Monday, January 24, 2011

Realms of Crawling Chaos

If you hadn't noticed, Dan Proctor announced Saturday evening the early release of Realms of Crawling Chaos (hereafter RCC). Which meant I did something I rarely do — buy something immediately after it comes out. Normally, I read reviews, think about whether I will actually use something and then I might allow myself the purchase. In this case, knowing the work of both Dan and Michael Curtis, knowing that this was going to be a typical modular Goblinoid Games design that would be fully compatible with LL and knowing that it was going to mine one of my favorite fantasy authors (HPL), I felt very comfortable taking the plunge. I was not disappointed.

In a word: brilliant. Regardless of what your own campaign might look like, there are things in here which can be dropped in to make life more interesting for your players. Some highlights for me:
  • The new PC races. I love them, especially the White Ape (which fits perfectly into my campaign). Seriously, all of them have already been placed in my campaign world — hopefully in places my players will be exploring soon.
  • The Random Artifact tables are awesome. Not only is this right up my alley (I love random tables), it makes magic items dangerous. I also got a real kick out of this aside:
This way, even if the players own a copy of this book, their characters can never be certain what the odd object’s powers and, more importantly, drawbacks are.
  • The simple take on Psionics that is completely compatible with Mutant Future.
  • A new magic spell category called Formulae which cobbles together magic and alchemy to produce substances and effects.
  • Rules on reading eldritch tomes.
What is truly marvelous is how easy all of this is to implement. Besides the races, I have already come up with several ways to immediately use all of the above in my campaign world.

However, one of the things I truly appreciated about this work is the introduction. It brilliantly summarizes HPL's "cosmicism" into six themes that characterize his work. In addition, there are suggestions on how to apply each to any given campaign.

Now, for those of you who have already read RCC and are familiar with my own campaign style with its inclusion of religious themes, you might be wondering why I would appreciate things like The Insignificance of Man, An Uncaring Natural World, and The Reality of Man as an Animal.

The reason is quite simple, actually. Cosmicism, especially as defined in RCC, perfectly expresses what is left when we get rid of God. The abject horror of a world sans God is marvelously expressed in the work of HPL, and in the themes of an RCC campaign. For me, this is a excellent foil for my own themes. It sharpens the realty of our choices and the consequences of these choices.

So, if you haven't already gone out and bought it, I highly recommend RCC.


  1. Thanks for the review. I'm likely to pick this one up myself, but such a detailed account of the utility of something like this helps me to decide.

  2. Awesome! It looks like yet ANOTHER quality release from Goblinoid Games! At this point, I could probably purchase them sight unseen. My only quibble(extremely minor) is the inclusion of Psionics; if there's Magic, I don't require Psionics and vice versa. Sorta feels out of place, I guess.(But that's what houserules are for! Mentalism, what?) Even with my particular nitpick,(which I'm sure no-one shares! :-)) RCC looks more than worth the money.

    Oh, and nice explication of Alienation vs. Salvation at the end there. Interesting to see how it works in your game. Thanx for the rundown.

  3. @valeran
    My only quibble(extremely minor) is the inclusion of Psionics
    I can actually appreciate this; however, the modular fashion in which RCC handles Psiionics might really please you. Personally, my favorite iteration of Psionics is Mutant Future, where they are akin to mutations/powers. RCC provides for this approach as well as a simple Psionics-as-mental-combat approach. Thus, you can have cake and eat it, too, even if you don't like mixing magic and psionics.

  4. You said, "Cosmicism is an excellent foil for my own themes."

    Excellent point and well-said.

  5. 'if you don't like mixing magic and psionics.':
    I don't often like Sci-Fi(Psionics[Future 'Magic']) in my Fantasy(Magic is usually some sort of mental powers, but not always, of course.)basically, but have less objection to the converse. Odd. I rather LIKE 'pure' Science Fantasy.

    This one's a purchase! Thank you for explicating the Psionics system; I believe Mutation would be the angle I'd utilize if Psionics ever came into play.

    Mutant Future's great, but for some reason the power levels are higher than Gamma World's. I ramp 'em down for 'classic' play. The disparity might be for OGL purposes; I probably should check the forum next time I'm at Goblinoid.

  6. I've carried a quote around with me that helps identify the attraction to Weird Horror as a frightening genre: Perhaps there is no greater horror than that of an atheistic worldview. Forget blood, gore, and ghoulies. A world without meaning and purpose is the ultimate horror. A universe that arose by chance, exists without meaning, where lives plummet toward annihilation is the worst kind of horror... (Apoligize if that offends any of the atheists in the audience, it is written from a religious perspective...)

    Of course, a Lovecraftian game with themes of cosmicism might be so bleak as to not be fun.

    However, you call out cosmicism as a foil - how would you use themes of cosmicism in a game that is heavily religious in nature? I've pondered leaving the nature of the cosmology purposefully ambiguous when I do a future game, to leave the door open for religious doubt.

  7. Cosmicism is the overwhelming reality of the wilderness in my campaign. As the characters encounter monsters, places, mysteries, etc. cosmicism drives all of them. The players then have a choice: continue to hold onto the hope of religion or be overwhelmed by the void. As they takes steps in either direction, those actions have consequences (both negative and positive). In other words, each choice is very real.