Ring Side Report-RPG Review of Trail of Cthulhu

Product– Trail of Cthulhu

System- Gumshoe

Producer– Pelgrane Press

Price– $24.99 here https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/55567/Trail-of-Cthulhu?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR– Do you think Call of Cthulhu has too much Crunch?  88%

Basics– Should the story stop when the players just suck at rolling?  Trail of Cthulhu believes that story trumps mechanics as story should drive the game.  Let’s look at the pieces.

Overview-Trail of Cthulhu is a skill system like Call of Cthulhu, but unlike Call of Cthulhu you have two types of skills: investigative and general.  General covers any contested rolls and investigative covers learning the horrors of the mystery.  Let’s break that down.

Investigative Skills-  You enter a room, ask to search the library for secret books, and you find all secret books.  If you have ranks in the appropriate skills, you find all the books.  That’s it.  If you couldn’t find the books, the story might stop.  Trail of Cthulhu focuses more on you learning the mystery and less on you flubbing rolls to learn the mystery.  You build these skills with points like ranks, but those points are spent to learn more, not just enough.  Characters with even one rank would find all the books, then can spend points to learn more, like find the right places in the hidden books to skip something horrible or learn more secrets beyond the base mystery.

General Skills-  Punch a guy, out run a monster, and hide from the cultists are all opposed rolls where the story isn’t the issue, so they become general skills.  This system uses ONE d6.  That’s it.  You want to to a thing? Roll a d6 and aim for a 4.  Before you roll, you can spend points from the pool to add to the roll.  Some skills give you more damage or more hit points or sanity, but for the most part opposed rolls happen with skills or trying to do a thing that isn’t dependent on the story happening at all.

Honestly, that’s it.  There is sanity and HP, but for the most part the two types of rolls define the system.  Let’s see my thoughts.

Mechanics or Crunch-I like crunch (heck I build point based Shadowrun characters for fun!), but for the most part, this is a quick, light system.  My more roll-happy friends freak out when we play as they NEED to roll to search, but the option to make story happen as the goal is a good one.  If you just want a game that happens fast without a ton of hassle because you didn’t spec into the right build at level 4 to cast the one spell to put the deepone to sleep, but you will want a horror game then this is the crunch for you.    4.5/5

Theme or Fluff– This game is put out by the premier Lovecraft people in the industry.  They know their stuff.  It feels right, but it also feels like Indiana Jones as they build Pulp and straight Lovecraft versions of the rules into it.  If you want to punch the ghoul, then this can be your game, or if you want to go mad at the sight of a corpse, then this can also be your game.  The book builds out a full world in a quick way to help new GMs get running right away.  5/5

Execution–  PDF?  YEP!  Hyperlinked?  YES!  I have the two big things I want, but why am I not happy?  Well… RPG books can be built one of two ways: mechanics first or theme first.  This goes character build first.  I don’t know what ANY of the math means until WAY far into this book.  When I googled it it made perfect sense, and then 20 pages later I saw the explanation.  That is not good.  I like the world that is built with the book, but it’s a pain to read; a three column design isn’t great. This book is modern, but some of the design decisions are just a bit off.  3.75/5

Summary– Slick and simple.  This game is a fun one regardless of the book design.  I like the game this makes.  The solid focus on story first is nice.  I would like a bit more crunch, but  simple is fun sometimes.  The story and theme of the book are top notch.  The execution isn’t.  If you want a game that starts quick and plays quick but still has great Lovecraftian horror, then Trail of Cthulhu is worth checking out. 88%

Ring Side Report-RPG Review of Pip System Corebook

Product– Pip System Corebook

System- Pip System

Producer– Third Eye Games

Price– $14.99 here https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/216645/Pip-System-Coreboo?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR– The Cypher system and Shadowrun had a baby! 93%

Basics– What do you want to play?  The Pip system book is a generic system book that focuses on the mechanics of the pip system and all the different worlds you can play in.  Let’s dig in.

Basics-This is SOLIDLY a skill based system.  Everything you do is based on how many skill dice you have and EVERYTHING is a d6.  Basically you take however many ranks you have in a skill plus your quality ranks (think specializations that may count for some activities) and roll that many six sided dice, counting 4s, 5s, and 6s as successes.  These are called your white dice.  Then you or the GG (game guide, the GM for this system) roll a number of dice equal to the challenge rating of whatever you’re up against and counts 4s, 5s, and 6s.  These are the black dice  If you get more white successes than black, you succeed.

