The Delays Of Cthulhu
  • The Delays Of Cthulhu


    Chaosium Inc’s Call of Cthulhu is one of the best-known RPGs in gaming with numerous official products as well as third party expansions to the franchise. While the majority of these produce outstanding products, some of those third party publishers have collected money via crowdfunding, then gone months between backer updates, and have yet to fulfill their commitments. Around Gen Con 50, Chaosium made announcements that addressed several of these unfulfilled third party products.


    What are third party products? The Call of Cthulhu RPG is popular and Chaosium cannot produce enough material to meet the demand. To fill that void, they grant other publishers licenses to produce CoC-compatible materials. For most of these agreements, the third party develops their product based on CoC with only limited input from Chaosium, and Chaosium collects royalties from the third party’s sales. This system usually works well, producing some innovate extensions to the CoC franchise; however, some companies have obtained a license, crowdfunded revenue, but failed to deliver the agreed upon products to their backers.

    In a move that might reflect concerns about these delays, Choasium updated their licensing policies in June to address commercial licenses. The revised language canonizes “release and revenue targets” and requires “regular reporting, and close work with our line editors”.

    What was late? Per Chaosium’s website, they cite four Call of Cthulhu products by three different third party publishers that collected money through Kickstarter between 2012 and 2014.

    • Punktown: An RPG Setting for Call of Cthulhu and BRP Gaming by Miskatonic River Press. Launched 2012-11-19 and collected $13,564 from 280 backers. Their original promised delivery date was August 2013.
    • Call of Cthulhu: The Writhing Dark - Playing Cards and Tarot and Call of Cthulhu: The Writhing Dark - Extended Edition by Shane Tyree. Launched 2013-11-12 and 2014-05-02 respectively. They collected a total of $131,304 from 2,027 backers. Their original promised delivery dates were April 2014 and August 2014.
    • Horrors of War Kickstarter: A Covenant with Death by Scott Glancy of Pagan Publishing. Launched 2014-08-01 and collected $26,823 from 525 backers. Their original promised delivery date was February 2015.


    What are the third party publishers doing to fulfill these products? Per posts on the Chaosium website and the individual Kickstarter campaigns, each of these projects is moving forward at a slow pace. Miskatonic River Press, who collected revenue for Punktown, have ceased operations and hired Chronicle City to complete this project. Shane Tyree campaigned for both CoC: The Writing Dark projects and, “he has taken delivery of the core rewards (the card sets) and is actually in the process of fulfilling, albeit very slowly as his constrained finances permit.” The Horrors of War Kickstarter revised their delivery projection to 2018.

    What has Chaosium done to address these undelivered products? As Chaosium stated on their site about The Writing Dark campaigns, “We are well within our rights to terminate Shane's agreement. But we don't want backers to be prevented by Chaosium from getting what they paid Shane to produce. Because he has the actual product in hand and sincerely states that he still wishes to deliver, we have instead issued Shane a special license extension. ...” Based on the press releases, this appears to be Chaosium’s direction, to allow the third party publishers more time to fulfill these Kickstarters so the backers get what they’ve paid for.

    What’s occurred since these updates from Chaosium? For Punktown, there was “a Beta PDF of the entire book” sent to backers on October 20th. I spoke to Angus Abranson of Chronicle City (and EN World) and he shared his timeline for completing Punktown, "all feedback is due back by 20th November. Hopefully we'll be getting the final PDF to backers in early December and have a print proof back back early-mid December. If all is good with the print proof then physical copies will start being ordered and shipped to backers." Shane Tyree of The Writing Dark posted an update on Kickstarter and in the comments his wife, Christina, added, “I'm trying to fit a little bit into the budget to send some [backer rewards] out every month now that we're starting to get our heads back above water. I can't promise it will be a lot going out, but we're trying to keep doing what we can.” The Horrors of War Kickstarter states that Pagan Publishing should have a sneak peak PDF ready by Christmas and “the full Horrors of War manuscript can, I believe be done by GenCon 2018.” However, the next update was promised by the end of September, but there is no additional information on the campaign page as of this writing.

