Mother’s Love is a solid collection of scenarios, each easy to run, each easily adapted to the mechanics of the Keeper’s choice, and each entry exploring a different aspect of Shub-Niggurath. None of the three is unplayable, but ‘Ġgantija’ is the standout, presenting opportunity aplenty for some great roleplaying, almost like actors being offered juicy roles.
Reviews from R’yleh, Saturday, 20 July 2019
You can pick up the PDF as part of Christmas in July:
Like playing Call of Cthulhu but want something a bit lighter every once in a while? Try The Cthulhu Hack! The Cthulhu Hack is an investigative horror game where the players try to solve mysteries while staving off deadly horrors and creatures from beyond.
One of the interesting things that this game includes is “smokes” and “flashlights”. Now, these don’t necessarily represent actual cigarettes and flashlights, but they do represent your character’s ability to continue an investigation (flashlights) or their ability to get information or charm someone (smokes).
Each of these traits has a usage die, and every time you use an ability that links to one of these traits, you roll the usage die for it. So, for example, if you are searching for clues, you would roll your flashlight usage die. If you run out of the “flashlight” trait, then you have exhausted your investigative ability, your leads, or whatever else is appropriate.
This is great because it never leads to a moment where the adventure stops dead because of a failed check for clues. You will find something, and if you are out of the flashlight trait, then you know not to even bother looking (although there might be other ways to obtain the information you are looking for…). This also increases the drama of the game. Instead of running into every room the GM presents to you and say “I’m searching here, I’m searching there, I search again…” you have to really be careful and think about exactly what you want to do because the ability to search or interrogate people is a finite resource.
Some other aspects of the game that were added to the basic Black Hack formula are sanity (of course) and the ability to build classes, “free form” characters.
There are already a bunch of supplements out for this one, including a setting (Convicts and Cthulhu) and some adventures.
Since From Unformed Realms is essentially system-less, it serves as a great resource for creating new strange monsters for many games. I have personally used it for The Black Hack itself, and for Portal Rats, but not for The Cthulhu Hack itself (yet). Next up I plan to use it for Macchiato Monsters.
Website Reviews from R’yleh has posted a review about The Cthulhu Hack: Convicts & Cthulhu – which just recently picked up Best Copper Seller on DriveThruRPG (which is no mean feat for a Pay What You Want, as only paid purchases count!). You may see certain comments about the adventure therein and use of the term “faintly ridiculous”, which on the face of it is not a bad thing as a one-time writer for PARANOIA. I could have done with more ridiculous at times, faint or otherwise.
Anyway, I leave this list here, on the off chance you care to take a look, because even Fake News is news of a sort and fiction has a heritage of playing with alternate timelines, strange theories and unfounded rumours. Really, many writers of Lovecraftian fiction still rely on strange tales and urban legends, weird claims and left-field theories, as the source of their work.
On another note, the print run of The Cthulhu Hack: Convicts & Cthulhu runs low and will not be reprinted. At the moment, you can get a copy if you buy all the Cthulhu Hack books or one of the multi-book box sets. The PDF will remain available through RPGNow and DriveThruRPG.
I had the opportunity at Spiel 2016 (in Essen) to meet dozens, if not hundreds, of game enthusiasts and chat with them about the unique selling points of The Cthulhu Hack over all the many other options out there.
Quick to pick up and fast to get going, the system covers all the essentials needed for investigative role-playing in a book you could probably read in 20 minutes.
And I’m really pleased to see that one of the many customers that dropped by our stall (I shared the table with my wife’s business All Rolled Up) has taken the time to do an unboxing video (note: the whole video is in German, but I enjoyed watching nevertheless!) of the All Cthulhu Hack boxed set, including the Spiel-exclusive Save Innsmouth adventure booklet.
I like it when reviews catch me completely off guard. While I did offer copies of my books for review purposes a while back to a couple of people, I placed no pressure on them. What caught me by surprise here? Well, this is a review by someone who doesn’t particularly like horror or things Cthulhu, but this review is incredibly positive about the books potential.
A fantastic and thorough review From Unformed Realms on RPG Geek, by Steve, really made my day. What caught me by surprise here? Well, this is a review by someone who doesn’t particularly like horror or things Cthulhu, but this review is incredibly positive about the books potential.
From Unformed Realms, nominally a supplement for The Cthulhu Hack, is … a simple but detailed system for creating “horrific” and otherworldly monsters. But it’s nearly systemless – just a long list of ideas for charging up your monsters. As a fantasy gamer, I didn’t expect this to work for me – but I was pleased to find that From Unformed Realms is a great tool for any game that needs weird and malevolent opponents.
