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A GMless roleplaying game (RPG) of brooding cosmic horror. Create stories like HP Lovecraft; forget Cthulhu - create your own terrors.
A GMless roleplaying game (RPG) of brooding cosmic horror. Create stories like HP Lovecraft; forget Cthulhu - create your own terrors.
A GMless roleplaying game (RPG) of brooding cosmic horror. Create stories like HP Lovecraft; forget Cthulhu - create your own terrors.
594 backers pledged £15,186 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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£15,186

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Overview of the game

Lovecraftesque is a GMless storytelling game of brooding cosmic horror. You and your friends will each contribute strange clues to a slow-building mystery, culminating in a journey into darkness that ends in a climactic scene of horror. You will be surprised and creeped out by your friends' contributions, but the game is designed so that it will feel like one person was GMing it, even though you never had to break the tension by pausing for discussion. In short, Lovecraftesque is the GMless, indie-style Lovecraft game you've been waiting for.

When you play Lovecraftesque you'll be creating your own mystery, and your own unique monsters that will feel like something out of Lovecraft's notebook. There won't be any Mi-Go or Deep Ones - you'll get a completely fresh take on the genre.

The game focuses on a single Witness, who is at the mercy of strange and terrifying events. Lovecraft's stories rarely featured parties of investigators, and the hero rarely wins - that's how our game works, too. You rotate responsibility for playing the Witness, but the role is much more about revealing their inner thoughts and fears than solving the mystery or beating up cultists.

We have just under 24 hours left to go! If you back the project now, you'll be helping to unlock new quick-start scenarios by Kira Magrann and Jason Morningstar.

What is my money going towards?

If we exactly meet our basic funding goal, the money will be split approximately as follows:

We are producing the game using Lightning Source, who have printing operations on both sides of the atlantic. This has enabled us to keep our shipping costs down to a very low level.

Unexpected costs (e.g. higher-than-expected shipping) will be taken first from the contingency fund and then, if need be, from our pay. If there is money left in the contingency fund after all costs have been paid, it will be split equally between the two authors and the two artists.

What stage is the game at?

The text of the game is 95% complete. It has been through extensive playtesting, both internal and external. We know that it works the way it's supposed to, and that it's fun to play. There is still some editing to do, but the game is otherwise ready to go. There is a bare-bones version of the game available for free download right now.

Can I see some previews of the art?

We thought you'd never ask.

Robin Scott is signed up to do the artwork. We were amazed by her work on the Urban Tarot, which is beautiful and filled with unexpected details that you don't notice on first viewing.

The cover image
The cover image
Interior art example
Interior art example

For examples of Robin's previous work, take a look at her website.

Nathan Paoletta is signed up to do the layout of the book. He's an experienced hand, having done layout work for Circle of Hands and The Annotated Sorcerer, amongst many others.

Sample layout
Sample layout

You can see a PDF version of the draft layout here. We will also provide all backers at WITNESS and above with a stripped down, minimalist layout version, for easy printing and reading.

How does the game actually work?

In each scene, one of you will take on the role of Narrator and reveal a single clue to the nature of the true horror that the Witness faces. After the scene, everyone writes down their theories about what is really going on, leaping wildly to conclusions based on what has happened so far, and then using those ideas to inform their contributions to the game. The result is a GMless mystery, but with all the coherence you get from having a GM.

The end of the game is a fixed sequence of events: a rapidly spiralling Journey into Darkness where everyone contributes to build a sense of foreboding and tension; a climactic Final Horror in which the true nature of the horror is finally revealed; and an Epilogue where the terrible consequences of these events are spelled out.

Every game is different. Sometimes the horror is a monster, or a sleeping god, or sometimes it's an unpleasant revelation. The game provides a set of cards which allow you to introduce different thematic elements (such as a cult) and break the normal game rules with them (the cult attacks the Witness!)

That's the game in a nutshell. If you want to know more, you can download a bare-bones draft of the rules and take a look.

What are the cards for? Do you need them to play?