Combat, AC, and the rest-  We don’t really do that here.  You have hit points, but as a skill system you basically tell the GM how it goes down.  You just dodge the hit, then you roll athletics to dodge, but you might say I roll stealth to hide and avoid or survive to get out of the way into cover.  You succeed on the dodge, you don’t take the hit.  You attack with different traits as well,and damage is just difference in hits if you succeed on the attack.

Gear and Character Building-  Character building is quick too.  You choose a basic archetype that gives you some mental and physical hit points, basic starting skills, an ability, and a hindrance to roleplay.  Then you spend build points buying skills, quality ranks (specializations in a part of a skill), and advanced qualities (feats you have to meet prerequisites for).  Gear is the same way. You spend other build points buying different gear.  It’s all generic to help you build a character for any setting that you might want to pay.

Fortune-  Magic cheaty points!  Fortune is how you can control your rolls.  Everyone wants rerolls, HP, and other things so you can control the action a bit, and Fortune is that thing.  Roleplay well, do cool things, and play nice and you get fortune tokens.

Ok, what do I think of all this?

Mechanics or Crunch– For the crunch here, you have to ask yourself one of two very important questions-”Do I like the cypher system, but want a tad more crunch?” or “Do I like Shadowrun but could use a bit more speed?”.  If yes, you will love this.  It’s a simple system where you make lots of choices and control a lot without having too many rules in the way.  That also means that players can have a HORRIBLE time if the GG and they just don’t work well, so it’s got that OSR vibe of the system flexes a lot for fun, but your GM can ruin your experience.  Overall, the base mechanic running EVERYTHING is amazing to me.  You do need to coordinate with your GG to make sure your awesome character isn’t completely built against what he/she is thinking so your game time won’t be an issue.  Solid quick mechanics make this a good system to learn and get into.    4.75/5

Theme or Fluff– It’s always hard to review a generic system without a world.  There are some splashes of places to play, but mostly this book is how to play and check out the other stuff we got for specific places to play.  It’s got good intros so I like what I see.  The book does go a bit more fantasy than modern or future, even though it supports everything.  Good intro to a gateway to several new worlds.  4.5/5

Execution–  PDF?  YEP!  Hyperlinked?  YES!  Solid execution here, but a few issues that hurt it a bit.  Text is easy to read.  Pictures break up the flow, and I like a lot of the toys on offer.  However, I would like a few more examples of actual play.  Tell me how numbers happen.  That’s the big issue here.  It’s a generic system, so as the GG I need more guidance on what to throw at my players and how my players make the dice pools.  Overall, it’s decent, but if it were to provide a bit more walkthrough of a game and a combat scene, I would love this more.  4.75/5

Summary– Well, I’m in.  This is a fun system that I can get my players running in about 10 minutes after they select pregens or 20 minutes if they have to build people.  It’s quick, easy, and negotiable.  Players have control, but with all negotiable systems, dialogue will be key.  Make sure everyone is on the same page, and players will enjoy this game.  I like Sci-fi, so I want a bit more of that in the base book.  But, what’s here is good.  As for the physical build of the book, it’s done well.  I still need more examples, but I think I can run my first game well enough.  I like what I’ve found in this one.  If you want some quick d6 gaming in any universe, this is worth a look.  93%

Ring Side Report-RPG Review of Hellboy: The Roleplaying Game

Product– Hellboy: the RolePlaying Game

System- Dungeons and Dragons 5e

Producer– Mantic Games

Price– FREE here https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/324717/Hellboy-The-Roleplaying-Game-Quickstart?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR– WORTH IT! 100%

Basics– GONNA BE SORE IN THE MORNING!  Hellboy jumps from three movies and multiple comics into an RPG.  This kickstarter is for a Dungeons and Dragons 5e expansion featuring the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defence.  Is this a cash grab or something full of soul?

