Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition

From: Chaosium Inc.
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition is a new RPG Core Rule Book from Chaosium Inc..

For a long time, since the late 80s, I have been playing Call of Cthulhu in its various forms, off and on.  Some would say that it is one of my better games.  I had gotten used to the idiosyncrasies of the simple and rather abstract system but found myself often wanting more structure and definition in the system.  With games like 3rd edition D&D, followed by Savage Worlds and now 5th Edition D&D, it has driven my need for a little more “game” in my Call of Cthulhu game.

Call of Cthulhu has gone through six editions (of which I have 5 on my shelf) with very little change to the system or game structure.  The game mechanics stayed the same.  The lore expanded quite often and the focus remained on the story.  I am all for the story focus but my yearning for more game continued.

From page # 10: “The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.”

Apparently I was not the only one because 7th edition is a huge change in the game system.  What amazes me is that the game system remained backward compatible to the previous editions, something a lot of game system designers need to learn.  This review will focus primarily on the changes made to the system and not Call of Cthulhu role play game product.  I feel that it has been around long enough that people at least know what it is.  If you don’t, you need to get out of your D&D or Pathfinder focused world and try new things.

The first of the biggest changes is the core task resolution mechanic.  The previous editions had a simple mechanic based around a percentile roll.  Center to that system was something called the Resistance Table.  When the time arose where you had to pit a character’s stat against another – say Strength vs. Strength – you would use the Resistance table.  Many did not like the table.  Well, to those that didn’t, you will be happy to know it is gone.  It has been replaced by a simple success level system that helps you measure how well you did at a task, something also missing from the old system.

Before I get into the new integrated Difficulty/Success system, I should also talk about the new characteristics and skill system.  Everything is unified into a percentile system, even the characters’ ability scores.  Gone are the classic old-school 3d6 values.  Also a couple of the old characteristics are either modified or taken out completely.  No more IDEA roll (replaced by a simple Intelligence roll) and Luck is significantly changed into a much more interesting mechanic.

The final major core change is the Difficulty/Success.  Finally you know how difficult things are and how well you do.  Difficulty is measured in 3 levels – Regular, Hard and Extreme.  Regular is your base percentage in the skill, Hard is half and Extreme is one-fifth.  Everything is measured in this manner.  Levels of success can be conversely measured in this way.

These core changes are by far not all the only changes, but they are the the things that change what was Call of Cthulhu (CoC). I think unification of the game mechanic was probably long overdue.  The 3d6 based stats were a throwback to old school days and CoC was in dire need of a modern upgrade.  I can appreciate the intelligence that went into doing this and even though many old school CoC gamers might struggle with it, it definitely feels more natural now.

Core to any Call of Cthulhu game is Sanity and it is left untouched.  The new edition does however add a few subtle nuances that enhance even the smallest loss of sanity. Maximum Sanity, Temporary, Indefinite, and Permanent Insanity are still in place but tweaked to some degree or another.  Temporary and Indefinite Insanity are tweaked a little more with a new system of determining their effects – called Bouts of Madness.  Integrated in this is some of the new aspects to the character sheet (called Back Story, explained later).  Also, further manifestations of the madness may occur in real time (roll on a table for effects) or in summary (GM summarizes effects).

After the (usually) short term effects of the bouts, the usually more long term underlying insanity is dealt with.  Deeper effects of insanity can develop manias, phobias, delusions and other fun stuff.   An interesting addition to this is something called a Reality Check.  This is used like the classic D&D “disbelieve” roll against illusionary or hallucinatory effects, primarily brought on by Insanity.  If the person fails the Reality Check, they lose sanity and suffer from a Bout of madness.  I found that interesting and useful.

From page 28: “Most demonical of all shocks is that of the abysmally unexpected and grotesquely unbelievable. – H.P. Lovecraft, The Outsider

The remaining changes that stand out to me are basically what I would call add-ons to the system.  Most, if not all, of these add-ons are well designed into the system and make sense.  They enhance the system in a very positive and playable way.  I feel there was some real thought and intelligence put into them.

Many systems today have worked in a way to either re-roll or add “advantage” or “disadvantage’ dice.  CoC 7e has added something called Bonus and Penalty dice to the existing percentile system.  Certain times in the game the keeper might say you gain a bonus or penalty dice.  The player then rolls an additional 10-sider that acts as an additional 10s-place die.  Depending on whether the die is bonus or penalty, you pick the lowest or highest respectively.  I do like this new addition to the mechanic.  It makes things much more dynamic without adding any more complication.  This was obviously born of a need to make the CoC game more heroic and survivable.  There are some that believe that you should have a chance to survive a CoC game (silly mortals).  The nice thing about this is that you can be modular about it and choose not to use that rule if you don’t like it.

They also added an additional way to help the characters – the ability to Push your skill rolls.  This is used in instances of dire need or when players really want to succeed.  With the Keepers permission, the player may make a second roll on an already failed skill roll.  The skill and the difficulty doesn’t change but it may be modified based on the situation.  The Keeper must decide on possible consequences of the push, which may be more unfortunate than the simple failure.

As mentioned before, Luck is somewhat changed from the straight forward roll that most are used to.  It is more integrated as a game mechanic.  The original percentile roll remains the same; however, it has been converted to something like Sanity on a declining scale.  As an optional rule, you can spend Luck points to modify rolls, on a 1 to 1 point basis.  However Luck may not be spent on Luck rolls, damage rolls, Sanity rolls, or rolls to determine the amount of Sanity points lost.  In sense, you get a game-based way to feel your luck running out.

Character Back Story is also a new aspect added to the character generation system and used in various places in the game system.  Much like Fate and their aspects, the CoC 7e character generation system asks you to list various aspects of your character and provides a few tables to help you along the way.  The six basic Back story elements are Personal Description, Ideology/Beliefs, Significant People, Meaningful Locations, Treasured Possessions, and Traits.  This is not only used to flesh out your character but also can be modified, removed, and added to by various events within the game system.

The Magic System is not something I delve into in game that much.  From what I can tell, there are a few minor tweaks but for the most part, the heart of the Magic is still in the game.  It integrates the Push aspect of the new system and some other minor changes, but overall it preserves the essence of the original system.

From a layout point of view, I am really impressed on the book itself.  The artwork is great, better than any other edition before.

In conclusion, this is a fantastic update to classic game in need of a major update. It has a much more modern feel to it.  The changes are intelligent and the backwards compatibility is a breath of fresh air in an industry where new editions completely throw out old editions with one paragraph of rules.

