Realms of Crawling Chaos by Daniel Proctor and Michael Curtis is a gem. I'm surprised to find myself saying that really as I've been getting pretty tentacle weary lately. This Goblinoid Games release has however freshened the whole fishy eldritch genre horror for me. Realms of Crawling Chaos does cover some of the ground that other games books have in the past but it really doesn't go down and delightfully avoids aping other games.
The book begins with a look at Lovecraftian Dark Fantasy as Proctor and Curtis express it. The literary themes of the insignificance of man, the vastness of the universe, an uncaring natural world, the reality of man as an animal, superior otherworldly beings and science as a double edged sword are discussed as how they relate to the genre and the games that may flow from it. Campaign types are discussed in very loose fashion and places of significance and mystery to the realm at large are outlined.
Next we get four new character races. The races are presented to work with straight up Labyrinth Lord or in the more Advanced style. Sea Blood carry the taint of inhuman blood and are drawn to the sea where perhaps they will join the Deep Ones. Subhumans are a crossbreed of men and near-men not too different looking from neanderthals. White Apes are an ancient race that evolved in dark jungles far from human civilization that s able to create White Ape Hybrids with humans. The races in my view are interesting enough to include in a traditional campaign or be the only ones along with humankind in a campaign, they all certainly serve to question humanities place in the universe and what it means to be human.
New magic details a selection of otherworldly magics and a new area of magic in the form of the Formulae. The magic is in the main certainly supportive of the genre and an evocative addition. Formulae are presented in the same format as spells but are distinct in how they deploy a alchemical process to produce an eldritch substance. Games heavy with material components will see little distinction between spells and formulae but campaigns where spells are generally point and zap the arcane procedures of the formulae set them apart in flavor.
Monster follow along with 2 new stats for LL game beasties. The Intelligence and Psionic Strength of the monsters is noted. A number of monsters familiar to Cthulhu aficionados are present and a few I haven't seen reproduced time and again. the power scale for the new monsters goes from easily defeatable to the party killing. The old one are presented as very powerful beings but not as gods; needless to say an encounter with Abhoth, Atlach-Nacha, Azathoth, Cthulhu, Dagon, Hydra, Nyarlathotep, Shub-Niggurath, Tsathoqqua and Yog-Sothoth are all likely to be significant.
Eldritch Artifacts describes a number of devices described in some Lovecraftian tales in power and in tune with rest of the book.
Psionics presents a means for handling mental power in Realms of Crawling Chaos. It's mechanically similar of not identical to the method used in Mutant Future. Psionics are meant to represent alien powers generally unavailable to the PCs of a campaign. A number of distinct psionic powers are detailed. This section has the sloppiest editing of the whole book slipping in terminology between game systems :PS and WIL are interchanged here and there, there is no WIL stat in LL or in this book but it can be deduced it is equivalent to Wisdon or Psionic Strength.
Reading Eldritch Tomes presents an excellent set of mechanics fro digging into ancient books filled with knowledge no sane mane was meant to know. Some books are quick reads and present a little bit of knowledge (in the form of rituals/spells) without too much danger while others are weighty tome demanding much time and risk. I like the method presented and could see it's use curbing the abilities of high level MU's in a significant and fitting fashion.
Random Artifacts presents the means to randomly generate at least 1,000,000 different eldritch devices for a campaign. Each artifact has it's power determined, what object the power resides in and then a strange property. One can for example end up with: A Bell that is perpetually cold and unpleasant to handle that allows the owner to contact one of the Old Ones to ask a question of their unfathomable knowledge. The range of option is interesting and flavorful and as it is presented as a set of random tables will keep any one campaign's artifacts from being identical to another campaign's selection.
There are notes for using the Psionics with Mutant Future that are really geared to the Mutant Future Variant known as Mutants and Mazes.
Lastly there is an excellent index of literary sources that details where each bit of Lovecraftian lore in Realms of Crawling Chaos came from.
In conclusion Realms of Crawling Chaos is a supplement that explores familiar territory for RPG gamers in it's own way and makes it compatible to Labyrinth Lord (and other OSR games) without tiresome retread of what was done in the past. The art is good and evocative. As it is a supplement it is presented as a host of options to be used or ignored as a ref desires it doesn't attempt to put a straight-jacket on how the elements in the book are deployed. This is the type of book I think OSR fans and really any fantasy RPG enthusiasts with a taste for the dark side can really get their teeth into.