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Ripples From Carcosa
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/09/2014 06:20:36
Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/07/23/tabletop-review-ripples-
-from-carcosa-call-of-cthulhu/

Ripples From Carcosa originally started life as a Monograph, which is a Call of Cthulhu piece usually done by a single person. The art is minimal, the editing and layout are done by the author and they are generally barebones pieces that cost a lot less compared to full-fledged releases, but quality on these things varies. Something about Ripples From Carcosa convinced Chaosium to re-release it with new art, edited and added content and a snazzy new full color cover. Now this isn’t the first time a monograph has been given an upgrade so to speak. Cthulhu Invictus, for example, started off as a simple Monograph and now it is a full-fledged setting! I actually own the original Ripples From Carcosa monograph and while I enjoyed it for what it was, I wasn’t really sure what they were going to do to it. Well, the fact the new version has twenty pages more content, new art, some editing and retolling, in addition to the new PDF being HALF the cost of the original Monograph – well, why wouldn’t I throw money at this thing???

Well actually, before we get to the positive side of the review (which admittedly sounds like a commercial for this piece), there are three minor reasons why you might not want to pick this up. Let’s get those out of the way in case they are dealbreakers for you. The first is that this new version of Ripples From Carcosa is done with Seventh Edition rules and Mechanics. Now, 7e isn’t out yet, which may make you want to wait to purchase this as. As well 7e has some very mixed reactions from the CoC fanbase, which happens with any game whenever a new edition comes out. So if you are interested in Ripples From Carcosa but don’t want to put the time into using the conversion guide in the back of this release, or you have no interest in moving on to Seventh Edition, considering getting the Monograph version. The second reason is that Ripples From Carcosa takes in three different settings: Cthulhu Invictus, Cthulhu Dark Ages and End Time. Because of these three different setting, you might feel like you need to buy all three books to play Ripples From Carcosa. You don’t, but as some publishers do like to do that passive aggressive hard sell of their other products in that fashion (Paizo, I’m looking at you), you might read this as a hard sell of these other books, which drives up the cost of Ripples From Carcosa a LOT. Thankfully, the book tries to alleviate this feeling by giving advice, tips and setting information about all three time periods. This helps, but not as much as if you were say, a Keeper that owned the three books Ripples From Carcosa references and are experienced with all three. You can still run Ripples From Carcosa just fine and you don’t need the three other sourcebooks to make it work, but I can’t deny you will get more out of the adventure with a keeper who has done his or her homework and is somewhat familiar with both Invictus and Dark Ages to make the imagery of the pieces come more alive.

Finally, anal retentive Mythos pursists might have a problem with the way Hastur and the King in Yellow are portrayed in this collection. Here you’ll find the Great Old One as extremely malevolent, cruel and downright evil. We’re talking supervillain or tying a damsel to a railroad track evil. Obviously this is quite different from how the original authors Ambrose Bierce and Robert Chambers presented these characters. It’s even very different from Lovecraft’s take on Hastur, which was different from the original authors of these characters, which is my point. This is one author’s interpretation of the characters and while it is very different from the creators, that doesn’t make it inherently bad. The adventures are still extremely fun and well designed. I mean, I’m a pretty diehard Chambers fan and I have enjoyed both versions of Ripples From Carcosa in spite of this interpretation of these characters because it’s a GAME. It’s not as if this version will somehow erase the original (correct) versions of these characters from the collective unconsciousness. Sure, this version of Hastur is similar to what Derleth did with the character but in the exact opposite direction (Derleth made Hastur kind of the “Good” Great Old One), but you know what, as diehard a Hastur/KiY fan as I am, I enjoyed Derleth’s very different interpretation of the GOO and I enjoyed Ripples From Carcosa even if the Hastur here is as far from the more benign god both Bierce and Derleth saw him as. If the thought of Hastur as sort of a mustache twirling Nyah-ha-ha’ing “I can’t pay the Rent/You must pay the rent!” evil-doer makes you angry enough to want to go to some message board and start venting with copious amounts of profanity, then man, just don’t buy this. Also, learn to take games less seriously.

So let’s talk Ripples From Carcosa. This collection features three adventures, each from a very different time period, roughly 1,100 years apart each time. The collection is designed to be a short campaign, although there is no real reason why you can’t play these adventures as stand alones if only one or two calls out to you. Each stage of Ripples From Carcosa features pre-generated characters. You don’t have to use them, but segments of each adventure were written with these characters in mind, so if you run different characters than the ones included, the Keeper has a bit of work to do to ensure things run smoothly. As well, all three adventures are interconnected with each time period using reincarnations of the previous characters. At certain points in the adventure, the characters can receive Cthulhu Mythos and Hastur Lore points earned from their previous incarnations. This is really neat and helps to make the campaign stand out as something really unique. Each adventure is very different from the last, so it’s not like you’ll be replaying the same thing three different times with only the backdrop changing. The end result is a very memorable campaign where even if your characters die horribly or go totally insane in one adventure, you’ll get another shot at stopping Hastur’s machinations down the road. Unlike a normal campaign where you are probably pulped by tentacles, locked away in an asylum or take your own life.

The first adventure, “Adventis Regis” takes us to the time of the Roman Empire. The Investigators are having a lovely time at a resort town, where they and their families are relaxing, playing and seeing the sites. One of the highlights of the trip will be a performance of a new play by Livius Carbo, who has been a bit of an eccentric shut-in as of late. If you’re a fan of Call of Cthulhu at all, you can probably connect the dots here. Anyway, as the date of the play’s first public performance draws closer, things start to get a bit creepy and people seem to be a bit out of sorts. No matter, you’re on vacation, right? Well, when the PCs get back from a scenic cruise, everything has gone to hell. An entire town has gone insane. Whoops. Can the Investigators survive long enough to discover what has happened and if there is a way to stem the tide of madness?