For more details on Chaosium Inc.and their new RPG Core Rule BookCall of Cthulhu 7th Edition” check them out at their website http:// www.chaosium.com, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 19

Product Summary

Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition
From: Chaosium Inc.
Type of Game: RPG Core Rule Book
Written by: Sandy Petersen, Lynn Willis.  Revised 7th Edition: Paul Fricker and Mike Mason.
Editorial: Scott Dorward, Badger McInnes, Mike Mason, Charlie Krank
Design Format: Badger McInnes and Mike Mason
Layout: Badger McInnes, Nicholas Nacario, Charlie Krank
Art Direction: Mike Mason, Meghan McLean, Daniel Skomorowski
Cover Illustration: Sam Lamont
Chapter Illustrations: Jonathan Wyke, Paul Carrick, Rob Gould, François Launet, Victor Leza, Charles Wong, Mike Perry, Nicholas Cloister, Antonio Luis, Kalli Schulz
Interior Illustrations: Rachel Kahn, Grilla, Chris Huth, Loïc Muzy, Paul Carrick, Scott Neil, Jonathan Wyke, Victor Leza, Sam Lamont, Celeste Burcham, Caryad, Antonio Mainez, Tom Sullivan, Marco Morte
Cartography: Steff Worthington
Number of Pages: 448
Retail Price: $27.95 (PDF) (US)
Website: www.chaosium.com

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Cold Harvest: Roleplaying during the Great Purges

From: Chaosium, Inc.

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Cold Harvest: Roleplaying during the Great Purges is a new RPG Sourcebook/Adventure from Chaosium, Inc..

I have seen a lot of different historical approaches to Call of Cthulhu.  Throughout man’s history, there are some pretty horrific periods.  But few periods are more unique than the horrific period of the Soviet Great Purges.  I was surprised and a little intrigued when the author handed me this booklet.  I would even guess that this part of history is not really taught all that much, at least on the pre-college level.  But if you dig deep into the terrible rise of communism in Russia, you will not only be shocked at the cruelty but perhaps inspired like Chad was when he wrote this.

From the back cover: “All is not well at Krasivyi Oktbyr-3, a collective farm hidden away in the wilds of central Russia.

The book itself is primarily a single adventure during the Great Purges of the 1930s in Soviet Russia.  However, it is a good sampling on how to role play in such a dark time in history.  At the heart of the adventure is a dark and ancient secret hidden underneath an obscure farm village or sovkhoz.  If the Keeper is running this as a one shot and not part of a campaign, the investigators are agents from the Soviet NKVD – the ministry of the Soviet government responsible for security and law enforcement.  This is one of the primary arms of Soviet oppression across the country.

Unlike many typical Call of Cthulhu adventures, this adventure focuses strongly on role play and storytelling.  I am not saying the typical CoC adventure does not have role play but there is also a strong element of pulp action or creature fighting in a typical CoC adventure.  This adventure is very low key and much of the horror in the game is man-made.  There is also mythos element in the adventure but it is not intended by the writer for the players to come face to face with it.  Instead, the players are faced with a dark and difficult decision in the end.

In an effort to help the Keeper focus on role play and portray each NPC uniquely, the writer adds notes on how to portray each important NPC in the story.  With the adventure primarily focused on role play and story, there is only one way to get that story and role play out – through non players characters (NPCs).  And there are quite a few of them.  The Keeper needs to help the players discern between each one.  I like the fact that the writer added this.  It is very difficult at times for a Keeper to portray the NPCs distinct enough that the player can tell who they are dealing with just by the Keeper’s role play.  I recommend, however, that they Keeper come up with short names for each because stumbling over the Russian names is going to make things difficult.

From the back cover: “A fall-off in production has come to the attention of the Soviet authorities and communications are down.

The writer put a lot of work into the historical aspects of the book, to help the Keeper and players immerse themselves into the setting.  He goes to considerable length to describe the world of an NKVD agent without making it a history lesson on the Great Purge.  This is essential to help stimulate the role play and story in an otherwise obscure setting that most players may not be familiar with. My favorite part is a few paragraphs explaining the rivalry between the NKVD and the GRU (foreign intelligence agency).  Nothing produces more role play than internal conflict amongst the group.  Placing a GRU undercover agent would almost be a requirement when I run this.

The adventure itself is well written and free flowing.  The investigators arrive at the scene and then the rest is up to them.  Only a few things have to happen but the rest is up to them.  The Keeper is left in charge of the ancient evil, opening up all kinds of possibilities.  The investigation pulls the players not only into a dark mythos story but also the politics and intrigue of a small farm town trying to be an asset to the State.  This is where a bulk of the NPCs are presented and the importance of good role play for the Keeper comes in.  At many points throughout the adventure, the investigators are faced with NKVD-relevant situations and are forced to make hard decisions.

It should be noted that this adventure is written for Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition, however, there are conversion notes to previous editions in the appendices.  You can see my review of CoC 7e here.

In conclusion,  while very subdued and subtle, the adventure is a great opportunity to step into someone else’s shoes that is completely foreign and unique to most players.  It creates some very uncomfortable and morally challenging situations and makes for a great story.  And in the end, if the players are successful, they can save a town for certain death by sending them off to a labor camp, if they so choose.  I think this adventure works best as a one shot and it even supplies pre-generated characters for the purpose.  I am nto sure if the adventure would fit in a normal 4 hour slot but I am definitely going to find out.

The irony of this adventure is the general mythos plot of the whole thing can be placed anywhere.  What makes it unique and fun is the setting and the type of role play that can come out of it.  It is the simplest of mythos plots, but because of when and where it is, it makes for a great gaming experience.

For more details on Chaosium, Inc. and their new RPG Sourcebook/Adventure Cold Harvest: Roleplaying during the Great Purges check them out at their website http://www.chaosium.com, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 18

Product Summary

Cold Harvest: Roleplaying during the Great Purges

From: Chaosium, Inc.

Type of Game: RPG Sourcebook/Adventure

Written by: Chad J Bowser

Contributing Authors: Mike Mason

Cover Art by: Fifa Finnadottir

Additional Art by:  Fifa Finnadottir

Number of Pages: 64

Game Components Included: Adventure Booklet

Game Components Not Included: Core RPG rulebook

Website: http://www.chaosium.com

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Blackwater Creek

From: Chaosium Inc
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Blackwater Creek is a new RPG Adventure from Chaosium Inc.

This is a little different review in that I am only reviewing one adventure in a booklet of two.  The only reason I am doing this is because I actually ran this adventure and feel it deserves a review.  With all that has been going on with Chaosium over the 7th Edition Kickstarter and such, I thought I might throw a little love in their direction.

This adventure came as part of the PDF portion of the Kick Starter fulfillment.  Nope, I have not gotten the tangible part of the fulfillment but I am patient.  I wanted to five into 7th edition and run a session as soon as I got the PDFs.  See my review of CoC 7e here.  This is part of the Keeper Screen packet, and as part of the fulfillment, I got the images for the Keeper screen that I neatly Photoshopped into something that fits my customizable GM Screen.

 

From the page # 5: “Most horrible of all sights are the little unpainted wooden houses remote from travelled ways, usually squatted upon some damp grassy slope or leaning against some gigantic outcropping of rock.”

As mentioned, there are two adventures, the other one bring Missed Dues. Both these adventures have a common theme in that the investigators can be part of the criminal element.  In the case of Blackwater Creek, it gives the option of either the gangsters/bootleggers or the traditional investigators.  What I tried to do when I ran it was run it with two groups – one  gangster group and the other investigators. I had hoped that the conflicting interests would create some great role play.  Running this as a one shot, people tend to open up in the role play because whatever drama they create won’t carry over into a campaign.