Mechanics or Crunch– This is 5e, which is good, but it’s so much more.  This game has the standard 5e mechanics but adds its own touches like new ways to heal in a fight as well as doom and ingenuity.  These are new pools that are like inspiration or hero points, but a full new system that makes this feel like the comics.  Players roll an extra d10 with 1s earning doom points, points for the GM to hurt/mess with players, and 10s earning ingenuity, points for the players to play with.  It feels pulpy and something that honestly DMs might steal for other games they run that need a comic feel.  It’s easy to slap a coat of paint on a fighter and be done, but honestly this book does a lot more to make the game its own.  5/5

Theme or Fluff– This isn’t a full product, but the adventure and the overall pieces makes me think Hellboy.  Sure I know where the pictures come from as there isn’t a ton of new art, but who cares.  I like the pieces here and think that this feels right in the Hellboy world.  Heck there is a full free adventure that feels like a BPRD comic.  Solid world building here.  5/5

Execution–  PDF?  YEP!  Hyperlinked?  YES!  The big boys of the RPG world can’t even pull that off and this FREE PRODUCT comes out swinging with solid text design and flow, good execution of its pieces, and a great explanation of how to play 5e that even the base 5e book might have trouble matching while giving me new toys to play with.  I would like a bit more pictures to break up text, but if this is the full book, I’ll be happy.  5/5

Summary-I love the Hellboy comics, the hellboy movies (yes even the latest one), and I love DnD 5e.  This is a no brainer for me.  Solid old and new mechanics, solid world building and theme,and solid execution of a PDF make this something you should get NOW. Heck, even if you don’t want to pay THIS IS FREE!  The base buy-in of the RPG is about 14 bucks, and I honestly expect that from MUCH smaller companies for MUCH less.  Check this one out!  100%

Ring Side Report-RPG Review of Pocket Lint, Light Loot & Tiny Treasures

Product– Pocket Lint, Light Loot & Tiny Treasures

System-NONE!

Producer– Beyond the Horizon

Price– $1.95 here https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/321954/Pocket-Lint-Light-Loot–Tiny-Treasurest?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DRSolid, random stuff!  95%

Basics– What has it got in its pocketses?  Need some random stuff an NPC is carrying and not sure what they have? This is the book for you.  Roll a d20, then a d6, and finally a d20 again.  Random pocket stuff on the fly!

Mechanics or Crunch– Roll three dice, get an item.  That’s the basic idea, and it works pretty well!  The book is here to help you find some good, random stuff, and the number of dice make it pretty random.  The one thing I would like is a random die to know how many items each creature should have.  The book gives a bit of advice: aim between 1 to 2 and no more than six, but throw another die in there to get me a number.  Aside from that, it’s an easy, quick way to find some stuff that can make a monster’s random possessions stand out.  4.5/5

Theme or Fluff-This is where the book shines.  You need some random crap on a monster?  DONE!  And it’s lively!  Each thing feels like it will build a world a little bit.  Solid random stuff in these tables.  5/5

Execution–  PDF?  YEP!  Hyperlinked?  No… This book is solidly layed out and has good tables and readability.  It’s 14 pages including an intro and cover page, but otherwise its tables.  But I can read them quickly and easily.  THAT’S WHAT A LOT OF BOOKS NEED TO LEARN!  Would like some linking so I can use this as a quick reference more, but that’s the only negative here.  4.75/5

Summary-If you need some random on the fly, then this is your book.  You will be surprised how easily some of these things could become whole adventure seeds.  Some, on the other hand, are just fun.  I have my minor issues, but for less than two bucks, you get a whole lot of bang for those two bucks if you need some quick ideas to spice up the random possessions you find on a fallen foe.  95%

Ring Side Report-RPG Review of EB-03 Where the Dead Wait

Product– EB-03 Where the Dead Wait

System-DnD 5e

Producer– DMs Guild

Price– $4.99 here https://www.dmsguild.com/product/302373/EB03-Where-the-Dead-Wait?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR– Solid semi-side episode of an awesome campaign. 95%

Basics– Time for Dawn of the Dead in Eberron?  You’ve escaped from the Warforged with a magic talking box, but now the dead hunger for you in the Mournland.  Can you get out, keep the box, and stop the dead from eating you?

