The Cthulhu Mythos and Dungeons & Dragons have a strange relationship. Entities of the Mythos appeared in the first Deities & Demigods only to be struck from later printings due to complications from a licensing agreement. Call of Cthulhu is one of the grand old dames of role playing games lurking in the show of D&D’s unprecedented recent success. The End of Everything, from authors Alan Patrick and Alex Kammer, is currently on Kickstarter to raise printing funds. The authors sent me an advance review copy to check out as a Kickstarter preview. In what strange new ways does this book combine these weird siblings? Let’s play to find out.
The End of Everything is a campaign structured around a trip through the Haunted Steppes region of Frog God Games’ The Lost Lands. What starts out as a job escorting a merchant caravan through the wilds of the area becomes something more. Magic is not working the same as it does elsewhere in the world. This is reflected by magic users gaining corruption from casting spells. The campaign adds this as a rule for characters on the adventure. Corruption feel like a mix between the slow burn sanity loss of Call of Cthulhu and the chaos mutations from Warhammer. This is the most direct element that combines the two games in the campaign. There are plenty of horrific moments as the players draw closer to the source of corruption, Lake Hali to the north.
But this is still Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition which has fairly robust characters and a heroic fantasy outlook. That gives the adventure something of a pulp horror feel akin to Evil Dead 2 where the monster appears, the heroes scream and run away, but then they rally and kick the monster’s butt. The authors suggest the Dungeon Master keep the nature of the Cthulhu Mythos tie in quiet for as long as possible but I feel like going the other way might be the better option. These characters aren’t the gin-soaked dilettantes and wheezing academics of 1920s New England. They have mystical powers and ancient sword techniques backing them. I can see some groups gleefully signing onto a campaign where they finally get to throw down with the Old Ones backed by high level spells. Perhaps there’s a reason Cthulhu didn’t take over during the Hyperborean Age, when magic was plentiful and steel was new.
The campaign is well structured. Though ultimately linear, it offers a lot of side quests, directions and multiple approaches to the more concrete points of the game. The story opens up for a level or two by giving players and Dungeon Masters an area to explore then locks into a harder location based dungeon that drives the plot forward. There are also ample wandering encounters that the Dungeon Master can roll to use or just seed in as they see fit. I like this structure for campaigns of this nature as it gives a story the structure it needs but allows the players to explore an area to rack up treasure, magic items and story considerations that can help later in the main quest. There are many side quests that make points of the main quest easier as they give players resources or NPCs that can help out in the challenging boss battles.
The book also provides some good elements to use even if the Dungeon Master doesn’t want to run the main quest. Each of the towns along the way provides a small location based adventure based on figuring out what’s wrong in the town. The Encounters could also be pulled out to use in any storyline based around something being off in the world. It may be because I just read it, but the themes of The Shattered Obelisk: Phandelver And Below mesh well with this adventure and pieces from The End of Everything could easily fit into that campaign.
The End of Everything is on Kickstarter until November 16th, 2023. Digital rewards will be available shortly after the end of the crowdfunding period. Physical rewards are due in MArch 2024.
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