The premise of the story surrounds a lost colony in rural northwestern Massachusetts and a town that is involved in illegal whiskey production.  I am going to try my best to avoid spoilers but it might be difficult.  At its core, it is a very simple story of a forgotten hidden entity and the consequences of its rediscovery.

The brief history establishes the ancient evil and its’ nature.  This creates the link to the adventure time period, as archaeologist investigate prehistoric sites that unbeknownst to them are linked to this ancient evil.  Enter the players who are investigating something related to the consequences of this discovery.

The devil, as they say, is in the details.  And that’s where the adventure is interesting.

From the page # 5:: “Two hundred years and more they have leaned or squatted there, while the vines have crawled and the trees have swelled and spread.

The first detail that makes this adventure good is the options for player characters.  Creating multiple ways to enter in creates great opportunity for role play and story making.  The bootleggers give the players an opportunity to play amoral characters that may not necessarily care about the overall implications of a dark evil infecting our world.  They may just want to survive.  This is why I wanted to create two separate groups – the standard one and the not so standard one – to give them an opportunity to explore these motivations and role play them out.

Secondly, the creature concept behind the whole adventure is simple and easy to manipulate to the Keeper’s liking.  I can’t say it overly original but some aspects of it are inspiring. Without going into much detail, I found it very easy to embellish a little to increase the kind of horror I wanted.  The Keeper needs to read through that part fairly thoroughly to get the concept that the author is trying to get across, because you can easily stray from the core concept and then in doing, change the basis of the adventure as a whole.

Thirdly, the consequences of failure could lead to an epic story.  It starts out to be s small town problem but immediately grows into something that could affect the whole East coast and perhaps beyond.  This could easily lead to major campaign with a little work and imagination.

The adventure itself is well structured.  It’s not a railroad track of events, but more like a series of locations that the players might visit.  There is no time structure to it so the investigators can do their things at their own pace.  This gives the keeper enough time to create new and unusual ways to freak the players out.

 The locale of this adventure is a town – very open locale.  It’s easier to set up the horror feel in a more enclosed area like a house or caverns.  The Keeper needs to create a feeling of remoteness and isolation in this adventure, which is more of a foreign concept today with people being so connected.  What I did was have a few minor encounters on the outskirts of the town for people to get the feeling of being out in the middle of nowhere.  I also added rain to create an awkwardness to it, as well used it to camouflage the first creepy things they encountered.

The ending is pretty epic, but also deadly.  If they Keeper wants to carry the investigators onward, there may need some modifications to the end.  The adventure can run a little long for a convention standard 4 hours slot, but with modification, it can be done.  It comes with pre-generated bootleggers which makes it easy to pick up and run the adventure.

In conclusion, overall this is a great adventure.  The people I ran it in really enjoyed it. I did not get to run it the way I wanted to, with only 4 players showing up where 8 said were coming, but it happens.  It has a lot more potential for role play that I intend on exploring at some point.

For more details on Chaosium Inc and their new RPG AdventureBlackwater Creek” check them out at their website http://www.chaosium.com, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 18

Product Summary

Blackwater Creek
From: Chaosium Inc
Type of Game: RPG Adventure
Written by: Scott Dorward.
Edited by Scott Dorward, Paul Fricker, and Mike Mason.
Scenario Pack layout by Nicholas Nacario.
Cover illustration by Chris Huth.
Interior illustrations by Pat Loboyko, Chris Huth, and Chris Lackey.
Cartography by Steff Worthington.
Number of Pages: The whole PDF is 100 pages, the adventure is 40 pages
Game Components Included: Single PDF with two adventures and pregenerated characters.
Game Components Not Included: Core Call of Cthulhu 7e rulebooks

Website: www.chaosium.com

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

5 Questions with Michael Lawson, MACE 2014 GM of Brain Case Trophies Events!

Tell us a little about yourself and your experience in gaming?
Hello! My name is Michael Lawson. I am 48 years old and I currently live in the Atlanta Metro Area. I am originally from the Detroit/Ann Arbor area and that’s where I started gaming in… oh, 1980 or so. AD&D, Gamma World, Boot Hill, Top Secret – all the TSR games from back in the day. Other games include Traveller and Space Opera. And Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu. I guess that makes it about 34 years of gaming. Still having fun!
What is Novus Ordo Seclorum?  How did you get involved?
Novus Ordo Seclorum is a Chicago based group of gamers who have been bringing their “A”-game to Gen Con since 1985. My first Novus round was back in Milwaukee, the last year Gen Con was in Milwaukee (2001?). The experience forever changed me and showed me what horror role-playing was all about – or what it could be. Every year after that event (held in the locker room of the ice arena where the RPGA games were held, across from the main convention hall!), I have tried my best to get into their games. And it’s hard to do considering there are more people who want to play than open slots. They run the Cthulhu Masters tournament, and in some years, a Novus Round (both elimination style tournaments, where 1 or 2 players from each session advance to the next round, until there is a final round and a winner proclaimed). Other Novus games come up occasionally that are not run tourney-style. I can tell you this, if you see one, get a ticket if you can. You will have great fun and role-play with some of the best RPG’ers out there! I got to the point where the only games I go to play at Gen Con are Novus rounds. For me, others just don’t compare… with the exception of the “You Too Can Cthulhu” games. They’re run by folks from Minneapolis/St. Paul MN who have ran the Masters a time or two as well. The year before last, I made it to the finals for the Masters. Awesome fun, but the Mi-Go Brain Case Trophy still eludes me! Last year I tried my hand at helping out to run the Novus games. I realized how much hard work it is! I think going forward, I will play Novus rounds at GenCon, and that is why I’ve started to look for events like MACE, where I can run a CoC game and to help “pay it forward”. By that I mean, take what I have learned on how and why Novus rounds are such a blast, and try to create a similar experience for other players. Above all, it has to be fun for everyone.
How would you describe the perfect game for you as a player?
Perfect game? I’ll say it again: it has to be fun for everyone at the table. Then, I suppose the best games I’ve been in is where the players are able to carry the story forward. A GM can stage the scene, but the particular script is best when it comes from each player as their character. The perfect game for me is one where the story takes on a life of its own… and becomes a shared collective experience for players as well as the GM. Each player stays in character 100% of the time (because they want to and just are in character, 1st person) and table-talk and meta-gaming is kept to a minimum. You know you’ve been in a great role playing game when everyone stays at the table, talking about their shared experience, their characters, the story… it just is apparent when the game has transcended and become more of an experience then an event at a convention. Atmosphere, props… music… anything that helps to craft that experience goes a long way in helping with the suspension of belief which is I believe is core to “my perfect game as a player”.
What makes the Lovecraftian Horror most appealing to you?
Good question. I guess it has to do with how precarious our existence is… how chaotic, random, cold and indifferent the universe is, in my opinion. Despite all our technology and hubris, we really don’t know what’s out there, do we? Or what the “true nature” of reality is. People say, “Every thing happens for a reason”. Malarkey. Most everything is the result of an innumerable number of events that came before it that set things in motion… in combination with even more random factors that simply happen for no reason. Lovecraftian horror admits to the reader the truth that our minds and our capability of understanding the true nature of the Universe – is limited. Very limited. As a protagonist in a Call of Cthulhu scenario – at the game table, or as a character in a story – characters most often start out as “regular” people… who for various reasons, get caught up in some horrible fate that gives them insight into this “horror of knowing” and/or glimpses of some awful “thing which should not be”. Characters become “tainted” by this knowledge and most often pay a price for it. Remember, Call of Cthulhu is the only game I know of where you can have a great time and still see your character go insane, die… or worse…
What other games are you involved with?
Sadly, since moving to Atlanta I don’t get to play much (hint: I’m always on the look out for a good group of RPG’ers to play with in the Atlanta area!). Other games I like to play: Pathfinder. Hated DND 4. Excited to try DND 5, I hear they fixed it. Traveller is a classic game I still enjoy. I’ll try any role-playing game. My buddy in Atlanta is teaching me to play StarFleet Battles (a board game – I probably got the name wrong). “Are you a werewolf” is fun. I just bought the card game “Gloom” at GenCon – hoping to get my family to play as they don’t enjoy role-playing like I do. I can say I’ve had some of the best time gaming ever in LARPS at cons. I’ve also had the worst time ever playing in LARPS at cons… so I know they can be very fun… you just have to know which ones to sign up for. Oh! One of the best RPG games I have ever played campaign style (non-con, regular weekend schedule with friends) was a Star Wars game, which is no longer in print. I have come to learn there have been several versions of Star Wars RPG… wish I could remember the exact name/version of that one! The game system was awesome and I was so surprised at how well the game mechanics for being a Jedi worked. It was fun! I want to play again. I have to say one of the biggest reasons I love classic Call of Cthulhu is the game system. Its so light-weight, it doesn’t get in the way… and puts the emphasis on role-playing, and of course, having fun.