This is a really fun adventure that in some ways reminds me of a survival horror video game. It’s less terror oriented and more action-packed that most CoC pieces, and players will really have to be on their toes here. Stealth skills are VERY helpful here, but only one or two of the pregens has it at a decent enough level. Oddly enough the slave character has a higher Stealth than the professional Thief. Anyway, “Adventis Regis” isn’t necessarily a hard battle, but it is different enough from a lot of Call of Cthulhu adventures that the usual tropes of Library use and the like won’t be of much help here. The piece is creepy like a modern horror movie rather than filled with a sense of alien dread, and that’s okay as “Adventis Regis” is a fine way to start off this collection and helps set the stage for the two adventures to come, along with the eons-long grudge the Investigators will have with Hastur.

The second adventure, “Herald of the Yellow King” is our Dark Ages piece and it is somewhat similar to a few other King in Yellow adventures out there in that the players have to stop a local town (their own in this case) from melding with Carcosa. This is a pretty long adventure as character will be travelling all over the countryside to several small villages trying to piece together the strange occurrences in the fiefdom. It’s a very creepy piece and is by far the most traditional Call of Cthulhu adventure in the collection. The different villages and what befalls them are a great part of the fun and really helped to make this my favorite adventure of the three. There’s a lot of weird happenings, a mystery to solve and at the core of things, a truly tragic tale where all of this horror could have been prevented had people not been well…the kind of thoughtless jerks people usually are.

Although combat is a big part of the adventure, and there is a good chance the Investigators will thrown down with the King in Yellow itself, words and writing will actually win the day here (as opposed to the previous adventure) which really helps to showcase how different each piece in this collection is, even while they as so inter-connected. I also loved how the adventure has six different endings. Now that’s well thought out! This adventure also has the best artwork in the collection. There are some amazing KiY images here.

If you are only going to play a single adventure out of Ripples From Carcosa, this will probably be the one you pick. It’s also the easiest adventure to adapt to another system. I found this converts very easily to Dungeon Crawl Classics and Lamentations of the Flame Princess for example. It’s the right time period and it’s sufficiently weird enough that fans of those games would never know they were actually playing something steeped in BRP mechanics.

Finally we come to “Heir to Carcosa,” which will be the piece people will either really like or really hate. It’s set in the middle of the 22nd century in a reality where Earth has been taken over by Great Old Ones. The time was right, R’lyeh rose and things went quickly to hell. The Investigators are now part of a colony amongst the asteroids along with some Elder Things, a few Yithians and some occasional M-Go that act as trading partners. It’s an interesting concept but one that is more Derleth than Chambers, Bierce or Lovecraft so some people might dislike it on that grounds.

Anyway, the Investigators in this time period are happily living on the colonies when their Mi-Go trading partners let them know about a ship from Earth in the general vicinity. The colony orders you to intercept the vessel and prevent it from returning home, lest they reveal their whereabouts of the colony and risk it being conquered in the same manner as Earth. From there you get all sorts of craziness. You find out the earth ship is as insane as its crew members (almost HAL style), you get an unexpected and interesting tie-in with the first adventure in the collection. You get a slight flashback to our own current era (kind of) and you even get to encounter the daughter of Hastur and perhaps even kill her! This does not make pappy too happy by the way. “Heir to Carcosa is a bit of on-rails adventure compared to the previous two as it is very straight-forward without a lot of room for deviation. It’s perhaps the least satisfying as it just kind of peters out in the climax without any real resolution (run until Hastur gets bored or eats you), although you do get a schmaltzy end to the story and campaign as a while. The idea of all these races working together in space to avoid GOO detection was a fun concept and the adventure itself where you’re exploring a creepy lunatic spaceship, playing psychoanalyst to a computer via virtual reality and trying to take out the daughter of Hastur is all very outside the usual things you encounter with Call of Cthulhu adventures. Although it’s not something I’d want to play regularly, as a one-time end to a campaign or for a change of pace, this was a lot of fun.

So Ripples From Carcosa still remains as enjoyable as it ever was. I remember when it first came out I described it to people as, Hellraiser: Bloodlines with Mythos creatures instead of Cenobites and without Alan Smithee.” With an eleven dollar price tag for the PDF, this is a real steal. Sure it is VERY different from the usual CoC campaigns and adventures, but that’s kind of the point. There’s only so many times you can play the same old Deep One or Shaggai related adventures without things getting humdrum. Ripples From Carcosa takes a chance by doing something very different: allowing players to experience three different time periods in one mini-campagin and being different enough from the usual Call of Cthulhu pieces that it stands out as a truly memorable experience. Aside from the four potential dealbreakers I mentioned at the beginning of the review, this is a great way to not only test out Call of Cthulhu, Seventh Edition but also three other available settings besides the usual Gaslight/1920s/Now options we all tend to cling to.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ripples From Carcosa
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The Gods Hate Me
by Colin W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/26/2014 13:21:15
These scenarios for Cthulhu Invictus are all wonderfully laid out and well written. This isn't your typical MU Monograph, there's some nice production value here. If you're looking for some varied scenarios to round out your CI collection with, this is your buy.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Gods Hate Me
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Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Quick-Start Rules
by Jefferson D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/12/2014 12:07:53
This has really made me look forward to the next edition of CoC. Clearly written rules & even character creation is included. Definitely worth the price of FREE :)

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Quick-Start Rules
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Horror Stories From The Red Room
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/08/2014 14:31:42
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2013/11/05/tabletop-review-horror--
stories-from-the-red-room-call-of-cthulhu/

