit via email, and abiding by his recommendation, I am letting everyone know sooner than later why updates may be less frequent in this recovery period.

In the last week, the light sensitivity has completely subsided. My eye is returning to a normal appearance. There is still the scarring and opacity over the eye, but I am now being medicated for this, and I am feeling much better. Though this may end up being a chronic disorder, or a potentiality for blindness in the right eye (and I am still not clear on this), I am relieved that this is not due to eye strain from reading, writing and drawing. My primary concern — outside of recovery — is my responsibility to you. Though my eye is a precious commodity, a reputation for professionalism is an even greater commodity. I am most frustrated with losing precious time from Raiders and its delivery to you. However, at this point, and based on how I feel, I don’t think there should be another delay (as long as I can get back into the chair in the next couple weeks). A followup with the specialist in a few days will hopefully corroborate this.

Some Updates

Just to alleviate some concern, here is a breakdown of updates that happened right up to this incident. All consulting work has been submitted and is in the editorial stage. The rules revisions are also complete. Backer portraits are close to finished (outside of a couple straggler submissions that are now being collected). The php script for the monster generator has been completed, and just needs to be populated with our monster stats. Our final layout template, based on some strong feedback from our playtest, has been set up with the cosmetic changes. There is still quite a bit to do, but a lot of progress has been made.

On top of this, I used this downtime to get everything prepped with our printer; they are located only a few states away in the United States, which is important as this will greatly decrease turnaround and freight time from the printer to our doorstep (and then out to you). Lastly, and this is HUGE news, I have communicated with a couple publishers in Europe who may be interested in a licensing deal. Meaning, if Raiders impresses them, we may be seeing adaptations of the game in other languages (and chances for greater exposure and longevity)! I’ll announce specific names when and if this happens, but I was really excited with the companies who showed interest (and you will be as well, I believe)...Again, I am very sorry that this is affecting this project. I absolutely hate having to relay this to you. Thank you though for the support during this entire project, from the fall to now. I’ve never had a better time working on a paid project — even considering this infuriating ailment — and I am so appreciative of this.

I am definitely not relaying this to you for sympathy, but because it really is my duty and promise to be as transparent as is realistically possible. If you have comments, you can send them along to our email at mail@thecipherbureau.com, though I will try as best as I can to monitor the site here as well (even though comments sometimes get scattered across updates, the front page, or private messaging, and therefore inadvertently overlooked).

Until next time...

...

Our Kickstarter update from May 9th

This is a very brief update just to let everyone know that I’ve been back to full-time (more like overtime) work on Raiders for the past few weeks. The month of March going into April, as was indicated in the last update, was a rough period, but after recovering, work has been going very well. More updates are on the way about our timeline, but I wanted to at least make mention that work has resumed and to assuage any worries. Secondly, thank you for the kind comments, and emails of support. I can’t tell you how much that meant.

...

And here was the latest update (June 10th)

Hello Raiders!

Though we plan on making a lengthier update soon, I wanted to make a brief mention of our progress. While playing catch-up for lost time, we’ve been making tremendous progress. We’re in final editing on all of the rewritten material and — as was mentioned back in early winter — this new material includes a complete revision of what you saw in the early playtest. The magic section alone comes to over 100 pages pre-layout, to give you an idea of scope! Part of the challenge of developing the magic section was staying true to the occultist characters in the source material, while balancing this with the various interpretations of magic presented by Lovecraft and other writers. We’ll be posting some snippets of these rules in our design journal soon — including material written by Kevin Ross — as well as some of the new Cryptocurium work sitting in our office right now.

While updates have been less frequent in the last month or two, it is only because we’ve been so absorbed in the full-time development of the game. While we like waiting to post updates with a lot of material to read, we also recognize that backers appreciate shorter updates letting them know that everything is progressing well.

I look forward to sharing more with you soon!

June 23rd, 2014


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Part Four: A Look at the Player’s Guide

News and Updates

We want to keep everyone up to date on where we are with our ETA. Though we were shooting for Februrary for shipping the final editions, it looks like the final print edition will not be finished and going out to backers until late spring. PDFs of the player’s and keeper’s books will be delivered before then.

Between now and then, we will continue updating; we also plan to release sections of game material as we can.

We’re aiming to get final documents to you before this time; however, we want to leave ample room so that we have the time we need to finish our goals, without having to overpromise, and without having to post new estimates every month if we still need more time.

In actuality, our original ETA probably should have been late spring to begin with, but with projects of this magnitude, estimating a completion time so early is difficult. We’re trying to curtail further delay announcements by just opening the window wide enough to be more realistic. And as already mentioned, we will be releasing material as it is ready.

Why the extra time?

We’re not happy with not meeting our ETA, but we are extremely excited about the results of the extra time put into the books. In other words, this longer time is not due to problems. Though we did have a slew of issues crop up in December, most of those issues were accounted for in our original estimate. Rather, these delays are mostly due to the improvements we’ve been making to the books. We’ve been on an overtime schedule through February, and the material is looking fantastic (details below). But we are also aware that given our goals and the scope of these rewrites, that February has flown by and we’re still in the middle of getting everything put together. We want to keep you updated as to where we are, and reassure everyone that the end result will be worth the extra time.

Below is our working outline of the player’s guide. A few highlights follow. Keep in mind some elements may be subject to change, but this is close to final.

Player’s Guide

(under revision)

Combat will include quickplay rules — when the keeper wants to keep a specific fight quick and simple — and tactical combat with an array of options for players, for including suppressive fire, scouting sniping positions, using the environment to advantage, affecting morale, and so on. Tactical rules may be relevant for a team of seasoned combatants going up against belligerents, while streamlined quickplay rules may be more appropriate for adventurers encountering eldritch horrors (where fear rules over tactical decisions). Both modes play a part in the setting.

