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RPG sourcebook set in 1920s NYC, the Harlem Renaissance, delving into Mythos mysteries for either Call of Cthulhu or
Gumshoe system.
RPG sourcebook set in 1920s NYC, the Harlem Renaissance, delving into Mythos mysteries for either Call of Cthulhu or Gumshoe system.
644 backers pledged $38,698 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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Investigate Mythos mysteries in 1920s NYC’s Harlem Renaissance! An RPG sourcebook for Call of Cthulhu and GUMSHOE.  

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New York City in the 1920s: Prohibition is in full swing, and bootleggers are living high. African Americans flee the oppressive South for greener pastures, creating a new culture in Harlem. The music of Fats Waller and Duke Ellington pours out of the city’s windows and doorways, and the sidewalks are crowded with women in stylish skirts with silk stockings, and men in white gloves and Chesterfield coats. There’s a feeling of possibility in the air, like never before. But even in this land of promise, Harlem is a powder keg. While classes and cultures collide, Lovecraftian horrors lurk beneath the streets, creeping through dark alleys and hidden doorways into the Dreamlands. What Great Old One shattered our reality? Can you hold it together and keep the Mythos at bay for one more song?

Darker Hue Studios is proud to present our first-ever Kickstarter project: Harlem Unbound.

Cover art draft
Cover art draft

BRIGHT LIGHTS, DEEP SHADOWS

Harlem Unbound is a unique RPG sourcebook that takes players into the exciting world of the Harlem Renaissance at its height, to face terrifying horrors from the Lovecraftian Mythos. This groundbreaking tome gives Keepers and players everything they need to bring this unique place and time to life, and engage with the people who gave it its soul.

Harlem Unbound is compatible with multiple systems, with options for investigating the Mythos on New York’s jazz-soaked streets using either Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu RPG or any of the several GUMSHOE-powered investigative RPGs by Pelgrane Press. 

This sourcebook flips the standard Lovecraftian view of minorities on its head, putting them in the role of heroes who must struggle against cosmic horrors while also fighting for a chance at equality. By default, the protagonists of Harlem Unbound are African American, not white (which is the standard assumption found in Lovecraftian fiction). Our heroes and heroines come from all walks of life with regard to class, ethnicity, race, religion, gender and sexual orientation.
 
The heart of the Renaissance was a revolution aimed at changing the world through art, ideas, and the written word. It was a uniquely powerful movement against the unjust status quo, a time in history that still inspires today. The history, people and stories in this book shine the spotlight on the people of Harlem, their successes and their struggles.

PLEDGE NOW, PLAY NOW

Pledge at the Cullen ($25) level and higher, and you’ll get instant access to a beta copy of one of the scenarios, so you can quickly start play using 7th Edition Call of Cthulhu or GUMSHOE:  
  • Test your moxie by stepping into the ring with the Galveston Giant, Jack Johnson. Bob and weave to stay one step ahead of the horrors humanity isn't meant to know. 
  • Enjoy a night in the Dark Tower listening to jazz, sipping on bootleg whiskey, and verbally sparring with author Richard Wright. Find yourself, lose yourself, among the giants of the Renaissance. 
  • Duck into the Cotton Club, avoiding the Nightgaunt's elevating deadly embrace. Find another way to get high and leave the turmoil behind.

ABOUT THE BOOK 

This sourcebook contains everything the Keeper needs to run adventures in the Harlem Renaissance for either Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition or GUMSHOE. Beautifully designed in the Art Deco style, Harlem Unbound will be released as a ~90k word volume in digital and hardback formats. Our goal is to deliver all books in July 2017.    

THE BREAKDOWN  

Introduction: A brief welcome to both the Harlem Renaissance and H.P. Lovecraft, and the first glimpse of how we're going to put them together.

History: The history of Harlem is long, and the Mythos runs through her.

Locations: Harlem is small but has a global impact, and you’ve got to know the lay of the land. The section is also sprinkled with plot hooks to jump start sessions.  

People: Harlem is jam-packed with people, and it's time to meet some of them. This is another section sprinkled with plot hooks to jump start sessions.  

Character Creation: Six distinctive Harlem character classes are presented in both Cthulhu and GUMSHOE. The Conjure Man has awakened!  

System Mechanics: Rules, tweaks and new mechanics for GUMSHOE and 7th Edition Call of Cthulhu.  

