I know I’ve been doing a lot of reviews recently, but I’ve had a lot of family issues going on and I’ve been reading in the downtime between stuff going on, so I’ve just been voraciously going at anything that I can get my hands on that looks interesting. The Void looked pretty interesting to me when I first saw it, and it wasn’t disappointing. The fact that it’s Creative Commons licensed and available as pay-what-you want was particularly interesting, as I’ve always been a fan of open licensing, and even though in the past such games as Eclipse Phase have done major releases in CC they haven’t made themselves widely available for free.
First things first, The Void is Lovecraftian in many senses of the word. If one got really technical on The Void, it tends to be more action-oriented than Lovecraftian tales, and while some of the in-game fiction is both creepy in the perfect survival-horrror way and manages to pull off the Lovecraftian elements well, you’ll be looking at less true-to-Lovecraft and more Lovecraft-inspired, though that’s true of most of the things that build upon his works. However, while it’s not true to Lovecraft’s original vision because the entities can be categorized and studied, it’s still relatively truthful to Lovecraft’s thematics and the universe builds heavily upon his lore. That said, it feels really a lot more like a late Resident Evil series game than Lovecraft; nasty slimy things wanting to lay eggs within/psychically traumatize/eat the characters is a major theme, which doesn’t necessarily mesh so well with Lovecraft’s more abstract visions of the genre, but still works very well for horror.
As far as the game goes, it uses a d6 pool system that won’t feel strange to people who have played Shadowrun or World of Darkness games; roll above a certain number to get successes, then continue as you would. It’s got a lot of good design decisions, and it’s both fluid but steers clear of issues that come from, say, percentile based systems where success is too predictable/numerical, since every roll feels like a chance to either succeed wonderfully or fail miserably, reinforcing the genre feel. It’s not hyper-lethal (though an unarmored fighter will go down pretty quick), as far as rulesets go, but it’s certainly not something that treats combat lightly.
As far as the PDF goes, the text feels oddly large (it’s something like 12.5 pt, I think, which isn’t bad but sure feels kinda large), but it’s pretty and there’s lots of art; it may be available as a pay-what-you-want title, but the production values are very good; the art’s all in color and pretty lovely. Length-wise it’s not the longest, nor does it go into very much detail on any given thing, but it’s certainly got a coherent direction and it covers everything that it needs to, plus the fiction’s pretty good, though there are some bumps in quality between each of the individual opening stories. At one point there’s a repeated part with the planet outlines, which I think are meant to just be handouts but it’s still deja vu when you go back and recognize the exact same text as you saw in the beginning of the book at the end.
All-in-all, it’s got its flaws that keep it from getting a perfect rating, but The Void really accomplishes what it sets out to do; it’s a terrifying Lovecraftian space adventure game with slick and polished rules. It’s definitely worth a look, especially since you can check it out for free, and I think it’s going to get a place in my collection of things to keep on hand for a rainy day and some unsuspecting players.
If you’re interested in checking out The Void, you can get it from DriveThruRPG here.
Disclaimer: I am a featured reviewer for DriveThruRPG.