Sandy Petersen's Cthulhu Mythos Makes Everything Better (for Pathfinder)
  • Sandy Petersen's Cthulhu Mythos Makes Everything Better (for Pathfinder)


    A running gag in the game industry is that adding Cthulhu makes everything better (much like bacon) but adding it to heroic fantasy isn't easy. That calls for not just an expert but a specialist, and Sandy Petersen, creator of Call of Cthulhu, is the perfect person for the job.



    Sandy Petersen's Cthulhu Mythos for Pathfinder is far more than just translating otherworldly evil creatures to Pathfinder stats. H.P, Lovecraft's creations are a completely different kind of horror. Not only are the ultimate members of the mythos essentially unkillable, the entire point to Cthulhu horror isn't about killing them, which makes it totally different than typical Pathfinder scenarios. Heroes in a Cthulhu story not only can't stop the core of the horror, they are changed by the fight regardless of how many minions' plots they thwart. If they continue on that path, the changes continue, corrupting them or slowly eroding their sanity as they realize they can't win.

    Translating Cthulhu horror to Pathfinder is the core of the book, and it starts with Petersen explaining the three basic rules of horror and then discussing how to add horror to the type of heroic adventure that's typical in Pathfinder. More good advice follows on using horror in an RPG and how to turn an encounter into an adventure.

    But you can't have a Pathfinder book that doesn't add player options and one of them in Sandy Petersen's Cthulhu Mythos for Pathfinder is sure to be a favorite – Dreamlands Cats as a player character race. For this and the other mythos player character race (ghouls), Petersen doesn't skimp. Entries include the history of the race, how to play a Dreamlands Cat, physiology, family, life cycle, society, faith, culture and more – along with mechanics, traits and equipment, of course. Players also get a variety of class options specific for mythos scenarios.

    Then come the races for GMs and that's where things become more intense. Gnorri and Zoogs get a similar treatment to that of player races, but since they're NPCs only, their power levels and sinister tendencies are stronger,

    Companion animals and familiars also get a Cthulhu twist. Want to travel with a degenerate satyr, mutated animal, brain cylinder familiar or slime mold? Now you can, along with a few other options. New feat options are also included, and, of course, magic gets a mythos makeover.

    Petersen pioneered insanity mechanics in Call of Cthulhu and, because characters in Lovecraft's original stories slowly go insane from what they learn, it's also addressed here. Petersen is very careful, though to distinguish real-world mental health issues from in-game sanity loss. Petersen uses literary and cinematic versions of insanity as his source material, not actual psychiatry to further the distinction. After reading them, I'd use these insanity rules instead of other options presented in Pathfinder and its supplements.

    New alchemical items are also included, but as tempting as it might be to move things like “assassin's teapot” to another game, I'd advise against it after reading the descriptions. That's even more true for the new artifacts. “Alien and Bizarre Technology” lives up to its name.

    The section on cults will provide GMs lots of story ideas, plot twists and more. In fact, that's likely to be the most heavily used section since it will provide plot seeds to whatever depth you desire. Mythos religion and how the mythos can interact with standard Pathfinder races is also examined.

    The showcase, of course, is the section on the Great Old Ones. From cults to domains, stages of influence, etc., Petersen and his team provide GMs a wealth of material.

    Even though I've GMed Pathfinder for years, it's not my go-to system, and Cthulhu has never been my favorite form of horror. Despite that, I found a lot great material in Sandy Petersen's Cthulhu Mythos for Pathfinder that I can put to good use in a campaign. In fact, I'm now interested in the coming Sandy Petersen's Cthulhu Mythos for 5E, which is currently on Kickstarter, to see how Petersen changes it. In my recent interview with Petersen, he said it's not just a translation to different mechanics but reworked for Dungeons and Dragons with new material.

    People who are fans of both Cthulhu and Pathfinder will find a lot to love in Sandy Petersen's Cthulhu Mythos for Pathfinder. Petersen and his team clearly thought through every aspect of the mythos and how it would change in heroic fantasy like Pathfinder. If you're interested in bringing horror to your Pathfinder game, Sandy Petersen's Cthulhu Mythos for Pathfinder is well worth the look. It might become your favorite.

