The Turn of Midnight Waters (2016 +)

The Turn of Midnight Waters (2016 +)

TOMW began as two convention modules, The Turn of Midnight Waters (2016, below) and Panic! (2019). It is now a major publication project, a 250 page Sydney-based 1926 campaign and source book. The project focuses on the inner city and ‘Razorhurst’ (Woolloomooloo, Darlinghurst, Kings Cross and Surry Hills) in the lead up to the Razor Wars.

Campaign pack

The campaign pack of The Turn of Midnight Waters will be available in PDF format when the stars are right! I am aiming for mid 2023. Profusely illustrated, the pack should be approximately 250 pages.

The campaign focuses on a number of key groups: Sydney’s bohemians and followers of the Inky Way, dock workers and other denizens of the ‘Loo, returned diggers, city-dwelling Kooris, the men and women of Sydney’s nascent queer community, occultists, Theosophists, and the crims and prostitutes of the razor gangs.

The campaign material reflects my interest in Australian systemless gaming techniques and the stories of Arthur Machen and H.P. Lovecraft. There are six main scenarios, exploring what happened to the Alert after it was towed into Sydney Harbour, and  to the strange idol found aboard.

See the Turn of Midnight Waters posts page for updates.

The Convention Module



This was the original convention scenario:

Phenomenon 2016, Canberra, Queen’s Birthday Long Weekend,
Friday 10th to Monday June 13th 2016.

Two session 1920s Lovecraftian Horror

by John Hughes & Philippa Hughes & Friends

The crouching image with its cuttlefish head, dragon body, scaly wings, and hieroglyphed pedestal was preserved in the Museum at Hyde Park; and I studied it long and well, finding it a thing of balefully exquisite workmanship …. I thought … about the primal Great Ones: ‘They had come from the stars, and had brought Their images with Them.’
H.P. Lovecraft, ‘The Call of Cthulhu’.

Razorhurst, Gunhurst, Bottlehurst, Dopehurst – it used to be Darlinghurst, one of the finest quarters of a rich and beautiful city; to-day it is a plague-spot, where the sporn of the gutter grow and fatten on official apathy. By day it shelters in its alleys, in its dens, the Underworld people. At night, it looses them to prey on property, decency & virtue, & to fight one another for division of spoils.
Truth, 23 September 1928.

Kings Cross looks like Dante’s inferno on its best night. On its worst, it looks like Darlinghurst.
Darlinghurst, Then, Now and Maybe.

Sydney, 1926, that wild and haunted city. Criminal razor gangs rule the streets of Darlinghurst and the Cross. There is a mysterious idol in the Australian Museum. There is something nasty in the Harbour. And stone the bloody crows, it’s coming ashore.

The Turn of Midnight Waters – Lovecraftian horror with a broad Australian accent. Choose to play either the Genre or Trauma storylines. Each is a two session module, with over five hours of play.


The Background

The Turn of Midnight Waters draws on Australian events described in chapter 3 of H.P. Lovecraft’s ‘Call of Cthulhu’.

[Download a copy of the novella here].

It began with a newspaper report in The Sydney Bulletin 0f 18 April 1925.

Download a high quality PDF copy of The Sydney Bulletin front page of April 18, 1925. (PDF 610K)

Then came a call for scholars to attend an academic symposium at the Australian Museum.

Download a high quality PDF copy of Pacific Prehistory Symposium poster. (PDF 6 Meg)

Download Rowe Street handout (11.6 Meg PDF) – includes map of central Sydney.

Download Hotel Australia handout (3.7 Meg PDF)

Rating Info

blue cover2021
What’s the game again? Cthulhu does the Cross, in sunshine and shadow. A Lovecraftian psychological horror mystery, and a love song to forgotten Sydney.

What level of seriousness is it? Serious to searing (by negotiation) with interludes of genre levity.

What genre/setting is it? 1920s Lovecraftian horror.

What system (if any) does it use? Systemless/Call of Cthulhu very-lite, with a focus on atmospheric storytelling and depth characterisation.

What movie rating would it get? (MA to R+, decided in advance by players)

Convention Characters

Two groups of PCs are offered for play: Mythos investigators and their Sydney hosts for the Genre option, and a desperate group of inner-city street people for the Trauma option. These character groups provide gateways to very different types of story.


Download the Trauma Character Pack (All characters and opening handouts 6.3 Meg PDF)

In the Turn of Midnight Waters convention play Trauma option, a ragged street family of streetwalkers, alcos, shell-shocked diggers and other lost souls attempt to survive on the streets of Razorhurst and the Cross, watching from the sidelines as the world goes to hell. Everything is pretty fucked up, but what else is new? These characters offer a more intense, intimate version of the mystery, with less emphasis on investigation but more scope for personal storytelling, to weave their own stories and their own dramatic arcs.

Tilda – ageing street walker. (1.9 Meg PDF)
Dolors – delusional former asylum inmate. (2 Meg PDF)
– street larrikin in hiding. (1.8 Meg PDF)
Kev – alcoholic rent boy. (1.8 Meg PDF)
Sandy – troubled former digger (1.9 Meg PDF)

Handout Reaper – public handout, for Kev (20K PDF).

Handout Blue Angel – public handout, for Tilda (1.1Meg PDF).


In the convention play Genre option, seasoned investigators and their Sydney hosts seek to solve a deadly mystery assailing the Big Smoke. The characters are designed for a plot-driven storyline with strong personal and interpersonal dramatic arcs.

Elizabeth ‘Bettie’ Brook – Sydney socialite and athlete, ‘Backless Bettie from Bondi’. (1.6 Meg PDF)
Merrin Brook – unpublished  novelist and aspiring Queen of the Night. (1.6 Meg PDF)
‘Posso’ Seaton –  impulsive nightclub manager, companion to Bettie. (1.7 Meg PDF)
Suzerain Lazarov –  Mythos investigator and sorcerer. Aristocratic, androgenous, and clothed in mystery. (1.6 Meg PDF)
William  Boyne –  Northern Irish Mythos crusader, dour and deadly with a sentimental streak. (1.6 Meg PDF)

Mudra Spellcasting List – for Lazarov. Also fun for all the family!  (1.1 Meg PDF)

Genre Background Player Handouts (6.9 Meg PDF)

  1. Great bit of atmosphere

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