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Minireview: Carrion Hill (Pathfinder)

Carrion Hill by Richard Pett is a newish Pathfinder module, with a somewhat unusual heritage: it’s a Pathfinder Cthulhu module. Sort of. It’s directly and deliberately influenced by Lovecraft, to the extent of using names from Lovecraft’s fiction and in having sidebars which direct people to also check out Chaosium’s “Call of Cthulhu” game. This isn’t the first time that Paizo has done something like this; there are lots of Lovecraft fans among the Paizo folk and some of the earlier modules have also contained some Cthulhu references. However, this is probably the most directly “Cthulhu” thing Paizo has done to date.

I have mixed feelings here. On one hand, it’s fun to mix and match genres a bit, and there are lots of nice scenes here. Also, the mechanic of the Big Bad’s strength depending heavily on what the PCs do is a nice one – if they just barge along without thinking, they may get their asses kicked.

On the other hand, D&D and Cthulhu are an uneasy mix. Cthulhu relies heavily on the PCs being totally out of their depth and generally helpless versus cosmic horrors, whereas D&D (which Pathfinder is a version of) is firmly in the see-monster-kill-monster genre. As a result, a lot of the potential creepiness is lost since the PCs can usually just draw swords and carve up the beastie into bite-sized chunks.

The story concerns what seems to be some sort on monster, rampaging in the misty small town of Carrion Hill. It may devolve into just a “bug hunt” but there is also food for a bit of investigation and non-combat playing here. The plot isn’t the most original of plots, but does read like a good bit of fun to play or run. The main problem, as noted, is the dilution of the horror elements in the D&D genre assumptions (i.e. “if we see it, we can kill it”). The lack of any sort of sanity mechanic in Pathfinder is also a small hinderance to this sort of thing.

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