Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/09/05/tabletop-review-cthulhu-mythos-encyclopedia/
”CTHULHU MYTHOS ENCYCLOPEDIA, OR ENCYCLOPEDIA CTHULHIANA, BEING AN INVESTIGATION INTO THE MYTH-PATTERNS OF THE XOTHIC AND COMMORIOM LEGEND-CYCLES WITH NOTES ON THE ALHAZREDIC DEMONOLOGY, OR, A COMPENDIUM OF LORE RELATING TO THOSE BEINGS WHO ONCE RULED THE UNIVERSE AND THOSE WHO HAVE REVERED AND RENOUNCED THEM, AS EXPRESSED THROUGH THE MYTHOLOGY OF ALL CULTURES AND EXPLAINED IN THE WORKS OF H. P. LOVECRAFT AND OTHERS IN A MANNER THOUGHT TO BE FICTIONAL BY THE UNINITIATED AND RATIONAL”
– Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia, colophon
So this isn’t exactly your standard role-playing supplement, it’s not specific to a system or put out specifically for Arc Dream Publishing’s games. It’s really an encyclopedia, and it really kicks ass. This happens to be the third edition of it, which has gone through some pretty major revisions going by the author’s notes in the foreword. Arc Dream has another Lovecraftian publication, and that is The Unspeakable Oath which is a magazine dedicated to fiction and other things based on the Cthulhu Mythos.
I should note that the format of this book is for the Nook, Sony, or other e-reader and so it is an E-pub. This tripped me up at first since I don’t own one of those handy devices, but I soon discovered that Firefox has a nifty add-on that will let you read E-pubs, so there you go.
First off, the foreword is awesome, as Daniel Harms gives the reader the straight facts (distilled) about Lovecraft, what his inspirations might have been, what the Mythos means and what various authors have done with it, how other authors have contributed to Lovecraft’s body of work, etc. He really covers a lot of ground and tackles various topics with admirable objectivity.
Encyclopedic Chtulhification: What’s in this thing anyway?
As a little preview, here is an example entry from the C’s:
CRYSTALLIZER OF DREAMS
Yellow egg-shaped item that periodically emits a whistling noise. The Revelations of Glaaki states that the Crystallizer can be used to view far-off places (such as the world of Tond) in dreams, as well as allowing its possessor to perceive higher dimensions. According to some, the Crystallizer allows its user to bring items or creatures back from the Dreamlands to the waking world for a brief while. The user must always be cautious to avoid the Crystallizer’s guardian, a creature like a translucent jellyfish that is a servant of Hypnos.
See Revelations of Glaaki; Tond. (“Mysterious Manuscripts”, Aniolowski et. al.; “The Inhabitant of the Lake”, Campbell (O); “The Render of the Veils”, Campbell; H. P. Lovecraft’s Dreamlands, Petersen et. al..)
The encyclopedia itself is exactly what you would expect: entries on the various things contained in and referenced by the Cthulhu Mythos. It is laid out well and referenced with the story (or stories) where the entry occurs. The only real problems I have with the encyclopedia seem to be technical. There are a few occurrences where an entry seems to appear twice, such as the “Queen In Red” entry which appears in the middle of one page and then again at the top of the next page. It also seems that whenever I click on the table of contents to the left it does not take me to the entry I clicked on, but just sort of moves me near it, but I don’t know if this is a failing of the E-pub or the Firefox add-on. It may be that the E-pub went through this third revision and the quick links were never updated to the new page numbers. Speaking of page numbers, I can’t see any! I don’t know if this is the add-on or what, but I have no idea how many pages are in this thing. Even looking on DriveThruRPG which usually lists the pages gives me nothing. Well, rest assured, there are a lot.
I would not hesitate to say that this would be awesome for anyone who is interested in writing Mythos fiction or looking for inspiration for a Call of Cthulhu game (or perhaps De Profundis). I personally would rather have a hardbound version, but an E-pub is nice and portable especially for those with the proper equipment. Just leafing through this tome sparks the imagination, or is that just the fringes of my sanity fading away?