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Cthulhu by Gaslight
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Cthulhu by Gaslight
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Cthulhu by Gaslight
Publisher: Chaosium
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/30/2012 23:45:47

Whilst I know a lot of die-hards who will insist that the 1920’s is the only time to play Cthulhu, I must only respectfully disagree, but forward this book as clear evidence. ‘Cthulhu by Gaslight’ sets the machinations of the tentacle one (and others who cannot be named) against the backdrop of Victorian England, amid the slums and factories, the gentlemans’ clubs and secret societies and weaves the fog and darkness through the stories. In every way, this is a perfect fit, made more so by the attention to detail shown by the authors (who do build upon two previous editions of this book).

Divided into four parts, the book gives attention to

  • the specifics of creating Victorian-era characters and in usual Chaosium style, the reader will find everything from Occupations and skill alterations to a glossary and prices indexed for the time period;
  • a gazetteer-style section outlining the British Empire, and London in particular leading to;
  • a section entitled ‘Strange Britain which is by far the most interesting section of the book. In here you’ll find occult societies such as the Order of the Golden Dawn and the Masons (no surprises regarding their inclusion), real world occult and ‘strange’ sites in Britain (which could be expanded into a book all by itself), how the Cthulhu Mythos fits into Britain uniquely. This third section is then rounded off with a look at fictional characters; so if you’ve ever wanted Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes or even the Martians for a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen/Cthulhu cross-over, you’ll have all the tools you need. Overall, this is the stand-out section of the book.
  • and lastly two fully-kitted-out adventures (at about twenty pages each). In both adventures the writing is extremely well-delivered and the concepts in both uniquely Victorian.

What is clear is that the developers wanted a product which not only provided the factual and mechanical information for playing in this time period, but also wanted to prove themselves capable of implementing these concepts. In reading through this book, one feels that a conceptual journey has been undertaken, first gathering all the necessary information required for a game, and then seeing it all put into practice.

The book is rounded off with Appendices full of inspirational media and a collection of great maps.

I’ve always been impressed with Chaosium’s ability to present a book which is so completely situated in the time period, right down to the choice of fonts and typeset to the illustrations, commentary and maps. It provides the reader with a wholly immersive experience and this attention to detail may not always be explicitly appreciated – but it is subliminally present.

This is a must for all Cthulhu Keepers and it is a pleasure to see this book updated and back in print (in a manner of speaking). Just remember that knife-wielding murderers in Whitechapel are the least of your concerns in this game...

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cthulhu by Gaslight
Publisher: Chaosium
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/13/2012 13:38:48

Introduction: Andrew Lucard has written an excellent review of Cthulhu by Gaslight, 3rd edition, so I'll be taking a look at the PDF itself, which has been corrected since his review. The PDF was viewed on a PC with Acrobat X, and iPad 2 on Adobe Reader and other readers.

The PDF viewed is CHA23123book_rev.pdf, dated 4/5/12. On the PC with Adobe Acrobat X, I was able to view the document. I had problems viewing the document on an iPad 2, until I upgraded my Adobe Acrobat to the 4/10/12 version. iPad 2 apps that had problems viewing the document were previous versions of Acrobat, iBooks, PerfectReader, pdf-notes, PDFReaderLite, and Epson iPrint. The viewing problem is that the background on the boxed text is too dark to read the text.

Format: The PDF comes in a 196 page book, divided into Victorian Characters (player material), The Victorian World (player and Keeper historical source material), Strange Britain (player and Keeper occult and mythos source material, NPC stats, and adventure seeds), Gaslight Adventures: The Night of the Jackals (introductory adventure) and The Burnt Man, Appendix I: Suggested Sources, Maps and Handouts for the adventures, and Character Sheet. The PDF is in black and white, in a double-column format.

Price: The price of the PDF is $20 versus the MSRP of $28. That's only an $8 difference, and some online sellers may have the print version at lower than MSRP. If you must have a print version, you might as well buy it printed. However, the PDF version has some advantages over print, particularly for the player material.

Victorian Characters: The player material consists of the Victorian Character generation section and The Victorian World historical source material. A major advantage PDFs have over printed copies is that the Keeper can print several copies of player materials, so each player can have his own copy. The Victorian Characters section is about 20-some pages printed.

Victorian World: Based on historical England, the Victorian World source material can be used by both players and the Keeper. An advantage of the PDF format is that Keepers can easily share this information with the players. Avid players may read ahead of time this section before the game. Or a Keeper can print out the pages and cut out relevant information (eg. Underworld Slang or English law) as handouts to players during the game. This section is about 45 pages long.