Mechanics or Crunch–  The crunch here is strong!  It’s a fun adventure. Mechanically it works well.  It might be a bit much for some players if they don’t think straight and want to do a smack down outside with an army of undead and don’t keep track of what’s happening with the NPCs.  Overall solid, but sometimes the hint stick may be needed to help if the players just can’t keep themselves from killing themselves.  4.5/5

Theme or Fluff-Combine Dawn of the Dead, Evil Dead 2, and From Dusk till Dawn, and you have this adventure.  It’s fun.  It’s mostly a side adventure, but it doesn have a major plot tie in.  Even the filler episodes of this campaign are fun.  5/5

Execution–  PDF?  YEP!  Hyperlinked?  No… I like these adventures.  They are a blast to run as they read quick and I feel I can tie the player into the story.  Reads quick, layout is nice, art makes me feel like it’s the 1920s between the wars period, and the additional newspapers are a great touch.  Just give me my hyperlinking to move easily through the materials, and it would be perfect.  4.75/5

Summary-Oricle of War keeps delivering.  This isn’t the main plot for the most part, but honestly you won’t care.  Solid plot, decent mechanics, and a good execution make this an adventure to play if you want to get deeper into this campaign.  95%

Ring Side Report-RPG Review of Modern Age

Product– Modern Age Basic Rulebook

System-Modern Age

Producer– Green Ronin Publishing

Price– $6.99  here https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/243966/Modern-AGE-Basic-Rulebook?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR-Three games in one where every roll matters!  88%

Basics– Dragon Age in your modern age?  Modern Age Basic Rulebook is a stand alone game, applying the basics of the Fantasy Age system to a modern or near modern setting.  Let’s break this up into pieces.

Basic mechanics: Modern Age is Fantasy Age is Dragon Age.  All three of these use 3d6 + ability + focus to do anything.  Like all RPGs, it’s the basic idea of “roll dice, plus a number, to get a different number to win” idea.  Easy enough to pick up and play.

Abilities and focuses: Modern Age has a pretty simple number addition pool where you add an ability.  Ability is just like your base statistics in DnD.  These range from -2 to +4.  You also have focuses, which are basically like skills in DnD except that you get a flat +2 to the roll instead of different values.  Later you can specialize so you have a +3 instead of the +2.

Talents and Powers:  While abilities and focuses do give you some room to build some fun characters, it’s not enough to really differentiate your characters from the pack.  That is where talents come into play.  Talents are the feats of the system.  Talents provide a bonus that makes your character distinct.  Talents range from being rich and getting bonuses in buying things to being a bruiser who hits harder.  What makes these distinct from DnD feats is there are three levels of each talent.  As you level up you can take higher levels of each talent, making you more powerful in your given area.  This is how spells/powers/psychic abilities are handled as well.  You choose a magic school and that school functions pretty much like a talent providing you new options like making a light happen to casting fireballs.  This isn’t a Vancian magic or powers game as characters have a number of power points they can spend at will to do whatever powers they want as often as they can.

Stunt Points:  This is the bread and butter of the system.  The Age system itself isn’t completely novel as dice + numbers vs a different number isn’t anything new, but this system uses 3d6 with ONE die being a different color.  This different die is your stunt die.  If any dice show doubles and you succeed, you get to a number of stunt points equal to your stunt die value.  These points range from tripping people to better haggling in the market to adding power to your psychic blasts.  All dice rolls have a table of stunt points you can spend to make things interesting.  This differentiates the system from other roll + number systems, making it its own thing.

Game version:  Modern movies are really three different kinds of movies.  You have your ultra modern, gritty movies where one bullet kills someone.  You have fun pulp where you punch nazis with a satisfying SMACK.  You also have movies where one hero kills hundreds of monsters while only getting a single cut over his eye to make him look even more amazing.  Modern Age gives you rule tweaks to play in any of these settings by changing damage from weapons, hit points, and number of bad guys you throw at the hero.

Ok, that’s the basics of the game.  Let’s look at my thoughts at the game.

