Designer: Luis MERLO
Publisher: Petersen Games
Year Published: 2021
If ever, in a dark and lonely place, you find yourself face-to-face with unspeakable horror, transfixed and unable to turn away from its twisted, seething visage, remain calm. Resist the urge to go insane. Instead, choose to dive deep into the maelstrom of madness, deep into the depths of insanity itself; and peer past the pustules of the horror’s outer skin, deep into the subcutaneous layers underneath.
There, where no sane person dare look, lie the horror’s pulsing purple viscera. All but you would run gibbering from the sight. You, however, are not like most people. You are different. You are an Investigator.
You have acquired arcane knowledge and practical wisdom from years of confronting the different. You have come to realize that knowing what makes a horror tick gives you priceless understanding; the understanding that a horror is nothing more than just another living creature. If it lives, you realize, it can be killed.
With that realization comes hope. With that hope comes courage. And, with that courage comes the ability to resist the temptation to succumb to mind-shattering oblivion.
The “Anatomical Guide to Lovecraftian Horrors” by Petersen Games is a handbook for those courageous few who would learn the physiology of the unspeakable horrors that threaten to destroy humanity. With such knowledge, new methods of confronting and dispatching these horrors may be developed.
Inside the covers of this eldritch source book (written and illustrated by Luis Merio), are fascinating studies of the biology and ecology of thirty-two inter-dimensional creatures and hybrid organisms.
Accompanying each horror entry are notes about each creature’s name, physical nature, height, and natural habitat. In addition, the Guide has numerous height and size comparison illustrations that give the reader a sense of the scale between humans and each of the creatures.
Writer Luis MERLO has done a very good job of making the unreal seem real. He does this by presenting the book’s information in the form of a field guide. Written in a clinical tone, the “Anatomical Guide to Lovecraftian Horrors” contains detailed and interesting information about each horror.
At the end of each horror’s entry in the guide, are Explorer Notes. The Guide has stylized hand-drawn illustrations that, along with the explorer notes, give the Guide the feel of a science journal that was written over the course of years.
The Guide’s primary appeal is its inclusion of dissection illustrations. Each illustration contains diagrammatic callouts that identify different parts of a horror’s anatomy.
From this information, a Keeper of Arcane Lore could devise numerous diabolical storylines.
For example: Investigators may need to locate the breeding grounds of a particular horror. So, they turn to the Guide for clues about the location of its natural habitat. Once at the location, the Investigators could carefully extract fluids from a horror’s writhing but harmless offspring.
The information in the Guide could also be useful to an Investigator with a medical background, who seeks to learn how to extract a particular gland from a specific part of the horror’s anatomy. Once attained, the gland might then be combined with rare herbs and flowers to synthesize a powerful sedative that can be administered via elephant gun to safely subdue a horror.
The sky’s the limit. Or, perhaps, the abyss is bottomless?
In this regard, the Guide is a great source book for more than just storyline ideas. Keepers can use the information within the Guide to create unique weapons, medicines, and toxins.
In my opinion, There are two areas in which this Guide can be improved upon (perhaps in a Second Printing).
The first is in the overall graphic design of the Guide. A more thematiing (Mating of theme) text font could be used for page and section headers. This would give the Guide a more visually interesting typographical appeal.
Second, given that there are long blocks of text on each page, important subheading information and keywords could be set to bold text to catch the eye. Skimming the Guide for certain information would thus be easier to do. The body text font itself is easy to read.
Third, the illustrated graphics could also be given more visual development. Illustrations and text against darker backgrounds should be inverted to a white or tan color so they have more contrast, and read better. Adding more negative space around blocks of text and images within those backgrounds would also give the text and images room to breathe.
Fourth, more grunge staining of all “paper surfaces” would weather / dirty-up the pages, and give them a more interesting appearance. As they are now, the Guide itself seems too clean-looking. And, the pages themselves lack any texture.
The next area of improvement I recommend is in adding a section or two to each horror entry in which suggested means of capture or elimination or resistance are presented. And, interesting uses for some of the anatomical components could be suggested.
This would all make the Guide a more practical tool for Investigators rather than just a source book for Keepers of Arcane Lore.
Overall, the “Anatomical Guide to Lovecraftian Horrors” looks like a very useful tool for game world idea generation and establishing unique mission goals for Keepers of Arcane Lore. Personally, I find the concept of this Guide a fascinating addition to the Lovecraftian Horror RPG game world.
Roger Cotton- Reviewer
Roger Alan Cotton is a 3D artist, graphic designer, and independent board game designer. He teaches Literature, History, Creative Writing, and Drama at a private Christian high school in Tucson, AZ.
Previously, Roger taught 3D Animation, Game Design, and Graphic Design at various colleges in San Diego, CA.