Bring Unspeakable Horrors To Your Pathfinder Games With Sandy Petersen's Cthulhu Mythos
  • Bring Unspeakable Horrors To Your Pathfinder Games With Sandy Petersen's Cthulhu Mythos


    A few weeks ago, a ponderous volume was plopped onto my doorstep by a no doubt arcane delivery service. It was Sandy Petersen's Cthulhu Mythos for the Pathfinder role-playing game. I've had a couple of weeks to go through the book now, and I think that I have my thoughts on it gathered up. Outside of Lovecraft himself, I don't think that few single people have had as great of an impact upon the overall shape of the Cthulhu Mythos as Petersen has had. Between creating Call of Cthulhu for Chaosium and being one of the original developers of Doom, Petersen has cast a dark shadow across the Mythos from a number of media.


    Now, before I get to the meat of this review, let's talk about the elephant in the room: the miniatures photography used for some of the Mythos creatures in the book. There is a number of creatures in the "Great Old Ones And Outer Gods" section that use as art photos of some of the accompanying miniatures that were produced as part of the Kickstarter that helped produce this book. I don't think it is bad. For me it was like a throwback to some of the early Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay books that would use photos of their masterfully painted miniatures. I know that some have complained about it, but I don't think it is a negative. The miniatures used are well-painted and the photographs look pretty good.

    Now, to the review itself. I don't think that we can dispute that Petersen know what he is talking about with regards to the Cthulhu Mythos, and this knowledge shines through in this book. There is so much background information about the Mythos to bring into your Pathfinder games. It is also good that this book is both player-facing and GM-facing in the information that it has. There is something for everyone in this book.

    There are some intriguing ideas in the character options section. That Delirium Warrior archetype for Barbarians? Holy heck. I don't think that I've ever seen a mechanical implementation of the Lovecraftian idea of "they shall become like the Great Old Ones" in an RPG that is as spot on as this archetype. There are some neat things in this section for other character classes, too, but this one really stood out for me. Basically, the idea is that the character's class abilities are powered by existential dread rather than rage. Yikes.

    There are also some cool options for companions. Who doesn't want a degenerate satyr or a slime mold as a companion? There are a variety of creatures from the bestiary portion of the book that can be used as eidolons, companions or familiars for your characters. I can see the mi-go brain cylinder being a popular familiar. There are also specialized rule additions to Mythos up eidolons.

    Of course, there are also new feats. Ghouls, dreamers and felines are well represented in the feats section. There are a couple of racial options for Dreamlands cats that are available to players. How about the Prowler archetype for cat rogues? Don't want to play a Dreamlands cat? Perhaps a Martian or Uranian cat would be more your speed. Ghouls are, well, ghoulish. This isn't a racial option for the faint of heart, particularly so in a Lovecraftian influenced game. Ghouls have an immunity to disease, thick hide and a couple of natural attacks; however, this is all "balanced" out by their need to eat dead humanoid flesh. But, when eating on older, aged humanoid's dead flesh they can absorb some of that creature's knowledge into their own memories.

    You will also find a number of new spells for your Pathfinder games, as well as an insanity system for characters that builds off of dread, and is completely unlike the system that Petersen originally built for Call of Cthulhu.

    As we know, bestiaries are my favorite types of game supplements, and the bestiary section of the book does not disappoint. There are 100 Lovecraftian monsters to be found in these pages, and they would work well in conjunction with existing Pathfinder bestiaries like Bestiary 5. The section fifteen for the book's OGL does contain a listing for Bestiary 5, and it is obvious that the Deep One for this book was built off of the one from Bestiary 5, however, this new Deep One is more powerful and has a higher CR than the original. This new Deep One is also slightly smarter than the Bestiary 5 version and has a better AC as well. There are also more special abilities for this Deep One of a more horrific nature than what you saw in Bestiary 5. The fecund nature special ability in particular gets to the niche that these creatures fill in Lovecraft's original fiction.

    In addition to a bevy of creatures and great beings of power from the Mythos, there are also a few familiar creatures that are reinterpreted for use in a Lovecraftian fantasy game. Did you ever expect that you would see a horrific version of the flumph? I guarantee that was something that I did not expect to ever see in a game book.