Chaosium Monographs are pieces that are largely edited and laid out by the author(s) in question rather than by the actual employees of the publisher. Because it is generally very hard for a writer to edit or even see their own mistakes, Monographs can be very hit or miss in terms of quality. More often than not, they are filled with typographical, grammatical and editorial errors that would have easily been caught by a different pair of eyes. Now, this is not an across the board condemnation, but rather a generalization. After all, there are some great monographs that have been of a higher quality than some full fledged Call of Cthulhu releases. Just look at Mysteries of Ireland and Children of the Storm. I’d put those up as some of the best monographs, and easily some of the better Chaosium releases, in some time. Unfortunately, Horror Stories From the Red Room is one of those products that gives monographs a bad name, as the adventures are sub-par and the editing is just terrible. I think this is the first Chaosium release in two years that I have to say up front, “Wow, this is a stinker. DO NOT BUY!” to.

You know something has gone horribly wrong the second you go to the table of contents page. Now, the monograph is only 108 pages long, yet the table of contents seems to think this piece is over 150 pages long. “Dear Ladies,” the first adventure in the collection, is the only one listed as starting on the correct page, which is 5. From there on, it goes insane. “Horror Stories From the Red Room” supposedly starts on page 39. It actually starts on page 16. “Northanger Abbey and the Necronomicon” is listed as starting on pages 150-152, and then the next adventure, “Splatter Punks,” is listed as starting on page 154. The final adventure, “Three Maidens of Bingen,” is listed as starting on page 144. Oh my god, how did this get through publishing? There were seven authors on this thing, which implies seven editors, and not a single one noticed how messed up the Table of Contents was? It’s the first thing players and purchasers will see! Unfortunately, I bring up the Table of Contents in great deal because it is a perfect example of how badly done this book is in all respects, with the adventures generally being poorly written and edited with this same lack of regard for quality. I’d actually be ashamed to be one of the authors in this collection, which is sad, because there are some good CoC writers in the mix that simply just half-assed their way through this collection.

The first adventure is “Dear Ladies,” and it’s the best of the bunch. It’s the only one to stick to the original theme of the piece, which is Chaosium’s yearly Halloween offering, and it’s mostly free of errors. I should also add it’s the only adventure any of us found to be any fun to actually play through. “Dear Ladies” is a black comedy about two elderly ladies whose neighborhood feud has gone from petty comments and cruel pranks to a mutual decision to inflict homicide upon the other. One lady decided to just break in and beat the other one down. The second lady decides to use the power of the occult to summon a “demon” from another dimension to commit murder at her behest. A little bit extreme, but hey. This is where the Investigators come in. They’re here for a Halloween party thrown by one of the two women, so they have an alibi when everything goes nutty. Can the players keep both women from fulfilling their murderous desires while keeping a classic Mythos creature at bay? This is definitely a well laid out and potentially amusing adventure, and it’s the crown jewel of the lot. 1 for 1.

The second story is the titular adventure for this piece, “Horror Stories from the Red Room.” Unfortunately, it’s not very well done at all. For example, the piece takes place in a two floor estate, and it provides you with a map of both levels. This is fine in theory, but not in follow through. You see, each room on the map is numbered on the map, but it does not list which room is which. Conversely, the text of the adventure gives a description of each room, but does not correlate to which number on the map they correspond to. Another example of sloppy editing. The adventure is also missing details like the approximate year the adventure takes place (although you can surmise it by reading the text and inferring the author’s intent), and there are some odd decisions, like having the Investigators being paid $20 flat to investigate the history of some paintings and their creator. I have a feeling the author has no idea how long authentication and historical research into little known figures actually takes, as twenty dollars for a group of people to do this would be chicken feed, even in the 1920s. The piece is littered with huge and obvious inaccuracies that a good Keeper can catch and fix before playing, but that should have been the author’s or an editor’s job in the first place. Finally, the adventure relies far too heavily on the idea that the players and/or Keeper have Secrets of San Francisco, and the adventure cannot be played to its potential without it. One of the big cardinal rules of adventure writing is never to make a piece so reliant on a single not core rule book that it can’t be played without it, but that’s the case here. With all the errors in this piece, I’m shocked Chaosium chose it for publication. It’s just bad in all ways across the board, both to read and to sit through. 1 for 2.

Next up is “The Inheritance,” and while it is a fairly standard, paint by numbers haunted house adventure, it’s well written (especially by the standards of this piece). It uses a lot of tropes such as time loops (It felt like I was reading about The 7th Guest at times…), an inability to leave once Investigators have entered the building in question and a ghostly mystery that only the players can solve. Again, all stuff we’ve seen before numerous times, but the adventure is laid out well, organized nicely and it flows properly. It might make a good adventure to start a campaign or to introduce people to Call of Cthulhu, but more experienced players may find it dull and too familiar. 2 for 3.

Our fourth adventure is “His Pleasant Dream Was Shattered” and it’s not very good. The premise is that an eccentric alcoholic millionaire has caused a bit of trouble and may be sent to Arkham Asylum due to what appears to be a tenuous grasp on reality. Investigators are hired to… well, do a lot of crap actually. They have to keep him out of the asylum, keep him from going to jail, break his ties with local mob affiliates and help him confront the root of his once subtle madness. This adventure is just far too busy and all over the place, with tasks that the Investigators have to accomplish. Worse, if the players fail at a single task, the adventure ends in spectacular failure, and that’s just nonsensical. So are some of the solutions to these tasks, one of which involves taking the client, somehow finding family remains that were eaten by ghouls FOUR YEARS AGO, and then killing one of the ghouls whose only offense was being seen by this schmuck and whose pack actually went out of its way not to kill him when they met previously. This is just so stupidly written, and the goals the author has set out to accomplish wouldn’t actually cure the client of his depression, madness, alcoholism and more. For the ghoul goal, why not just show him they are real? Hell, any experienced Cthulhu character would go, “Oh, there are absolutely ghouls in this crypt? Let’s bring some assorted meat based leavings and bargain with them to go somewhere else.” If only, because human on ghoul violence generally turns out very bad for the humans in this game. Randomly murdering something, even a Mythos Creature, that is just doing what comes naturally to it would be a sanity loss in any other adventure, but not here. No, this really needed an editor to straighten out a lot of plot incongruities and issues that are quite obvious just in reading the piece, much less trying to make it playable. This really needed two or three passes by an editing table before being considered fit to print. 2 for 4.