Our skills chapter is appended with a chapter on a multitude of topics, each documenting how players can use skills in the setting. A player who wants to be a forensics specialist gets an entire section on forensics science from the era, its working methods, its equipment, the laboratory setup, the availability of resources, how to lift prints and analyze crime scene residue...the warfare section documents real world battles, the reality of firearms in the wild, guerilla tactics, and the asymmetrical nature of warfare at the turn of the century (lantakas, bolos and chainmail being used against krags, .38 revolvers and gunboats, for instance). A section on astronomy documents the working equipment and methods of an astronomer at the turn of the century; if you want to know what an observatory in 1910 looks like, and what equipment you would find in one, this section would be for you. Other areas covered in the chapter include exploration, archaeology, inventions, forgery, cryptography, spies, journalism, and much more. All the critical areas where skills come into play get featured in this chapter.

We’ll release some sample chapters and/or parts of the SRD, as we can. We know everyone is waiting patiently for more.

Occult Magic

Another highlight to mention is the Occult Magic mechanics. The bulk of the magic system, minus a small collection of abilities, will be revealed in the keeper’s guide. Part of the reason for separating it from the player’s guide is limited space. Mostly, the decision to move the Occult Magic chapter to the keeper’s guide is to allow the keeper to decide the metaphysics of the setting. Creatures fall under one of the following categories: corporeal, ethereal, or eldritch. Magic, too, may affect the corporeal, the ethereal or the eldritch (the eldritch being the most dangerous). Seeing that some creatures are loosely defined in the source material, the keeper will decide how the cosmology is set up, and what effects magic will have on the creatures. All this is to facilitate a sense of mystery as players delve into the world.

We are really excited about how Occult Magic works in the game, and how much freedom keepers will have in implementing it in their setting. The chapter will be an entire toolkit for integrating a new type of magic in a horror adventure game. The mechanics draw from a wealth of research and genre material.

We look forward to sharing more with you soon!

February 24th, 2014


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Part Three: Adventure, Horror, Sanity

“And it was in that moment of distress and confusion that the whip of terror laid its most nicely calculated lash about his heart. It dropped with deadly effect upon the sorest spot of all, completely unnerving him. He had been secretly dreading all the time that it would come - and come it did.”—Algernon Blackwood (“The Wendigo”)

One of our design goals with Raiders of R’lyeh is emulating the more “hardboiled” elements of weird fiction (capturing not only the awe and terror, but also the adventure and wonder). While madness is a potential reality for the adventurer, mental disease is not the focus of the game, but rather a potential side effect of coming into contact with the supernatural. This distinction may seem slight, but it does significantly affect the overriding feel of the setting, as well as the player experience. When it comes to the sanity system, our revision goal has been supporting this ethos in the mechanics.

Several sources influence this direction. First, they are Lovecraft, Howard, and the original Indiana Jones film — itself a thoughtful tribute to the adventure and weird genres that inspired it, and as a result the most tightly focused of the series, tonally speaking.

However, if madness is not a central mandate of the setting, what are its primary themes? And how do these affect the sanity system in the game?

Lovecraft and Adventure

Lovecraft wrote that one driving goal of his work was experiencing and relating a kind of cosmic wonder and “adventurous expectancy.” The entire quote reads:

“My reason for writing stories is to give myself the satisfaction of visualising more clearly and detailedly and stably the vague, elusive, fragmentary impressions of wonder, beauty, and adventurous expectancy which are conveyed to me by certain sights (scenic, architectural, atmospheric, etc.), ideas, occurrences, and images encountered in art and literature. I choose weird stories because they suit my inclination best—one of my strongest and most persistent wishes being to achieve, momentarily, the illusion of some strange suspension or violation of the galling limitations of time, space, and natural law which for ever imprison us and frustrate our curiosity about the infinite cosmic spaces beyond the radius of our sight and analysis. These stories frequently emphasize the element of horror because fear is our deepest and strongest emotion, and the one which best lends itself to the creation of nature-defying illusions.”

(“Notes on Writing Weird Fiction” from Collected Essays)

Here Lovecraft gives us some defining traits of weird adventure: “fragmentary impressions of wonder, beauty and adventurous expectancy”; “suspension...of the galling limitations of...” our routine material lives; cosmic space and time; a seeking after a sensation of awe and wonder...Lovecraft uses horror not as a repulsive end, but rather as the direct needle shot to the vein for achieving these fragmentary sensations. Madness is a possible byproduct of the experience.

Raiders of the Lost Ark and the Weird

As Raiders of the Lost Ark is another touchstone for the game, it too gives us some insight about how the weird may intrude into an adventure. There are moments in Raiders of the Lost Ark where the “fragmentary impressions of wonder and adventurous expectancy” elevate the adventure to a weird level. In one key scene, we see an eldritch heat spontaneously sear the ark’s cargo box. And more obviously, in the climax, the supernatural intrudes into the material world and exacts vengeance on the cultic adversaries. The weird elements of the adventure prove deadly, but they are survivable. Annihilation (of the mind or the body) is not an inevitability, even if the supernatural proves human beings are powerless against its intrusion.

Robert E. Howard’s Sword & Sorcery

Robert E. Howard adds to the mix the hardboiled hero (a template later embodied in Indiana Jones). The sword & sorcery genre becomes an offspring of the synthesis. A pattern of the work (whether looking at “pre-historical” heroes like Conan, Kull, Bran Mak Morn, or more modern heroes like Solomon Kane, John Kirowan and El Borak) shows similar interests with Lovecraftian themes of cosmic time, awe and wonder.

After looking at the common patterns of these sources, we came up with a list of the elements that shape the tone and themes in Raiders of R’lyeh. We’re also attempting to define what we mean by “weird” as it relates to our overriding design goals.

Some of the big themes
Cosmic Time (already briefly mentioned)

Authors employing weird elements create a sensation of deep time, consisting of ancient lost civilizations (some human and some inhuman), and cycles of creation and destruction. Related is the scope of unfathomable cosmic space. The idea is the smallness of mankind in the ocean of eternity.