There is a deck of 20 Special Cards that you can get to accompany the game. At the start of the game, each player will receive a card which they can play to introduce thematic elements (for example, a cult) and then break the rules in certain pre-defined ways (for example, the cult perform a blatantly supernatural ritual). This helps reinforce Lovecraftian themes and ensure that every game is different.

This also includes some handy reference cards that make it easier to track the rotating roles.

The book will contain photocopyable versions of the cards, so you do not need to buy the cards to play. It is also possible to play a cut-down version of the game without them.

Lovecraft and race

Lovecraft portrayed people of colour in a negative and stereotypical, often treating them as if they were less than human. We have taken a number of steps in Lovecraftesque to make the game inclusive, welcoming and fun for everybody. We have included advice on how to create brand new Lovecraftian stories, free from these stereotypes. If we raise enough money then we'll commission a full-length essay about this issue by Mo Holkar.

Lovecraft and mental health

Lovecraft's stories are full of simplistic depictions of mental disorders, very much a product of their time. Lovecraftesque has worked to modernise Lovecraft's approach to mental health whilst losing none of the horror. We provide specific advice on how to respectfully address the impact of the trauma on the human mind, and how to agree your approach around the gaming table. If we raise enough money then we'll commission a full-length essay on this issue from Shoshana Kessock.

Stretch goals

Note: We have included several stretch goals involving commissioning new written material. We are aware of the risk that implies and will not allow these to affect the delivery date of the main product. In the event that any stretch goal is unfulfilled when the book is otherwise ready for printing, we will leave it out and publish it as a separate PDF.

£5500 (unlocked!): We will upgrade half the interior art to full colour. We will commission Mo Holkar to write an essay on Lovecraft, racism and how to run a Lovecraftian roleplaying game without the racism, together with a companion quick-start scenario Darkness Visible.

£6500 (unlocked!): We will upgrade all the interior art to full colour. We will  commission two more quick-start scenarios: Resonate by Graham Walmsley and Chateau of Leng by Renee Knipe.

£7500 (unlocked!): We will upgrade some of the interior art to full page. We will commission Shoshana Kessock to write an essay on Lovecraft and mental health.

£8500 (unlocked!): We will add more interior art and upgrade more of it to full-page. We will commission two more quick-start scenarios: Sannikov Land by Jason Morningstar and Doll Babies by Julia Ellingboe.

£9500 (unlocked!): We will add yet more interior art and upgrade still more of it to full-page. We will commission two more quick-start scenarios: Change Our Vile Bodies by Scott Dorward and The Wreck by Rachel E.S. Walton

£10500 (unlocked!): We will upgrade all the interior art to full-page.

£11500 (unlocked!): We will commission two more quick-start scenarios: With a Brush of the Fingertips by Elsa S Henry and Under the Mask by Whitney "Strix" Beltrán.

£12500 (unlocked!): We will commission Lovecraftian poetry by Anil Godi to illustrate the ideas in the book, and release ebook (Mobi and Epub) formats to all backers at WITNESS and above.

£13500 (unlocked!): We will commission two more quick-start scenarios: House-Sitter by Jason Cordova and Can Mr Giggles Stay For Dinner? by Misha Bushyager.

£14500: We will commission two more quick-start scenarios: Dirty Bloody Kisses by Kira Magrann and The Wardian Case by Jason Morningstar.

The project team

 Stretch goal authors

Risks and challenges

We've put a lot of work into minimising the risks to our Kickstarter. Josh is a qualified project manager and has worked on projects worth millions of pounds, so naturally we have a clear and realistic project timetable and a contingency budget to ensure we don't run out of money.

The book is already 95% written. The remaining material is the province of stretch goals and editing.

We have hired Nathan Paoletta to do our layout, and Robin Scott to do our art, and they have both committed to the project timescales. Both are veterans of their own successful Kickstarter projects, and we're benefiting from their insights and support. We have engaged in extensive early dialogue with them to make sure that we understand their needs and the timescales they can work to. The contracts are already signed.