Strange Britain: This section consist of Occult in the 1890s, A Gazetteer of Selected Strange Sites in Britain, The Cthulhu Mythos in Britain, Victorian Fictional Characters, A Compendium of Victorian Non-Player Characters, and Victorian Scenario Suggestions. Like the Victorian World, the Keeper can provide the occult information to players as printed handouts ahead of time or during the game, depending on their occult skill. The Gazetteer and Cthulhu Mythos are prevented something like one-paragraph adventure seeds. A crafty Keeper can definitely print this information as handouts for unfounded rumors and red herrings for gullible investigators. The remaining sections are Keeper material to add unique NPCs, stock NPC stats, and suggestions on running Victorian adventures.

Gaslight Adventures: Cthulhu by Gaslight includes two adventures, The Night of the Jackals, and The Burnt Man. The Night of the Jackals is an introductory adventure, still challenging for experienced players. Both come with handouts to print and provide the players. Both also include atmospheric art that can also be used as handouts to show players what their investigators see.

Suggested Sources for Victorian Roleplayers: This section lists further reading of and viewing Victorian fiction, Cthulhu Mythos fiction in Britain, and Victorian Roleplaying.

Maps and Handouts: Cthulhu by Gaslight provides maps and handouts for players for the game adventures, plus a map of London. A larger map is printed in black and white, with additional blue for railway and underground.

Character Sheet: The first page of the character sheet has the Call of Cthulhu stats, while the second page is for personal data and other background information. Unfortunately, I was not able to fill in the sheet in Acrobat.

Conclusion: The PDF format allows the Keeper great flexibility in providing Cthulhu by Gaslight to players. iPad 2 viewers should upgrade to Adobe Acrobat, version released on 4/10/12.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cthulhu by Gaslight
Publisher: Chaosium
by Jay S. A. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/06/2012 02:57:53

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.

This is an excerpt of a full review. To read the entire review, kindly visit the article on my blog at:

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cthulhu by Gaslight
Publisher: Chaosium
by Billiam B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/05/2012 14:14:30

I'm really happy to see that Chaosium have fixed this PDF so that it is now truly sublime, gorgeous and without display errors (I originally gave a harsh review which I now humbly and gratefully retract). Since it is mainly grey scaled it will also be more printer-friendly than other ebooks/PDFs. The gaming content more than lives up to the title (although I recommend that long time Call of Cthulhu fans read the other reviews here regarding exact comparisons to the previous Cthulhu by Gaslight edition). I particularly like the literary tie-ins with books of the period (including a Martian invasion!) The handouts and maps are perfect as well as the good looking character sheets. Also Chaosium have now added an uber-useful map of London - which I believe is a "pull-out" in the printed version. Great job. Very yummy. Be careful in those dangerous foggy streets...

Billiam B.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cthulhu by Gaslight
Publisher: Chaosium
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/02/2012 09:09:47

Originally posted at:

When Chaosium sent me Cthulhu By Gaslight, Third Edition to review, the first thing I did was go to my bookshelf and pull down my second edition version from 1988 along with 1993′s Sacraments of Evil, the follow up supplement so that I could do some comparison and contrast. After all, it’s been twenty-four years between editions. I have a lot of fondness for Victorian Cthulhu as the campaign I ran my senior year of college used Gaslight and it still remains a particular favorite campaign of my friends I gamed with over a decade ago (I’m old, you see). Hell, old PC Brian Chumley, the 44 year old Barrister, had his character sheet tucked in the back of Gaslight still.

It makes sense to re-release Gaslight as 2011 saw the 30th Anniversary Edition of Call of Cthulhu. It’s always had a strong cult following and as a quarter of a century has passed since its last update, it was a smart choice to re-release this. However, this third edition is so fundamentally different from first and second edition that an attempt to compare or just cover “what’s new” would be insulting to all three editions. Third Edition has a completely different layout and is a much longer book. The original adventure, “The Yorkshire Horrors” is gone completely from the current edition and in its place are two new adventures: “The Night of the Jackals” and “The Burnt Man.” Third Edition is also a far more thorough affair. Second Edition was only 128 pages – forty-four pages of which were the adventures. Third Edition is 196 pages, fifty pages of which are for the two adventures. So Third Edition has a lot more content, twice the number of adventures and a LOT more detail. Now there is some carryover of William Barton’s original text from the previous two editions, but there’s a ton of new stuff too. I was really impressed by everything in this latest Edition and I was also intrigued by what was left out and/or changed. Either book will also pair wonderfully with Cubicle 7′s Cthulhu Britannica line for a comprehensive campaign set in the United Kingdom. Whichever you go with, you’re in for a book that is both a great gaming resource, as well as a fun read. Now, let’s take a look at each of the four sections in this latest incarnation of Cthulhu by Gaslight and let you know what you’re in for.

