About this project
UPDATE: PRINT EDITION NOW AVAILABLE!
Check the Rewards for new options to get a hardcover black and white version of the book sent to you upon completion. Anyone who has ALREADY selected a reward over $75 will receive a book as well. All print books automatically include a PDF.
The Sense of the Sleight of Hand Man is a complete classicCall of Cthulhu campaign set in 1920s New York and in H.P. Lovecraft's Dreamlands. It will be approximately 128 pages. It is a fully illustrated, mapped and lavishly detailed tabletop RPG PDF book, written and illustrated by Dennis Detwiller (me). This work will be finished by summer 2012.
Who am I? I'm a four-time Origins Award-winning and two-time Ennie Award-winning writer, artist and creator, and co-creator of the acclaimed Delta Green series of books. I work as a creative director in video games, creating new properties on a daily basis, but my love is pen-and-paper RPGs. The more money I can collect from Kickstarter projects, the more time I can devote to creating cool new RPG books.
Check out my website for reams of free RPG downloads. The more I can collect, the more I can create and give away.
The threshold of this project, $5,500, is set to pay for the completion of art, design and writing for the project. At $5,500 the project is funded and I will complete a PDF version of the book, fully illustrated and ready for release; which will then be digitally sent to contributors. This level was selected to cover basic costs, though you will notice that levels of contribution include bonuses for bigger contributions.
We'd love to have rewards change when thresholds were met (Kickstarter?) but so far, that remains impossible. So, for now, this will remain as a PDF.
The Origins of 'Sense'
Originally, I ran The Sense of the Sleight of Hand Man for a group in the late 1990s. I wanted to add a gritty, frightening edge to the Dreamlands, up until that point the red-headed stepchild of the Cthulhu Mythos. Lovecraft's Dreamlands tales are a lot more frightening than many give them credit for, and I wanted to bring the uncertainty and fear that I found in them to the game.
The campaign spanned several months, with the players struggling through the horrors of the Dreamlands to find an exit to Earth. In the end, only one made it to the end of the journey, but much fun was had by all.
I wrote it up as a series of notes and ideas which I had made up on the fly during the sessions. I created the campaign as we went, based on a single concept: that the Moon Beasts' Blood Gems were extracted human souls. These notes sat on my hard drive for a long time.
Later, I was approached by Worlds of Cthulhu — a wonderful but now defunct magazine — to produce it as a sectional campaign to be published across multiple issues. The first part was the only one that found print.
Today, I have 3/4 of the campaign fully written, and about half laid out to a reasonable degree. The first quarter of the book in pure text format is available for download here.
New York City is a city of vices. The year is 1925 and it is the height of Prohibition, but the flow of drugs and liquor continues unhindered, through darker corridors, in darker hands. For the few who can afford it, opium is the drug of choice. Very few can afford it for very long.
The characters have fallen behind on their payments to their supplier of opiates, Mr. Lao. He has shown his displeasure with polite threats and demonstrations of what his men, the Tongs, will do if he does not receive his money. These demonstrations involved swords.
Dragged towards what each character is sure will be their turn under the swords of the Tongs, they instead find themselves face to face with each other and Mr. Lao. Lao offers them a last smoke, of a type of opium he calls Bywandine, before his men will complete their task.
The drug is smoked, and as they pass into the haze, prepared now for the knives and blood and death on a wave of opium, the characters realize they are somewhere else... That they are someone else...
In truth, Mr. Lao is a trader of much more than drugs in the empty world of Earth. He trades in Kadath, in Celephais, in Leng. He trades souls.
Mr. Lao is a rarity; it is unusual to know oneself in both the waking and sleeping world. But Lao was born in Leng, conterminous on both Earth and the Dreamlands. He has used this talent to his advantage, teaching skills to his dream twin and vice versa. They have known each other in dreams for many years, Mr. Lao and Sa’n Seith, his Dreamlands counterpart, and have talked often with one another. They have also struck bargains.
When Mr. Lao discovers a person of powerful spirit who has also aroused his displeasure, he sends this victim to Sa’n Seith using the mixture of herbs called Bywandine. This exceedingly intricate mixture of rare plants, some of which grow on the plains near Leng, takes many months to prepare. He has still to perfect the process. Mixed properly, it causes the imbiber to shift physically from one realm to another. Either from Earth to the Dreamlands, or vice versa. A fresh human is of great value in the Dreamlands.
Sa’n Seith is a man from Leng, a hunched, pockmarked satyr who serves the faceless monstrosities from the dark side of the moon, the Moon Beasts. Long ago, the powerful Moon Beasts subjugated the Men from Leng, and their race lives now only to serve them. Seith provides fresh humans with powerful souls, and in exchange, as they have done for eons, the faceless ones produce the rare Blood Gems. It is unknown where they come from; even the Men from Leng have no idea. These gems are sought-after prizes in the Dreamlands. Their value is immense.
In truth, the Moon Beasts do not mine the Gems from secret places on the moon. They torture them from the humans provided by the Men from Leng. The gems are the souls of these victims, ripped free by magic just short of death. They are souls traded and bought and sold every day.
Mr. Lao is to send the characters over to the Dreamland city of Sarkomand, where they will be transported to the dark side of the moon and the cities of the Moon Beasts by Sa’n Seith. In the past, his mix of the Bywandine has taken many days to work, slowly erasing the imbiber from the Earth and re-coalescing them in physical form in the Dreamlands. But the last of Lao’s Bywandine was imperfectly mixed. Instead of a gradual physical shift, the Bywandine causes only the character’s mind to be flung over to the Dreamlands, their soul instantly disappearing from Earth, disintegrating their earthly physical forms with it.
Their spirit inhabits the first and nearest form in the Dreamlands found without consciousness, the discarded bodies of soulless prisoners, their essence squeezed into the Blood Gems.
Can these victims escape the sacrifice and ever find their way home?
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