Achtung! Cthulhu: Keeper’s Guide to the Secret War

Achtung! Cthulhu: Keeper’s Guide to the Secret War
From: Modiphius Games
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Achtung! Cthulhu: Keeper’s Guide to the Secret War is a new RPG Core Book from Modiphius Games.

Having reviewed the Investigator’s Guide, it is only natural to take on the next book in the series – the Keeper’s Guide.  For me, as a keeper or game master, this is where the meat of the story begins.  This is where the setting really comes out for me.  Included in this book, among other things, are Allied and Nazi forces & intelligence agencies, Occult organizations and Mythos-based missions, new tomes, secret weapons, artifacts & equipment, key characters & vile creatures, and new rules and strategies for World War II combat & survival.  Like the Investigator’s Guide review, I thought it best to go chapter by chapter and comment on each.

From page # ii:
“There’s a whole Shoggoth’s worth of Cthulhu villainy, enough for any Keeper to have his investigators dead, insane or running for their lives in no time!”

Chapter 1: From The Shadows seems like a very familiar chapter.  The Investigator’s Guide started out in the same fashion, with a timeline of key events in World War II.  However, in the Keeper’s Guide, this timeline contains key events in the Secret War, as well.  Some events actually happened and are re-tooled to link back to the Secret War.  I would not recommend just skimming this chapter.  There is an amazing amount of detail and inspiration in this.  This is where you can get your story arches and adventure seeds.

Chapter 2, entitled Inside The Reich, takes you into Nazi Germany – the people who suffered through it and key events in the Third Reich history.  Of course, chances are players in A!C will want to play Allied characters, but there is the off chance the players might want to play German characters instead.  It can be a difficult thing to wrestle with as a Keeper, but this chapter helps in a lot of ways to put Nazi Germany in perspective.  While it tries to give you a balanced view of the average German citizen and/or soldier, it makes no bones about the horrible atrocities the Nazis performed during the war.  There is a very well written portion by Kenneth Hite called Sympathy for the Devil that is a really good read.

“Man is a military animal, glories in gunpowder and loves parade.” – Philip James Bailey

Chapter 3: Might Makes Right? takes the reader into the organization within the various armed forces.  The A!C is set during of time of massive world conflict, where the ways of war rule the day in many parts of the world.  This chapter provides an amazing amount of detail (but it does not overwhelm you) about the common terms used in military structure, ranks, troop organization and military policy.  It also describes various things in the life of a soldier – supply lines and acquiring needed material and items, medical services and other essential aspects of life in the military.  Being captured is also a possibility in a time of war and can easily be a way to start out an adventure.  This chapter provides good insight into that side of the war.  The chapter ends with a series of military NPCs (in both Call of Cthulhu 6th edition and Savage Worlds rules) helpful in the World War II military world.

Chapter 4: The Other Secret War looks at the history of the British, American, French, and German intelligence services.  Every war has its facets and layers.  The top layer of any war is the men and machines in places in the fields and the bravery shown as each side battles for territory.  Under that layer are the men and women that battle in the shadows searching for information on the enemy while seeding misinformation to the enemy, all in an effort to help the top layer do their jobs better.  It’s not always successful but it is an important role in the war.

This chapter deals in the complexities of World War II espionage.  All the major allies in the European theater are covered in fine detail.  The reason for this detail is because players will more than likely be working for or dealing with these organizations in their A!C adventures.  Adventures could easily start out as simple intelligence missions that explode into the world of Lovecraftian occult.

Chapter 5: Secret And Occult Societies, as the title implies, covers a wide variety of cults, cabals, and covens.  Traditionally, they play a pivotal role in many Mythos stories.  Throw the various motivations and twists of war time, and these secret societies explode with adventure possibilities.  In these pages are several secret societies and why they exist.  Motivations behind these groups vary, including protecting ancient artifacts, protecting the nation as a whole by use of their supernatural abilities, furthering a Mythos entity’s goals, and generally causing havoc because they hate a certain group or another.

If a good handful of twisted and dark cults, societies and factions isn’t enough, the book presents Section M, a special British-based multinational organization started by the British Section D.  It was formed after realizing there was more out there than just your standard challenges of wartime espionage.  Section M was formed to handle issues of a more supernatural nature.  The book describes the origins of this very important group and also gives a handful of important NPCs.  Also included is Majestic, the American answer to Section M.  The book includes similar information for Majestic as well.

The Cult of the Black Sun is the feared cult behind the scenes in Nazi, Germany.  A sort of Lovecraftian version of Hydra (Marvel Comics), its origin is deeply connected to the Dreamlands and the sinister beings within.  Its tentacles reach as far back as the late 1800s when its founder explored the Dreamlands and found the Valley of the Black Sun.  From there was born the foundation of what is to become one of the most powerful and feared secret societies within Germany.  Secretly linked to Hitler’s Thule Society, the Black Sun uses the society as a front to accomplish its sinister goals during the rise of the Nazi party.  Once Hilter begins his journey to power, the Thule Society is forced to disband but the Black Sun remained in the shadows. As the Nazis seize power, the Black Sun integrates itself with other facets of the party, including the Ahnenerbe – Himmler’s Ayran think tank.  The Cult of the Black Sun takes up a considerable amount of this chapter with amazing detail, interweaving it with key events and groups of real history.  The Cult of the Black Sun is set up as the big bad guy in the setting, one that the players will more than likely face through a multitude of fronts, related cults and other secret factions.  The section ends with a series of NPCs that make up the Black Sun, including individuals as well as generic soldiers of the Black Suns, like the Canon, the Norn, and die Troten – lower level leaders and drones of the Black Sun.  There is some incredible art here as well.

