Review: Spectrum Games – A Translation of Evil (Macabre Tales)

Macabre Tales: A Translation of Evil
A Translation of Evil written by John Almack is a pulp, Lovecraftian, horror adventure for the Macabre Tales system from Spectrum Games.
By Cape Rust

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What if it were possible for a book to actually be evil? What if the written words themselves had the ability to inflict harm upon the reader? If so, how do you fight something that is, in essence, only an idea on a page? Will the protagonist succeed in translating this vile tome or will his fate be far more sinister?


A Translation of Evil is an 18 page adventure designed for a single protagonist but can be adjusted to accommodate a few more. The adventure is broken down into three acts as prescribed in the Macabre Tales core rulebook.


Normally the 2nd adventure for any game system tends to have better editing but weaker storylines or concepts, Spectrum Games did not fall into that trap. A Translation of Evil maintains that “there is something around the corner, I don’t know what it is, but I know it can kill me” feeling that H.P. Lovecraft was so good at conveying.


Publication Quality: 9 out of 10
The cover of A Translation of Evil looks like a Macabre Tales product. Spectrum Games is doing a good job establishing the Macabre Tales brand. By sticking with the same dark feel of the covers there is no doubt that this is a horror game. Stephen Shepherd’s cover art let me know that there is definitely something lurking in the darkness just outside of the candle light and whatever it is, it can’t be good. All of the pages look weathered and pulpy as they did in previous products. However, the illustration on page 14 seemed disconnected and not relevant to the adventure.

Mechanics: 9 out of 10
Macabre Tales is a dice-less system that uses dominoes to resolve conflicts. Because the dominoes-based system is so different from traditional dice-based systems, it requires some adjustments on both the player and the Storyteller’s part. The system is good and it makes sense but it still requires adjustment. The three act format works for this type of game and I applaud Spectrum Games for using it. Macabre Tales is designed for a storyteller and a single protagonist. This is great if you find your gaming curtailed because you can’t get 3 or 4 players together on the same night.

Value Add: 9 out of 10
Because Macabre Tales is such a new system, A Translation of Evil doubles the amount of support material that is currently available to the system. Spectrum Games is far from a fire-and-forget developer and I know that Ms. Miller and her crew are working diligently to produce more adventures for this innovative system. Most of the situations and even the plot line encountered in this adventure can be adapted to most Lovecraft inspired settings.

Overall: 9 out of 10
I have been impressed with Macabre Tales and its unflinching efforts to bring the true spirit of H.P Lovecraft to the tabletop. This adventure is not a good fit for those people who are only good at running an adventure as-written. The key to success when running this adventure is to read the entire adventure before running it, read it again, then try to anticipate what your player might do or identify places where your prospective player might need better hints or information. Following the grand tradition of H.P. Lovecraft in A Translation of Evil, nothing is as it seems. John Almack shows skill and a true understanding of what horror should look like with A Translation of Evil. It is easy to tell that he is an author who truly loves his craft.

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