“Northanger Abbey and the Necronomicon” is adventure number five, and it’s in the same vein as the terrible mashups like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters or Wuthering Heights and a Werewolf that were all the rage several years ago and quickly burned out. Not only is this adventure riding on the coattails of an idea that has long since become passé, the author picked yet another Jane Austen novel to mashup with something horrific. If you’re going to ape an idea already done by someone else, why not pick an author from the same time period who has been overlooked? Even the Restoration period! That hasn’t been touched except for Samuel Pepys, who’s diary has already been used in numerous horror and mythos mashups. Edmund Burke, John Locke, Samuel Johnson, John Bunyan, William Blake, Hugh Walpole. Get creative people!

The adventure itself is loosely based on the novel Northanger Abbey, but mashed up with Cthulhu Mythos references like Hastur worship, byakhee summoning, vengeful ghosts from beyond the grave and mind swapping rituals. It’s interesting, but unless you know the book, the adventure loses what little charm it has, and if you or any of your players do know the book, you risk someone nitpicking the adventure to death or complaining about where and how the adventure deviates from the book. It’s kind of a lose-lose situation here, and the adventure is best read rather than played… but then that’s not a good thing to say about an adventure. I will say that the adventure can be a lot of fun if played with a very specific makeup of players and a Keeper that knows his or her Austen in addition to CoC mechanics, but that’s just too niche of a target audience to make this recommended. 2 for 5.

The sixth adventure is “Splatterpunks” or “Splatter Punks.” The name of the adventure changes throughout the monograph, again giving a nod to the terrible editing job in this piece. It’s an outside the box adventure, taxing place in the 1980s, and is a nod to weird horror movies like Ghoulies, Critters, Troll and other films from that era that had somewhat comical monsters wreaking havoc on a town. The adventure feels like it would work better with Chill or Cryptworld mechanics, but that doesn’t make it a bad fit for Call of Cthulhu – merely something that is very different from the norm, and as such, players may dislike it for its lack of anything relating to the usual CoC moods, themes and monsters. Now, while it’s not personally an adventure that would be my first choice (or even my second) to run for Call of Cthulhu, it is very well written, and I appreciate that it eschews all the usual done to death bits of the system and setting. I also had far more fun with this adventure than I thought I would, and this ended up being my second favorite in the collection. I also think this adventure has the best art in the monograph – such as it is.

The adventure involves a bunch of teenagers accidentally summoning a pack of murderous goblins to their town through the arcane ritual of playing a song backwards on a heavy metal album. What do you know – it actually worked! Of course, there is a little more to it than that, but it’s a cute take on classic 80′s urban legend (The only one I was ever able to make a hidden message appear on was by “Weird Al” where it said, “Satan eats Cheese Whiz.”) The investigators are either kids from the town or their usual characters that have the bad luck of passing through once the ritual has been completed. Players then have to try and find a way to send the goblins back to their own dimension, before they burn, pillage and murder everything in the little town. I will say the adventure had some unexpected comic relief, as one of the goblin summoning kids just happened to be named Matt Hardy. The adventure was then filled with constant jokes about his name, ranging from “Fat Hardy” whenever he ate, to people saying “Matt Hardy… WILL NOT DIE!” whenever he escaped a potentially dangerous situation. Note to authors: never name your characters after pro wrestlers, especially in a horror game, as the suspension of disbelief goes out the window entirely and cannot be rebottled. Still, “Splatterpunks” is a more comical adventure than most, so it actually fit the mood the adventure was trying to create. The biggest criticism I have about the piece is it refers to a previously published monograph but doesn’t give its name. Instead it just lists it as “CHA0404.” Most people don’t know a tabletop publication by its internal call letters. Some more bad editing. 3 for 6.

Our last adventure is “Three Maidens of Bingen.” Now, I have a confession to make. I have reviewed well over a thousand products in the past eleven years, and god knows that since I have been writing for and about the gaming industry, I have encountered some truly god awful adventures or video games. Things so bad that, without hyperbole, I have mentioned that I would rather face bodily harm than spend time with that product again AND MEANT IT. While “Three Maidens of Bingen” is far from being that level of awful, it is the first adventure that has ever been so dull, dry and boring that I FELL ASLEEP reading it. I’m a guy that reads extremely dry non-fiction for fun, so you would think I’d be immune to what was the equivalent of “Ben Stein in Ferris Buller’s Day Off” dull, but no. This was such a stinker I literally fell asleep trying to wade through this piece. It also didn’t help that, at twenty pages, this was the LONGEST adventure in the collection as well. Ugh. I’m sure the author isn’t normally this bad. I think he just got overzealous with putting every minute detail he could think of into the adventure, and it just magnified his already dry and dull writing style. Just be warned, if you do buy this, have some caffeine handy. Why am I allergic to caffeine, dammit?