I could go on because there is so much more in this chapter, but suffice to say this is one of my favorite chapters.  There is plenty of meat for a Keeper to chew on and come up with great horror and supernatural hunting plots.

Chapter 6: Planes, Trains, And Things That Go Bang is the chapter of travel and stuff.  The first half of the chapter covers travel and the various means to accomplish said travel.  It contains a comprehensive list of air and sea ports and describes the various ways people traveled across country.  Several of the more common land and air vehicles are stat’ed out in both Call of Cthullhu and Savage Worlds.  Following this is the common equipment for characters from each country – weapons primarily – as well as some improvised or custom weapons and equipment.

Chapter 7: Into The Fray takes the reader into the war from a Call of Cthulhu rule system perspective.  Previously published rules on various important aspect of war and combat are re-printed here.  Rules for aerial combat as well as tank combat rules are presented here “ … with the emphasis on roleplaying rather than number crunching.” (p159).

Chapter 8: The Rules Of Savage Engagement is similar to Chapter 7 with a little extra rules where needed, like Aerial Bombardment rules and other special battlefield rules.  Also contained within these pages is a very special part of the Lovecraftian world – Sanity.  This is the area that surprised me the most.

From page # ii:
“The Keeper’s Guide to the Secret War is the essential Achtung! Cthulhu wartime reference for any Keeper or fan of the Cthulhu Mythos.”

The first Achtung! Cthulhu product to be released was the award winning adventure Zero Point: Three Kings.  From the Savage Worlds point of view, the Three Kings adventure was written using Realms of Cthulhu rules set.  I thought when the Guides came out, they would stick with that rules set.  I didn’t really think was anything wrong with them.  To my surprise, they changed to a slightly different approach, at least where Sanity is concerned.  Both use the same derived Sanity stat but that is where the similarities stop.  There are three levels of Fear in Achtung! Cthulhu that creatures, tomes and spells have – Nausea, Horror and Terror.  Each has the potential of one or more levels of Dementia.  As they are gained, temporary insanities can become a problem for the character.  Gaining too much Dementia can result in permanent insanities and eventually total insanity. Horror and Terror have their own table and are referenced only when a one is rolled on the Trait die.  Dementia comes from these tables.

I am not a big fan of tables but they make it somewhat acceptable because you reference it only when a 1 pops up on the Trait die (no matter what comes up on the Wild Die).  If they make a Keeper screen, these tables would obviously have to be included.

Chapter 9: Artefacts And Tomes contains a wide variety of items for the Keeper to throw into his adventure to help or hinder the characters.  These include, of course, mystical items like Mi-go Bio Cloak or the Pyramids of Leng.  They also include items thought to be mundane but in truth have mystical powers.  The Die Blutfahne is one particular Nazi flag that, through some very dark and mystical events, has some very mystical powers to those loyal to the cause.  In total, there are 9 artifacts list here.

The tomes list several tomes that can be found in the Call of Cthulhu core rulebook and thus only have Savage Worlds stats.  There are also some original tomes that have both rules.  There are an additional 9 tomes here.

Chapter 10: Deadly Illusions And Cursed Knowledge expands on the aspects of magic using, learning spells and its effects on the human psyche.  The rules listed are primarily for Savage Worlds as most of the spells and rules surrounding spells can be found in Call of Cthulhu 6th Edition.  As Savage Worlds does not have Magic Points, so to speak, this system uses Sanity as the “cost” to cast.  Some cost a Sanity point directly while others require a Spirit roll.  There are a good many spells, some from the Call of Cthulhu line and some new.  Of course, the new spells have both Call of Cthulhu and Savage Worlds stats.

Chapter 11: Horrors And Monstrosities is where I thought they would have saved themselves a lot of paper by simply maintaining compatibility with Realms of Cthulhu, but because of the path they chose to take primarily in the Sanity rules, they had to republish many of the standard Cthulhu Mythoscreatures in Savage Worlds rules.  I am sure there is a reason for it.  The question is are they all that much different from the Realms of Cthulhu?  Browsing through both books, I do notice a significant difference between the interpretations of common creatures while at the same time, there are some that are in one book and not the other.  So neither are better or worse than the other.  I just think they are both configured for their own particular setting.

What most readers would find interesting are the new creatures they have added to the Mythos, especially created for the Achtung! Cthulhu setting.  Servitor races like the Bloodborn or the Cold Ones gives you new options to creep your players out.  Twisted created like die draugar or die gefallenen are also very cool new creatures added for the setting.

While the previous chapter covers the dark and twisted, Chapter 12: Allies And Nemeses covers the real life heroes of the time and the mundane everyday NPCs.  A short description of all the major figures of World War II is given and a variety of generic NPC stats are also displayed.

Chapter 13: Adventure Seeds is 4 pages of great adventure ideas for the Secret Wars, with ideas inspired from real events and gives a slight twist to them to fit the setting.  This is a must-read for Keepers.

Chapter 14: Quick Play Guide is a quick reference guide to Achtung! Cthulhu, for both Call of Cthlhu and  Savage Worlds players.  And the book ends with a great chapter of Suggested Resources.

In conclusion, The book is a phenomenal piece of work.  It is attractive, easy to browse, well written, intelligent and well thought out.  It has everything a Keeper needs to inspire and run his Achtung! Cthulhu game.  The hard back version is a gorgeous book that I am proud to have on my shelf.  To run A!C, I highly recommend this book.

For more details on Modiphius Games and their new RPG Player’s GuideAchtung! Cthulhu: Keeper’s Guide to the Secret War” check them out at their website http://www.modiphius.com/.

Codex Rating: 19

Product Summary

Achtung! Cthulhu: Keeper’s Guide to the Secret War
From: Modiphius Games
Type: RPG Keeper’s Guide
Written by: Chris Birch, Dave Blewer, Bill Bodden, Alex Bund, Russ Charles, Adam Crossingham, Lynne Hardy, Kenneth Hite, Sarah Newton & Matthew Pook
Edited by: Lynne Hardy & Michal E. Cross
Artwork by: Dim Martin
Graphic Design, Layout & Cartography by: Michal E. Cross
Produced & Art Directed by: Chris Birch & Lynne Hardy
Proofreading by: Richard Hardy, Matthew Pook & Kickstarter Backers
Number of Pages: 295
Game Components Included: One PDF or hardback book
Game Components Not Included: Core RPG book (Call of Cthulhu or Savage Worlds)
Retail Price: $44.99 hard back; $22.99 (US)
Website: http://www.modiphius.com/

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

 

Achtung! Cthulhu: Investigator’s Guide to the Secret War

Achtung! Cthulhu: Investigator’s Guide to the Secret War
From: Modiphius Games
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Achtung! Cthulhu: Investigator’s Guide is a new RPG Player’s Guide from Modiphius Games.