Civilization and Decay

Mankind’s vain fumbling in the dark, any sense of progress or Utopia, any sense of control of the elements — whether through Science or Magic — is frustrated by this cosmic vastness. We are ants, or worse, bacterial film, in comparison to the eternal. Our attempts at control are futile. Civilizations ebb and flow, each marking its hubris in the earth as it decays into history. Ours will be no different.

Decadence and Degeneracy

Civilization achieves greatness using technology and strength of arms, and then inexorably succumbs to its own corruption and entropy. With Howard especially, civilizations reach an apex, after which comes apathy, decadence, degeneracy, and self-destruction. Their necromantic and abominable secrets lie buried with their skeletal remains. The seeds of destruction exist in modern societes as well, all moving toward this eventuality. The hero often is distrusting of civilization’s Faustian promises and controls, seeking rather a barbarian’s path of freedom.

Exotic Locations

There is the modern, ordered civilization where Mankind makes his petty schemes and revels in his illusions of control, and then there is the ancient, chaotic wilderness where one encounters past civilizations, alien landscapes and hungering abominations. These locations often evoke feelings of mystery, awe, eeriness and dread. Adventurers who travel there become part of the wilderness (either succumbing to it bodily, or taking a piece of it with them when they return to civilization).

The Other

There are alien intelligences, impossible to contain in one’s reality, existing beyond the scrim of our existence. Our material cage is an illusion, and we are protected only by our delusions. Experiencing the Other, even a fragmentary essence of it, changes us (or outright annihilates us).

Rebellion Against Reason

Reason can be a cage (sometimes a useful cage that keeps madness at bay). Some will choose to open their eyes to the truth and accept the consequences. Others will live in denial or chase material distractions in order to keep the nightmares locked tight...

The Hardboiled Adventurer

The hardboiled hero either confronts or gets sideswiped by this reality, and saving madness, chooses courage or determination in the face of an uncaring universe. The adventurer attempts to impose his own meaning onto the empty canvas of existence, or in moments of delusional desperation, chooses to combat it. The hero knows annihilation is inevitable, but chooses to face death on one’s own terms.

The Shift in Tone

Adventure, infused with elements of the weird and cosmic horror...

Categorizing Horror in Raiders of R’lyeh

Considering these elements, we made some changes to the sanity system. First, we distinguish between the types of horror the hero may face.

Shock and Awe: includes psychic terror — Algernon Blackwood calls it “spiritual terror” — as well as the sudden fear of imminent death, pain, dismemberment or annihilation. In other words, the mind is either terrorized by psychic annihilation or by physical ruin. Experiencing the supernatural, the Weird, the abomination from the abyss, or a pack of ghouls, all fall under this category. The key words are sudden, shock and awe. The mind snaps or it doesn’t. Horror Check: test Willpower and deduct any damage from Rationality.

Dread and Despair: once a shock is over, dread can have lingering and eroding effects. This includes moral and physical repulsion. Seeing a corpse, experiencing great loss, or enduring ongoing depravity, all fall under this category. The key words are enduring, dread and despair. Horror Check: test Fortitude and deduct any damage from Rationality.

Profound Undoing of Beliefs and Ego: correlating the contents into an inescapable reality, either in one horrible moment or over a course of reflection...The mind either denies the reality and reinforces its own delusions, accepts the truth and changes its worldview forever, or snaps and escapes into catatonic stupor. Horror Check: test Rationality and deduct any damage from Rationality.

Rationality: Mental Hit Points

Rationality is still used as the game’s “mental hit points.” So, whenever a hero loses a Horror check, he or she deducts damage from Rationality. No longer does the player deduct damage from Rationality and Willpower (as was dictated in the playtest). The big difference here is that the situation determines which skill is tested. Moments of shock and awe require tests of Willpower, while moments of dread and despair call for tests of Fortitude. Less frequently will adventurers face the need to test their Rationality directly, as this represents the moment where every belief the adventurer holds about life and meaning is being tested. Whether testing Willpower, Fortitude, or Rationality, on a failed Horror check, all damage is deducted from Rationality.

Profound Undoing of Beliefs and Ego

If an adventurer makes a Horror check against a threat of “Profound Undoing of Beliefs and Ego” — in other words, having to roll against Rationality — and the damage potential is 1d100, he or she fails this only once. If the Horror check fails, and if the damage doesn’t reduce the hero’s Rationality to zero (total madness), the adventurer forever after rolls Willpower when a test of Rationality is required. This represents the adventurer having a profound shock to his or her worldview.

Example:

When Randolph Carter first faces Yog-Sothoth, he must make a Horror check against Rationality. The threat to his sense of self and everything he knows to be true is so tremendous that if he fails it, he may lose up to 100 points of Rationality (which would devastate nearly any mind). He makes a Horror check, fails it, rolls damage and takes a remarkably low 5 points of damage. He deducts 5 Rationality. He has also absorbed an awful truth about existence. If he ever faces Yog-Sothoth again, he would use Willpower for his skill test. He would still lose Rationality points if he failed, however.

Which skill for a Horror check?

As there are some gray areas when it comes to what constitutes shock and awe versus what qualifies as dread and despair, the ultimate discretion is left to the keeper.

Creatures and situations also have a Horror rating (as they did in the playtest), which modifies the test. Facing a ghoul has a Normal difficulty, meaning no modifier is applied to the roll, while facing a shoggoth has a Hard difficulty, meaning that a –20% modifier is applied to the Horror check. Facing Yog-Sothoth has an Improbable difficulty (–80%).

As an illustration, here are some example Horror ratings with damage and suggested skill tests.