I. Victorian Characters

The first thing we are presented with is character creation. Now you’re probably wondering why they include rule for making a character in Cthulhu by Gaslight when the core rulebook would have this already. Well, it’s not to make this a stand-alone rulebook. It’s actually to show off some slightly new rules for character creation. Most of the rules are subtle but potential game changers. You can know put your stat rolls in any order –as long as it’s the right type of role. So your 3D6+3 rolls can go in STR, CON, POW, DEX and APP in whatever order you want. Same with the 2d6+6 rolls. The game has also modified age-related stat changes, The game originally had you lose one point of STR, CON, DEX or APP at age 50 and then every ten years of character age thereafter. This game now has this start at 40! This is a bit intense, but remember, Victorian England had shorter life spans than we now do in the 21st century. Characters also gain 1 point of EDU at 30 and then every ten years thereafter so things are balanced out – especially when you consider that point of EDU also comes with 20 skill points. Middle aged doesn’t sound so bad after all.

The game now offers Traits. These are similar to Merits and Flaws from the White Wolf Storyteller line. It’s an optional piece and it’s oddly done in several ways. First it’s optional, but if you agree to roll, you don’t have to take your result. As well, the Keeper can bribe a player to keep a negative result with 3D20 extra skill points. I don’t get any of this. First, It’s good role-playing if you end up with a negative trait. You shouldn’t have to bribe anyone to flesh out their character. Secondly, this is just going to reinforce a munchkin/power gamer attitude with the extra skill points, which is the exact opposite of the type of gamer that should be playing Call of Cthulhu in the first place. Finally, if Chaosium was worried that people wouldn’t accept their results on an optional random chart, why not create more balanced traits. Say something that gives both a positive and negative? Maybe even let gamers pick from a balanced list instead of randomizing it. It gets even weirder when you use a d6 AND a d20 to roll on the chart, You don’t add the rolls together. Instead you just look at what the separate numbers give you. So for example a roll of 6, 14 gives you “Unseen Property” where your character inherits land from someone they don’t know or have never seen. Said land, be it a building, home, business or whatever is probably going to come into play as a storyline too. Don’t get me wrong; I think the chart is neat and there are some neat ideas here. It’s just Chaosium seems all over the place with the Traits and almost afraid of implementing it. That makes sense as this is the newest rules change to the system in man, twenty plus years. Still a little tweaking in a few spots would have made that a lot smoother. That said, I know I’ll be implementing it in any CoC games I run from now on, just to see what people get and how they use them.

The rest of the chapter contains professions appropriate for the era, along with tables and lists of weapons, clothing, Victorian era terminology and more. Pretty much everything in this first chapter is exactly what I wanted.

  1. The Victorian World

This chapter is primarily flavour for the Keeper. You have timelines, a history of Victorian England, a list of British colonies, a brief commentary on the rest of Eurasia and what they were like at the time, and then a list of famous and/or noteworthy people from the era. The rest of the chapter is a look on England proper, started with a detailed look at London, followed by various region of Britain. It even has a paragraph in this section of varying accents, which I loved. You get a very detailed look at the government, crime, forms of travel, publications and anything. It’s extremely well done and this section alone is worth picking up the book for as you can easily use it for other games/systems set in Victorian England. If you want rules for coach chases, information about a specific hotel or criminal slang for characters to use if they ever get incarcerated by the bobbies, this is for you.

  1. Strange Britain

I absolutely adore this chapter as once again, it can easily be adapted to any setting or system that takes place in Victorian England. The chapter starts off with a look at various occult societies from the era like the Theosophical Society and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and t6hen it moves into things like Spiritualism. You also get a Fortean timeline, which was a brilliant idea. The chapter then moves onto to a list of spooky or ominous locations. You then get a listing of Cthulhu Mythos stories that take place in the United Kingdom and stats for things not found in the core rulebook. This chapter even gives you stats for famous fictional characters from the time period like Count Dracula & Phileas Fogg ! How cool is that? For those that are saddened by the excise of the Holmesian content from the first two editions – at least you have their stat blocks intact in this version. Strange Britain concludes itself with a NPC listing and some tips on how to run a successful Victorian campaign and/or adventure. Incredibly done from beginning to end.

  1. Gaslight Adventures

This final section of Cthulhu By Gaslight contains two adventures. One,”The Night of the Jackals” is meant to be an introductory adventure while the second, “The Burnt Man,” is meant to be for more experienced players. I’m glad they gave us two adventures, both of which are new, as it means I can own this and the second edition version of Gaslight and not feel like I’ve paid for the same book twice.