We've already identified a printer to produce the book and cards, and we know their timescales and how much it will cost, and we have taken account of likely price changes between now and the delivery date. We have taken account of requirements like shipping and handling, and EU VAT. Indeed, we specifically chose a printer with branches on both sides of the Atlantic to minimise shipping costs. We don't believe there are any hidden costs with this project.

We have included stretch goals written by third parties, which introduces an additional degree of risk. We hope to include these in the final product, but if a stretch goal fails to complete in time to meet our deadlines for printing the books, we will go ahead without that goal included and (assuming that the material is eventually produced) we will publish it as a free-to-download PDF.

In short, we've planned everything to the nth degree to make sure that everything runs smoothly. But we're realists, and we know that things can go wrong. That's why we've allowed for slippage from our planned timescales, and a contingency fund to cover unexpected costs. By the way, if the contingency fund isn't needed after all, we will split the money between ourselves and our artist and layout designer, so everybody benefits and everyone is incentivised to keep costs down.

If the above proves inadequate, we will be pro-active in chasing down any problems and dealing with them. And we will keep you informed, so you know that the project isn't just drifting.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge £1 or more About $1.54

    VICTIM. Our thanks and credit in the game book.

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    WITNESS. Full and print-friendly PDF copies of the game, our thanks and credit in the game book.

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    GHOUL. Full and print-friendly PDF copies of the game, our thanks and credit in the game book plus a deck of cards. (£3 extra for shipping outside USA and UK.)

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    GHOUL. Full and print-friendly PDF copies of the game, our thanks and credit in the game book plus a deck of cards. (£3 extra for shipping outside USA and UK.)

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    CULTIST. PDF and softcover copies of the game, our thanks and credit in the game book. (£3 extra for shipping outside USA and UK.)

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    SORCERER. PDF and softcover copies of the game, our thanks and credit in the game book plus a deck of cards. (£6 extra for shipping outside USA and UK.)

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    DEEP ONE. PDF and hardcover copies of the game, our thanks and credit in the game book. (£3 extra for shipping outside USA and UK.)

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    MI-GO. PDF and hardcover copies of the game, our thanks and credit in the game book plus a deck of cards. (£6 extra for shipping outside USA and UK.)

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    THE WITCH HOUSE. You get to help create one of the locations in our quick-start scenarios. Give us a name and a detail you want including, and we will work them into a scenario. You also get PDF and hardcover copies of the game, our thanks and credit in the game book plus a deck of cards. (£6 extra for shipping outside USA and UK.)

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    NAMELESS CULTS. 4 PDF and softcover copies of the game, our thanks and credit in the game book. (£10 extra for shipping outside USA and UK.)

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    Pledge £60 or more About $93

    THE KING IN YELLOW. You get to help create one of the characters in our quick-start scenarios. Give us a name and a detail you want including, and we will work them into a scenario. PDF and hardcover copies of the game, our thanks and credit in the game book plus a deck of cards. (£6 extra for shipping outside USA and UK.)

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    Pledge £150 or more About $232

    THE BLACK GOAT OF THE WOODS. A hardcover copy of the game hand-bound in your choice of black goatskin, dark green silk and black goatskin or decorative paper, with slip case and signed by the authors. Plus PDF and softcover copy of the game, our thanks and credit in the game book plus a deck of cards.

    Note: Because the binding process takes time, and needs to be sent to our binder in the UK and then on to you, the bound book will arrive later than the other items. (£25 extra for shipping outside UK.)

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    PICKMAN'S MODEL. Send us a picture or description of a monster and our artist Robin Scott will turn it into a stunning, creepy illustration for the game book. If we reach our stretch goals upgrading all of the art to colour and/or full-page, your reward will also be upgraded. You will also receive PDF and hardcover copies of the game, our thanks and credit in the game book plus a deck of cards. (£6 extra for shipping outside USA and UK.)

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Funding period

- (30 days)