Horror Checks
Event Test (Difficulty) Rationality
Ghoul Willpower (Normal) –1d4
Deep One Willpower (Normal) –1d6
Mi-Go Willpower (Hard) –1d10
Yith Willpower (Hard) –1d10
Shoggoth Willpower (Hard) –1d20
Cthulhu Rationality (Daunting) –1d100
Yog-Sothoth Rationality (Improbable) –1d100
Close friend dies in your arms Fortitude (Hard) –1d6
Trench warfare Fortitude (Daunting) –1d10
Experiencing torture Fortitude (Improbable) –1d12
Witnessing a brutal crime scene Fortitude (Normal) –1d6
Losing a loved one mysteriously Fortitude (Hard) –1d10
Waking up buried alive Willpower (Daunting) –1d6
Minor uncanny phenomenon Rationality (Normal) –1d4
Major uncanny phenomenon Rationality (Daunting) –1d8
Correlating the contents Rationality (Hard) –1d20
Regaining Rationality

Rationality is difficult and slow to regain. During the improvement phase (at the end of a scenario), players will have opportunities to gamble precious XP for slight Rationality gains. As XP is typically rewarded for character actions that are in alignment with their stated motives (ie protecting the innocent, exploring unknown territories, investigating a world-spanning mystery...), using XP in such a way represents the character reinforcing his or her beliefs with successful action.

It is also important to note that regaining Rationality through direct action in accordance with one’s motives (in effect, earning XP) will have as much impact on a character (or more so) as going the route of institutionalization. This reinforces the idea of the hardboiled hero, as well as reflecting the experimental nature of the facilities in which the hero may end up (where it is just as likely to become a reluctanct test subject as it is a patient). In other words, the character whose motive is thrill seeking and danger, will have as much of a chance (or greater) of regaining Rationality by trekking into a hostile region of the Gobi Desert and discovering the trail of a legendary artifact, as he or she does clocking in to Arkham Sanitarium.

Results

The effects of this is that Horror checks are spread out among various skill areas, giving an adventurer a more rounded way of absorbing mental trauma. This also allows for madmen to have extremely high Willpower and almost zero Rationality. Soldiers, likewise, can have high Fortitude and be capable of absorbing the trauma of war, while still being vulnerable to extreme physical, psychic or supernatural shock.

Variant #1: an optional variant to this system is easy to facilitate, for those people who want to make madness a more imminent element of the setting. Make every Horror check a Rationality test, ditching the difficulty modifiers to balance the rapid spiral of mental attrition.

Variant #2: an optional variant on the other end of the spectrum, for those wanting a “pure Howardian” setup. Eliminate the Rationality test entirely (we won’t tell anyone). Use Willpower and Fortitude as Fear and Despair checks. Losing a Fear check stuns the player for a number of rounds equal to the damage roll, and rolling more damage than one’s Willpower either puts the player into a catatonic state or into a frenzied panic (keeper choice). Losing a Despair check drains the player’s skills for days equalling the damage roll, after which he or she must attempt another Despair test. Apply a Hard difficulty to every skill connected to one of the following attributes (DEX, INT, or CHA) while affected by despair. If the Horror rating of the event was Daunting, apply the difficulty modifier to two of the attributes, and if the rating was Improbable, to all three. That is, of course, for those people who want to remove madness entirely, or just use it as a convenient tool when necessary.

Of course, these are only a few of the changes. But we are running long on time, and wanted to share some of the highlights. Some other additions (to be covered at a later time) include folie à deux, General Adaptive Syndrome, shell shock, dementia praecox, psychosis of war, Japanese and Russian reactions to trench warfare (Russo-Japanese War), the precursors to the War Work Subcommitte of the National Committee for Mental Hygiene (United States), the Kirkbride Plan, and the cults of the Yellow King and their connection to Edison’s technology.

Our main driving point is that we had to reimagine the sanity system in light of our adventuring tone. Raiders of R’lyeh has more elements in common with sword & sorcery, as well as with weird adventure (which are almost synonymous concepts), and we needed to affect that change in the system.

February 4th, 2014


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Part Two: Talents and Changes

First, A Few Edits

First up, if you check December’s post, you may notice some edits from the last post. Language (Polyglot) is no longer available as a skill; rather, it is a talent (which is covered below). The Advanced skills Corruption, Lore, Pact, Psychic Sensitivity, and Status are removed (with Psychic Sensitivity being reorganized as a talent as well). Trade has been renamed to Tradeskill (a cosmetic but helpful change).

Nomenclature

As of now, a character consists of an ARCHETYPE, a NATURE, and a TALENT. Most likely this nomenclature will be the final one, though we have been debating changing the names to CAREER, SPECIALIZATION and TALENT, and calling the entire set an archetype. Regardless, the end result is a customizable character. An Occult Detective, for instance, could be constructed from the Magus archetype and the Investigator nature, and then given the Sleuth-hound talent, among other configurations.

Talents

Typically, each player gets only one talent, as a special quality of his or her history and experience (though for rare circumstances, or for NPCs, more than one talent may be given to the character). The talent is generally connected to the archetype and nature of the character. In other words, a reporter with zero medical experience isn’t likely to have the Medical Authority talent; a drifter with zero money isn’t likely to have the Connected talent...

Talents typically grant the players a few extra abilities or ideas for skill use. A few talents grant small bonuses when resisting stressors or helping others under stressful conditions. Some of these talents you have seen already in the playtest, but just configured differently. The Polyglot talent, for instance, works similarly to how the Polyglot skill worked in the playtest.

Talents include (not an exhaustive list): Berserker, Born Leader, Medical Authority, Academic Authority, Psychic Sensitivity, Clerical Authority, Superstitious, Resourceful, True Grit, Sleuth-hound, Military Authority, Gearhead, Connected, Packet Rat, Polyglot, Psychic Fugue, Grifter, Legal Authority, and (one of my favorites) Chutzpah.

