Kickstopper: Friends, Romans, Great Old Ones!

One of the recurring strengths of Call of Cthulhu is that it’s very easily adapted to other time periods. Tweak the skill list to remove anachronistic skills, introduce skills appropriate to the time period, and update the baseline skill values appropriately – people are likely to have a generally higher level of computer skill in a present-day game than one set in the 1970s, where computer use is likely to be a highly specialised skill, for instance. Once you’ve done that, you’ve done 90% of the work; do an equipment list and a career list and you’re basically there.

Cthulhu Invictus is a game line which takes this principle to heart by adapting Call of Cthulhu to ancient Rome. It’s also not a game line which Chaosium themselves are interested in directly managing these days – though they did put out material for it for 6th Edition Call of Cthulhu, and did include some conversion guidelines in Cthulhu Through the Ages.

Instead, in 2017 they gave Golden Goblin Press, a third party publisher, a 3-year licence to handle the line, beginning with The 7th Edition Guide to Cthulhu Invictus – a new core book, updated to the 7th Edition Call of Cthulhu rules. What happens when that three years up, I rather suspect, depends on how well Golden Goblin do as custodians of Cthulhu Invictus. How’s the line’s flagship product, as produced via this Kickstarter? Let’s have a see…

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Non-Euclidian Training Wheels

Chaosium’s new Starter Set for Call of Cthulhu, whilst attractively presented, doesn’t seem to have required an awful amount of work in terms of generating raw text. The individual components seem to have been drawn together from a range of existing products Chaosium had to hand, to an extent where those who already have an extensive Call of Cthulhu collection probably already own a lot of it. That said, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts – and, of course, anyone who already has an extensive Call of Cthulhu collection doesn’t need the Starter Set in the first place.

Along with a set of dice, some pregenerated player characters and some blank character sheets, and nice printouts of the player handouts for, the box comes with three handsome booklets. The first offers a brief introduction to the concept of the game and then follows the example of the classic “Red Box” Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set by Frank Mentzer by using a solo adventure to teach the basic concepts of the system. Specifically, the solo adventure in question is Alone Against the Flames, which is actually fairly substantial as far as such things go and is probably as decent an introduction to the system as could be offered in this format.

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Kickstopper: Punch Nazis and Feed Them To Cthulhu

This article was previously published on Ferretbrain; due to the imminent closure of that site, I’m moving it over here so that it can remain available.

The controversy over the latest Wolfenstein game is absurd and illustrative of a wider absurdity: it’s startling how quickly violent opposition to a Nazi regime has gone from being entirely uncontroversial (to the point of being a bit tired and cliched) to being regarded as somehow politically controversial.

Thus, in the service of supporting games where you fight Nazis, I’m going to cover a game line blending the action of the Call of Cthulhu RPG with all the Nazi-shooting goodness of World War II. Hang on to your Indiana Jones hat, we’re going to cover Achtung! Cthulhu.

Usual Note On Terminology

Just in case this is the first Kickstopper article you’ve read, there’s a few things I should establish first. As always, different backers on a Kickstarter will often have very different experiences and I make no guarantee that my experience with this Kickstarter is representative of everyone else’s. In particular, I’m only able to review these things based on the tier I actually backed at, and I can’t review rewards I didn’t actually receive.

The format of a Kickstopper goes like this: first, I talk about the crowdfunding campaign period itself, then I note what level I backed at and give the lowdown on how the actual delivery process went. Then, I review what I’ve received as a result of the Kickstarter and see if I like what my money has enabled. Lots of Kickstarters present a list of backers as part of the final product; where this is the case, the “Name, DNA and Fingerprints” section notes whether I’m embarrassed by my association with the product.

Towards the end of the review, I’ll be giving a judgement based on my personal rating system for Kickstarters. Higher means that I wish I’d bid at a higher reward level, a sign that I loved more or less everything I got from the campaign and regret not getting more stuff. Lower means that whilst I did get stuff that I liked out of the campaign, I would have probably been satisfied with one of the lower reward levels. Just Right means I feel that I backed at just the right level to get everything I wanted, whilst Just Wrong means that I regret being entangled in this mess and wish I’d never backed the project in the first place. After that, I give my judgement on whether I’d back another project run by the same parties involved, and give final thoughts on the whole deal.

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Kickstopper: That Is Not Dead Which Can Eternally Restructure (Part 2)

This article was previously published on Ferretbrain; due to the imminent closure of that site, I’m moving it over here so that it can remain available.

