Thursday 4 March 2021

Sandy Petersen's Cthulhu Mythos & Ghoul Island

Now i have used the Cthulhu Mythos since early 80s where friend had the deities book with them which got me a bit later into call of Cthulhu and reading every mythos thing I could. I destroyed my first campaign world by tempting players to open a sunken tomb with the rod of seven parts releasing the old ones resulting in world being recycled and old gods dead.

I do like the daniel proctor book on the mythos - the mythos item table is the best magic item table ever. Party at moment found lots of these and wary of using.

The 426 page book is a mythos delight. Art is fantastic. It has yeas of ideas for gaming and might still give a regular Call of Cthulhu keeper some ideas. As my game at 14th lv i need bigger threats and this book is perfect. As a monster book these critters are very powerful often over 200HP. My game is sort BECMI dnd based but uses some skill options so they tend to be better than bx characters of same level. They are not as powerful as dnd5 characters but this works fine. Ill go into the 4 volume ghoul island adventure later. There are spells, items, player choices for existing dnd5 content. The cult section is pretty interesting. I dont agree with all these takes but they are still useful. I like the Chambers story of the "Repairer of Reputations" story where the cult seem deranged filthy old man and his cat in a house full of documents and corkboard in string stuff is manipulating global politics and blood lines of the king in yellow. You could make a timely film about canceling with this and how ppl get help from the cult in return for favours. The cult here into torture which is kinda dumber. But there can be lots of cults besides these and it is still interesting. 

There is a vibe it ties more to Cthulhu Wars board game than Chaosium. Monster culture is more explicit than other games. I prefer these to th ed CoC mostly which rebranded monsters looks from older editions. The player races i didnt like but ghouls the best. Serpent folk, tchotcho and others might have worked better. I like the deepone options on top of other races treatment. Im less enchanted by HPL dreamlands - id prefer mote Mythago Wood by Holdstock with its resonator like technology. Id happily ignore zoogs and Gnorri. There are lots of detailed monsters to menace players with interesting threats. My poor party hunting a lich are about to meet a trapped god under their enemy tower. Advice for using in a dnd cosmos are good. Its a good value read and game resource that i used quickly in play.

So the first 4 adventures are slim hardbacks that were a subscription service. They have the slick art we expect from dnd5. The books were 50 pages each and each volume repeats information and maps.So not great value for price and i got mine second hand at a price better than I thought possible. I wouldn't get them new but i was curious and the current 4 part series id like a look at still. These are not great for old-school gamers and Im reminded of a questing beast utube vid where old style gamers and a new one all explained they didnt get planned adventures. So these illustrate the problems of modern adventure design vs old dnd well and seeing how the big fat mythos book was implemented in adventures.

So these complaints might be an asset to modern era gamers so feel free to ignore me. So basically it is a railroad with few options and very rapid level climb about 3-4 times more than I would give and many modern adventures Ive read seem to ignore xp (which i prefer xp less games). So the monsters end up with huge HP scores rapidly and fights seem long and tedious. Ghouls with 80+ hp and some zoogs which id rather not exist. Deepone hybrid animals roam the jungle. There are choices in the adventure and allowances for failure but I guess as in the video I mentioned would expect players to do stuff no writer would account for. Like many 5th ed adventures, it is overwritten to explain everything and account for various player behaviours. Making it a slog to read at times. Ive been using dnd5 to send me to sleep at night. By contrast, a wilderness + village + dungeon with factions described briefly I find more readable and playable.

So the adventure features players shipwrecked on a tropical trade island and finding town that has historically tolerated ghouls in graveyard. But a new cult is taking over and players get to go in what i would call mini dungeon episodes and find life in town has radically changed, Players get to help unite rebels and take back the town to face another small complex. repeat and rinse. There are interesting things in these complexes and some magic dice you know a party will kill themselves with. By vol 3 I stopped caring a bit and thought the villagers should leave the hellhole full of high level monsters. It seems implausible for low level people to possibly survive. 30 pages are an adventure the rest is huge stat blocks. Funnily I went back to dnd after 20 years of runequest because i like the 1980 era statblocks i could doodle on a page. I guess DMs would struggle to run monsters with lots feats (one monster has 2 abilities that do same and I would have to check rules to see if the stacked etc which slows play also. I can see why so many new era dnd players hate combat (dnd5 is 10 times slower in combat). While at times the format wastes space the text and how it is broken up is quite good. Overall they are pretty curiosities and I couldn't run it. Id rather a well-detailed village with all npcs and how to sneak in was covered in one section then a list of events that might happen rather than a railroad that only explains stuff when in the drama. Possibly the 4 part publishing just wastes more room. If it was edited into one book im sure it would be about 150 pages and the structure could be made more open. It does have a dreamlands vibe and Id be more likely to use in a CoC dreamlands game than dnd. The maps seem unappealingly large for simple dungeons with 4-12 rooms. The 3rd one has first thing close to a dungeon to me and its pretty small. This seems to be a dnd5 thing. 

A newer series based on Yig who I like Im curious about and hope they have improved on the flaws of the Ghoul Island books but Im unlikely to see them in a store to look at before I buy.

 The big mythos book is great, the adventures Im not sold on yet as pretty as they might be. The adventures highlight problems I find in modern adventure design and dnd5 in general but Im trying to like dnd5 more.

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