Two of my passions are H.P. Lovecraft Cthulhu Mythos and World War II history.  When these two are combined, I will dive into it head first every opportunity I have.

I started my journey into Achtung! Cthulhu with running their first adventure, Three Kings. At the time, the Three Kings adventure, from the Savage Worlds side of things, was written for the Realms of Cthulhu.  It also could be run in classic 6th Edition Call of Cthulhu, but because of the more tactical nature of World War II, I felt that Savage World fit it better.  Imagine my surprise, however, when I found the Investigator’s Guide and the Keeper’s Guide both using a different system in Savage worlds – one of their making. I suppose that makes sense to some degree.  They would be beholding to two different licenses, I would think.  I am not 100% sure how those licenses work.

The first thing you notice about the book is that it’s absolutely stunning.  Layout, art, and everything is top notch.  It makes you want to dive into the book right away. The book is 154 pages hardback or PDF, with ten chapters.  It had a very successful Kickstarter, one that many took part in and are kindly thanked by Lynn Hardy in the Forward.

From the website:
Achtung! Cthulhu is a terrifying World War Two setting, fully compatible with the Call of Cthulhu, Sixth Edition and Savage Worlds roleplaying games. This is the Investigator’s Guide, with everything players need to create and run character’s in the late 30’s and 40’s.”

Chapter 1: Welcome to the Secret War is made up primarily of a timeline of real world events during World War 2, primarily focusing on the Western Front.  It is noted in the book that there will be future supplements covering other theaters.  This timeline is by no means complete, of course, but it does cover some interesting aspects of the war.  What I like a lot in this section especially are anecdotal pieces of trivia that are interspersed throughout the timeline’s events.

Chapter 2: Keep the Home Fires Burning handles information on how things were on the British and American home front.  From jobs, the work force, consumer goods, and rationing to fashion, music and movies, this chapter has enough information to get a good feel for things at home.  Chapter 3: Home, Sweet Home is a timeline of events that effected the various home fronts – Britain, France, and the Unites States of America.  Even though there was a war going on, there were still significant things that occurred at home that are worth noting.  From political actions to inventions, things still happened in other parts of the world.

Chapter 4: In the Service of One’s Country details the various ways people serve their country – military services, intelligence service and others.  Achtung! Cthulhu gets your character not only deeply involved with Lovecraftian investigations but also the war, so he or she is more than likely going to be involved in one of these services one way or another.  The military services of Britain, France, the US and Germany are covered here, as well as the various intelligence and national law enforcement agencies.

Chapter 5: Your Country Needs You! takes all the previous information and connects it up with the character generation system of both Call of Cthulhu 6th Edition and Savage Worlds.  What is interesting on the CoC6 side, the character generation system is a little more detailed and structured than your standard CoC6 character generation. In this chapter, the writers dive into a detailed and extensive character generation process for Call of Cthulhu. Perhaps more key to a World War II setting than in normal 1920s Call of Cthulhu, this book spends a considerable time on nationality.  Characters are more than likely going to play a British or American character but this guide provides a means to add more detail.  Characters also choose an occupation like in classic CoC, and Achtung! Cthulhu provides a table listing the more appropriate occupations for the setting.  Additionally, it provides options for Covert Occupations – things a character may be doing secretly in a time of war.  Occupations are slightly different in Achtung! Cthulhu.  Bonuses are added to them as additional differentiators and are a nice touch.  Of course, there are also military occupations available, which are much more detailed then just “Soldier” from the classic rules.  They go into considerable detail on how to build a military character with the various branches, ranks and skills.

What I like a lot is their addition of Mythos Background Seeds, which collectively are a means to hook the character into the Secret War – the Mythos war being fought behind the scenes of World War II.  They provide a nice set of tables of options that you can either roll on or choose from or simply use as inspiration for your own ideas.  This is presented as an option, but I highly recommend using it as part of your character creation process.

From the website:
“Discover the secret history of World War Two: stories of amazing heroism, in which stalwart men and women struggle to overthrow a nightmare alliance of steel and the occult; of frightening inhuman conspiracies from the depths of time; of the unbelievable war machines which are the product of Nazi engineering genius – and how close we all are to a slithering end! The Secret War has begun!”

Chapter 6: Getting Your Hands Dirty extends further into the Call of Cthulhu 6th Edition. This chapter expands on many of the relevant skills to fit in the World War II setting.  It also adds a few new skills for the setting.

In Chapter 7: The Savage Practice of War, as the title implies, are the Savage Worlds rules for Achtung! Cthulhu.  Although I have had a lot of experience with Call of Cthulhu, I have spent the past year running Achtung! Cthulhu in Savage Worlds.  In many cases, it references the previous chapters’ tables and other generic, non-game system specific information – a smart use of space and information.  Like in CoC, Achtung! Cthulhu adds a few extra things to the Savage Worlds character generation that a new player should pay close attention to.  Along with the obligatory Sanity stat (which is pretty much the same as Realms of Cthulhu), it adds a little more structure to a character’s skill selection especially if they go into the service.  Like in the CoC section, it provides structured guidelines for many career choices available in the setting.  Additionally, it provides a good number of new Hindrances and Edges for characters to choose from.

Key to the character in any Lovecraftian role playing setting is Sanity and I always thought that Realms of Cthulhu handled it well in the Savage Worlds rules set.  You don’t get a clue of it here in the Investigator’s Guide, but Achtung! Cthulhu takes a slightly different approach to it.  See our review of the Keeper’s Guide for that.

Chapter 8: The Tools of the Trade is what one would expect from a equipment chapter.  Starting with standard equipment, primarily military, items are fully stat’ed out for both CoC and Savage Worlds. Also included are a number of covert items to be used in the Secret War by the players.

Chapter 9: Quick Play Guide is a section that gives you a quick reference to everything presented in the book, from character generation to important combat rules.   Page numbers and/or chapter numbers are given for this book as well as Call of Cthulhu 6th Edition, and Savage Worlds Deluxe or Deluxe Explorer’s Edition.

Chapter 10: Suggested Resources is easily overlooked by the reader, but I highly recommend going through it.  There is a good variety of helpful resources to help a player and a keeper to capture the essence of a World War II Lovecraftian adventure.

In conclusion, Achtung! Cthulhu: Investigator’s Guide is a brilliant book, gorgeously laid out and full of useful player information to play in this setting.  I love the setting and I love this book.  I plan on running this regularly at the convention I attend.  What I like most about it is that it is intelligently put together and written, and that you can see that the writers and creators have a true passion for the setting.  It’s an enjoyable read and very inspiring for players and game masters a like.

For more details on Modiphius Games and their new RPG Player’s GuideAchtung! Cthulhu: Investigator’s Guide” check them out at their website http://www.modiphius.com/.