Here is what a talent looks like (the following will look similar to the ability of the Gentleman Thief as written in the October playtest):

Grifter

You can roll Influence, Deceit or Disguise (depending on circumstances) to falsify your identity. You can even falsify your Class & Credit score when dealing with people of a higher Social Standing (using a level of difficulty depending on which social tier you are attempting). If you are attempting to mimic the ruling elite, then the difficulty is Daunting (Hard for upper class, Normal for upper middle class, and Normal for the others). If your true Social Standing is the one you are mimicking, then the difficulty is Normal. Also, one of your contacts may be a fence capable of moving stolen items on the black market at a reasonable price, and locating patrons looking for your talents.

Requirements

Typically the Grifter talent is found in those with criminal backgrounds, but it may also be discovered with drifters and dilettantes. Even someone with an innocent-seeming face may be harboring a grifter’s life, however. Once caught, this talent becomes very difficult to use in one’s traditional area of operations.

Connections

Your character’s contacts, allies and enemies are very important. Tables for family ties, reputation, background events, contacts and rivals are provided to help players generate some ideas about the world his or her character inhabits, and the character’s history in that world. Each player will end up with several of these connections. Wealthy and powerful characters may end up with more (or even with organizations as connections).

Connections aren’t mandatory for character creation. They’re toolkits for helping you develop a compelling history. As one example, here is a background event table for an adventurer with connections to a criminal organization. This is just one example (there are an assortment of background event tables for different life experiences)...

Syndicate Background Events
d10 Event Details
1 Friend in low places You have an informal history with someone having syndicate connections. He or she is able to assist you with information or help — for the right price. The information or help may not always be reliable or loyal.

Effects: +1 contact
2 Contact owes you a favor Someone in a syndicate heirarchy owes you a favor. Test your lowest Advanced skill. If it succeeds, you are owed a favor by a relatively powerful associate (near lieutenant level); otherwise, you are owed a favor by someone lower in the ranks (near minion level).

Effects: +1 contact
3 In possession of a black market artifact Through a criminal contact or fortuitous event you are now in possession of some mysterious artifact or information (something that various unscrupulous people desire). Perhaps the criminal contact worked for a syndicate. Perhaps he or she was an innocent that unfortunately crossed paths with a syndicate. The contact may have mailed the object to you, passed it in secret, or hidden it on your person during a mysterious rendezvous. Thereafter, he or she promptly disappeared.

Effects: receive a map, a piece of ephemera, a strange artifact, a package from an associate, a secret journal, or some other cryptic clue.
4 Unresolved murder Someone close to you was found dead (or went missing and presumed dead), and you possess unsubstantiated evidence that a syndicate was involved or responsible.

Effects: +1 contact
5 Missing contact Someone close to you, with connections to a syndicate, went missing. You have no leads, only suspicions.

Effects: +1 contact
6 You owe a favor You owe someone with syndicate connections a big favor, which could get sticky if the favor goes against your principles or your interests.

Effects: +1 contact
7 Deal gone sour At some point, you got mixed up in some syndicate deal gone bad, and you were’t at fault — other than being connected with the wrong people, or just at the wrong place at the wrong time. In any event, it doesn’t matter; your reputation has been tarnished and you may have to answer for the mixup.

Effects: +1 rival or +1 enemy
8 Criminal rival You’ve made enemies, but this particular rival has become a problematic opponent (perhaps perpetually filching jobs, spreading false rumors, sabotaging missions, or aligning with enemies).

Effects: +1 rival
9 Fumbled job You botched a job for an unsavory client with connections to a syndicate, and he or she wants answers. Your reputation (and maybe your life) is on the line.

Effects: +1 rival or +1 enemy
10 Hunted Somewhere along the line, you crossed a line or botched a job (or were framed). In any event, a syndicate holds you accountable and wants you dead (and is willing to pay a reasonable sum for your head).

Effects: +1 enemy

Major Edits

Lastly, we’ve made the following edits to the game. I’m not going to cover all of the changes right now, but the following are fairly substantial. The Knowledge (KNO) attribute is completely gone, as the character creation path is now handled differently. Social Standing is still in, but not included with the attributes. Willpower is now a Common skill, and Rationality has been adjusted to reflect modifications to the sanity system. How this all affects the sanity and magic systems will be addressed later (most likely in the next post in this series). The most significant change is the addition of Mettle points. Use of them in the game is optional for gamers who want a bit higher survivability. Spending a point of Mettle allows a character to do one of the following:

Spending Mettle
Spend Effects
1 Reroll a Horror check
1 Fight death (extra CON rounds) at –HP
1 Get an automatic Core clue (must have Expert in relevant skill)
1 Move the difficulty of a roll one degree easier
1 Take an extra action
1 Earn an advantage, or remove an opponent’s advantage

You’ll probably notice that — outside of allowing a player to reroll a Horror check — a player can’t use these points to reroll dice. Mettle represents an extra boost of fortitude, or showing raw courage even when failure is inevitable (as opposed to experiencing divine providence or heroic luck).

Here is how Rationality and Mettle are calculated:

Rationality and Mettle
POW+CON Rationality Mettle
12 or less 35 1
13-14 40 2
15-16 45 2
17-18 50 2
19-20 55 2
21-22 60 2
23-24 65 2
25-26 70 2
27-28 75 2
29-30 80 2
31-32 85 2
33-34 90 2
35-36 95 3
every +2 over 36 +5 3 (max)
For every INT point over 11, add +3 Rationality, and for every INT point below 10, subtract –3 Rationality.

In Closing

As aforementioned, the sanity system updates will be detailed soon, as well as the Rationality and Willpower changes (as they affect a more Howardian experience at the table). Beyond that, on the horizon, we have: new character sheets, playable characters, a new scenario...and, we’ve been busy adding chase rules to the game!

See you next time...

January 25th, 2014


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Part One: Archetypes

“...yet most of my dreams are laid in cold, giant lands of icy wastes and gloomy skies, and of wild, wind-swept fens and wilderness over which sweep great sea-winds, and which are inhabited by shockheaded savages with light fierce eyes. With the exception of one dream, I am never, in these dreams of ancient times, a civilized man.”—Robert E. Howard

Introduction

HAPPY HOLIDAYS...and welcome to the first article in our design journal (exlusively for Kickstarter backers)!

