I finally got around to running Herald: Lovecraft & Tesla, a Savage Worlds tabletop roleplaying game from Ravendesk Games and Action Lab Comics, and I really like the game. I would say this is pulp style of Cthulhu but honestly it all depends on your GM style. You could easily run this game in a pulp fashion or a hardcore Lovecraftian Cthulhu style. I had loads of fun running an adventure over the last two weekends even though there were some flaws that I should have anticipated before running it. I think the game I ran started out as a pulp version but by the time we got to the last scene it was more reminiscent of a Cthulhu game where 2 of the 3 player characters died and the last ran away in babbling frenzy of fear. MUWAHAHA!
This 180 page book contains the typical character creation and setting rules along with new edges and hindrances. The first 57 pages contains the player section while the remainder of the book is for the GM's eyes only. Included within are 45 pregenerated Novice characters, 5 Seasoned characters, and 5 Veteran characters. You also get a character sheet, a two page spread of 20's slang, a 10 page bestiary, 6 one sheets, and 5 adventures. As part of the Kickstarter campaign I took part in, I also got an adventure titled A Fistful of Dholes.
The setting book itself is a rather fast read that I enjoyed. In this game the players are part of the Mythos Resistance, a secret organization of people from all walks of life (mostly famous people and celebrities) who are trying to protect John Q Public from the invasion of unnatural beings during the roaring 20's. They "keep the world safe and ignorantly blissful." Cosmic horror and invaders from beyond the stars is what this game is all about. There isn't any magic therefore there are no arcane backgrounds. Saying there isn't magic is a rather broad statement but it doesn't mean there isn't really magic. It just means that if it’s not normal or un-explainable then it’s not natural or "unnatural". There certainly could be magic in your version but in order to maintain the pulpy feel of the game then it should be explained in a way such as weird science rather than magical.
This setting uses the Fear mechanic from the Savage Worlds Deluxe core rulebook with a slight twist. It's up to the GM when a Fear check is called for but it shouldn't be used for anything weird or mysterious. This is more for Cosmic horror or unnatural encounters. "Being surprised by a bear in the woods is natural." Seeing giant 3 foot long worms erupting from a rotting corpse towards you is a Fear check. They also replace the d20 fright table with a 2d6 Cosmic Horror Chart. While you can still use the standard fright table, this new chart changes things up a bit. Most notably by removing the heart attack effect.
If you've already purchased other Cthulhu style games then this book may not be for you. Don't get me wrong, this is a good book but the ideas presented here aren't entirely new. What you're getting are some new edges, hindrances, Tesla tech gear, lots of pregenerated characters, bestiary, and some adventures to run. Having said that, I think it's worth the $24.99 PDF price tag. The artwork is fantastic and looks like it came straight out of the comic books. The style and feel of this game via the artwork, time period, and Tesla inventions are what sets it apart from other Cthulhu games.
I decided to run the Dhole adventure for my friends Blaine, Jamie, and Stephen. As I said before, I had a blast putting my friends in the Mythos Resistance and seeing how they reacted to the situations they were put in. This adventure had two major flaws that I should have caught beforehand. One was a scene where the player characters talk to a condescending university professor as one of the clues they were provided. This scene has way too much information to convey to the players that it almost fell apart halfway through. There's nearly a full page and a half of text that your supposed to read aloud along with a requirement to have them pass a short oral exam of what they just listened to. If they fail the exam then they miss out on some vital information. I should have anticipated this ahead of time and adjusted how the information was conveyed. The second flaw comes in the final scene where the players are supposed to summon an Egyptian demi-god who helps them eliminate the threat. The problem with this is that it turns into an NPC vs NPC encounter taking away any heroic acts of the player characters. I think the right word for this is anticlimactic.
As a side note, I just saw that the characters should have had some equipment that is supposed to be standard issue. The Lightning Pistol is a hand held lightning bolt projector that ignores armor. Oh well, at least I know for next time. Sorry fellas, I'm just a dumb dora that's full of banana oil.
As far as the setting book goes, I'd give it 4 out of 5 Jalizaran Moons. I think the sheer number of pregenerated characters and combination of one sheets and adventures bump it up a notch. The adventure A Fistful of Dholes on the other hand would get 3 out of 5.
P.S. Some friends of mine have a new podcast about the Genesys RPG from Fantasy Flight Games. It's called Finding The Narrative: A Genesys RPG Podcast. The link will take you to Podbean and you can also find them on the Nerds-International Google+ subcategory page. Check it out and you wont be disappointed.