[Review] Cthulhu by Gaslight, 3rd Edition

Posted: April 6, 2012 by pointyman2000 in Articles, Call of Cthulhu, Reviews, Roleplaying Games

I wish all setting books were this thorough.

I’ve heard that Call of Cthulhu boasts some of the most meticulously researched sourcebooks in gaming (along with GURPS and HERO games) but somehow I found myself taken aback by just how damned MEATY this book is. Despite its rather small 196 page count, I can’t help but think that the authors did a fine job in cramming everything that could possibly matter in the setting into this book.

The book doesn’t waste any time either. Just after the Table of Contents, Cthulhu by Gaslight launches into the Character Creation chapter introducing slight tweaks to the traditional CoC character creation process, as well as a whole slew of Victorian Era Occupations to choose from.

Also included in the Character Creation chapter are a series of randomly rolled Traits that take the place of Advantages and Disadvantages common to other games. This reminds me of Legend of the Five Ring’s Heritage Tables and have all sorts of interesting outcomes from Albino to Good With Animals to Long-Lost Relative.

Weapons are also given the traditional CoC thorough treatment, with a wide selection of period-appropriate weaponry. Equipment and items are also treated with the same amount of care, and I was particularly grateful for all the references given, from photographs of the handguns, to illustrations that showed the stereotypical period dress for the Victorian Era.

The next chapter goes into the Victorian World in great detail, discussing the nature of the British Empire in this time period. Each of the colonies and territories were given a blurb, and the rest of the world was also given the same treatment.

The chapter also goes into talking about the Timeline of the era, and discusses issues of what the British Military was like. Interestingly the book also provides short biographies of notable individuals on the era, and proceeds to a brief tour of the City of London. As a stranger to both the era and the location, I find that this kind of information can be a life saver when it comes to trying to emulate a society that you’ve never really experienced first-hand beyond the movies.

Of course, the discussion of the setting would not be complete without touching on technology such as Communications, Crime, Government and Culture. The addition of Coach Chase Rules was also something that gave me a chuckle, but I do understand just how important it is to have this sort of thing in a Victorian setting.

Strange Britain is the next chapter, and is perhaps the chapter that is composed entirely of potential plot hooks. There’s a massive amount of neat little details on both the secret occult societies at work, as well as the local legends and hauntings across all of the British Empire. The Cthulhu Mythos is given a separate section discussing their presence in Britain, and come complete with the various stat blocks and rules for running them. Interestingly various fictional characters are also statted out towards the end of this chapter, including such personalities as Allan Quatermain and Sherlock Holmes. It’s an interesting choice that I didn’t expect to see in a Call of Cthulhu book, but it does add an extra dimension and angle to games set in this era that I hadn’t considered for CoC.

The last chapter offers two complete adventures in the setting, “The Night of the Jackals” and “The Burnt Man.” Both of these are presented in the traditional CoC standard of adventures, complete with handouts, maps and NPCs to make the Keeper’s job easier. I admit to never having been able to run an Adventure Module before, but if I was ever to try, I’d certainly start with one from Call of Cthulhu.

The Appendix has notes on recommended media, from Fiction to Film and Television, as well as other games that deal with the same era.

The book wraps up with maps and handouts, as well as an 1890’s investigator sheet.

I’ve always felt that Call of Cthulhu works best in two possible eras: 1930’s and the 1890’s. Chaosium’s latest edition of Cthulhu by Gaslight is a gem of a setting sourcebook that I feel a lot of publishers could learn from. The detail provided gives a strong and accurate look at a given culture and atmosphere of an era, while injecting enough of the horror and wonder of the CoC brand to make it a must-buy for anyone who likes the era. There’s enough information on this book to make it worth getting even if you’re not running CoC, as it presents reference information that can fuel pretty much any Victorian Era Game as well

Cthulhu by Gaslight, 3rd Edition is available from DriveThruRPG for $20.26 or roughly Php 872.00

  1. Hikkikomori says:

    I… want… you… in my belly.

  2. Runeslinger says:

    It is hard to make a great supplement better, and the original Gaslight was great, but as you rightfully show in your review, the revision and expansion crew have done it.

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