    This article was contributed by Beth Rimmels (brimmels) as part of EN World's Columnist (ENWC) program. We are always on the lookout for freelance columnists! If you have a pitch, please contact us!
    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Chris Fretwell's Avatar
      Chris Fretwell -
      I'm a long time Pathfinder player, but NOT a big fan of 3p material. With that being said, gave this one a shot a few months ago. Fantastic buy, and an absolute must if you're running the 'Strange Aeons' adventure path (which I highly recommend!).
    1. Aaron L's Avatar
      Aaron L -
      I am looking forward to the 5E version of this so much I can barely contain my enthusiasm.

      My only hope is that the mechanics for reading "Eldritch Tomes" and the like are handled differently than they are in Call of Cthulhu. The idea simply that reading books like the Necronomicon causes instant damage to one's psyche is just dumb and doesn't at all mesh with Lovecraft's writing, and in my opinion is the single worst idea that has CoC introduced to the wider lore of the Cthulhu Mythos. In Lovecraft's actual stories virtually all of the learned antiquarian and academic protagonists were at least familiar with the "Cthulhu cycle" of myths and several of them had even read the Necronomicon, De Vermis Mysteriis, the Book of Eibon, and the like without it leaving them gibbering wrecks afterwards... because they were reading crazy old tomes of mythology written by ancient madmen. It wasn't until they encountered entities from those books in the real world that their sanity started to crack, because they were being presented not just with horrible monsters that shouldn't exist in reality, but with incontrovertible physical evidence that the crazy ancient mythology they had read about (or at least part of it) was actually true, and the horrible, Evil ancient cults were still active, and it shook the foundations of their entire understanding of the universe. That was what caused damage to their sanity, not just reading the books. So maybe reading more Mythos tomes after actually encountering a Mythos entity in real life would cause sanity damage because you're finding out more awful things that could be true, but not just from reading them at all.
    1. dco's Avatar
      dco -
      Quote Originally Posted by Aaron L View Post
      My only hope is that the mechanics for reading "Eldritch Tomes" and the like are handled differently than they are in Call of Cthulhu. The idea simply that reading books like the Necronomicon causes instant damage to one's psyche is just dumb and doesn't at all mesh with Lovecraft's writing, and in my opinion is the single worst idea that has CoC introduced to the wider lore of the Cthulhu Mythos. In Lovecraft's actual stories virtually all of the learned antiquarian and academic protagonists were at least familiar with the "Cthulhu cycle" of myths and several of them had even read the Necronomicon, De Vermis Mysteriis, the Book of Eibon, and the like without it leaving them gibbering wrecks afterwards... because they were reading crazy old tomes of mythology written by ancient madmen. It wasn't until they encountered entities from those books in the real world that their sanity started to crack, because they were being presented not just with horrible monsters that shouldn't exist in reality, but with incontrovertible physical evidence that the crazy ancient mythology they had read about (or at least part of it) was actually true, and the horrible, Evil ancient cults were still active, and it shook the foundations of their entire understanding of the universe. That was what caused damage to their sanity, not just reading the books. So maybe reading more Mythos tomes after actually encountering a Mythos entity in real life would cause sanity damage because you're finding out more awful things that could be true, but not just from reading them at all.
      If I remember well the protagonists of the stories lost the equivalent of sanity when they started realizing things, not only when a monster appeared if it appeared.

      The game already includes a lot of NPCs from the books with sanity 0 and obviously they are not gibbering wrecks.
      The setting is also important, now there are all kind of settings but the original was based one century ago, at that time if someone would see a current terror movie the reaction and influence would be far different. In this case the books not only tell about alien races, monsters, strange portents... some of them can teach you spells, how to call those aliens, allude to completely unnatural things... I think that should be super creepy and damage your sanity.
      It's also a roll, strong willed individuals should lose less sanity and weak ones will face more problems, it can also be recovered, similar to any other stat recurrent to most RPGs like hit points, wounds, fatigue points...

      I think the main problem is when the DM doesn't handle temporary insanity with care, rolling on a table and taking a random effect that doesn't match the situation can lead to crazy and absurd situations.
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