    There is less art as the bestiary goes, which is a shame. With the "Expanded Mythos Bestiary" section we get some tried and true Pathfinder and D&D creatures that are Mythos upped, but they don't get illustrations. There are "what you see" sections for each of these newly interpreted creatures that give you descriptions to read to the players, but that might not be enough for some.

    One thing that I will say is a negative, and I am sure that I am in a minority for this, is that I don't like godlike creatures like Cthulhu having stats, I didn't like it in the original Deities & Demigods as a kid and I don't like it now. I'm not a fan of any role-playing game that does it, honestly. My preference is that beings like those in the Mythos be approached more as mysteries that characters can unlock, rather than things that can be fought and defeated. I am not against that across the board, because I think that Greek and Norse mythology has shown us that gods and goddesses can often be encountered and fought. I'm just not a fan of it with the Mythos.

    This is a good book, and I think that it is useful for more than just Pathfinder gamers. There is a lot of background material that can easily be used in whatever your system of choice happens to be. I know that it will end up as a resource for Fate games that I run in the future.

    There are, as yet, no plans for a version of this book for Dungeons & Dragons 5e, but I don't think that it would take much work to integrate the bestiary section into your D&D games. The character parts would take more work, but I think with some effort an industrious DM could adapt some of the archetype material into suitable backgrounds for a world infested by Mythos horrors.

    For the size of this book, I think it is well priced. The production values are high (it even has a bound in bookmark) and the graphic design is well done. If you are a fan of horror or interjecting Lovecraftian horrors into your fantasy games, I think that you will really want a copy of Sandy Petersen's Cthulhu Mythos on your shelves. It is really a good book that both GMs and players of Pathfinder games will get use out of.
    Comments 9 Comments
    1. Olaf the Stout -
      I only wish he made a 5E version of this as well.
    1. SkidAce's Avatar
      SkidAce -
      Quote Originally Posted by Olaf the Stout View Post
      I only wish he made a 5E version of this as well.
      I might pick it up anyway. Easy enough to convert, and I still have a pathfinder book around here somewhere just in case....
    1. jerryrice4949's Avatar
      jerryrice4949 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Olaf the Stout View Post
      I only wish he made a 5E version of this as well.
      He is making a 5E version. Sandy said pdf should be available in August at which time hardback preorders will be taken as well.
    1. Olaf the Stout -
      Quote Originally Posted by jerryrice4949 View Post
      He is making a 5E version. Sandy said pdf should be available in August at which time hardback preorders will be taken as well.
      Awesome!
    1. Aaron L's Avatar
      Aaron L -
      Quote Originally Posted by jerryrice4949 View Post
      He is making a 5E version. Sandy said pdf should be available in August at which time hardback preorders will be taken as well.
      Oh, I will be all over that! Man!
    1. Bryan Yager's Avatar
      Bryan Yager -
      The Pathfinder PDF version is only $19.99 on Drive-Thru RPG
      http://www.drivethrurpg.com/m/product/241231
    1. Cergorach's Avatar
      Cergorach -
      The photographing of minis is disappointing, but it's also not great photography of some horribly painted miniatures. @author: Which WFRP books had photographs of minis in it as 'art'?

      Not only that, the layout is not great for a monster book, the line spacing is way to big. I'm seriously considering getting [edit] rid of [/edit] my physical LE book for pathfinder.

      It also came out so late (~16 months) that any thought of using it as a companion for a planned RPG campaign went so far over the Raise Dead expiry due date that even a Great Old One will not sniff at it...

      There are Pathfinder books by Paizo that might be better suited for a PF campaign, haven't gotten my mittens on it yet:
      - Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Occult Adventures
      - Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Occult Bestiary
      - Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Occult Realms
    1. gurpsgm -
      I already have mine, and to begin with, I think it is glorious! It is quite large at 504 pages, full color throughout, and, if you think the cover looks good, wait until you see the frontpiece and backpiece! 10 great chapters, covering everything from getting started to a mythos Bestiary. Many sidebars throughout, 24 of them all together, covering everything from Dreamlands Cats to using Yithians. It even has a place holder ribbon! The art compliments the text very well, with several full page pieces, and many smaller ones. It also adds Insanity and dream statistics to all characters. If you are a Pathfinder GM are are even considering the purchase of this book, be aware that, In My Honest Opinion, this whole book should be a GM's only reference. Also, potential GM's should remember the Cthulhu Mythos might be a bit unbalanced unless you are considering using this book for your only potential deities book.
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