Storytelling: Helping new and experienced Keepers run a game steeped in the history of racism, horror, and the celebration of life.   

SCENARIOS  

Harlem Hellfighters Never Die: An ancient enemy from the battlefields of World War I has returned to exact vengeance on the Hellfighters. Can you rally them to save the day, or will you join the legion of the dead?  

The Contender: When former heavyweight champion Jack Johnson asks the players to investigate the death of a young fighter, the case takes them to Harlem’s lowest and highest areas in search of answers—none of which are easy, and only open the door for much harder questions.

REWARDS

ADD-ONS 

Want some extra swag? We've got some swag. Add-ons are for adding some extra punch to your order. To add one or more of the following items, increase your pledge by the appropriate amount. After the Kickstarter is over, you'll select exactly what add-ons you want using Backerkit. You can find a draft of the cover art on this page which will be featured on many of these fine pieces. 

$10 | Dice (2): You were going to roll some generic dice? You savage. The dice will be D6, and the Darker Hue Studios logo will replace the 1-side.

$50 | Zip Hoodie: Protect yourself from Ithaqua's frosty touch. The Gildan Zip Front Hoodie has a front pouch and ribbed cuffs and waistband; up to a size 5X. The hoodie will have the final Harlem Unbound cover art featured on the back and a Darker Hue Studios logo on the front right pocket.

$50 | Extra Hard Copy: Because friends don't let friends go without Harlem Unbound.  

STRETCH GOALS  

If Harlem Unbound resonates and gets a good response, we’ll add some stretch goals as we go. Maybe we can buy a few rounds of drinks, and get some additional writers or artists on board? Or maybe some new Mythos entities for Harlem?  

The BIG stretch goal, the one we really hope we can pull off, is to get all of the hardback books printed with color. We would need to bring in something like $15,000 to make that happen, hep cats. Printing a lot of books in color could potentially make us host rent parties to keep the lights on, but it would be gorgeous and make some of the rules pop!  

Of course, if the Kickstarter skyrockets, we could start the short story/comic series of Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes battling the Mythos in Tesla and Lovecraft fashion. Or a Harlem Unbound video game...we could make that happen! Watch the updates for Harlem Unbound news about our goals, possible excerpts and more.      

***FUNDED!*** $7,000 | Additional Scenario: Harlem (K)nights: An explosive campaign starter! A rabbi, a local Mafia boss, and a letter from labor activist Asa Philip Randolph set the investigators on a dangerous path. How can they hope to beat what cannot die that can eternally slumber as it stirs? Will it end in their doom?

***FUNDED!*** $8,500 | Keeper's Screen: A 3-panel screen that holds rules, charts and other Keeper tips to challenge and guide your players. 

***FUNDED!*** $10,000 | Additional Art: We've got incredibly talented artists working with us, and we'd love to give them more work to do and add some dazzling eye candy for your gaming pleasure.

***FUNDED!*** $12,000 | Additional Scenario: Dreams and Broken Wings, by Alex Mayo. Clayton Morris, a promising painter and rising star in the Harlem art community, has gone missing. While many dismiss his disappearance as a harmless circumstance, some believe foul play may be afoot. Discovering the truth will take players into the heart of Harlem’s art scene and possibly into worlds beyond.

***FUNDED!*** $13,500 | 1,000 Additional Words on the History of Harlem. Harlem has a deep history, and the city's stories are endless. We'll augment the basics with some enhanced knowledge about Harlem's history for you to bring to your game.

***FUNDED!*** $15,000 | Color-Printed Hardback Books: Now, wouldn't this be grand? Color will be used to enhance the rules, imagery, and graphics, making Harlem Unbound as easy to use at the table as possible.

***FUNDED!*** $16,500 | 4 Horrific Harlem-Themed Mythos Creatures: The first creature will be (drumroll, please)... a new Great Old One: The Baron in Blues.

***FUNDED!*** $18,500 | New Character Class: The Patron. We will add a whole new character class to the existing 6 currently written.   

***FUNDED!*** $22,000 | Additional Scenario: The Play Is More Than the Thing by Chris Spivey. A banned script writer, Reggie "Flip" Smith, flees home to Harlem after a nearly deadly incident in Hollywood. In one of his plays are the pages from a long forgotten book that shatters sanity if it is performed. Back in Harlem at the Dark Tower, he begs A'Lelia Walker for an unveiling of his latest play. (Available late 2017 as separate digital content for the Chick Webb Pledge Level or higher.)

