Saturday 23 October 2021


Join the Legions of the Working Dead!

Rent-A-Ghost is a one page role-playing, comedy story-telling game about very odd ghosts doing very odd jobs, strongly influenced by 1970s children's television, improvisational theatre and scoffing sweets!

Each player creates and takes on the role of a peculiar ghost, hired by Rent-a-Ghost Ltd. to solve a problem for one of its many awkward customers. All the players help generate the situation, and then work together using their stupendously spooky supernatural powers to save the day, all while sharing sweets and trying to make each other laugh.

Madcap mayhem for 2-6 players. 

Players require 12 sweets (each) and a pair of standard 6 sided dice.

You can download the game, for free, on Drivethru RPG and

The design impetus for Rent-A-Ghost came from the observations on D&D as Mastermind, a ludological framework where one player (the Mastermind/DM) creates a puzzle (the code/dungeon) for the other players to solve, and flipping that over and flattening the hierarchy to the other role-playing extreme of parlour games, fairy tea parties, collaborative story-telling and improvisational theatre. Quite a radical departure from [ZHU] Industries usual output, but if GW can do Troll Games, then we can do 70s TV Impro Panto...

Some notes on the Dedications and Thanks.

Bob Block (1921-11) was the writer of the BBC TV series Rentaghost, the memories of which inspired the framework of Rent-A-Ghost.

Michael Staniforth (1942-87) was the unbridled talent that the central ghost character of the TV series, Timothy Claypole, who also sang the annoyingly catchy theme song.

Mark Fisher (1968-17) was a cultural critic who, via the electronica of David Sylvians Japans Ghosts brought Jack Derridas concept of Hauntology to popular culture, centring how historically idealised and anticipated futures continue to haunt the imagination and material culture. 

Keith Johnstone is a dramatist, best known for his work in improvisational theatre. His codification of the 'yes and...' rule of improvisation in his 1979 book Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre gave rise to the central mechanic of Rent-A-Ghost, and his writing on  mask work was instrumental in the barebones character design of the Quirks and Kinds.

John Tynes is a game designer of the Puppetland RPG. I read this in a 1996 issue of Arcane magazine I got in a joblot of RPG stuff, and swiftly sold on. However, Johns game stayed with me. It's horror-movie Punch and Judy and grim-dark raggydolls, the central conceit of speaking in character and describing actions had a large influence on the playstyle of Rent-A-Ghost. 

Anyway, despite the incredibly ridiculous nature of the theme, the 'verb'/cost and 'yes/but'/cost mechanics provide a solid set of constraints for group storytelling, and I hope the game inspires some daft and silly fun around the table. Download Free at:

Let us know how you get on!

Tuesday 5 October 2021

Lurkers from the Deep

A look at some of my work inside the Lurkers from the Deep Feature Pack for Crooked Dice. A Feature pack is a series of linked scenarios, special rules and gaming elements, cunningly packaged inside a VHS cassette box.

Lurkers from the Deep VHS box front

Lurkers from the Deep VHS box open

Lurkers from the Deep VHS box contents

Lurkers from the Deep VHS box back

Laser cut tokens I designed for the game, produced by 4 Ground

Lurkers from the Deep Laser-cut Tokens

The objective tokens are based on the numerical keys from a Remmington Standard No. 6 typewriter - the model that H.P. Lovecraft used throughout his writing career. 

The original typewriter didn't have a 1 (one) key and the letter I would have been used instead, so hopefully the inclusion of a 1 sends historical purists into a blood-curdling rage. I'll probably paint my tokens in black metal and white to emulate the typewriter keys, but the lurid spooky glowing green is superb, and the fits the retro supernatural vibe perfectly. 

Another prop-like token - the control switch for the mutation chamber that features in the game, but equally any tabletop on-off status indicator. Has a bit of a pulp sci-fi feel, probably at home on retro-rocket ship piloted by Dan Dare or Flash Gordon as much as a arcane technology in a pulp mad-scientitsts lair.

One of the four hand-drawn isometric maps I drew for the campaign, one for each scenario. The architecture is based on the scenery models from Sarissa Precision that were part of the Lurkers Kickstarter, with detailed references to New England dry-stone wall and historical road-building techniques threaded throughout. Might do a separate post on the isometric maps another time.

The Incubator

My rough pencil drawings were transformed into 'production sketches by Ralph Keyes' to flesh out the film-production backstory of the scenario. A Freudian nightmare of cosmic proportions, an ever growing pulsating transformation chamber from the centre of the ultraworld, eerily foreshadowing the cinematic body horror of H.R. Giger and David Cronenburg, also produces the secret invigorating ingredient in every bottle of Fiskes Old Peculiar health tonic... 

Fiskes Old Peculiar book back

Faux prop-label for Fiskes Old Peculiar - in The Lurkers story, this is a soft drink brewed by a mad scientist that turns people into fish-demon cultists, which quite cleverly eschews Lovecrafts theme of racial miscegenation in the original Shadow over Innsmouth upon which Lurkers from the Deep is based. in favour of anti-junk food consumerism.  In my version of the 7TV meta-narrative, these labels would have been printed and stuck on locally produced lime and cola soda-pop bottles to promote the film serial at the local flea-pit cinema, in the tradition of the gimmicky promotional stunts of William Castle.

Ritual Tracker

The infamous, mind-altering, soul-damning Ritual Tracker. Used in the grand finale to chart the rise of the great Kutulu from his watery extra-planar slumber. Heavily influenced by William Fulds Mystifying Oracle Ouija-board with sigils drawn from from the Simon Necronomicon, for additional occultic laughs. Amusingly one of these sigils appeared graffitied on one of the boards on the windows of a closed down covid casualty pub shortly after I designed the board. As much as I'd like to lay claim for obscure guerrilla marketing tactics, the chances are it's just the local fish-god cult trying to summon their interdimensional tentacle worm faced bat winged overlord. Seems to have worked, because the pub has re-opened now, but I daren't go in, just in case their best bitter is in fact a mad scientists gene-altering brew...

Kutulu Rising

The Great Cthulu rising over Devils Reef, based on Andrew Mays amazing Great Cthulhu sculpt, one of several pen & ink and digital colouring depicting scenes from the scenarios, perhaps from an obscure novelisation of the movie, of the game, of the book. 

Lurkers from the Deep Feature Pack available now from Crooked Dice, as it is a scenario pack a copy of 7TV Pulp is required to get full use of the product!