“Three Maidens of Bingen” is for use with Cthulhu Invictus, a campaign setting taking place during the golden age of Rome. Thankfully, the adventure gives you enough information that you don’t actually need the campaign setting books to play through this. Unfortunately, you have to deal with the writing style to get the pertinent information. The crux of the adventure is that river shipping is being blocked, causing commerce to die down and tensions to grow. There are several possible red herrings as to what could be at the root of the problem, from River Pirates to supernatural entities. The players have to find out what is going on and stop it before anarchy reigns. Sadly, the idea is as dull and formulaic as the writing style, but there are some interesting ideas. I think that in the hands of a better writer, this could have been a lot better. Perhaps the author would work better as an idea man rather than a scripter? All in all, this was the worst adventure in the collection, and considering there are some real turkeys in here, that says something. 3 for 7.

So out of seven adventures, only three are any good, and of those three, there is only one that I think would be fun for a large cross section of Call of Cthulhu fans. Horror Stories from the Red Room is a perfect example of how a monograph can go spectacularly wrong. Bad ideas, bad adventures and certainly bad editing litter this piece from beginning to end, and I can safely say this monograph is not only the worst offering from Chaosium in several years, but is something to be avoided unless you foolishly agreed to review it. You know, like me. Save your money and your sanity points, dear readers, and pick up something else instead.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Horror Stories From The Red Room
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Mysteries of Ireland
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/08/2014 14:29:19
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/08/02/tabletop-review-mysteri-
es-of-ireland-call-of-cthulhu/

Mysteries of Ireland is the latest low-frills Call of Cthulhu publication known as a Monograph. Monographs are CoC supplements, adventures or texts that Chaosium publishes, but has not done any of the art, editing or layout for. Because of this the books can range from extremely high quality like Children of the Storm to subpar offerings like Ghosts in the House, you never know what you are going to get. I decided to pick this up this since I’m a big fan of Cubicle 7′s Cthulhu Britannica line. I have the core book, the Avalon one and Shadows Over Scotland, but I was surprised that they never did one for Ireland. Well, not to worry because now we have one, albeit one by a different writer.

So what do you get in Mysteries or Ireland? Well, you get a wonderfully done and extremely comprehensive look at Ireland from the year 1919 to 1930, two short but nicely done city guides to Dublin and Belfast and finally, three adventures to let your gaming crew experience the beauty and horrific monstrosities that Ireland has to offer.

Ireland is an odd choice for a CoC setting as Lovecraft only ever wrote a single story set in the country. Mysteries of Ireland acknowledges that and as such tries to bend Irish folklore to the Mythos and filling in the blanks rather than adapting Lovecraft into Irish history. It’s very well done and I enjoyed seeing things like Merrow as Irish Deep Ones, Morrigan as an aspect of Shub-Niggurath and so on. Mysteries of Ireland is very thorough in this regard and manages to preserve the Irish folk tales of yore while merging them with Lovecraftia.

Mysteries of Ireland contains a very thorough history on the Emerald Isle for the years ranging from 1919-1930. You’re given a look at post WWI life, the War of Independence from England, a look at the divide between Northern Ireland and the Republic and why it occurred, and so very much more. This book is as informative as it is educational and you’ll come away knowing a lot more about the real Ireland, which in turn, should help you to really flesh out a campaign or adventure set there, even if you’ve never stepped foot in the country.

Besides a general history of the island, you’re also given a ton of information on little things like firearm laws, technology, public houses, celebrities, holiday and even fashions for the era. This is wonderful and the historical bits alone are well worth the cover price. There’s even a comprehensive price guide for just about everything player characters will want to purchase. Whether you’re wanting to know about the old Irish Standing Stones, or how much it costs to send a telegram to the continent, this book has you covered.

Of course, as interesting as information on secret societies, the condition of asylums, ferries across the Atlantic and the like are, you probably want to know what this adds to the Call of Cthulhu game itself? Well, quite a lot actually. The book contains stats for Irish creatures unique to the region, such as Bog Wraiths and Leprechauns. You have two new Occupations for players to try out: Tinkerers (thinking Gypsies, but Irish) and Veterans of the Great War. Both have an interesting skill range and should be fun to try out. Of course there are also the three adventures that come in the book. The first two can be played in a single session while the third is much longer. Let’s take a look at each of them briefly.

“Poitin For Father Moloch” is all about a bootlegging operation gone wrong. What should have been a simple run for some potato based moonshine because an excursion into horror and senseless death. Seems the bootleggers were hiding in a cave that happened to house an ornate statue with a large and near priceless crystal. The bootleggers removed the crystal…which just so happened to belong to the Merrow (Irish Deep Ones) and now they want it back by any means necessary. Can the Investigators save the bootleggers, return the crystal and stem the wraith of the Deep Ones? Well, maybe one or two of the goals… This is a pretty fun adventure that can easily be adapted to a non-Irish setting if needed. It gives you a standard Mythos antagonist and a somewhat generic story, but with some very nice locales and a good deal of information to help the Keeper. This would honestly be a very good first adventure for some players.

“The Demon in St. Niclaus’ Church” in my favorite of the three adventures. It’s a tale that spans centuries and features one of the most gruesome ways to defeat a CoC antagonist yet. It’s not for the faint of heart and although the adventure is more gross and horrific than scary, it’s definitely a highly memorable one. In the 14th Century a group of Franciscan monks sought to summon an angel. What they brought forth instead was something alien with a taste for human flesh. What happens when the creature is set free during a routine bombing during the Irish Civil War? Your gaming group gets to find out. For a more interesting session, perhaps half the players should be Loyalists and the other half IRA, creating an adventure where both warring factions must get along to save lives and sanity alike.