***FUNDED!*** $25,000 | Deluxe Hard Back Book. You know how sometimes you get a book and it is knock-your-socks-off beautiful? Well, that what we've just reached. The books will be of a higher quality than we could have done when we originally launched this Kickstarter including the paper selection and the printing itself. We are really excited that we can do this for Harlem Unbound. 

***FUNDED!*** $30,000 | 3 NPCs or Ready-to-Play Characters for easy replacement during scenarios. (Available as separate digital content for the Chick Webb Pledge Level or higher.)  

***FUNDED!*** $35,000 | 3 Full Scenario Hooks to quick-start an evening of play, and a random scenario generator chart.  

$42,000 | Additional Scenario: Fire. Fire! Fire!!! by Chris Spivey.   Step into the shoes of the journalist board (Thurman, Hurston, Hughes and more) as they start the new paper, Fire!!!. The iconic group of literary giants uncovers a foul Mythos plot designed by a secret cult of an avatar of Nyarlathotep, and they struggle to get the first issue to press. (Available late 2017 as separate digital content for the Chick Webb Pledge Level or higher.)

Forward, Always Forward.  

ARTISTS, WRITERS AND IN BETWEEN

Chris Spivey (Creator, Writer) is thrilled to present Harlem Unbound to the world. With 30-some-odd-years of gaming experience, Chris brings his love of gaming, his passion for history, and his desire to create a more inclusive gaming industry to this project. Chris's most recent published work can be found in Cthulhu Confidential, published by Pelgrane Press, and in Scion 2nd Edition. Chris keeps busy with multiple projects in the pipeline for Chaosium, Arc Dream, 7th Sea, and others. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with his wife, daughter, and ever-increasing scotch collection. 

Ruth Tillman (Writer) lives in the Midwest but, in the night, voices call her back to the East Coast. It might be Chris and her DC crowd, it might be Deep Ones, there's really only one way to tell. Ruth has primarily written GUMSHOE scenarios, particularly for the GUMSHOE One-2-One core project, Cthulhu Confidential. She has also written setting material and extras for Feng Shui, Katanas and Trenchcoats, Timewatch: Book of Changing Years, and unpublished material for 13th Age.  

Brennen Reece (Artist/Graphic Designer) is a multidisciplinary artist and designer who blends his passion for jazz culture and modernist design with an obsessive personality and critical eye. His goal is to produce beautiful, useful books that are a joy to read and a pleasure to reference. He draws from a wide knowledge and love of design history to create books that stand apart from the standard RPG tome. Recent book design projects include Night Witches, The Warren, The Clay That Woke, and The Veil—all of which have been lauded for their crisp, fresh design, and ease of use as gaming texts. His illustrations can be seen in Durance, and his book Productivity for the Depressive Polymath was published in August 2016.  

Nino Malong (Artist) has been a lifelong resident of Washington, DC. Influenced by the likes of John Buscema, John Byrne, and Walt Simonson as a kid, he began his love of drawing. As time grew, he became exposed to the art of Moebius, Hajime Soryama and Olivia DeBerardinis. In 2016, Nino put out a collection of his drawings and paintings entitled Princes of the Universe that showcases his style. Copies of the book can be ordered through ninomalong@gmail.com. Nino Malong is very proud and humbled to be working on Harlem Unbound with Darker Hue Studios.  

Rachel Wolfe (Editor/Designer) is a member of You Too Can Cthulhu, a team of GMs that brings original, immersive Call of Cthulhu role-playing events to Gen Con, GaryCon, and other game conventions in the Midwest. Rachel lives in Indianapolis.  

Bob Geis (Writer) has been playing Call of Cthulhu for over 25 years. For the past ten years he has been involved in the You Too Can Cthulhu group which runs events at conventions throughout the Midwest, including Gen Con. Bob has had the pleasure of introducing hundreds of players to Call of Cthulhu.  

Phil Jean Pierre (Artist) drew his first picture at 12, had his first art class at 15, and got his first rejection letter at 18. He has wined and dined with kings and queens and he has slept in alleys and dined on pork and beans. Beyond all reasonable thought, he ignored the chance of becoming an initiate in a Nepalese buddhist monk order of porcine, llama, and cattle husbandry farmers and part-time artisanal yak hair toupee craftsmen, to remain an illustrator. With a focus on storytelling, noir, occult and things that go bump in the night, his art displays an obsession with ink and shadows akin to questionably-sane cinematographers of the 1940s and 50s--if he’s lucky. He also lives with his cat, Mrs. Candace Pemberton Estherhaus. Find Phil on Twitter: pjpdesigns, Instagram: BlackGorbachev, Tumblr: BlackGorbachev. 