Codex Rating: 19

Product Summary

Achtung! Cthulhu: Investigator’s Guide to the Secret War
From: Modiphius Games
Type of Game: RPG Player’s Guide
Written by: Chris Birch, Dave Blewer, Alex Bund, Adam Crossingham, Lynne Hardy, Sarah Newton & Matthew Pook
Edited by: Lynne Hardy & Michal E. Cross
Cover Artwork by: Pintureiro
Interior Artwork by: Dim Martin
Graphic Design, Layout & Cartography by: Michal E. Cross
Produced & Art Directed by: Chris Birch & Lynne Hardy
Proofreading by: Richard Hardy, Matthew Pook
Number of Pages: 154
Game Components Included: One PDF or hardback book
Game Components Not Included: Core RPG book (Call of Cthulhu or Savage Worlds)
Retail Price: $32.00 hard back; $14.99 (US)
Website: http://www.modiphius.com/

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Realms of Cthulhu

Realms of Cthulhu
From: Reality Blurs
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Realms of Cthulhu is a  Savage Worlds RPG Setting Book from Reality Blurs.

Call of Cthulhu has been one of my core games for years.  I fell in love with it back in the late 80s when I got to play it for the first time.  I have been a diehard supporter of the core CoC system since I started running it.  It is very open, free-formatted, and easy to play.  It allowed for such great role play and storytelling in my many years of experience with it.  I continue to run it at least once or twice a year at a con locally.

In 2009, Reality Blurs published Realms of Cthulhu by Sean Preston.  It took the classic CoC and retooled it for the very popular Savage Worlds game system.  My first reaction was “Why?”  If it’s not broken, why fix it?  In all honestly, I was rather averse to the idea of Cthulhu in another system.  Of course, Reality Blurs and Savage Worlds were not the first to do that.  A string of Lovecraftian games are available that take the Cthulhu Mythos setting and integrate it into a new system – Trail of Cthulhu (reviewed here) and Shadows of Cthulhu, just to name a few.

From the back cover:
“Whether you seek action and adventure battling cultists in the sun-drenched jungle temples, a shadowy milieu of dark words and impossible deeds, or a twisted mixture dredged up from the darkest recesses of imagination and nightmare, you will find the rules you need and inspiration you desire within these pages.”

Don’t get me wrong, however.  I am a fan of Savage Worlds.  I am just not a person that takes change well, I suppose.  Recently, however, I have felt the pull to run Savage Worlds games because I enjoy the system so much.

Realms of Cthulhu (RoC) is first and foremost a setting book. You will need a Savage World core rulebook to run this.  At its heart, it is primarily a conversion book of the Cthulhu Mythos from Call of Cthulhu RPG to Savage Worlds.  It also integrates (very well, in fact) key aspects of the CoC RPG into Savage Worlds.  The material adds very little new to Lovecraftian role playing, but it definitely brings it to a new and different level.

To start with, it adds a handful of very appropriate new Skills, Hindrances and Edges.  In the skill section, Realms of Cthulhu is one of the Savage Worlds games that uses the concept of Defining Interests.  Defining Interests are hobbies and interests that round out the character.  They may or may not come into play in game but it gives a little more to the character in general.  It also has a short list of disallowed Edges, which all make sense.  It also provides an adequate list of vehicles and equipment converted to the Savage Worlds system.  But more importantly, it gets into the meat of any Cthulhu game – Sanity and Damage.

One of the first aspects one thinks of when talking about CoC is Sanity.  Nothing is more terrifying then watching your Sanity stat slowly drain away as you go from one horrific encounter to the other.  While Realms of Cthulhu does not have the declining scale like CoC does, it does have an interesting approach to this.  First, it has two versions of Sanity rules – Gritty and Pulpy.  Gritty is characteristically more horror-like while Pulpy is what the name implies, giving you a chance to play in more pulp-like plotlines.  Gritty is less forgiving while Pulpy gives the characters a chance.

The whole Sanity mechanic is very intelligently designed and follows the core philosophy of Savage Worlds (at least the way I see it).  They kept it simple and familiar.  They did not add a new mechanic but instead used existing mechanics and expanded on them. It uses the “first line of defense – Guts” skill.  Once that is a failure, we proceed to Sanity and Mental Anguish.  Sanity is like your mental Toughness.  Mental Anguish is like damage to your mental Toughness.  For every 4 points of Mental Anguish above your Sanity, you take a point of madness.  Sound familiar?  It’s basically the damage system translated to the mental level.  The difference between Gritty and Pulpy is simply a Madness Soak roll. Pulpy allows for the Soak roll where Gritty does not.

From the page 5:
“You hold in your hands a horror game unlike most, for this game does not deal strictly with ghosts and other such monstrosities, but nightmarish landscapes of the master of horror, H.P. Lovecraft, and those who have shared his vision and shaped his Mythos.”

Of course, one does not die after taking 3 levels of madness, however.  Instead, they go insane.  This system replaces the Short Term and Temporary Insanity system of old CoC.  A check is made once 3 or more madness levels are taken and a table is consulted based on the level of success.   Overall, I liked this system because it was true to both the Call of Cthulhu genre and true to the Savage Worlds mechanics.

Sanity being at the heart of any Cthulhu role playing experience, I was fairly satisfied with the book from that stand point.  However, the Gritty and Pulpy aspect of the game also applies to Damage.  The Pulpy damage system is the default Savage Worlds system.  The Gritty damage system is a lot more lethal.  Among other things, it does not allow you to spend a benny chip to make a soak roll.  It is pretty nasty in general.

Coupling both of these aspects together – the Physical and the Mental – sets the tone for your RoC game.  You can use both Pulpy systems (mental and physical) to have a Heroic Horror game.  You can use Gritty physical and Pulpy mental to have Dangerous Action tone.  I like the fact that it allows for a variety of tone and styles, because going into this, my concern was that using the Savage Worlds system would make it too heroic and not horrific enough.

There is also a concept called Corruption, which is the equivalent of Max Sanity from classic Call of Cthulhu.  The more one delves into the Mythos knowledge, meaning the higher their Knowledge (Mythos) gets, the more Corruption a character receives.  This directly modifies one’s Sanity trait.  However, it also can be used in other ways, depending on the framework of the setting.  This kind of ramps up this aspect of Cthulhu, since the classic version affected a percentile value and was very slow and gradual.  This system is far more effective in showing the consequences of delving too deep in the mythos.

The Keeper Section takes up nearly two-thirds of the book and gives the Keeper enough tools and advice to help him adjust to Cthulhu Savage-style.  It gives some good advice about designing your campaign using three key aspects to begin with – Era, Style and Bond.  Then it follows with several generic frameworks of campaigns.   It is a rather concise and intelligent way of looking at campaign design for any version of Cthulhu.  Following this are several pages of good advice on how to run a good Cthulhu game, from the basic elements to horror to the essential aspects of any Lovecracftian story.

Mythos tomes and Magic are directly related.  Probably one of the more under-used areas in any Cthulhu game, at least in my experience, is magic.  However, because of the generic nature of Savage Worlds, I was concerned that perhaps magic was too easy for people to access because in my mind, magic should be very hard to do in any Lovecraftian world.  Eliminating the need for Arcane Backgrounds Edge (and Power Points as well), the system stays true to the classic feel of Lovecraftian magic while giving a little more options for the GM to play with.  The system requires a Knowledge (Mythos) skill check, and the risk behind is called Backlash.  On a Critical Failure, some really nasty things can happen.  Each power has a cast modifier and one can spend time on the spell to reduce it.

