When last we spoke, I was rambling on about a bunch of great RPGs from Kickstarter that I was dying to sink my teeth into. But that list didn’t even touch on the horror/Cthulhu genre, which is near and dear to my heart, and has really been for years my go-to RPG genre. (I have been finally branching out though, really.)
Obviously Cthulhu Kickstarters are important to me, and I back and track them fairly regularly. But for all that we, as the collective Cthulhu-minded RPG industry, have done, we continue to raise the bar on ourselves for both quantity and quality. I have all these books on my shelves, except those yet to ship, and I could really be running RPGs twice a week from here until I die, and still not keep up. Inevitably, just as I think “Well, that’s it, my shelves have no more space,” someone very cool gets on Kickstarter with an amazing project that I at least must back in PDF form.
My stack of digital RPG books is nearing the size of my physical books, and as I would rather back an RPG for a PDF than not back it at all, I don’t see this stopping anytime soon. So the evidence is right in front of us that our industry is growing in both quality and quantity. Sites like DTRPG.com and Kickstarter have accelerated the growth of the industry and removed the barriers between idea and publication. Despite claims otherwise, I think the hobby is thriving — it’s just going through massive shifts in how its audience interacts. Look at how Monte Cook is trying to break down how people interact outside of the table, shifting the paradigm (or at least attempting to) is one more step in moving from old to new. And the numbers back this claim up — RPGs grew in 2013 at 67%! And that was before 5th edition D&D came along.
So despite any claims otherwise, the industry is doing great, and once again the proof is in the pudding. So here’s my list of Cthulhu Kickstarters that I really, truly must find some time to play:
- Sense of the Sleight of Hand Man — This was one of the first projects I backed: a Call of Cthulhu Dreamlands campaign by Dennis Detwiller? Sign me up. And while it unfortunately hit a serious case of scope creep that delayed its delivery date well past the December 2012 deadline, the finished product is a great looking product that stands up to its potential. Funny thing about how the industry changes — this project launched 4.5 years ago and funded at just about the same amount that Sun Spots did (~$15k). The way the market has changed, Arc Dream would probably double that amount today, certainly. So this book holds the illustrious title of Kickstarter RPG Sitting Unplayed on my Shelf Longest.
- Shadows of Atlantis for Acthung Cthulhu! — At one moment, suddenly came two WWII Call of Cthulhu games on Kickstarter: Achtung Cthulhu! and World War Cthulhu. For a while I didn’t understand the difference, but after some research it’s easier to delineate: AC! is the pulpy brother to the darker, brooding WWC. AC! drops PCs right into the war against zombies and Nazis and dark magic, with an overt pulp look and feel to the whole campaign. This was another of my early backed projects, and they rolled out a whole product line over the course of the subsequent years. Now I have this large Shadows of Atlantis campaign sitting on my shelves, waiting to be run. I love the idea of lost civilizations and this campaign has received great reviews for its content.
- World War Cthulhu: Cold War — On the other end of the WWII spectrum, WWC is about working for a secret British government organization to fight the Mythos before the Allies lose WWII. And while I didn’t pick up the original WWC books (because I still have AC! to run), I couldn’t resist the porting of WWC to the Cold War as a full boxed set campaign setting. Guh — can’t resist. This project has only delivered the core PDF so far, and we’re still waiting for the whole boxed set to be delivered. Agents of Cthulhu in 1970s Berlin? Sign me up.
- Horror on the Orient Express 2nd ed. — AKA The Kickstarter That Almost Ruined Chaosium. Really, I’m sure it seemed like a good idea at the time: release a deluxe reprint of the most coveted of CoC campaigns. Except the campaign was overrun by its own success and nearly failed in delivering its product, only to be saved in the 11th hour by Chaosium’s new management. Whew. That was close. And the new campaign, while full of amazing content, still has some inconsistent plotting and holy smokes the books look like they’re straight from 1995. But still, it would be so fun to run this game. I still have the original that I’ve never run. I better get a chance to run the second.
- Delta Green RPG — Remember back in 2012, when Arc Dream ran the KS for SotSoHM (see above) and I said they would do so much more if they ran now? Well, Delta Green is them doing exactly that. Like $362k exactly that. This campaign, with its new rules and campaigns and scenarios and art, is the perfect example of how to understand your audience and run a KS campaign just for them. Mostly, though, it’s an opportunity for Arc Dream/Pagan to free themselves from the bounds of Chaosium and run their own show, and it’s about goddam time. Really, this project and game system is less about a new set of rules and more about letting the DG guys do their own thing. Just the raw amount of PDFs is enough to back the thing, and that includes a 1960s Gumshoe version of DG written by Ken Hite. Like I said: these guys know their audience. The first books and screens are out and word is good. Can’t wait for the rest of the materials to be released.
- The Things We Leave Behind — Stygian Fox is just getting rolling, with a handful of their own Kickstarters to show. TTWLB was released recently to very positive reviews, and I would love to run any and all of these modern day scenarios. Modern horror is so much more tangible and takes a clever mind to pull off well. These scenarios look to put grave and dark twists for the players to unravel, and sanity will surely be challenged. Looks good.
- Tales of the Crescent City — The stack of Golden Goblin Press books on my shelf continues to grow. Oscar and crew are hitting stride and somehow able to create unique gamebooks that all fill a needed niche. TotCC sets the PCs to New Orleans, which is a great place to investigate (as one of the many settings of HPL’s original Call of Cthulhu) with its dark and mysterious history. So one more great books of adventure that I have yet to run.
- Tales of the Caribbean — As a contributor to this final entry, I am surely looking to read and run this book, set in the Caribbean islands. But here’s the thing about this scenario book that makes me want to run games from it more than any other on the list: I have a first hand experience on how the book was edited, and knowing that every scenario was held to a level of quality like mine was means that the book truly rises above. The whole thing has got to be great. Seriously.
In closing, I’ve been thinking about this post and all my unplayed games for a while. I really don’t know what to do about it, especially since I am not really playing ANY of it right now (and 2017 isn’t going to get better, trust me). But I could see myself getting a group together down the road a bit and picking one of these to run on a consistent basis, maybe getting through a few of the scenario books. Of course, by then, there will be plenty of new materials to stack on top of my list. If nothing else, it’s a good problem to have.