    Will these projects deliver and will Chaosium’s policy change prevent this from occurring in the future? Unfortunately, there’s no way to know at this point, but we will continue to report on these situations.

    ​contributed by Egg Embry
    Comments 26 Comments
    1. Myrdin Potter's Avatar
      Myrdin Potter -
      They are extremely far behind on their own delivery of their Runequest 2 (classic) Kickstarter.

      https://www.kickstarter.com/projects...lassic-edition

      They are well over a year delayed delivering all the supplemental books and 4 months past the June 2017 extended deadline they gave themselves. So this is not just a 3rd party problem.
    1. Egg Embry's Avatar
      Egg Embry -
      Quote Originally Posted by Myrdin Potter View Post
      They are extremely far behind on their own delivery of their Runequest 2 (classic) Kickstarter.

      https://www.kickstarter.com/projects...lassic-edition

      They are well over a year delayed delivering all the supplemental books and 4 months past the June 2017 extended deadline they gave themselves. So this is not just a 3rd party problem.
      Myrdin Potter -

      That's interesting, thanks for sharing it. You said "supplemental books", do you know what's been delivered so far versus what's been delayed?

      Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer
      EN World All-Ages Reviewer
      The FirstFable RPG, Monster Slayers, Mouse Tails, Little Wizards, Hero Kids, Little Heroes, Dagger, and Pip System
    1. Obryn's Avatar
      Obryn -
      I got my playing-card deck of The Writhing Dark a while back (not the tarot version). Really attractive cards, beautiful wax-sealed envelope. And it came with some postcards that are proudly displayed at my desk at work.

      I had stopped checking that kickstarter; I figured it had been fulfilled. But it actually looks like I was just one of the lucky ones.

      e: It's weird; I have only backed one Kickstarter that crashed and burned (as opposed to simply being really really really late). And that was for another deck of cards.
    1. Egg Embry's Avatar
      Egg Embry -
      Quote Originally Posted by Obryn View Post
      I got my playing-card deck of The Writhing Dark a while back (not the tarot version). Really attractive cards, beautiful wax-sealed envelope. And it came with some postcards that are proudly displayed at my desk at work.

      I had stopped checking that kickstarter; I figured it had been fulfilled. But it actually looks like I was just one of the lucky ones.
      Obryn -

      I'm glad to hear that your cards arrived! It helps every backer to know that the system is working, even if slowly.

      Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer
      EN World All-Ages Reviewer
      The FirstFable RPG, Monster Slayers, Mouse Tails, Little Wizards, Hero Kids, Little Heroes, Dagger, and Pip System
    1. Dannyalcatraz's Avatar
      Dannyalcatraz -
      The Delays Of Cthulhu...are maddening.
    1. William Mize's Avatar
      William Mize -
      As someone who backed the initial 7th Edition CoC Kickstarter, AND the current Delta Green Kickstarter, I think that when it comes to this property Hurry Up And Wait is the default setting. Now granted, it's always been worth the wait, in my book, but that doesn't make you want to stop hitting F5 to refresh the project page to see if there's any sort of update.
    1. Cergorach's Avatar
      Cergorach -
      Sandy's own Cthulhu Mythos for Pathfinder is almost a year late:
      https://www.kickstarter.com/projects...for-pathfinder

      Having said this, the project did go a bit overboard, the book is now 512 pages long and @$35 quite a steal. Hopefully we'll get the final pdf later this month or early next month. When the physical tome arrives I don't have a clue of...
    1. William Mize's Avatar
      William Mize -
      Quote Originally Posted by Cergorach View Post
      Sandy's own Cthulhu Mythos for Pathfinder is almost a year late:
      https://www.kickstarter.com/projects...for-pathfinder

      Having said this, the project did go a bit overboard, the book is now 512 pages long and @$35 quite a steal. Hopefully we'll get the final pdf later this month or early next month. When the physical tome arrives I don't have a clue of...
      A year?! A YEAR?!
      Please, that's just getting warmed up, compared to other Call of C'thulhu supplements! Holler when it reaches THREE years!

