Tag Archives: Game

Four Against the Great Old Ones

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Four Against the Great Old Ones: The Pen and Paper Solo Game of Lovecraftian Horrors [DriveThruRPG, Publisher] by Marco Arnaudo and Andrea Sfiligoi.

Arnaudo Sfiligoi Four Against the Great Old Ones

Four Against the Great Old Ones is a horror adventure game for 1-4 players with an optional referee, but it seems mostly aimed at solitaire play. The game uses simplified tabletop RPG mechanisms to represent exploration of yog-sothothery in 1920s America. A single standard die (or even a marked hexagonal pencil) suffices for all randomization in the game, and a single sheet of paper can track all the characters. A full campaign can play out in a single sitting.

The setup allows for choice of four different character classes out of a field of eight, and places these investigators in a random US city to start their expeditions. Activities have a cost in days, and characters need to determine and arrive at their final encounter (which varies among a set of diverse Old Ones) before forty days have passed on the calendar.

The first thirty pages of the book present character creation and basic mechanics for play. The remaining fifty give information on the locations and encounters–effectively one big branching scenario. There are lots of entertaining details, and the lore of the game is entirely drawn from the literary corpus of Grandpa Cthulhu and his disciples–it is insulated from additional game “mythos” elements, particularly those built up in the Chaosium and Fantasy Flight games that dominate the Cthulhvian gaming scene. Still, the flavor is more pulp adventure with Lovecraftian foes than it is weird horror.

The prescribed method of play is to mark the book with a pencil as a record of encounters already accomplished and actions no longer available, and then to go erase all those marks before the next play. But there is an “encounter checklist” page that can be copied instead (or mocked up freehand–it’s very simple).

During my first play, I only visited five of the sixteen mundane locations, plus a trip to the Dreamlands for one of my investigators. I didn’t exhaust the encounters for any of those locations, and of course I only got to sample one of the six final encounters. As it turned out, my larger itinerary starting in Chicago brought me to R’lyeh for the Cthulhu final encounter. My team (occultist William Wesley Wakeman, spy Lizabet Solventi, detective Terry Sturgeon, and medium Madame Lemuria) overcame all the foes there for encounters 1 through 6, but exhausted the possible encounter roll bonuses without getting that necessary 7. So I resigned… to the inevitability of my characters succumbing to endless cultists and weird architecture. It was nearly a draw, certainly not a win.

There is clearly a lot of re-playability in this little book, and I’m sure I will return to it.

De Profundis

You may recall mention of De Profundis previously once or twice. Not only did I review this game back around ALA’s National Game Day 2011, but there’s also a review by T Polyphilus for the Reading Room in 2012 as well, so please do take a gander at those if you hadn’t already.

Well, I’ve tossed around the idea, which I mention in passing in my review, of doing something to create a website to present the record of an ongoing session; and, I’ve put this together and think it’s ready enough to mention now. So, you may be interested in perusing De Profundis presented by the Hermetic Library, an online record of an ongoing correspondence-based psychodrama.

De Profundis is an online record of an ongoing correspondence-based psychodrama


I don’t really know where this will go or if anyone else will be interested in playing along, but given the scope of the library itself, and the Reading Room and Cadaver Synod sections, it seems like a correspondence-based esoteric and occult collaborative fiction might be something that will be fun to do that combines with other things, and entertaining for those who just want to follow along.

In the back of my mind, I can imagine various other ways this might weave into the existing library activities, such as perhaps images from the visual pool, letters and items in the cache of the Postal Potlatch, and so forth, may appear in or inspire parts of the ongoing drama … maybe. Who knows?

Anyhow, it’s a thing. What kind of thing remains to be seen, but it is a thing. And, maybe that thing will turn into a bigger thing? Check out De Profundis presented by the Hermetic Library, if you like. Follow along, if you’re entertained. Perhaps pick up a copy of the book, read through it; and join in, if you are reckless and bold enough!

Ka Bala

Ka Bala: The Mysterious Game that Foretells the Future was produced by Transogram in 1967 and is an interesting hybrid balancing roulette talking board combining divination by letters, astrology and tarot that has a pretty fantastic kitschy design. It even glows in the dark.

samstoybox image of the Ka Bala board

samstoybox image of the Ka Bala box


There’s a bit of history about the Ka Bala at via the Museum of Talking Boards. An additional page has some captures from the comic that was used to advertize the device. You can even consult the Ka Bala via an interactive online version.

