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Macabre Tales rulebook $12.95
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Macabre Tales rulebook
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Macabre Tales rulebook
Publisher: Spectrum Games
by Darrin K. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/14/2013 17:27:36

My original intention with this game was to buy two copies of the hardcover full color edition.. One for myself, and one for a friend who was a massive Lovecraft fan. However those plans changed with the death of that friend. So I only ended up buying a copy for myself. Along with two sets of dominos.

This game is unique in its examination and presentation. It is not the usual role playing game. It is a storytelling game. Defined in a way that puts all other storytelling games to shame. As it actually focuses on the structure for properly telling a story.

It doesn't call what you are doing an adventure or a campaign. It simply calls what you and the player are creating a Tale. And really that's what you are doing with it. The player and Narrator working together to create a Tale.

Don't let the small size of this book deceive you. It's absolutely packed with everything you need to start spinning tales of your own.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Macabre Tales rulebook
Publisher: Spectrum Games
by William W. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/29/2011 08:47:12

Macabre Tales is a Lovecraftian pulp horror role-playing game, geared for one-shot adventures for one player and a narrator. From the retro-pulp cover to the story-driven rules to the discussions of theme and mood in Lovecraft's stories, the whole game looks and feels like a loving tribute to a favorite author.

The game mechanic involves two sets of double-six dominoes with a few pieces removed. The player keeps these as a pool to draw from during the game, and draws three face up as a hand. When an action requires a check, the narrator assigns a challenge level, then tells the player which stat (and possibly which aspect) will be necessary to complete the task. The player then plays a domino that they hope will cover the challenge rating. The outcome is based on the level of their stat, which determines which end of the domino is read (low, high, or both), and the aspect is added for a result that should meet or beat the challenge rating. Doubles and blanks get special treatment, but I'd rather not spoil all of the details of the mechanics - it's simple and elegant, and I would love to see it become the engine for other RPGs in the future.

I should point out that there are alternate rules that allow for more than one player, but they require a LOT of dominoes - two sets for each player (If you're not particular about quality, you can find cheap dominoes at your local dollar store.)

In lieu of traditional take-turns-bashing combat rules, Macabre Tales uses Tension Scenes, in which the player gains and loses Momentum Points that determine how well (or poorly) things are going for them, with the Momentum Point goal getting higher as the story develops. The player is rewarded with Genre Points for appropriate actions, cleverness, and evocative narration, which can be used to help them in future checks. It's a solid story-driven rule system.

Included are a list of sample supporting characters, stats for most of the well-known Lovecraft creatures (Deep Ones, Mi-Go, Shoggoths, et al), a list of abilities to create your own horrors, and a sample adventure, "The Cursed House." Macabre Tales is not only an excellent Lovecraft RPG, it's a great resource for how to run any Lovecraftian horror game, with tips and analysis of the themes, mood, and settings of his stories.

I often wonder, when reading, running, or playing an RPG based on the works of an author, what that author would think about how gamers are treating their creation. Reading through Macabre Tales, I get the feeling that is the RPG that Lovecraft would give his Elder Sign of approval.

Now, if I can just find a few sets of Cthulhu Mythos themed dominoes, I'll be a very happy cultist.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Macabre Tales rulebook
Publisher: Spectrum Games
by Michael C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/07/2011 20:34:40

Macabre Tales

Since I'm a fan of H.P. Lovecraft's works I was excited to get my review copy of Macabre Tales. I've been waiting for it release for some time now. I was not disappointed.

The download includes two files: one normal one, which includes illustrations as well as the page backgrounds, and then a print-friendly version which preserves the layout but removes the background and pictures. Both versions include the cover.

The book looks like an old magazine, similar to the kinds that Lovecraft wrote for. In fact, the title page features a publication date of October, 1931 and the table of contents features some clever advertisements along the side. So the immersion starts even where most games would be boring.

Next, we're treated to a short story by HP Lovecraft himself. It's a good mood setter.

Chapter One covers Lovecraft himself and his stories and what went into them to make them the classics that they are, listing the tropes involved and explaining each.

Character creation is fairly quick. I was able to build a satisfying character in a few minutes with a little thought. It's simple: pick a package of adjectives to distribute among three stats and then distribute a pool of points among aspects, which are skills and abilities. Think of a few things that are special about your character (numerous examples are given), calculate your two derived values and you have a character. Fast and simple.

Mechanic: I thought this was interesting, since I've never seen anything like it. Instead of dice or cards, like other games, Macabre Tales uses dominoes. Depending on how high your stat is, the domino that's laid down is either read with the lower side, the higher side or both added together. You add an aspect score if it applies and try and beat a difficulty number, which is not revealed to the player (scared yet?).

There also rules covering blanks and double blanks andd doubles. Also, NPC's are presented as a series of difficulty numbers instead of adjectives, which speeds up play.

The game is meant for one-on-one play with a GM (Narrator) and a player, and plays best this way, seeing as how Lovecraft's stories has one protagonist. However, if you'd like to play it as a group, there are rules to expand play.

An addition that really liked was a chapter for players. Most games come complete with a chapter for the GM, to help him along with his duties, but you never really see a player's section. This chapter has a lot of great advice for players, especially in terms of helping the Narrator tell a good story.

On the other side, though, the Narrator's section gives great advice for running a horror story, from content to story structure. There's a lot of good information here, and story even affects the mechanics.

The only shortcomings are minor things, aesthetics, really. The PDF's, both of them, don't include hotlinks in the table of contents, requiring scrolling or typing to get where you need to go.

Secondly, While I appreciate the ink-saving efforts in the printer-friendly version of taking out the illustrations, it's obvious that they were merely covered up, and they do load, which slows down the scrolling some, and then they're blocked out with white once they're loaded.

Lastly, I wish that the game had included rules for alternatives to dominoes, in case the players didn't have any and wanted to play right away. A trip to the store solves the problem, of course, but some options still would have been nice.

All in all, I think Macabre Tales does an excellent job of capturing the feel of Lovecraft's stories, from the games presentation to its play style (I do like the domino mechanic). In fact, I'd go as far to say it does it even better than current and long-time releases that are also set in the Cthulhu universe. This is definitely a storytelling game.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
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