From Unformed Realms was a very pleasant surprise to me. I expected a drier set of tables more focused on Cthulhu – instead, it’s an evocative and easy to read source of inspiration for just about any otherworldly monster. I like how it cuts straight to the weirdness – horrific or simply dangerous – and lets you build the monster around those core abilities. I fully intend to use this in fantasy games – at least high-fantasy ones, where “realism” isn’t a concern.
There you have it – suitable for any game where you want to spice up your antagonists and throw something at your characters a little out of the ordinary!
I’m really pleased to see The Haunter of the Dark has received a solid review at RPG Geek, with Eric Dodd running through the essentials in concise fashion (and highlighting a spelling error I’ll have to correct on the next pass). I really enjoyed writing this 88-page guide to mining Lovecraft’s stories to create new adventures.
Putting together Thro’ Centuries Fixed (released in November 2016) allowed me to do something similar with another story – and I’m finding deconstructing the fiction as enjoyable as re-reading it. Lovecraft can be a rewarding reading – not without issue on many levels – but, he fills the page with a rich tapestry well worth unpicking!
Eric includes an image of the highlighting used in the PDF version. In the second half of the book, I do a bit of an autopsy on The Haunter of the Dark – and highlight key sections with colour and an icon. For the printed version of the book – with a black and white interior – I have opted for a different typeface distinctive enough to pick out the key text, so the icon carries more weight.
I recommend you head over and read the whole succinct review, but in summary Eric’s verdict:
Very interesting and worthwhile read for anyone who wants to take Lovecraftesque stories and turn them into adventures for any system. Good reading of The Haunter of the dark exploring its themes in a number of directions. Well worth reading and stealing for story ideas and reviewing methods for any analysis of stories.
Along with other general books like Stealing Cthulhu, The Haunter of the Dark is recommended to anyone trying to write an adventure in a true Lovecraftian style.
The short summary – if you have Convicts and Cthulhu, you should pick up this light version of the game. Not only does it neatly summarize some of the background sections and themes of that game, it also includes two awesome random tables. And if you have Cthulhu Hack and any interest at all in playing in an early 1800s setting then you should also pick this up as an example of using this system in other settings.
I agree that it’s worth picking up Convicts & Cthulhu and that they release more adventures and content. I’ve enjoyed running Cthulhu Hack adventures in this setting – and it’s a breeze to do the conversion.
You can grab The Cthulhu Hack: Convicts & Cthulhu on RPGNow and DriveThruRPG as a Pay What You Want, with a suggested contribution of $2.50 (about £2). I appreciate your support and investment in purchasing this supplement – and it will support the release of future supplements, like The Keepers of the Woods, on a Pay What You Want basis.
The old black cover with Elder Sign stands stark on the page – and I have a few of those lying around. That simplicity now adorns boxes and dice, while the books have moved on to fantastic art from Pete Amachree, Apolonis, Marina Krivenko, and Henning Ludvigsen.
The Cthulhu Hack is … stripped back and it does provide an elegant means for discovering clues and handling investigations in the form of Flashlights and Smokes. … The Cthulhu Hack offers a clean, simple, and unfussy approach to Lovecraftian investigative horror that feels refreshing compared to similar RPGs.
I have come across an ongoing game using The Cthulhu Hack system as a ‘convenient system for Hangouts’ (given the simplicity of the mechanics) while reading a blog post about the system on The Guardian of the Arcana.
After the review of From Unformed Realms yesterday, I was delighted to see the time and effort taken to publish a very thorough review of The Cthulhu Hack yesterday, by Eric Dodd on RPGGeek. I think it’s well worth reading – a thorough take worth the time to work through if you’re teetering on the fence as to whether The Cthulhu Hack will work for you.
To paraphrase the review, I present the concluding paragraphs:
Combining The Black Hack’s approach to old school fantasy with Lovecraft works rather well. Investigation resources and ammunition are tracked in a way that players will never be sure just when their luck will run out, but still gives them control over when to risk it. New players should be quickly able to understand the system and how it works, and should enjoy doing nearly all of the dice rolling in the game. If you’re experienced in RPGs but unfamiliar with Cthulhu then I’d suggest Graham Walmsley’s Stealing Cthulhu as inspiration.
