In the interest of transparency, I have rarely received a review item that is so much in my wheelhouse as Ghoul Island. The marriage of the Cthulhu Mythos with my 5E campaign or Pathfinder is like manna from heaven for me. The fact that Sandy Petersen is the person behind this makes it even more appealing.
That being said I can assure you that my love for this source material is the reason why if it falls short of expectations you will get a very stern explanation as to why. But with the pedigree behind these books, I am feeling a bit comfortable that it is going to be a great ride.
What Is Cthulhu Mythos 5E?
Seeing the word Cthulhu may confuse a lot of gamers. For over 30 years Cthulhu has been associated with Sandy Petersen’s original RPG Call of Cthulhu which is now owned by the people over at Chaosium. To be as clear as I can, Cthulhu Mythos 5E and Cthulhu Mythos for Pathfinder are new rules sets, settings, and monsters to add to your fantasy RPG of choice and are not stand-alone RPGs. The best part of this is that it gives Dungeons and Dragons 5E tremendous flexibility. Their sets and many, many others available to players have made 5E the most flexible and popular edition perhaps in the history of tabletop role-playing.
One could argue that if anyone does not enjoy role-playing games that they have just not found the right setting and situation to suit themselves.
Cthulhu Mythos is the name given to the world of gods, demigods, and cosmic horror created by the author H. P. Lovecraft. In recent years he has become a controversial author due to his very open racism and xenophobia, but it is important to understand that 100 years after he began to be published, the Cthulhu Mythos has been expanded by hundreds if not thousands of writers. Great writers such as Ramsey Cambell, Robert Bloch, Brian Lumley, Robert E. Howard, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, and not to mention Sandy Petersen himself.
Because so many legendary authors have contributed to this mythology, it is very rich and full of amazing stories and concepts that give a Game Master an enormous playground to work with.
Robert E. Howard even included Cthulhu mythology into his Conan Saga which makes its place in fantasy pre-dating Dungeons and Dragons by close to 40 years. It even pre-dates J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit by almost ten years!
Who Is Cthulhu?
Cthulhu is a cosmic entity that is a mixture of an octopus and a dragon. It was first established in H. P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu published in 1928 by the pulp magazine Weird Tales. Though Cthulhu has become the name brand for cosmic horror, he is only one of many deities referred to as The Old Ones. Ironically, he is not even the most powerful of the group, but like Boba Fett in Star Wars, he became the break-out audience favorite.
The name Cthulhu comes from the Greek word Cthonic meaning “sub-terranean,” which suits this character perfectly as in the lore he was banished to the underwater city of R’lyeh and must wait until cultists set him free to roam the Earth once again.
That alone sounds like a five star D&D campaign without any further adornments.
So What Is Ghoul Island?
Sandy Petersen games are releasing modules to accentuate their amazing monsters and rulebooks for the Cthulhu Mythos and Ghoul Island is the first of those. Originally Kickstarted and funded over a year ago, the campaign was funded enthusiastically and now the book is available to us who have chosen to come late to the Eldritch party. Ghoul Island will be released in four acts: the first, which I am reviewing here, is Voyage to Farzeen. The next three editions will be released in successive months.
Ghoul Island takes adventurers from level one to level fourteen so it makes for a great choice if your group needs to have a fresh start with some new characters. Voyage to Farzeen will only take characters from level one to five. There may be some issues with the fact that the leveling system is milestone-based but that is between you and your game master or you and your players. Many of the monsters and NPCs have different stats than the base 5E rulebook—most notably the ghouls themselves—so make sure everything is up to spec to make a balanced experience. Any additions should be made using the base Cthulhu Mythos text by Petersen Games.
The book itself is gorgeous! Ghoul Island has amazing artwork evocative of traditional cosmic horror designs. Very rarely do you ever see a module receive this high level of love and attention. This type of quality makes it something I will keep for years to come if only to revisit the beautiful designs and concepts Ghoul Island offers. Oh, and I truly appreciate the built-in green cloth bookmark. It may seem like a small thing but it is both practical and adds another layer of class to this release.
Ghoul Island begins by giving the GM several plot hooks to get their intrepid adventures to the island of Farzeen. As previously stated, this story is being broken down into chapters and those chapters are then broken down into scenes that make the management of the story very easy. It also helps that the scenes come in different options to keep things flexible and fresh. The book also includes an appendix to help clarify things for new GMs and gamers that may be new to the universe and all of its intricacies.
From the Publisher:
Voyage to Farzeen begins with a mutiny and ends in underground tunnels where our adventurers discover an ancient temple dedicated to a horror thought to have been vanquished long ago!
My Recommendations for Ghoul Island: Chapter 1: Voyage to Farzeen module are as follows:
- If you like Dungeons and Dragons 5E and want to spice things up on your next game, buy this!
- If you love the Cthulhu Mythos, buy this!
- If you have played Sandy Petersen’s previous games and love the world, buy this!
- If you are just a fan of Cosmic Horror and want some really cool books, buy this!
- If you feel the world is a drab place and you would rather fight alien gods, buy this!
So buy some copies because they are often sold out and you can’t have mine so don’t even ask!
To read my previous articles and forays into the Cthulhu Mythos, click here.