“Night of the Jackals” is an exceptionally well done adventure. It’s a murder mystery that involves a bit of the supernatural, only a subtle hint of the larger Cthulhu Mythos and a good deal of what was typical of Victorian occultism. In other words, a lot of Egyptian lore and artifacts. It’s a slow burn adventure that is designed to help one get a feel for both the system and the era. It’s perfectly balanced and the adventure can easily be run by keepers both new to Call of Cthulhu and long time vets alike.

“The Burnt Man” is an equally awesome adventure. It takes the old English faerie legends and turns them on their head Cthulhu style. This adventure also features a very subtle nod to the creatues of Lovecraftia – at least until the climax where the investigators get a full, in your face, experience with a Dark Young in a dramatic chase scene of all things. The crux of the adventure revolves around a evil old man who pissed on the Little Folk. His widow believes their home is now haunted and hires the players to discover why and how his ghost is still there. Of course, nothing is what it seems and the entire adventure is so full of twists and turns the players won’t know what to expect. Simply wonderful.

The chapter the ends with a few aides for players and Keepers alike. It gives a list of quality fiction from the Victorian Era to read, followed by books about the time period. It even gives a list of excellent Cthulhu Mythos fiction set in Britain to read. It ends with a list of other RPG systems that could easily make use of the info in this book, ranging from Masque of the Red Death (A Ravenloft offshoot) to Vampire: The Masqueade. Awesome. This is something more companies should do.

All in all, Cthulhu By Gaslight, Third Edition is easily the best Role Playing campaign book I’ve read this year. It’s amazingly well done and reminds me why I wish Chaosium would print as much as it used to in the 1990s. That being said, I can’t recommend the PDF as it was released with a massive series of errors. The PDF itself is readable but almost all the art and a good deal of the handouts are missing. There is simply blank space or an empty frame where these should be. As Chaosium PDfs are way overpriced compared to their contemporaries, I’d definitely suggest spend the eight dollars extra to get the good version of the book. I’m sure the PDF will be fixed eventually, but right now the missing art and handouts makes the PDF a shadow of the actual softcover version. Once that’s fixed, I’ll definitely recommend that with as much praise as the physical copy, but Chaosium takes a long time to fix their pdfs (if they ever do…), so keep this in mind if you’re thinking of going digital with this one.

Even though the PDF is a bit bungled, Cthulhu by Gaslight is definitely a book any Call of Cthulhu or Victorian England fan should pick up, even if they are nopt going to play an adventure and/or campaign in this setting. The book is so exceptionally done and the wealth of informative is so tremendous that this is going to be a hard book to top in 2012. Cthulhu By Gaslight is a wonderful example of how to make a near perfect RPG book. Anyone thinking about make a supplement, campaign setting, or core rulebook should read this and take notes.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cthulhu by Gaslight
Publisher: Chaosium
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/01/2012 18:25:15

I love Victorian era games. They are my favorite actually. Cthulhu by Gaslight has always been one of those rare hard to find treasures. Whether or not you play it as a gothic game, a period horror game, a darkly inspired Sherlock Holmes meets Dracula game, or as a Call of Cthulhu game there is something here for all sorts of horror game fans. It is the chocolate peanut butter cup of horror games; two great tastes that taste great together.

The book is divided up in terms of creating your Victorian age character, the Victorian world, Strange Britain, Gaslight Adventures and an a very nice Appendix on Victorian literature and some handouts.

The Victorian Age Character chapter is typical of a Call of Cthulhu game. Skills and professions are discussed. Some familiarity with Call of Cthulhu is helpful here since this book assumes you have a copy of Call of Cthulhu. Te times assumed here are 1890 to 1900. No discussion on Victorian Age characters is complete, or really can even begin without a discussion on social class, which we get during character occupations. This section is expanded over the 2nd Edition with inclusion of common terms from the age.

The Victorian World covers the world of the British Empire including it's place in the world, a time line of important dates and biographies of important people from the time. My favorite part is the locations in and around London. This chapter is well researched and great for any Victorian era RPG.

Strange Britain is a great overview of the occult scene in Britain in the 1890s. Lodges, Fortean events, and a gazetteer of strange sites in the British isles. All of these are great for all sorts of games. The Cthulhu mythos portion comes later and has some new ideas for old monsters, both mythos monsters and classic ones from the British Isles. The chapter continues with some fictional characters from the time. Though one might want to figure out how some authors can appear with their fiction creations. My favorite part though is the Martian Invasion. H.G. Wells meets H. P. Lovecraft. Some Victorian adventure campaigns are then discussed.

Gaslight Adventures helps Keepers (Game Masters) with some ready to run adventures; "Night of the Jackals" and "The Burnt Man".

The Appendix is full of great information about various sources of information on Victorian England, Sherlock Holmes, Jack the Ripper and Britain in general. Though if I have a quibble it is that the sources are a bit dated, nothing for example from the last few years.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
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