While at the same time it converts some of the classic Cthulhu spells for use in game, it also allows for a number of the core Savage Worlds combat spells.  Converting them to the new RoC magic system is fairly easy.  This is probably where a GM has to be real careful.  In a Pulpy game, these spells would probably work, but in a more Gritty feeling game, I would put pretty strong limitations on magic.

The remainder of the book provides a variety of Mythos Tale ideas as well as a fully fleshed-out location called Drake Manor. It ends with two very important sections – a section on creatures and denizens as well as a conversion system for Call of Cthulhu.

Throughout the book, it also provides handy tables to create random things.  Youc an create random tomes and random mythos creatures.  You can also randomly generate a Mythos Tale. These are a brilliant addition to the GM tool-chest.

In conclusion, the core system of Call of Cthulhu is significantly different from the core Savage Worlds system in more than just the obvious way.  The differences are a double-edged sword, however.  Savage Worlds is a fun system, but I was not sure it could carry the same tone as the classic Basic Role Play System did in Call of Cthulhu.  In some ways, it really does succeed at this while at others, it intentionally does not.  Because Savage Worlds really likens itself to more of a Pulpy feel, this game opens up whole new avenues for adventure that may not have been possible with Call of Cthulhu.   While, I would find it hard to leave my classic CoC stuff behind altogether, I do find RoC appealing in its own right.  It’s definitely different, while at the same time it preserves the feel of CoC, in many ways.  It does require a GM to work a little harder to narrow down his style of Cthulhu game play, but in the end, it is worth it.

For more details on Reality Blurs and their Savage Worlds RPG Setting BooksRealms of Cthulhu” check them out at their website http://realityblurs.com, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 17

Product Summary

Realms of Cthulhu
From: Reality Blurs
Type of Game: Savage Worlds RPG Setting Books
Written by: Sean Preston
Contributing Authors: Shane Hensley, Simon Lucas, Ed Wetterman, & Stacy Young
Additional Materials: Shane Hensley, Simon Lucas, Ed Wetterman, & Stacy Young
Lead Editor: Lyn Harm
Assistant Editor: Ed Wetterman
Art Direction: Simon Lucas & Sean Preston
Cartography: Keith Curtis
Cover Art: Daniel Rudnicki
Glyphs: Omega Font Labs
Graphic Design: Simon Lucas & Sean Preston
Investigator’s Dossier: Cheyenne Wright
Typesetting: Simon Lucas
Interior Art: Aaron Acevedo, Raul Gonzalez, Andy Hopp, Igor Kieryluk, Diego Gisbert Llorens, Chris Malidore, luis nuñez de castro, Aaron Panagos, Daniel Rudnicki, Charlene Sun, Christophe Swal, Trisha Williams, Cheyenne Wright, and Darek Zabrocki
Number of Pages: 160
Game Components Included: One Hardback book or PDF
Game Components Not Included: Savage Worlds Deluxe core book
Retail Price: $39.99 (US)
Website: realityblurs.com

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Chad Bowser, writer of Cthulhu Invictus

In 2011, Chad Bowser wrote Cthulhu Invictus and ran a few sessions of it at MACE 2011.  He was kind enough to answer a few interview questions.

Thanks for taking the time to talk with us.  Tell us a little about yourself and your gaming accomplishments?

Thanks, Ron. I’m not sure what you want to know, but I’ll try. I grew up in Buffalo, NY. Except for the time I was traveling with the carnival, I was an upstate New Yorker. I moved to NC in 1997 to go to graduate school for medieval history. After earning that degree, I immediately shifted fields and went to work in IT. I’m now an engineer for a major financial institution.

I’ve been gaming since 1989, when I started playing AD&D 2e. I haven’t looked back. My first published item was a Call of Cthulhu scenario published in the now defunct Demonground magazine.

Tell us a little about yourself and your gaming likes/dislikes?  What kind of gamer would you characterize yourself?

To be honest, I like most games. I prefer unified mechanics, but that’s by no means a deal-breaker. My favorite games are, in no particular order, Call of Cthulhu, Pendragon, Fiasco, and Victoriana. In case you can’t tell, I’m also a sucker for historical games.

If you look at the GSN scale of gaming, I’d classify myself as a simulationist/narrativist depending on how the mood strikes me. At the end of the day, I’m the type of gamer who just likes to have a fun time playing games.

Tells us a little about the Cthulhu Invictus?

Cthulhu Invictus is the brainchild of me and my wife, Andi Newton. She’s also the co-author. It’s a horror game situating the Cthulhu Mythos in ancient Rome. I think the Roman Empire’s a good analogue for Lovecraft’s New England. You have the civilized center (Rome/Boston) surrounded by these peripheral villages where all the weirdness happens (the provinces/Arkham/Dunwich).

CI, as we call it, is a melding of history, mythology, and the Mythos. I worked on the history, Andi worked on the mythology, and we collaborated on tying in the Mythos. We view it as a toolbox where Keepers can pick and choose which elements to include in their game. If you include everything we present, you’ll have a very crowded world!

One of our other goals was to include enough of the mythology from every part of the Empire that you could ignore the Mythos and run a straight sword and sandals game. If you ever enjoyed a Ray Harryhausen film, you know what I’m talking about. Andi worked overtime to make sure the mythological beasties presented in CI stayed true to the myths and legends.

When CI won the 2010 Golden Geek Award for best RPG supplement, Andi and I were thrilled. It really meant a lot to us that we won a fan-sourced award like that.

Since then, we’ve released the Cthulhu Invictus Companion, which is a collection of three scenarios and six more cults.

If anyone’s interesting in learning more about Cthulhu Invictus, look for Andi or me at MACE. We’ll have copies to show you.

What is your latest work?  What is in the future for you?

We have several irons in the fire right now. I can’t divulge a couple of them, though. Two that I’m really excited about are a Steampunk book for the Victoriana line and an alternate history game set in 19th century Russia. The Russian game will combine Russian folklore with the revolutionary politics of the late 19th century.

Tell us a little bit about your plans for MACE?

First, I want to thank you, Jeff, and everybody else behind the scenes at MACE for putting on an excellent show. You guys have been really supportive in ways you can’t imagine.

I plan on running a few games this year. I’m demoing Delta Green for Arc Dream on Friday. On Saturday, I’ll be play testing material for a new Cthulhu setting. If you want to help shape a setting, or at least get your name in a book, make sure to sign up. I’m not 100% sure what my Sunday game will be, so keep your eyes on the schedule. If there’s something in particular you want to play on Sunday, email Ron and let him know.

One of my MACE goals this year is to play in a game of Harnmaster. I’ve wanted to play that game since the early 90s, but have never been able to work it out. Since there’s a MACE fixture who runs Harnmaster, I hope to sit in on a game.

I also look forward to meeting a couple of people I know from the rpggeek.com online community.