Review: Sandy Petersen’s Cthulhu Mythos
Hey everyone! Before we get into today’s review I wanted to talk about reviews moving forward for a little while. I have them lined up for the next couple weeks with the last one being the first Thursday in August. Currently I am not actively pursuing reviews as I am going to be cutting down the rate at which I do them. Doing them every week is time consuming and while I feel that I give a pretty good run down of my opinions, they do tend to be brief. Sometimes a little too much so? Anyways there is a pressure that comes with reviews that doesn’t come with other articles that I need to alleviate a bit and there is a desire to work on my own projects more. So, instead of weekly reviews I will cut them back to one or two a month depending on if people reach out to me. Instead I will be filling the slots with some progress previews of my own projects. Tidbits from what my patrons get, more fleshed out drafts of things like the plague doctor, and setting information for the 27 Realms.
All that being said, let’s get into today’s review. This one is a book that I had Kickstarted a while back and actually got a few months ago now. This is a Pathfinder compatible supplement featuring the Cthulhu Mythos written by the man himself Sandy Petersen along with some other wonderful authors. What I like about this is it is a large supplement of over 400 pages dedicated to the mythos and, being Pathfinder, will find use in even my 5E games. After having had my expectations and hopes, working with the PDF for some sessions, and finally sitting on the hard copy for a bit let’s get down to reviewing this product!!
Cosmic Adventure Awaits!
When I backed this project I knew that I was going to get a whole host of mythos material in a familiar and adaptable rule set and all contained between one set of covers. I was not disappointed, but that isn’t a shocker. However, the depth of the book was a little more than I had expected when I jumped on board the mythos train. Still, backing didn’t take much convincing on my part. First off, the first 90 pages or so are dedicated to the players and not just in a way that explains the mythos, cosmic horror, and playing in such games. It hands you a heap of materials to use from that side of the screen. You don’t have to play the humans going out and defeating things while pushing away insanity. This book actually allows you to play as mythos creatures like the cats of the Dreamlands or zoogs. It gives you archetypes for classes that work around the themes and elements of the mythos as well. There is the mad artist for bard, the cultist for cleric, and a deep one sorcerer bloodline among others. Combine this with feats, mythos familiars, professions, and spells and you get a very large (if horrific) sandbox to start playing in.
As much as I backed this for the stat blocks there is 150 pages of GM materials that a part of me knew I needed but never really looked for until this book. It starts simple with books, artifacts, and technology but then it gets into cults. That 30 pages on cults is one of the more useful references within the book. The thing about the mythos, one of the things I love about them, is that they are ephemeral, cosmic, philosophical places of dread. As distinct as they are there is no codex one might use and those that act as the next best things are the same which say how unknown these things are. Despite it being part of the charm and entire point of the mythos, it would be nice to have some codifying of what the cults do, what these monsters represent, and where everything lies in relation to one another. This book does that and others have as well (I will grant that) but this one does it in a dice rolling system I am familiar with, in a style of setting I am intimate with, and in ways that strafe the line between classic cosmic horror and epic high fantasy. It is beyond helpful to me.
The remaining 300 pages of book are dedicated to the gods, monsters, races, and things of the mythos. These are stat blocks and horrific descriptions. Cruel abilities and brutal foes which no adventurer should be forced to contend with. I love it. Thanks to stretch goals and the decades of experience the team had in putting together mythos RPG books and articles, there are dozens of entries to utilize. There are some monsters with which I am very familiar and have seen in a number of forms. Then there are others which I had never before heard of but have since made use of. This book is going to get a LOT of use over the years.
As always I want to talk a little bit about the design and layout of the book itself. It should come to no surprise that everything is very professionally well-done. It follows the general format seen in most Pathfinder compatible products and uses font and art design in a style that fits very well without going overboard. There are lots of wonderful pieces of art in here, from the PC race image to the Crawling Chaos one-page piece that intros the cult chapter, you can always count on good mythos art from these folks. The product has a lot to love from “what you see” sidebars for each monster to literature quotes to help fill empty space to wonderful tips for running games. Of everything I just wish that they hadn’t laid out the bestiary into two sections. I know that stretch goals got us more monsters, but the strange and distinct choice to take on a second full section right after the first feels like they couldn’t be bothered to do a revised layout with both combined into alphabetical order. It seems lazy to me.
There is also one thing that has always irked me about the product though. It isn’t some poor layout choice, some difficult to read tables, or anything like that. This is a purely aesthetic preference. I wish they had done art up for the monsters. Where they used images of painted minis that could have been gotten as part of the campaign I would have died to see art of all these things. Some of what’s already in Paizo’s roster of mythos monsters is some of the best art out there for the mythos. This book also helps add to the mythos artwork that exists, but they missed a real opportunity to show some of the gruesome and terrible horrors in detail that minis, no matter how well done, cannot provide. It’s just a shame in my opinion.
All in all I could only marginally be happier with this book. There is just so much here and so much readily usable both in prepping for games and at my table while playing. If you are playing Pathfinder this could be an invaluable resource for you. If you are playing Pathfinder or D&D (3.5 or 5) and you like the mythos, this book is a must have. At almost 500 jam-packed pages it is worth the steep cover price many times over.