Mechanics or Crunch–  You can see the direct line from the Dragon Age video game to the Dragon Age game to Fantasy Age to Modern Age.  And that is a good thing!  I like the basic idea of powers, magic points, and mechanics of the Dragon Age video game, and Dragon Age the RPG system implemented that well. Those basic ideas go from Dragon Age to Fantasy Age and finally to Modern Age.  It’s a solid, simple to play system.  Stunt points and the fact that any roll can make them happen really makes this game pop.  Every roll matters. Something that happens in one roll might have big changes to the next as the points can change things in ways you might not have expected.  It’s a great touch to make this stick out from all the other roll vs numbers games out there.  My one minor gripe is I would like more powers in a character.  Characters don’t get a whole lot of powers to play with if they go that route.  If you are ok with a pretty simple system without an overabundance of options, this is a good one to jump into.  4.5/5

Theme or Fluff-This book is light on fluf, but that is decidedly on purpose.  Modern Age is a modern setting.  It’s just today.  You have today’s guns.  The only fantasy bit is magic powers, and that’s honestly optional.  The game references a comic setting as an option to play, but mostly it leaves the game up to you.  The three different versions of the game do help you set the game how you want to play.  Gritty, pulp, or cinematic are good options for a GM and players to decide how the world should be played.  It’s setting light, but that’s by design, which doesn’t hurt the goals of the book.  4/5

Execution–  PDF?  YEP!  Hyperlinked?  YES!  Ok, we start solid.  Overall the book is well done.  The font and tables are not my favorite, but that’s a print issue as they are a bit cramped for my taste.  I also think laying out some items in a table for character advancement would help as opposed to telling me in text.  Those small issues annoyed me a bit, because I want to be able to glance over things quickly to get what I need to know quickly.  Aside from that, the book is well done.  The one thing that stuck out to me is the weapons page.  WEAPONS HAVE LABELS IN A PICTURE!  I can’t tell you how many RPGs I have read where they mention a weapon, and I have to google what they mean.  That’s a small thing that keeps me in this book as I speed read through the thing.  Reads quick, easy to navigate, and good art to boot make this a solid product.  4.75/5

Summary-I can’t wait for the next Dragon Age video game.  That system was solid.  This game is a grand child of that video game, and it’s got all the things I know and love from it.  The mechanics are simple and the fact that dice rolls have a chance to make something cool happen besides a critical keep things interesting.  The fact I can run three different games from one book makes this pretty versatile for the games I want to play.  The book was a quick read that got me playing fast.  What I don’t like as much is I would like a bit more about the basic setting, but the basic setting is today.  So, I could just look outside and see what it’s like.  Characters don’t get a ton of options, but that is something from Dragon Age as well.  It’s a solid game that makes every roll count, so give this one a try if you crave some modern day gunfights at your table!  88%

Ring Side Report-RPG Review of Dungeon Crawl Classics #94: Neon Knights

Product– Dungeon Crawl Classics #94: Neon Knights

System-DCC RPG

Producer– Goodman Games

Price– $6.99  here https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/221855/Dungeon-Crawl-Classics-94-Neon-Knights?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR-Two tastes that don’t quite go together. 78%

Basics-How do we stop a hoard who feels no pain!  Zombies or unfeeling monsters have surrounded the town, and you are called to aid the defence.  But mid-meeting you are whisked away to do the bidding of a wizard.  Can you save the town and stop being a mister fixit on call?

Mechanics or Crunch-This adventure is short!  The major bad guy is the wizard who keeps summoning you.  You can fight the zombies, but the book makes it seem like you will die.  As a DM I would kill you as well.  The tower with the wizard isn’t bad, but he also is pretty much the only thing in it.  It’s a short dungeon with balanced fights, but just not enough of them.  It’s a little too old school as you have to find the fights and the goods here as opposed to them being out in the open for you to pillage and kill.  I didn’t hate it, but it will require you to punch up the adventure to keep your group involved.  4/5

Theme or Fluff-There are not one, but two things for the PCs to face. But, they are tied together.  BUT, only you, the GM, really get that.  The wizard only brings you in when he needs help.  You have to find and explore the place in seven rounds before he sends you back.  The zombies are ok, but why are they here?  I know why because I read the book, but it feels like two different adventures put together.   I didn’t hate this, but even after reveals, my players felt like there were really two adventures here.  Both of the singles are good, but together it’s three Michelen star steak mixed with gold ribbon winning chocolate.  Maybe these two things shouldn’t go together.  3/5

Execution–  PDF?  YEP!  Hyperlinked?  no…That’s honestly my biggest gripe here.  The execution isn’t bad.  I would like clean maps I can show my players without having things marked on the map that they find.  Text read fast and I could play quickly.  It is one of the standard well put together DCC modules I know and love.  4.75/5

