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.
Cthulhu gets into everything these days; it’s become an unfortunate nerd culture cliche that almost anything can potentially get some sort of Lovecraftian-themed special edition, and some addled fan will be fool enough to buy it. The descent into kitsch and cliche has not yet prevented the Call of Cthulhu RPG from continuing to be a major success; nor has it prevented Pelgrane Press’s Trail of Cthulhu from providing an alternative which has become a significant success in the RPG market in its own right, and nor has it prevented other hands from trying to pen RPGs intended to support their personal vision of what a purist Lovecraftian game should be like.
One such game is Cthulhu Dark by Graham Walmsley, who ran a Kickstarter to fund the production of a full-sized rulebook after a prototype version of the game gained traction through free distribution online. That basic version, whilst a little rough around the edge as you might expect for an early draft, is really remarkably rules-light – the question remains as to whether such a light, simple prospect can really justify a full-sized RPG rulebook by itself.
As it turned out, though, the full-fat version of Cthulhu Dark isn’t just an extremely lean, mean, rules-light delivery mechanism for quick and easy horror gaming. Walmsley also has a number of laudable aims he wishes to pursue with it – aims which I find entirely worthy of support in general, but which give rise to a number of serious problems when you combine it with the rules system presented.