      I'm not a Pathfinder guy, so this didn't hit my radar, but yes, that is a ridicuously good deal.
      That's one reason I'm willing to wait for Delta Green.
      My initial investment was for the core rulebook (The Agent's Handbook) in hardcover.
      After a while, it became TWO volumes.
      Then after another period of time, it has now become two volumes, hardcover, in a custom slipcase.
      Maybe if I wait long enough it will become a jetpack or Tesla or something.

      - Bill
    1. Flexor the Mighty! -
      Quote Originally Posted by Myrdin Potter View Post
      They are extremely far behind on their own delivery of their Runequest 2 (classic) Kickstarter.

      https://www.kickstarter.com/projects...lassic-edition

      They are well over a year delayed delivering all the supplemental books and 4 months past the June 2017 extended deadline they gave themselves. So this is not just a 3rd party problem.
      I love the reason, "Sorry we are so late but I went to a lot of cons...". Now I realize cons are not just fun and game for them but damn. this stuff is why I've always held off on KS projects. Most probably go smooth but the debacles are what you remember. Then no updates for months.
    1. TrippyHippy's Avatar
      TrippyHippy -
      Classic RuneQuest has some very slow releases so far - I'm awaiting on the Companion and the TrollPak myself, and there really isn't any indication when they will get here. There seems to be much more effort going into the development of the new edition - which I didn't feel was necessary, as I was happy with RuneQuest 6 and will continue to support it (as Mythras) while they keep making historical settings like Mythic Rome, Mythic Constantinople and Mythic Greece. If I want to get into Glorantha, I've got Guide To Glorantha and the Classic RuneQuest. I'm more interested in the new Pendragon and Paladin as future investments.

      I'm also awaiting my Cthulhu Tarot deck, I ordered years ago and, to be honest, having an occasional notice essentially asking for backers to become councillors to help treat the creators depression doesn't help much.

      I do think that the new Call of Cthulhu supplements are looking good, despite having issues with the development of 7E rules. Ultimately, I can ignore the rules I don't like, but the production values and content of the supplements are enough to sell themselves alone.
    1. crazy_cat's Avatar
      crazy_cat -
      Cthulhu Britannica: London by Cubicle 7 was due for delivery August 2014. It was late but we got (most of) it - and it was very good; but the final stretch goals are still outstanding.
      World War Cthulhu: Cold War - again Cubicle 7 is also running long, the main book is delivered but stretch goal books are coming along rather slowly. This was due for delivery April 2016.
    1. William Mize's Avatar
      William Mize -
      Quote Originally Posted by crazy_cat View Post
      Cthulhu Britannica: London by Cubicle 7 was due for delivery August 2014. It was late but we got (most of) it - and it was very good; but the final stretch goals are still outstanding.
      World War Cthulhu: Cold War - again Cubicle 7 is also running long, the main book is delivered but stretch goal books are coming along rather slowly. This was due for delivery April 2016.
      This leads me to my thoughts on stretch goals: I think they are somewhat useless, and can actually detract from, delay, and in some instances torpedo an otherwise great Kickstarter. The CoC 7th Edition is Patient Zero for this disease. The number of stretch goals were ridiculous, and even Chaosium admitted as such, and just said "We've given you X, but we can't deliver Y and Z, and we're not going to."

      If you're going to include stretch goals, I would recommend one or two at the most, lean toward the digital (extra scenarios), and even have them somewhat completed before the Kickstarter even begins.

      I'll also add a Cthulhu based Kickstarter that seemed to do everything RIGHT: Pax Cthuliana. The estimated September 2017, and it's now October 2017, and I've received the PDF, the soundtrack, and the GM's notes. I declined to get the actual physical puzzle. The only thing I'm waiting on is the actual physical copy of the scenario. Pretty good delivery, if you ask me.