“If there was a contest for the weirdest talking board of all time, ka-bala the Mysterious Game that Foretells the Future, would win unequivocally. From the eerie green glow-in-the-dark board, to the smashed dragon impaled by the Eye of Zohar, ka-bala gives new meaning to the word “bizarre.” You and a partner are instructed to start the game with the chant: “PAX, SAX, SARAX, HOLA, NOA., NOSTRA.” From this point on, anything can happen as the two of you, with your hands on the “Solary Projectors,” roll a black marble around the channel that circles the board and wait for it to come to rest at one of the many symbols. Depending on the “Astral Plane” chosen, the future is revealed by letters and numbers like a talking board, or by Tarot cards placed in specially designed “wells,” or astrologically by the zodiac conveniently spelled out in bas-relief around the perimeter of the board. Care must be taken not to get too carried away as you play since the black marble has a tendency to leave the channel and fly across the room like a bullet. Did I mention that the Eye of Zohar follows your every move? The instruction sheet that comes with ka-bala is especially helpful. All the rules are presented in great detail along with the sage advice that the lights must be on in order to read the Tarot cards.” [via]


Krampage is an iOS game from Funny Garbage where you play the role of Krampus capturing bad children. [HT Laughing Squid]


Krampage iOS game from Funny Garage

“We all know the story of Santa Claus, but this is another kind of Christmas tale . . . THIS is the story of Santa’s evil counterpart Krampus, the Christmas demon. He seeks out bad little boys and girls to punish them and carry them off into the night!

This fast paced and fun casual game is THE iPhone and iPad app for the holidays. Brought to you by Funny Garbage, New York’s premiere digital design and interactive entertainment company.

Available now from the iTunes app store.

Merry Krampus one and all!” [via]


Moreover, this game is available free for iOS via iTunes.

“A fast paced and fun casual game featuring Santa’s evil counterpart Krampus!
Help Krampus go on a KRAMPAGE by guiding him out of Hell and into the homes of misbehaving children to teach them a lesson for their bad deeds!”

“So get into the Krampus spirit . . . Its time to go on a KRAMPAGE!!!

Merry Krampus one and all!” [via]


Krampage iOS game screenshot

Krampage iOS game screenshot 2


The Origin of the Game of Pirate Bridge by Aleister Crowley in Vanity Fair, Jan 1917.

“But, more delightful than anything else, is the change in the actual play introduced by the fact that partners are not always playing across the table. One’s dummy may be exposed across the table, or at one’s immediate right or left. Finessing, and ‘leading through,’ become much more interesting and important when two partners are sitting next to each other. The whole technique of the play of the cards at once becomes a great deal more diversified, unexpected and subtle.” [via]

The Origin of the Game of Pirate Bridge by Aleister Crowley in Vanity Fair, Jan 1917.

“LET me draw a picture! In auction, I bid a heart, but only with fear and trembling, because my partner may not have any hearts at all. In the new game of Pirate I can bid two hearts and feel more or less certain that either the man—no matter where he sits—with the hearts or the man with the aces and kings, is going to accept me as a partner and so save me from ignominy and ruin. After a bid has been accepted, and a partnership thus established, the next player can make a higher bid, when anybody can accept that bid and so establish a new partnership, and so on indefinitely.” [via]

The Origin of the Game of Pirate Bridge by Aleister Crowley in Vanity Fair, Jan 1917.

“Luckily for the readers of Vanity Fair, it will be he who is to explain, month by month, to its card-loving subscribers the best way to combine pleasure with profit at Pirate Bridge. I must not encroach upon his province of scientific explanations, but I should like to point out six major advantages of the game of Pirate:

First: You can—if you are clever—avoid tying yourself up with a tedious or idiotic partner.

Second: The hands which will work best together tend to come together as partners.

Third: Fewer final bids are set back, this shortening the duration—and bother—of every rubber.

Fourth: Every player is playing for himself. Four individual scores are kept, all independent.

Fifth: You may feel inclined to blame someone for ‘accepting’ you, when the hand goes wrong; but you are not tied to him for a rubber.

Sixth: It is a first-rate game for the man who fancies his own individual play, and has many of the best elements of poker.” [via]