After receiving such great feedback after our playtest, and making extensive notes from our internal playtest, we made quite a few important revisions to our player’s guide and core rules.

Revisions included reorganizing, renaming, combining and restructuring our original draft of skills. We have something much more robust, modular and adaptable (and more suitable to the adventure-oriented tone of the setting).

We’ve made adjustments to the sanity system (especially as it relates to the magic system and to a horror adventure setting), a topic we’ll address later in the series.

We expanded the archetypes and made them more fluid. Just about any archetype can be constructed from this setup, and you’ll see a big piece of the character creation toolkit here in this article.

What follows is a peek at some of these revisions. We’ll expand on these ideas later in the series, but for now here are some highlights of the character creation process.

Picking an Archetype

After rolling for attributes and social standing, players will receive a comprehensive and adaptable list of archetypes from which to build their heroes. Each archetype suggests a myriad of subtypes. A few examples of these subtype variations follow each archetype, in order to stimulate your imagination.

Archetypes
Type Example Variations
ARTIST Painter, Writer, Poet, Forger
CLERIC Missionary, Rabbi, Priest, Preacher with a Past
DETECTIVE Police Detective, Private Detective, Scotland Yard Consultant
DILETTANTE Bohemian, Edwardian Exile, Epicure, Gentleman, Connoisseur, Private Collector
DRIFTER Street Urchin, Wanderer, Hobo, Tramp, Outsider
EMISSARY Diplomat, Envoy, Governor, Colonial Office Man
ENGINEER Inventor, Mechanic, Promethean, Gunsmith
ENTERTAINER Vaudeville Actor, Escapist, Stage Magician, Circus Freak, Musician, Illusionist, Fortune Teller
FIGHTER Tommy Atkins, Army Officer, Mercenary, Boer Commando, Gurkha, Guerilla, Revolutionary
HERDER Cowboy, Herdsman, Gaucho, Shepherd, Tribesman, Bedouin
HUNTER Trapper, Big Game Hunter
LANDLORD Lord of Estate, Rancher, Southern Plantation Owner, Colonial Landholder, Inn Proprietor
MAGUS Occultist, Yogi, Spiritualist, Guru, Conjure Man
MARINER Sailor, Merchant Vessel Captain, Naval Officer, Ship Pilot, Ship Navigator, Whaler
MERCHANT Colonial Entrepeneur, Smuggler, Trafficker, Slaver, Fence
MINER Prospector, Coal Worker, Coal Trapper, Geological Surveyor, Diamond Miner
PHYSICIAN Surgeon, Army Medic, Nurse, Coroner, Healer
REPORTER Propagandist, Newspaper Editor, Yellow Journalist, Foreign Correspondent
SCHOLAR Archaeologist, Historian, Professor, Librarian, Philosopher, Antiquarian, Museum Curator
SCIENTIST Astronomer, Physicist, Geologist, Mathematician, Biologist, Chemist, Forensic Consultant
SCOUT Ranger, Pinkerton Agent, Bounty Hunter, Tracker, Man With No Name
SERVANT Valet, Governess, Chauffeur, Gentleman’s Gentleman
SOLICITOR Attorney, Loan Officer, Estate Agent
SPY Special Agent, Operative, Mole, Saboteur, Assassin
THIEF Burglar, Art Thief, Bank Robber, Tomb Raider
TRADESMAN Mason, Jeweler, Locksmith, Repairman, Welder, Vintner, Tailor, Chef, Clockmaker, Butcher

Archetype Skills

Skills are now divided into Common and “unlockable” Advanced categories. If you’ve seen how Runequest or Legend organizes its skills, then this will look somewhat familiar (at least structurally). Following is a look at part of the character lifepath process, where players build their skills based on their chosen archetypes.

