Dark Worlds, Act 1: The Ritual
Designer: Sandy Petersen and Matt Corley
Artist: Graey Ebb, et al.
Publisher: Petersen Games
Year Published: 2020
No. of Players: 5–6 (4–5 characters)
Playing Time: NA
Main mechanic / Theme: 5e, Sandy Petersen’s Cthulhu Mythos / Cthulhu Horror
In the outer reaches the darkness prevails.
Find more info on RPGGeek.com
Dark Worlds is a new campaign being released by Petersen Games to be played with the Sandy Petersen’s Cthulhu Mythos (SPCM) expansion for 5e. I was given a PDF copy of The Ritual for review purposes.
It is recommended to use SPCM when playing The Ritual because of added elements like Fright and Dread and monsters. It is not required to use the Mythos book because the expansion has been written to be used as its own setting or as an expansion to the setting you’re currently using. I also recommend the using the SPCM because it contains added information about the Cthulhu Mythos that would be helpful as this campaign dives deeper into that lore. Whatever setting you’re using, however, won’t come into play much. The first scene of chapter one in The Ritual doesn’t go quite as planned and the adventures and other guests at the King’s banquet find themselves in another place, Yuggoth. The Ritual is designed to take 4–5 new player characters to fifth level.
Gameplay and mechanics
The Ritual is divided into 4 chapters (1 for each level). This information is covered in roughly the first two-thirds of this 80+ page book. The events provide experiences and encounters I don’t think most role-players have come across before. The newness of the encounters and experiences of location is a great addition for role-playing to take place, especially for players who have learned about all of the monsters and locations of interest in the world. The Ritual also provides a great introduction into the vast other worldly experiences of Lovecraft Lore of the Dark Worlds of the Elder Gods.
Yogguth has a quality separating it from other worlds, the Mi-Go. These creatures operate on a cultural process. Some may say it is warped by where they live and others by the beliefs they hold. No matter what the reason, these are the creatures, and their creations, the characters are soon set against.
The party isn’t alone in this alien world. Besides those who are now part of their slightly expanded party there are natural enemies of the Mi-Go; intelligent beings who are willing to help the adventures to return to their home world. The party must survive an alien world and alien creatures while using alien technology.
The last part of the book contains the information on the non-player characters, the horrors encountered, and the items that could mean the difference between life and death.
This campaign series has a warning that this is campaign setting that could lead character death. The risks and challenges are high. This reminded me of when I first started playing role-playing games decades ago. Character actions are important and there is a penalty for making bad decisions—like trying to fight every encounter instead of fleeing to fight another day.
Theme, Artwork and Illustration, Graphic Design and Layout (optional)
The entire book is decorated with art providing a wonderfully horrific visual of the Lovecraftian descriptions.
This is the second campaign setting I’ve had the opportunity of reviewing for the SPCM setting. Like Yig Snake Granddaddy, Dark Worlds makes a promise of providing a fantasy horror setting that is easy to use because of the open gaming license. The authors, Sandy Petersen and Matt Corley, deliver on that promise.
I’m a fan of horror. For me the story has to be well written and The Ritual is well written. Here is an adventure that will allow a game master and their players to create a horror story in a setting that designed for just that cause. Each of the 4 chapters are designed to be completed in a single gaming session. And, if using the elements of horror to build and create the story, you will create something that will last well beyond the time of the session.
About the Author
Daniel Yocom does geeky things at night because his day job won't let him. This dates back to the 1960s through games, books, movies, and stranger things better shared in small groups. He's written hundreds of articles about these topics for his own blog, other websites, and magazines after extensive research along with short stories. His research includes attending conventions, sharing on panels and presentations, and road-tripping with his wife. Join him at guildmastergaming.com.