So I welcome the appearance of The Cthulhu Hack to the crowded Lovecraftian RPG mantlepiece. If you liked the simplicity of Cthulhu Dark but felt you needed a few more tools and levers to build a game around, without having to track 40 or 50 skills or detailed weapon statistics, then The Cthulhu Hack might be just what you’re looking for. I’ve just ordered the Convicts and Cthulhu expansion, which will bring The Cthulhu Hack together with another new flavour in Cthulhu gaming.
There’s plenty of room for fun, interesting, inspired takes on Cthulhu gaming like The Cthulhu Hack.
I appreciate the time taken – and also thoroughly recommend you pick up Graham’s Stealing Cthulhu as a reference for extracting games from fiction. That and the upcoming The Haunter of the Dark!
There’s a new review on RPGNow/DriveThruRPG for From Unformed Realms, which I engineered to some extent by offering free copies.
I consciously offered copies of this supplement to people who didn’t ‘play Cthulhu’, because From Unformed Realms supports but isn’t constrained to The Cthulhu Hack. I wrote this as a generic, non-system specific supplement – and the review shows Steve’s appreciation of that:
First things first, Paul offered me a free copy of this product, but after I read it, I went back and paid for it. I expect to make use of it in a few different ways and the price wasn’t exactly going to break the bank anyhow.
The charts here are well-organized and useful. They include some options you’d probably consider mandatory for a horror game (like tentacles) and some things you might not have thought of (like acquired – a creature which steals limbs from previous victims). The same goes for several of the other categories. Some of the categories go pretty far-afield, like creatures which excrete urine or semen at will, but honestly those are both pretty horrifying.
For myself, I kind of see a couple of places where I can use this quickly. I’m running a Champions game were some of the villains are playing with magic they don’t really understand. Using these charts to generate the creature will make it easy for me to then stat out the character. With the release of Horror Adventures for Pathfinder, there’s going to be even more call for creatures and this might help me make them.
Overall this is a great collection of tables with some very inventive options as well as some of the expected options. It’s a great product and I’m glad Paul suggested I check it out.
I’ve read through it, and quite enjoyed seeing how The Black Hack was further hacked for the sake of Cosmic Horror.
In The Cthulhu Hack, researching, recalling, and noticing things are handled using a Flashlights die. In the same way, chatting people up, persuasion, and interrogation are handled with a Smokes die. This metaphorically lines up with the illumination, and social misdirection that might go on during such adventures. I am a bit more literal, so would call them the Investigation die and Communication die though, or something along those lines.
What’s great about it, no matter what they are called, is how the Usage die mechanic is used to make either a finite resource (you run out of ideas, or get fatigued) that can be replenished, and presents a form of risk, in that way.
They have also done up a rather brilliant three page summary of Mythos. Using, by their own confession, totally out of context descriptions to frame incomprehensible intentions into something digestible, and workable for a new gamer, or someone that is just new to running games set in Cosmic Horror.
Sat before a crackling fire with a mug of cocoa and a musty tome (that’s June in the UK for you), I listened in good company to the latest podcast from the Patreon-funded Cthulhu Breakfast Club.
90-minutes of fine Mythos-focussed banter from Paul Maclean and chums – from Yog-Sothoth.com – they provide a 5-minute potted review of The Cthulhu Hack.
While I urge you to support such creative and entertaining output through become a patron, I thought it handy to provide a rough transcript out of the review (you can hear it around 46:25 in the recording):
The Cthulhu Hack is based on The Black Hack – a super lite set of rules based on the Original Fantasy Gaming system. The Cthulhu Hack is a Lovecraftian variant. £4 in book form, with an option for a PDF or a ‘White box’ edition. Very light system. It has levels, classes, hit points – so you can see the system in the background.
It’s an interesting, nice little light system. 40-odd pages long. A brief description of the Mythos. A load of monsters. And quite a large number of character ideas.
It’s a d20 system, but what’s different about it is the creatures, the baddies… they never roll anything. It’s all based on Save rolls. (Characters also have a) Sanity die that works on a tiered system – d12, d10, d8 and so on – where if you roll a 1 or 2 your die size goes down.
It’s cheeking my interest. The PDF is available on DriveThru and RPGNow. Available for a few pounds. Might be interesting for a one-off or a short run.
If you want an entire roleplaying game for about £4 in print – The Cthulhu Hack… it’s worth a shot.
I’d like to hear more if they get an opportunity to give the game a spin. I think getting a game in would help solidify the appreciation for the completeness and simplicity of the system.
You can hear the whole review, along with coverage of Pulp Cthulhu, UK Games Expo 2016, the Lovecraftian Horniman, Convicts & Cthulhu and more besides, by becoming a Patreon.