What’s Special About Chris Spivey’s Harlem Unbound?

What is this game?

Harlem Unbound is an RPG supplement for the game Call of Cthulhu. Before going into this game, we must understand the main game. Call of Cthulhu (abbreviated as CoC) is an RPG survivor horror game that is inspired by a short story of the game name written by famous author H. P. Lovecraft. The game used a percentile dice system to decide success or failure. There is no level system in this game; instead, it makes use of skills where player skills are good if they are healthy. The players in this game take on the role of varied characters like detectives, criminals, scholars, and soldiers. It is a dark game where players can end up in a mental asylum.

This game is a Cthulhu Mythos game that is based in the Harlem period of the 1920s to 40s. This was the time when people of African heritage celebrated their heritage and rejected stereotypes. This period was when Afro-American culture flourished. Harlem Unbound is set in those times and is a telling commentary on racism and the situation that minorities faced. It is one of the rare games where the main characters are African Americans. The game uses themes for the Mythos created by Lovecraft.

Chris Spivey and Harlem Unbound

Chris Spivey is a controversial celebrity and is a part of Indie gaming company Darker Hue Studios. Chris Spivey has used the Mythos of CoC and brought in aspects of the Harlem Renaissance to create this incisive RPG game supplement. The supplement has been brought out in the form of a sourcebook. This sourcebook is Spivey’s way of bringing to light issues like racism that was prevalent in those times. The game uses the CoC role-playing system and is published by Chaosium, who are the publishers of CoC.

After the release of the first edition of Harlem Unbound, a second edition is also in progress. The first edition was entirely published by Spivey and Darker Hue Studios. The new edition is likely to have more scenarios for the game and artwork. Coming back to the sourcebook of Chris Spivey, this book has been described by the author as a sourcebook for CoC and role-playing games that use the Gumshoe system. The book has complete rules for the game and runs to 276 pages. It directly addresses racism-related issues.

The gameplay

Harlem Unbound uses the Gumshoe game rule system. If you have not heard of this, don’t’ worry; the book tells you everything about this system and rules. This is a gaming system created by Robin Laws and has been used by CoC. The game focuses not on finding clues but on interpreting them. The game is all about scenarios and making the storyline revolve around player actions through the scenarios. The game involves rolling dice to get points or skills that decide the progress of the game. The rulebook devotes the first part to explaining the rules and introducing characters from Harlem.

The second part of the book is all about the scenarios. There are also interesting appendices with references to historical works and slang used during those times. In the game, players are investigators, with one of them being the Keeper. Racial discrimination is an element of the game and is one that players have to confront and handle, which is what Spivey wants. The game sourcebook presents many ideas that can be used to make a complete lot for a CoC game. The locations in Harlem, the settings, and the characters are well-described. Overall, this is one game that is a must-play for lovers of the pen and paper RPG genre.

 The game features

The answer to the question on what’s special about Chris Spivey’s Harlem Unbound can be found by knowing the game features:

  • The game is a supplement developed by Chris Spivey and Dark Hue Studios for the Call of Cthulhu (CoC) game.
  • Harlem Unbound addresses the uncomfortable issues of racism and uses African-American characters as the lead roles in this game.
  • The game is set in the Mythos world of H. P. Lovecraft and uses the Gumshoe gameplay system.
  • The game sourcebook has comprehensive rules explaining the game and runs to 276 pages.
  • Various scenarios are covered in the book, and lovers of pen and paper RPG are sure to love this game.
  • A second edition of the game is expected to be released, published by Chaosium.

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