In part 1 of this article (which contains the usual note on methodology which you should read to understand where I’m coming from), I recounted the hideous gestation period of this project, which saw the old Krank regime at Chaosium departing in favour of new blood from Moon Design Publications, with elder gods Greg Stafford and Sandy Petersen supervising things. Now, at last, we can turn to actually looking at the delivered goods.

Reviewing the Swag

OK, this is a complex enough deal here that I think I had best order the reviews of individual items carefully.

First off, I am going to review the core game books, and the Keeper screen and the stuff that came as part of that package, and the quickstart rules. These seem to be offered as central aspects of the game line.

Next up, I will cover major supplements and accessories that were part of the actual Kickstarter itself – Cthulhu Through the Ages, Pulp Cthulhu, the card decks, the Nameless Horrors adventure collection, and the Field Guide. These are all significant products in their own right which have filled out the 7th Edition product line as distributed to game stores as well as Kickstarter backers.

Next, I will cover minor accessories and stretch goals, including items cancelled or only provided as PDFs, most of which are random bits of ephemera which don’t represent especially significant additions to the product range.

Lastly, I will cover the extra unexpected bits which weren’t promised to us during the main campaign but we received anyway. These include Dead Light, and Cold Harvest, given away by the Krank regime to tide us over, Alone Against the Flames which was provided free to everyone, not just backers, but which seems to be a natural companion to the (also free) quickstart rules, and Doors to Darkness, given to us by Moon Design to compensate for the cancellation of random tat.

Continue reading “Kickstopper: That Is Not Dead Which Can Eternally Restructure (Part 2)”

Kickstopper: That Is Not Dead Which Can Eternally Restructure (Part 1)

This article was previously published on Ferretbrain; due to the imminent closure of that site, I’m moving it over here so that it can remain available.

Kickstarter fulfilment is a marathon, not a sprint. Sometimes, it’s also a relay race, when the original project creator has to hand over much of the process to someone else. In the tabletop RPG sphere, for instance, there was the Dwimmermount Kickstarter, in which project owner James Maliszewski quite understandably found himself overwhelmed by his father’s terminal illness and had to hand over the work to his publishers at Autarch to finish (though, less excusably, only after they had to go to a really undue level of effort to get in touch with him to find out what was going on).

In the case of the Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Kickstarter, the Kickstarter was begun and finished by Chaosium… but along the way Chaosium underwent an eldritch transformation. The overall effect, in fact, was much like the central identity switch of Lovecraft’s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. Gone was the familiar Chaosium – eccentric, set in its ways, slightly ineffectual, but with its heart in the right place, rather like Charles Dexter Ward – and in its place was a new Chaosium, stronger, more confident, with the power of old magic behind it, just like Joseph Curwen. And just like in the story, the old Chaosium’s very success destroyed it, leaving the new Chaosium to take its place.

So complex is the saga of this Kickstarter that, for the first time, I am actually going to split a Kickstopper article in half. In this first part, I will cover the exciting Kickstarter fundraising process and the devastating delivery process, picking apart just what went wrong and just how everything went so right in the end. In part 2, I will deliver the actual swag I received.

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Mason Builds Something From Petersen’s Raw Material

One beneficial side effect of Sandy Petersen and Greg Stafford stepping in to take direct control of Chaosium and put a new regime in place (spearheaded by the Moon Design Publications crew) is that it allowed the new regime to work closely with the creators of Chaosium’s most beloved setting (Stafford and Glorantha) and RPG (Petersen with Call of Cthulhu). On the Stafford side of things, it enabled them to produce a shiny new edition of RuneQuest that’s truer to Stafford’s vision than any preceding edition (having incorporated concepts developed in his home campaign and Pendragon in quite an artful manner), and it’s nice that they were able to do this before Stafford’s unexpected passing.

On the Petersen side, his takeover took place a bit late in the day for him to have much direct role in the new edition of Call of Cthulhu – Mike Mason and Paul Ficker had largely done the job already and the old regime at Chaosium had got up to the point of working on the layout and preparing for printing before they fell over and died. Moreover, the new edition is pretty dang good and doesn’t really need that much of a tweak in the first place, and Petersen has Petersen Games and Cthulhu Wars to manage as well, so one can’t necessarily expect to him to just dive in and start writing masses of material for the game again.

No, I’d say the first really big fruit of Petersen’s new closer involvement with nu-Chaosium is Petersen’s Abominations, which is a set of five modern-day scenarios based on scenarios devised by Petersen for convention play.

Continue reading “Mason Builds Something From Petersen’s Raw Material”