Neall Raemonn Price (Writer) has been a freelance writer for the better part of a decade. He's written for Paizo, Green Ronin, Growling Door Games, White Wolf, and Onyx Path Publishing. When he isn't developing Scion Second Edition for Onyx Path, he's at home with his lovely wife and small cat.  

SHIPPING DETAILS

During the Kickstarter you do not have to add-on any money for shipping. We will be charging backers for their shipping after the Kickstarter has concluded. At the end of the Kickstarter we will send out a backer survey that will ask for your shipping address. Based on that address we will calculate the least expensive way to ship your items to you and charge you that amount.

MANDATORY LEGAL STUFF

“Call of Cthulhu is the Registered Trademark of Chaosium Inc., and is used with their permission. www.chaosium.com and “Licensed from CHAOSIUM Inc."

The GUMSHOE SRD is published under the Open Game License v 1.0 Copyright 2000, Wizards of the Coast, Inc. GUMSHOE SRD © 2013 Pelgrane Press. 

 

Risks and challenges

All Kickstarters face a certain amount of challenges. Our team is doing everything we can to make sure that these challenges don't put this project at risk. I am working with a great team of artists and writers. While I personally don't have experience launching a Kickstarter project, I do have close relationships with people in the gaming industry who do, and I've been consulting with them every step of the way. With 30-plus years of experience in the gaming industry, I am knowledgeable and prepared to make this thing happen. -Chris

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    Langston Hughes

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    Louis Armstrong

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    A'Lelia Walker

    Receive a hard cover sourcebook, a digital copy of the sourcebook, and a Harlem Unbound hoodie sweatshirt. Your name will be listed on the book's Acknowledgements page. This backer level includes all stretch goal items: both the keeper's screen and future digital items. This backer level also allows physical add-on items.

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    Nella Larsen

    Commission a supporting NPC to be written into the sourcebook, receive a hard cover sourcebook, a digital copy of the core book, and your name will be listed on the book's Acknowledgements page. This backer level includes all stretch goal items: both the keeper's screen and future digital items. This backer level also allows physical add-on items.

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    Wallace Thurman

    Bob Geis will run The Contender scenario from Harlem Unbound for your gaming group via Skype or Google Hangouts, no matter where you are in the world. (English language only please!) No single session can be longer than 5 hours. Also receive a hard cover sourcebook, a digital copy of the sourcebook, and your name will be listed on the book's Acknowledgements page. This backer level includes all stretch goal items: both the keeper's screen and future digital items. This backer level also allows physical add-on items.

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    Richard Wright

    Chris Spivey will run a game of Harlem Unbound for your gaming group via Skype or Google Hangouts, no matter where you are in the world. (English language only please!) No single session can be longer than 5 hours. Also receive a hard cover sourcebook, a digital copy of the sourcebook, and your name will be listed on the book's Acknowledgements page. This backer level includes all stretch goal items: both the keeper's screen and future digital items. This backer level also allows physical add-on items.

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    Jacob Lawrence

    Chris Spivey will write and run a special scenario for a private game of Harlem Unbound that you can join at GenCon 2017. The session will not be longer than 4 hours. Also receive a hard cover sourcebook, a digital copy of the sourcebook, and your name will be listed on the book's Acknowledgements page. This backer level includes all stretch goal items: both the keeper's screen and future digital items. This backer level also allows physical add-on items. I will sign a personal thank you message in the book.

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    Zora Neale Hurston

    You will receive a free copy of every product Darker Hue Studios creates going forward. Chris Spivey or Bob Geis will run a game of Harlem Unbound for your gaming group via Skype or Google Hangouts, no matter where you are in the world. (English language only please!) No single session can be longer than 5 hours. Also receive two hard cover sourcebooks, a digital copy of the sourcebook, and your name will be listed on the book's Acknowledgements page. This backer level includes all stretch goal items: both the keeper's screen and future digital items. This backer level also allows physical add-on items. I will sign a personal thank you message in the book.

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Funding period

- (30 days)