Summary-I don’t hate this one, but this might not be the first adventure I show to new players.  I was able to turn this to keeping my players on the purple planet.  It works well that way, but the basic story gets lost in most of the GM fluff.  Not bad, but unless the players work to make friends with their captor, they won’t get it.  The dungeon needs more pieces and stuff to play with in the form of fights or toys.  The presentation is good, but I still want hyperlinks!  Overall, it’s an ok adventure that is maybe a bit too stuffed with disparate things.  78%

Ring Side Report-RPG Review of Ghoul Island Act 1: Voyage to Farzeen

Product– Ghoul Island Act 1: Voyage to Farzeen

System-DnD 5e

Producer– Petersen Games

Price– $15.00  here  https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/308667/Ghoul-Island-Act-1-Voyage-to-Farzeen?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR-Solid book that tells you what it is.  95%

Basics– What horrors lurk under Farzeen?  This is the first part of an epic heroic fantasy campaign from Sandy Petersen.  This adventure starts off with mutiny aboard a ship, involves the crew being battered by horrible dreams, losing the crew, finding the city of Farzeen, and eventually finding the crew after they flee to a temple below the island.  Along the way the players meet monstrous deep ones, less monstrous ghouls, and an ancient evil long forgotten below this island.

Mechanics or Crunch-This is a solid adventure.  The math checks out as  it’s just applying the basic 5e rules for the crunch.  It uses Sandy Petersen’s dread rules, so you will need the Cthulhu Mythos book for that.  Overall, a solidly put together adventure full of fun fights and exploration for low level characters.  5/5

Theme or Fluff-This part is where expectations have to be set early.  I honestly think the best way to play Call of Cthulhu is a one shot.  People in a normal world, thrown into a crazy situation, damaged beyond repair, then left to deal with the horror for the rest of their lives.  That’s good cosmic horror.  This isn’t that, and the book is VERY up front with that.  This is heroic fantasy with horror thrown in.  This adventure isn’t written to be 20 levels of just sheer cosmic horror.  You get to be awesome stomping a deep one.  Also, some of the main characters are ghouls.  Some players are going to miss this, but Lovecraft ghouls are not DnD ghouls.  They are more dog men really.  It’s things like that that will require your players and you to adjust expectations.  Nothing is bad, but you have to read this and see exactly what the author intends.  4.5/5

Execution–  PDF?  YEP!  Hyperlinked?  no…That’s honestly my only gripe here.  The layout is good.  Text size is good.  Art is well done.   There is even a separate book that is the Farzeen Gazetteer that gives you background on the town and island.  That’s an amazing value for 15 bucks considering this is a full length adventure and a whole small book on the island itself!  Just hyperlink and this would be one of the best products this year.   4.75/5

Summary-Sandy Petersen’s team put out another top notch product here.  It has solid crunch for the adventure.  The story is good, but you HAVE to read what it is and what it is not.  I also love the pieces of this thing.  My gripes are small-I always want PDFs with hyperlinks now, and I went in expecting only cosmic horror all day long.  If you can get past those small issues, then you have an incredible start to what is shaping up to be an amazing campaign with the resources you need to make a fun, in depth game for your players.  95%

Ring Side Report-RPG Review of Sandy Petersen’s Cthulhu Mythos for 5e

Product– Sandy Petersen’s Cthulhu Mythos for 5e

System-DnD 5e

Producer– Petersen Games

Price– $19.99  here  https://www.dmsguild.com/product/286002/Sandy-Petersens-Cthulhu-Mythos-for-5e?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR-How the mythos is meant to be played in 5e!  99%

Basics–  Ia Ia Cthulhu Fhtagn!  The grand cleric of the elder gods is writing for DnD 5e!  Sandy Pertersen’s Cthulhu Mythos for 5e is a MASSIVE book with new races, class options, feats, spells, monsters, and mechanics that you can throw into your 5e game.  Let’s break down the pieces to see what’s in here.

The tcho-tcho in the room-Ah Lovecraft…I love his work, but MAN he would not fly today.  From mental illness to racism, Lovecraft in his original form isn’t post #METOO or #BLM friendly.  So, how do you handle the insanity and cosmic horror with the subtext or just text of Lovecraft? Sandy Peterson walks this line extremely well with sidebars dealing with handling mental illness to just dropping the racist parts of the mythos monsters and human acolytes.  We can go mad with terror from learning the true history of the universe without having to go to HR!