Archetype Skills
Common Skills (all 7) Advanced Skills (pick 3)
ARTIST Deceit, Detection, Influence, Intuition, Knowledge (General), Streetwise, Willpower Create Art (any), Disguise, Entertain (any), Forgery (any), Knowledge (Art History), Sleight of Hand, Trade (any craft-oriented)
CLERIC Deceit or Intuition, Etiquette, First Aid, Fortitude or Willpower, Influence, Native Tongue, Research Linguistics (any), Knowledge (Anthropology), Knowledge (History), Knowledge (any religion), Language (one language), Streetwise, Survival
DETECTIVE Deceit, Detection, Evade or Willpower, Intuition, Research, Stealth, Streetwise Disguise, Fighting Style (Concealed Weapons), Intimidate, Knowledge (Law), Mechanisms, Sleight of Hand, Tracking
DILETTANTE Athletics or Swim, Etiquette, Fortitude or Willpower, Influence, Knowledge (General), Native Tongue, Streetwise Create Art (any), Entertain (any), Knowledge (any), Language (one language), Occult, Survival, Trade (any epicurean-related)
DRIFTER Athletics, Conceal, Fortitude, Stealth, Streetwise, Swim, Unarmed Entertain (any), Fighting Style (Concealed Weapons or Street Fighting), Language (one language), Ride (any), Seduction, Sleight of Hand, Survival
EMISSARY Deceit, Etiquette, Fortitude or Willpower, Influence, Intuition, Knowledge (General), Streetwise Commerce, Drive (any), Intimidate, Knowledge (any region), Knowledge (Law), Knowledge (Politics), Ride (any)
ENGINEER Athletics, Brawn, Intuition, Knowledge (General), Native Tongue, Research, Willpower Drive (any), Engineering, Fighting Style (Firearms or Exotic Weapons), Pilot (any), Science (Chemistry), Science (Mathematics), Science (Physics)
ENTERTAINER Athletics or Brawn, Conceal, Deceit, Evade, Influence, Intuition, Research or Streetwise Create Art (any), Disguise, Entertain (any), Fighting Style (any stage-related), Mechanisms, Seduction, Sleight of Hand
FIGHTER Athletics, Brawn, Evade or Fortitude, First Aid, Stealth, Swim, Unarmed Explosives, Fighting Style (Infantry or Cavalry), Intimidate, Knowledge (Cartography), Mechanisms, Ride (any), Survival
HERDER Athletics, Brawn, Evade or Fortitude, First Aid, Knowledge (General), Stealth, Unarmed Drive (Horse-Drawn Carriage), Fighting Style (Firearms or Mounted Firearms), Intimidate, Knowledge (any region), Ride (any), Survival, Tracking
HUNTER Athletics, Brawn, Conceal, Fortitude or Willpower, Stealth, Swim, Unarmed Fighting Style (Hunting Methods and Arsenal, Firearms or Mounted Firearms), Intimidate, Knowledge (any region), Language (one language), Ride (any), Survival, Tracking
LANDLORD Conceal, Etiquette, Influence, Intuition, Knowledge (General), Native Tongue, Willpower Commerce, Drive (any), Fighting Style (any relevant to region), Intimidate, Knowledge (any region, Art History, Law or Politics), Language (one language), Ride (any)
MAGUS Deceit, Etiquette, Influence, Intuition, Research, Streetwise, Willpower Intimidate, Knowledge (any religion), Knowledge (Cryptography), Linguistics (any), Occult, Seduction, Sleight of Hand
MARINER Athletics, Brawn or Unarmed, Conceal, First Aid, Fortitude, Streetwise, Swim Commerce, Intimidate, Knowledge (Cartography), Language (one language), Mechanisms, Pilot (Ship or Submarine), Survival
MERCHANT Deceit, Etiquette, Influence, Intuition, Research, Streetwise, Willpower Commerce, Drive (any), Forgery (Official Documents), Intimidate, Knowledge (any relevant to one’s business), Language (one language), Pilot (Ship)
MINER Athletics, Brawn or Swim, Detection, First Aid, Fortitude, Knowledge (General), Unarmed Commerce, Explosives, Knowledge (any Region), Knowledge (Cartography), Mechanisms, Science (Geology), Survival
PHYSICIAN Athletics, Detection, Etiquette, First Aid, Intuition, Knowledge (General), Willpower Forensics, Knowledge (any region), Medicine, Science (Biology), Science (Botany), Science (Chemistry), Survival
REPORTER Deceit, Detection, Evade, Intuition, Knowledge (General), Research, Streetwise Create Art (Writing), Disguise, Knowledge (any region), Knowledge (Politics), Language (one language), Seduction, Sleight of Hand
SCHOLAR Detection, Etiquette, Intuition, Knowledge (General), Native Tongue, Research, Willpower Create Art (Writing), Knowledge (any), Language (one language), Linguistics (any), Medicine, Occult, Science (any)
SCIENTIST Athletics, Detection, First Aid, Intuition, Knowledge (General), Research, Willpower Forensics, Knowledge (any), Mechanisms, Medicine, Science (Mathematics), Science (Chemistry or Physics), Science (any additional specialization)
SCOUT Athletics, Detection, Evade or Fortitude, First Aid, Stealth, Streetwise, Unarmed Fighting Style (Firearms or Mounted Firearms), Knowledge (any region), Knowledge (Cartography or Law), Mechanisms, Ride (any), Survival, Tracking
SERVANT Athletics or Brawn, Deceit or Influence, Etiquette, First Aid, Fortitude, Knowledge (General), Native Tongue Drive (any), Knowledge (any region), Language (one language), Mechanisms, Riding (any), Trade (any service-oriented), Trade (Education)
SOLICITOR Deceit, Intuition, Etiquette, Influence, Research, Streetwise, Willpower Commerce, Forgery (Official Documents), Intimidate, Knowledge (Accounting), Knowledge (Law), Knowledge (Politics), Seduction
SPY Conceal, Influence, Deceit, Detection, Evade, Stealth, Streetwise Disguise, Explosives, Fighting Style (Stealth Weapons), Forgery (Official Documents), Knowledge (Cryptography), Mechanisms, Seduction
THIEF Athletics, Conceal, Deceit, Detection, Evade, Stealth, Streetwise Commerce, Disguise, Explosives, Forgery (any), Knowledge (any related to a black market), Mechanisms, Sleight of Hand
TRADESMAN Athletics, Brawn, Fortitude, Influence, Knowledge (General), Native Tongue, Streetwise Commerce, Create Art (Sculpture), Engineering, Knowledge (any related to expertise), Mechanisms, Science (any related to expertise), Trade (focus of one’s expertise)

Choosing a Nature

Header
A Character’s True Nature

A character’s nature works somewhat similarly to classes in other systems, in that it helps define the character’s focus or function within the setting. A roguish type relies on stealth and guile, while a gunhand relies on guns and grit. Nature is more than just a class, however. Choosing a nature allows a player to round out his or archetype and make it unique.

Examples

A merchant can be an upper class charmer with connections in high places (and therefore more of a socialite in style), or a ruthless mercenary (and therefore more of a gunhand). A roguish merchant, on the other hand, would be a good choice for a smuggler.

Choosing a nature evokes interesting contrasts for one’s archetype. At first glance, a gunhand cleric makes little sense, unless one considers a puritan, a crusader, or a preacher with a checkered past. Solomon Kane would probably fall under such a label, as would the ex-gunhand preacher archetype played by Clint Eastwood.

An expert is one specializing in a particular pool of skills. Examples include engineers, occultists, or medics (among others). An expert detective may be an occult detective (similar to John Silence), or a detective utlizing modern science (similar to Sherlock Holmes), among a myriad of other options. The expert nature also allows for inventors to join the team, characters resembling Tesla, Browning or Ford.

Everyman characters are typically reserved for NPCs, though they are available to players who want a more purist style of play.