The final adventure in this monograph is “Blood Fruit.” This long adventure doesn’t really feel Lovecraftian, but it is still a very unique and weird one. It involves an Irish island that has a more tropical climate that one would expect for that region of the world. It boasts a legion of ghostly children, fruit with terrible message written on the INSIDE of the skin and a hideous pact with Yig itself. The adventure is probably the hardest to set up as you’ll really have to push your players to want to investigate this mystery. It might be harder for them to figure out just what they have to do to “win” as well as it’s a bit hard to come to without some prodding from the Keeper. Finally, even after players have accomplished their main goal for the adventure, they’ll probably all die horribly Phantasy Star II style. That’s all I can say there.

All in all, Mysteries of Ireland is a great little purchase. You’ll get an amazing source book and three fun adventures, all for less than ten dollars (if you pick up the electronic copy). Sure there are a few typos and editing errors, but there aren’t that many and then, they seem to only be in the adventure. This is a Monograph after all, so it’s not as was done by a highly paid professional. They’re still less errors here than in some recent Shadowrun products I’ve reviewed recently. Honestly the only real turn-off for some Call of Cthulhu fans is that like all Monographs, Mysteries of Ireland is a low-frills product with no real art or production values, especially where compared to the higher budgeted pieces in the “Mysteries of…” line Chaosium has done itself. This is up there with Children of the Storma s one of the best Monographs Chaosium has put out and whether you’re specially looking for more content for a Cthulhu Britannica campaign or you just want a meaty sourcebook to give you ideas for new adventures, Mysteries of Ireland is one Call of Cthulhu book you don’t want to pass up.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mysteries of Ireland
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The Phantom of Wilson Creek
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/08/2014 14:28:31
Originally Published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2013/01/25/tabletop-review-the-pha-
ntom-of-wilson-creek-call-of-cthulhu/

The Phantom of Wilson Creek is one of Chaosium’s monographs. For those unaware of this imprint, a monograph is where the author, rather than Chaosium does the editing and layouts in addition to the writing. Often times they also do (or hire) the artist themselves as well. Chaosium just does the publishing. This means monographs are a crap shoot in terms of quality. Sometimes you get really good releases like Mysteries of Ireland or Children of the Storm and other times you get sub-par material like The Ghosts in the House. Unfortunately, The Phantom of Wilson Creek is one of the latter. It’s a collection of four adventures set in the same location of rural North Carolina. The problem is none of the adventures are that good and the piece really needed a better editor as the entire book’s flow feels clunky and thus it reads poorly. Still, it’s not the worst monograph I’ve seen Chaosium put out and with a price tag of under fifteen bucks, you are getting four adventures which can form a nice mini campaign for those who like the location and the idea of reusing the same location over and over with their players.

I should point out that only HALF of the monograph is actually adventures. The other half (from page 93 on) involve playtest notes, handouts, spell lists, timelines, maps and roughly FORTY PAGES of pregenerated characters. I appreciate all the ancillary bits put into the monograph, but no one, and I mean no one, needs forty pages of pregenerated characters. It’s basically overkill that just increased the page count and the price point of the monograph. I will say I love the idea of the handouts, but there’s no attempt to make them look like anything more than typewritten words on a page unlike some of the higher quality monographs. As well the maps are something you’re either going to love or hate as they are hand-drawn rather than done by a program like Visio or some other software we tend to see used for map making in tabletop games.

The first twenty-seven pages of the book are background information on the location (Mortimer, North Carolina and the surrounding area) and the Campbell House, where most of the action in the adventures takes place. The background information really helps the Keeper to set the mood of the location as well as the information. There’s a lot of detail here, although the problem is that much of the background information is repeated in EACH of the four adventures, again adding to extra pages (and a higher price cost) and a level of repetition I’ve never seen in an adventure collection before. The author states that they did this so the Keepers wouldn’t have to hunt and peck for information and that they can flip right to what they need. However the way this monograph is laid out, the exact opposite is true. When you are reading the collection your eyes will begin to glaze over as you see the same information for say, the third time. As well, because of the length of this collection, with only about sixty-six pages of the book actually the adventures themselves (less if you discount the repeated pages in each one), you WILL find yourself hunting for the information, especially if you purchase the PDF. You can do a ctrl+F search but then you’ll want to make sure you’re in the right adventure after that. Plus the fact so many pages of this monograph are extras rather than the adventure itself, with the paper version of this book, you’re still flipping through unless you bookmark everything. For any adventure collection where a lot of information is reused, it’s much better (and smarter) to have a centralized location for all common info about the location(s), preferably at the front or very back of the book for easy access. This is just one of the many layout issues that plagues The Phantom of Wilson Creek and makes it as hard to use for adventures as it is to wade through reading-wise. Again, a second or third pair of editing eyes could have made the end product so much better than it turned out.

The first three adventures in the book take you to the old Campbell House. Each adventure occurs a year after the previous one and they are pretty interconnected. However there are two small problems. The first is that the characters in the second and third adventure really need to be the same ones that were in the first adventure (give or take new ones replacing any that have died or gone mad), otherwise they just don’t work very well at all. The second is that reusing the same exact location for three straight adventures can easily lead to a sense of boredom and make for a humdrum experience. It’s the “going back to the well once too often” metaphor and Call of Cthulhu pretty much needs a constant change of locations and enemies for the creep and fear factors to stay where they should be. Otherwise it’s just another encounter with cultists or creepy monsters and much of the atmosphere is lost. Honestly, I’d just stick with the first and fourth adventures in this book if you were going to play any of them. The middle two just aren’t well designed or thought out enough for a quality experience if you were to try and play them on their own. The other two are nicely done, even if they are pretty generic and because they aren’t connected to the same exact location (same region though), you can have one be on the tail end of the other.