New Eldritch Toys-  This book is a BEAST of content.  This book features THREE new races with race specific class options.  The old standards of 5e all get some toys as well with feats for everyone, class options for all the core classes, books of unholy lore,  and a boat load of new spells.  There are also several new items that all cover the fan favorites of star mead to things I haven’t heard of before.

New Mythos Monsters-A hero is only as good as the monster is bad.  Then let’s make your heroes LEGENDARY!  This book has everything from simple monsters you can throw into your game just because you want something weird to freak out the power gamer who memorized the monster manual to GAME ENDING TITANS who would be the final bad guy in your campaign.  Again, you have the fan favorites here like cthulhu to some of the more esoteric, even for the Lovecraft alicionadio, like Byatis.  This book also adds in new options for you to throw onto worshipers so your bland cultists into true harbingers of the mythos even at low levels.

New Mythology Mechanics-This book isn’t just a highlight reel of Lovecraft’s old toys.  This book adds new crunch to 5e.  There is a whole revamped madness and dread system.  All characters can now learn how to cast some spells called formulas.  There is even a whole new skill dedicated to understanding the cthulhu mythos.  The final boss of a campaign now has a solid progression system where the fight becomes epic tales you will tell for years to come.

Ok, now my thoughts.

Mechanics or Crunch–  Sandy Peterson is one of the foremost game developers in the Lovecraft mythos, and it shows.  This book isn’t just a reskin book where you take a scary monster and now it’s cthulhu.  The crunch here is truly Lovecraftian.  Monsters feel like they are beyond human ken.  There are DEEP dives into the mythos, and not just into the new stuff from people writing in Lovecraft’s shadow.  Stuff that gets a small mention that even I forgot like the gnorri get a full race write up.  The stuff that is in the base DnD 5e book gets revamped well.  I don’t like the madness system in DnD 5e, but this book provides an amazing system that has a great write up that you can drop into a non-cthulhu campaign.  I like most of what’s here, but there are a couple of things I have some minor quibbles with.  The new mythos skill is called yog-sothothery.  I just want it called mythos lore or even to borrow from Call of Cthulhu- cthulhu mythos.  Also, I want stat bonuses you get from eldritch tomes to be permanent.  But honestly, those are pretty small issues.  This book is a solid addition to the Dungeons and Dragons 5e crunch regardless of if you want to run a Cthulhu based campaign or not. 4.9/5

Theme or Fluff-Sandy Peterson is one of the foremost Lovecraft scholars today, and it shows here too.  This isn’t just a pile of reskins with tentacles so Lovecraft.  This is a well crafted library of Lovecraft eldritch lore.  I MYSELF learned stuff about the Lovecraft world from this book.  This will teach you not only how to run a solid horror game but also about the world of Lovecraft.  But, let’s say you just want a splat book to draw some scary stuff from?  This has you covered too.  This book is a solid addition to my collection as both a DnD DM and a someone who love the mythos.  5/5

Execution–  PDF?  YEP!  Hyperlinked?  YEP!  AND IT NEEDS IT!  This is a BEAST for 20 bucks.  It’s over 400 pages.  The base DnD books are not that long and cost twice as much!  It’s easy to read but still feels familiar with the font and backgrounds looking like the base books with a decidedly eldritch flare.  Monsters have TONS of pictures, so I can throw pictures to my players quickly without having to do a google image search.  This book is a solid example of how to produce a 3rd party book.  5/5

Summary– I love Lovecraft.  Any idiot can stab me, so that’s not scary.  Any punk rogue can sneak attack my character and kill him-not scary.  But learning the horrible history of my family and what cost I too have to pay to keep the thing in the basement “pleased” so my family prospers?  That’s horror.  This book will help you do that.  I can’t heap enough praise on this book.  I have my minor issues, but those are so minor it almost doesn’t matter.  For the amount of content alone for 20 bucks, you can’t go wrong.  If you want some monsters to throw at your bored players?  Done.  You want a book that will be the key and the gate to a world of horror you might never have known existed?  This is that book! 99%