      - Bill
    1. Myrdin Potter's Avatar
      Myrdin Potter -
      I have gotten to the point that if a Kickstarter adds too many stretch goals, I consider dropping it. I also am getting more and more leary of campaigns where the writing is not complete or close to complete. I don’t mind ones where artwork or printing costs are being raised, but the track record of on-time delivery where the base writing is not done is absolutely terrible. Dice, pencils, dice bags, anything of that sort is almost guaranteed to mess up a Kickstarter.

      Chaosium has an absolutely terrible track record of delivery on their past KS, and I think they have abandoned it as a mechanism for releasing new items. The classic (2e rules) is an example. The book was crowd-sourced proofread from the initial pdf and then printed with all the original errors in it (except the premium version). The supplements really just need layout as they are enhanced reprints of already existing material and are extremely late with no recent updates.

      i really do think the “golden age” of Kickstarter is starting to pass as more and more bad experiences accumulate.
    1. William Mize's Avatar
      William Mize -
      Quote Originally Posted by Myrdin Potter View Post
      Chaosium has an absolutely terrible track record of delivery on their past KS, and I think they have abandoned it as a mechanism for releasing new items.
      You are pretty much on the money here.
      IIRC Mike O'Brien from Chaosium said as much a month or two ago. They're still going to use it for their board games (insert WTF face here), but as far as CoC and Glorantha (insert another WTF face here) are concerned, they are through with Kickstarter. They are, however, pretty good at helping third person parties get the word out for CoC Kickstarters.
      Which of course brings us back around to the original post by Chris

      - Bill
    1. Over the Hill Gamer's Avatar
      Over the Hill Gamer -
      Caveat emptor
    1. Olaf the Stout -
      I feel like I've dodged a lot of bullets with Kickstarter. I backed both Horror on the Orient Express and CoC 7th edition fairly heavily (several hundred dollars for each). In the end they were both several years late, but I got everything I backed for. Both of them could have quite easily crashed and burned (potentially taking Chaosium with them).

      There have been several other Kickstarters that I've thought about backing, but decided not to right at the end, only to see them either fail, or partially fail. I've had others fail, but I was one of the fortunate ones who only backed for a small amount and still managed to get my pledge.

      At the moment the only Kickstarter that I'm doubtful of is one for some resin miniature furniture that could fail to deliver anything, but I only backed that one for about $25 and I knew at the time of backing that there was a strong chance it could fail, but I was willing to take the risk as what was on offer for that amount was a great deal (and if I lose $25 it's not the end of the world).

      I think Kickstarter has matured enough now that people are a bit more selective with what they back. However, you can still easily get caught out when a well known company runs into trouble and fails to deliver. We've seen it (almost) with Chaosium. The Paranoia Kickstarter looked on shaky ground for some time too. I'm sure there are obvious ones that I'm missing (I don't count the Robotech Kickstarter by Palladium as I fully expected that to fail from the beginning).
    1. chibi graz'zt's Avatar
      chibi graz'zt -
      Do you all want to know the next time I'll go in for a CoC related KS?

      Never.

      Go ahead and give them your $$ if you want ;-)
    1. Eminence_Grise -
      Why would anyone pay a license to make Call of Cthulhu stuff? Isn't that mostly public domains nowadays?
    1. Olaf the Stout -
      Quote Originally Posted by Eminence_Grise View Post
      Why would anyone pay a license to make Call of Cthulhu stuff? Isn't that mostly public domains nowadays?
      The Call of Cthulhu mythos is public domain. The Call of Cthulhu RPG is not. So if you want to make a product that is compatible with the CoC RPG, you need to buy a licence. Given that the CoC RPG is the most popular of all the Cthulhu mythos RPGs, many companies think the licence costs are worth it for the extra sales they generate (or they don't want to make a system neutral product).
    1. ShadowAssassin -
      Note that not all of the Mythos is PD as Ramsey Campbell and other authors are still writing Mythos stories. If you use anything written by these authors without approval then you are infringing their copyright. Chaosium has arranged with these authors to allow their work to be used in the CoC game. So licensing makes sense if you want to use this work.
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