Nature (pick one in addition to your Archetype)
Type Explanation
EXPLORER Also called a drifter and a wastrel, but at least you’re good at something.
SOCIALITE You have contacts, resources, conspiracies, and no doubt shameful secrets.
ROGUE You steal, hide and transport things that belong to more important people.
GUNHAND You punch and shoot things, and most likely bathe irregularly.
INVESTIGATOR You’re good at finding information, solving mysteries and annoying many people.
EXPERT You’re a specialist in some area, and that impresses some people.
EVERYMAN You’re a respectable member of society. Not everyone can be special.
Nature Bonuses

Characters receive Common and Advanced bonus skills according to their natures, just as they do with their archetype designations.

Nature
Type Common Skills (all) Advanced Skills (all)
EXPLORER Athletics, Brawn, First Aid, Fortitude, Swim Drive (any) or Pilot (any), Knowledge (Cartography) or Knowledge (any region), Language (Polyglot any), Ride (any), Survival
SOCIALITE Deceit, Etiquette, Influence, Intuition, Willpower Commerce, Create Art (any) or Entertain (any), Knowledge (Politics), Language (one language), Seduction
ROGUE Conceal, Deceit, Evade, Stealth, Streetwise Commerce, Disguise or Seduction, Fighting Style (Concealed Weapons), Forgery (any) or Mechanisms, Sleight of Hand
GUNHAND Athletics, Brawn, Evade or Fortitude, First Aid, Unarmed Fighting Style (Firearms or Mounted Firearms), Intimidate, Knowledge (any region) or Fighting Style (Exotic Secondary Specialty), Ride (any), Survival
INVESTIGATOR Detection, Evade or Willpower, Intuition, Research, Streetwise Disguise or Sleight of Hand, Fighting Style (Concealed Weapons), Knowledge (Law), Mechanisms, Tracking
EXPERT Etiquette or Streetwise, Intuition, First Aid, Fortitude or Willpower, Knowledge (General), Mechanisms, Native Tongue, Research Pick one of the following twice: Engineering, Explosives, Forensics, Knowledge (any), Linguistics (any), Medicine, Occult, Language (Polyglot any), Science (any), Trade (any)
EVERYMAN Athletics or Knowledge (General), Brawn or Unarmed, Etiquette or Streetwise, Evade or Fortitude Pick one preexisting professional skill

Skills Revision

Following is a complete list of the Common and Advanced skills. Many of these subdivide into more specializations; skills with subcategories or designations are appended with a ‘[ ]’ notation. Knowledge subdivides into categories such as Accounting and Law, while Science subdivides into categories such as Biology and Physics.

Common Skills

Athletics (STR+DEX)
Brawn (STR+SIZ)
Class & Credit (special)
Conceal (INT+POW)
Deceit (INT+CHA)
Detection (INT+POW)
Etiquette (INT+CHA)
Evade (DEX×2)
First Aid (DEX+INT)
Fortitude (CON×2)
Influence (CHA+POW)
Intuition (INT+POW)
Knowledge [General] (INT×2)
Native Tongue (INT×2)
Research (INT×2)
Stealth (DEX+20-SIZ)
Streetwise (POW+CHA)
Swim (STR+CON)
Unarmed (DEX+STR)
Willpower (POW×2)

Advanced Skills

Commerce (INT+CHA)
Corruption (INT+POW)
Create Art [ ] (INT+POW)
Disguise (INT+CHA)
Drive [ ] (DEX+POW)
Engineering (INT×2)
Entertain [ ] (CHA×2)
Explosives (INT+POW)
Forensics (DEX+INT)
Forgery [ ] (POW+INT)
Intimidate (SIZ+POW)
Knowledge [ ] (INT×2)
Language [ ] (INT×2)
Linguistics [ ] (INT×2)
Lore [ ] (INT+POW)
Mechanisms (INT+DEX)
Medicine (INT+POW)
Occult (CHA+POW)
Pact [ ] (CHA+POW)
Pilot [ ] (INT+POW)
Psychic Sensitivity (POW+CHA)
Ride [ ] (DEX+POW)
Science [ ] (INT×2)
Seduction (CHA+POW)
Sleight of Hand (DEX+CHA)
Status [ ] (special)
Survival (POW+CON)
Tracking (INT+CON)
Trade Tradeskill [ ] (DEX+INT)

Conclusion

A further explanation of these categories will be included in a later article in the series, but a few notes are in order.

Skills are Reorganized

One, you’ll notice quite a few changes from the playtest. Some skills have been renamed. Some have been removed or folded into broader skill trees.

Redesigned Character Sheet and Modular Functionality

Two, our two-fold objective was to slim down the character sheet to a list of essential skills and promote a more modular approach to organization. Options to build characters into more Lovecraftian investigators with academic specialties are left completely open to the player (who would add these specializations according to the chosen archetype). However, skills not relevant to the archetype no longer take up space and attention on the character sheet, which is helpful to those players wanting to send Howardian explorers into the wilderness with sixshooters and wanderlust. The system is now much more modular, and therefore more adaptable to different play modes. When we eventually discuss different epochs — later in the series — we’ll elaborate on this idea more.

Base Scores for Skills

And three, each skill now includes its base attributes for determining a starting score. Characters advance their known skills by way of skill checks, and by way of points awarded through a very simple XP system. At the end of a session, each player is awarded 1 to 3 XP which he may either add — 1 d6 per XP — to his skill advancement, or save for later. A player may use this saved XP to acquire new Advanced skills. XP may be used for other options as well, a topic we’ll save for another article.

More to Come

For simplicity sake, we’ve left a lot for further articles in the series. But we’ll be moving through this series with zeal, steadily approaching a new playable scenario. We hope you love these revisions and where we’re taking RoR. We can’t wait to reveal more in this series, as we’ve only just touched the surface of what waits for you in the player’s guide!

December 15th, 2013
Raiders of Rlyeh Funded by You Raiders of Rlyeh Design Series



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