The first adventure “The House on Yellow Buck Mountain” is by far the best in the collection, even if it is pretty generic. The Investigators have been brought down to rural North Carolina to take a look at a house that a mutual friend inherited from a very distant relative. In the small community, the Campbell House is considered to be a cursed place and players are going to have to figure out what lurks within the walls of their old friend’s inheritance. Now this is a pretty common plot hook for an adventure. Hell, I’ve used it myself in a CoC adventure I had published in the late 1990s. It’s a trope that works with both the setting and the time period in which the adventure takes place (1925). However, I did raise an eyebrow when I noticed the adventure lifted a bit from “The Haunting/The Haunted House,” which is arguably the most commonly played Call of Cthulhu adventure of them all. The nemesis in that adventure is almost exactly the same as The Haunting, which can be found in every core rulebook and also in the free Quick Start Rules. Why the author didn’t go for a more unique antagonist is beyond me, but it feels more like copying rather than an homage. Don’t worry though, “The House on Yellow Buck Mountain” isn’t a carbon copy of The Haunting; only the monster is. This adventure has its own creepy shenanigans going on, complete with the potential for an Investigator to find himself trapped in a coffin with a corpse six feet below the surface or in a ghoul warren. I’ll let you decide which is the worse fate. The adventure does continue to be a pretty paint by numbers one though, with players making liberal use of the Library Use skill and poking around the house until the cause of the horrors within is revealed, culminating in violence or fleeing into the night. Whichever works. It’s a very paint by numbers piece, but it’s a well done that you should have fun with even if you’ve been through similar trappings several times before.

The second adventure is “Return to Yellow Buck Mountain” and it takes place a year later. It’s really not much of an adventure to be honest. Almost all of the content is recycled from the first one and the adventure hinges completely on what happened with your playthrough on the first. In fact,”Return” really isn’t playable at all if you haven’t done “House,” which is enough to make me give it a thumb’s down. The plot is basically “Something crazy appears to be going on at Campbell House” again and the Investigators are asked to check on things. If you played through the first adventure, “Return” probably won’t last you more than two hours because it’s a very cut and dry plot. If, however, you are using Investigators that didn’t play through the first adventure, they will probably be lost throughout the whole thing and will definitely be unable to capitalize or appreciate the climax. It’s just completely unsatisfying on every level. There’s not enough substance here and it’s going to hard to convince any team of characters to make a yearly outing to a remote backwoods location where they faced certain doom once before.

The third adventure is “The Wizard of Wilson Creek” and yes, once again , you’re going back to Mortimer, NC and the Campbell House. Yet again the hook is, “Thar be strange goings on at the Campbell House.” MOST players will be annoyed at the idea of having to return to the same location for a third time, especially with how anticlimactic the second adventure is. In fact, the author even notes by this point the PCs will want to just burn the Campbell House down – if they haven’t already. Here’s a hint: if your adventure leads to the players wanting to commit arson to call it a day you’ve either a) written a bad adventure or b) gone to the well once too often. In this case, it’s both. I can’t think of too many people that will want to investigate the same location three times in a row with little to no change between each passing in-game year. Hell, I was bored just READING about the same location for the third time. The catch here is that the antagonist is a once friendly NPC in the previous two adventures. So for characters that have had to deal with Campbell House on multiple occasions, there is a bit of pathos here. Not much though, because CoC characters that have survived multiple adventures tend to go, “Oh no. Character X is corrupted by dark insane magick. Welp, better kill ‘em so he doesn’t summon a shoggoth on us.” Characters and players that haven’t played through the previous two Buck Mountain adventures will gain nothing from this. It’s just an NPC being a bad guy instead of a familiar one. Once again, this means this adventure can’t be played on its own and have it remotely be memorable or for players to receive the full impact from it. For those that have spent three straight years going to Yellow Buck Mountain, it’s a dull retread over everything trying to figure out who is the evil psychopath THIS time around. There’s just not enough here to hold anyone’s interest in any way, shape or form. At best “The Wizard of Wilson Creek” is a short and very generic experience featuring a betrayal by an NPC the Investigators know casually and at worst, it’s a dull and bizarre affair that is somewhat nonsensical.

The final adventure in this collection is “The Strange Case of the Brown Mountain Lights” and it’s the second best of the adventures. It can be played whenever and has no actually connection to the first three in this monograph. Thus it can be played on its own. The downside to running this one though is that the Keeper needs to keep careful track of in-game time rather than letting players do what they want when they want. This means that, in the hands of a less experienced Keeper, “The Strange Case of the Brown Mountain Lights” can feel rushed and harried rather than a quality experience. Careful planning and selective prodding of the players is the key to making this adventure work. In this adventure players will be trying to find a lost little boy that wandered off on Brown Mountain. Unfortunately the child is an idiot savant, making its survival unlikely unless he is found quickly. Even more unfortunately is that a clutch of creatures from the Cthulhu Mythos have found the child first and are as perplexed by its unique form of mental retardation as the child is completely unfazed by them. So the Investigators not only have to beat the clock, but somehow get the child away from “his new friends” and deal with humans that work for the creatures and are actively trying to sabotage the search. It’s a complex affair and the adventure really works best in the hands of someone used to running things at conventions and thus can deal with time crunches keeping the players in a linear motion. It’s well written and has a lot of potential and the second best piece in the collection.

