All Rolled Up With The Cthulhu Hack

When I went to Gen Con this past summer, there weren't a lot of things that we on my "to get" list. So many new releases at the convention were little more than rewarmed Kickstarter releases, or other preorders that were at the show so that people could avoid shipping prices. Something that I was looking forward to were getting a physical copy of Paul Baldowski's The Cthulhu Hack and an All Rolled Up dicebag/gaming accessory. Being based in the UK made getting an All Rolled Up bag difficult, because of the exorbitant shipping costs inherent in international shipping, but picking one up at Gen Con took all of that out of the process.

Plus I was able to take advantage exchange rates that were favorable to the dollar.

What's an All Rolled Up you might ask? It is a combination dice and accessory bag that lets you carry dice, pens or pencils, index cards and even a small notepad (like the ones made by Field Notes) in a package that you can fold up and carry with you. I also picked up a neoprene dice tray with the Cthulhu Hack design. These dice trays are great for a couple of reasons. The first is that they're easy to carry (it folds in half and stows in my All Rolled Up), and easy to clean if you get anything on them. The second thing (and I think that this is important for those who do a lot of convention play) is that the neoprene really does a good job of not only muffling the clatter of the dice in a noisy hall, but they also keep your dice from being damaged from impact against the table, or having the table be damaged by the dice.

Having a dice tray is also nice to help keep control of fly away dice (also important if you're at a convention). The walls of the All Rolled Up dice tray are high enough to keep most enthusiastic rolls under control. This comes as a printed piece of neoprene with snaps in the corners that allow you to form the dice tray. The snaps are strong, and hold up to dice rolling, and even vigorous shaking.

I'm not sure why I held off on getting a dice tray for so long. I do a lot of my gaming online these days, and honestly the amount of space on my desk can be at a premium most of the time. This can make rolling dice challenging at times. Having a dice tray like this makes it easier to stake out some space on my desk, and keep the dice from rolling around so much. I think that the dice tray has gotten the most use since I picked this stuff up at Gen Con. The underside of the tray also keeps it from sliding around on the desk while I'm using it. Win/win.

The construction of the All Rolled Up is sturdy and high quality materials went into its making. The stitching is solid, and the dice bag part of the All Rolled Up uses a Velcro strip to keep it sealed. This is my All Rolled Up with a set of dice (including the couple that I got for The Cthulhu Hack), a note pad and a pen. You could fit a couple of more pens, another set of dice, and even some notecards into it without straining the bag. It also fits pretty easily into my Convention Bag of Holding from Think Geek. I love my Convention Bag of Holding because the smaller size not only keeps me from overloading myself when I'm at a convention, but the lower profile also keeps it from banging it into things. I also use it as my carry-on bag when I fly. This is probably one of the best bags that I've bought in a long time, and I'm always surprised that I don't see more people with them.

Now on to The Cthulhu Hack. This is a Lovecraftian horror game inspired by Call of Cthulhu, and other classic horror games, and built off of the engine of The Black Hack by David Black. The Black Hack is built off of the 3.x SRD, inspired by old school modes of playing and is streamlined down to a simple system. One of the things at the heart of The Black Hack is the usage dice, called Resources in The Cthulhu Hack. These things are used to represent those elements that can be used up by characters during play: like rations or torches, and in The Cthulhu Hack this concept is used to fuel the game's take on sanity.

The Cthulhu Hack isn't a big game, it only takes up 42 A5 sized pages. I picked up a copy of the boxed set, which comes with (at the time) all of the published adventures for the game and a set of dry erase character sheets. One thing that I learned from the new edition of the Paranoia role-playing game is that I like dry erase character sheets. I think they should be the standard for any sort of high fatality RPG. And The Cthulhu Hack is definitely a high fatality role-playing game. Between the inspirations of the original Call of Cthulhu RPG, and the old school sensibilities of The Black Hack rules, this is going to be a game where most characters are going to go through some combination of death and insanity before an adventure is done. If this sort of thing isn't for you, a lot of people do not like horror or high fatality games, then you probably won't like The Cthulhu Hack. The idea that "adventuring" is averse to the physical and psychological health of the characters is pretty much hard coded into the rules.

If the game's fatality doesn't bother you, the rules light nature of the game might. I like rules light games, and I think that, even for me, the stream of games inspired by The Black Hack might be a little too light. I think that The Cthulhu Hack would be great for a quick and dirty pickup game, but I like just a little more meat on the bones of a game for long term play. The system is elegantly designed, and it cuts away any of the things that really aren't needed for a role-playing game to work. That just means sometimes that it is a harder sell to some gamers.

Much like with Call of Cthulhu, one of the places where The Cthulhu Hack really sings is with the adventures. There were three in the boxed set: From Unformed Realms, Thro' Centuries Fixed and The Haunter of the Dark. The Haunter of the Dark is the longest of the three adventures, and is written as a direct sequel to the H.P. Lovecraft story of the same name. It is a sandbox adventure in a city setting outlined over the course of the adventure. The important NPCs of the setting are given as well. This could be used as a semi-permanent setting or base of operations for characters that survive the adventure, giving you future hooks for further adventures. There are also notes about the original Lovecraft story for people who are interested in using the story to provide more depth to the adventure. The Haunter of the Dark is also big by the standards of The Cthulhu Hack, at least twice the size of the core rules for the game.

I liked The Cthulhu Hack, even though it wasn't something that I would be drawn to play on a regular basis. If you are a fan of Lovecraftian horror, and want a game that you can play quickly over the course of an evening, with little foreknowledge of how the game works, then you will like The Cthulhu Hack. It works great for this purpose. Unlike some other Lovecraftian role-playing games, it isn't tied to a particular historical era. The simple nature of the rules for The Cthulhu Hack mean that adapting the game to other eras would be really easy. If you already have adventures for other Lovecraftian games, like Delta Green, Trail of Cthulhu or Call of Cthulhu, you could adapt them to play in The Cthulhu Hack with a little bit of work. The fact that there is so much material for Lovecraftian gaming available on the market means that you shouldn't have a shortage of campaign material if you wanted to run a long term game of The Cthulhu Hack. Masks of Nyarlathotep, anyone?

log in or register to remove this ad

Paul Baldowski1

First Post
Great article --- and genuinely happy that you had the chance to grab a bag of goodies from us at Gen Con. For those interested in The Cthulhu Hack, there's always the PDF option from RPGNow. For All Rolled Up products, we try to keep the postage as low as possible --- but you might want to consider ordering more than one item or getting together with fellow gamers to make a multi-item purchsse, to make the most of the postage paid.


I picked up a couple of All Rolled Ups and 'snap' dice trays. They are terrific; not only do they look cool but they work as advertised. The shipping from the UK isn't that bad and it's worth it. I hope they come back to Gencon next year!

Related Articles

Visit Our Sponsor

Latest threads

An Advertisement