So The Phantom of Wilson Creek is a definite thumbs in the middle at best. Only two of the four adventures are worth playing through, and although they are somewhat generic, they are well written and fun to experience. The other two are best left forgotten or read as an example of how NOT to do a mini campaign in a single locale. Half the book consists of ancillary material, some of which is doubled up on from the adventure section itself and not all Keepers will make use of what is provided. The book really needed a better editor (or several of them) as the book just doesn’t flow well at all and there are numerous typographical and formatting errors in addition to full pages that are reprinted for each adventure in a well meaning but ultimately erroneous attempt to make things easier to find. The collection isn’t all bad; it just really needed some outside guidance to keep things on track. As such I can’t really recommend this monograph, especially for the price tag it is saddled with, but The Phantom of Wilson Creek does have its shining moments.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Phantom of Wilson Creek
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Malleus Monstrorum
by MG T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/04/2014 16:58:13
The pdf download is missing huge sections of text as well as some graphics, as compared to the hard copy... a very sloppy job of conversion! I think I deserve either a refund or an updated pdf as soon as possible!

Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Malleus Monstrorum
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Rubble & Ruin
by Eric J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/01/2014 13:07:10
* Original Review *

My poor review of this product is because of the PDF rather than the contents.

The contents themselves are quite good (what I can actually read...) so if it weren't for the problems with the pdf I would have given the book a much higher rating.

The problem is that many pages of the book are simply missing text. For example page 5 has the heading "Contents" and then the rest of that page is blank. Similarly on page 11 everything below "Avalon" is blank. This happens on a quarter to a third of the pages in the book.

What's there is good but too much is missing.

* Update *

The current version of the PDF fixes the technical problems and all the text is readable.

I haven't had a chance to read through the contents but I wanted to update my review to reflect the fixing of the PDF.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Rubble & Ruin
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Masks of Nyarlathotep
by David L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/06/2014 17:53:30
A great adventure that offers the players lots of choices.

The good: A globe trotting adventure that takes the players to 6 different countries across the world. An adventure that leaves the players complete freedom on where they wish to go and what they wish to do. Quite a few red herrings that receive just as much detail as the rest of the adventure giving the adventure a far more open feel then any comparable adventure. The investigation is well thought out with lots of clues and options meaning that no clue is so essential that missing it derails the adventure.

The bad: Call of the Cthulu is in general more deadly then most other game systems and Masks is even worse about it. It is quite possible that the players could suffer a total party kill/insanity even after doing everything right.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Masks of Nyarlathotep
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Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Quick-Start Rules
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/31/2014 16:57:45
As someone who's always wanted to play Call of Cthulhu but has never really had the opportunity, I very much appreciate these quick-start rules. They're also a nice "holdover" for players waiting for the 7th edition to ship (which hasn't happened yet, as of this review). Be forewarned, however, that you won't be able to use these rules to play much other than the included adventure; they don't really contain enough for a keeper to devise further adventures using just the quick-start booklet. That adventure, by the way, is written both for new players and new GMs; as an RPG veteran but CoC newbie I thought it hit the mark rather well. The layout is a bit "Microsoft Wordy" and I noticed at least one missing word in some of the read-aloud text for "The Haunting," but these are fairly minor blemishes on an otherwise fine product. It's not a complete game, but you can get at least one good night of gaming out of it, at no cost. I call that a win.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Quick-Start Rules
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Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Quick-Start Rules
by Millard B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/06/2014 16:49:17
Awesome start up!!! Can't be beat !! If your a H.P.Lovecraft fan. Great way to get started in the horror world!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dead Light
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/03/2014 12:53:28
On a dark and stormy night... here's a chance to spring a sudden and horrifying Mythos event on your Investigators as they're scurrying through the rain on a rural road just outside of Arkham. Suitable for a one off game or as a side-adventure to throw into your regular campaign, it involves the party quite literally running into a chain of unnatural nightmarish events that threaten both their sanity and their very lives.

As said events are under the direct control of the Keeper, you can make this potentially deadly or merely very, very scary as you prefer.

The backstory is suitably dark yet coherent, fitting well with the locale and the individuals involved. Getting the investigators involved requires no more than them happening to be driving on a wet and stormy evening... hence the suitability of this adventure for just dropping in to an ongoing campaign. It is a location-based adventure and fairly free-form - what happens after the initial encounter will depend on how the investigators react. Support for the Keeper is excellent, however, with plenty of resources to enable you to handle just about anything that the investigators might decide to do. There is also some good advice about how to run the adventure, driving the action forward and maintaining suspense while allowing time for investigation. Much of it is good general advice for how to introduce and manage the appearance and effect of any horror, and well worth reading by any GM wishing to improve on this aspect of their game.

All the NPCs are presented in full with loads of background to help you portray them appropriately. Whilst designed for the latest edition of Call of Cthulhu (7e), there are notes to help you if you'd rather use an earlier edition.

Hmm. It's not raining (yet) but I think I'll go round up some players...

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dead Light
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Dead Light
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/03/2014 11:34:42
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2013/12/27/tabletop-review-call-of-
-cthulhu-dead-light/

On Monday, December the 23rd, Chaosium decided to surprise all of its Call of Cthulhu, 7th Edition backers with a special gift – the release of Dead Light. Even better, this first stand alone adventure for CoC 7e was made free to all 3,668 backers. Of course if you didn’t back Seventh Edition via Kickstarter (and WHY NOT?), the adventure is available for purchase with the very reasonable price tag of $6.95. This way, everyone’s a winner!

Now as Dead Light is for Call of Cthulhu, Seventh Edition, you may be saying to yourself, “Wait a second! Seventh Edition isn’t out yet.” You’re right, but worry not my friends. In the back of the book is a conversion guide to let you use Dead Light with older versions of the game. If you really want to play this adventure with Seventh Edition rules, you can always use the Quick Start Rules Chaosium has provided. Man, between this, the QSR, the upcoming Horror on the Orient Express remake (I have proofs in hand and expect a preview of that content coming soon!) and Secrets of Tibet, CoC 7e might be setting a record for the most content produced before the actual core rule book is released.

Dead Light is an adventure for two to five players and it’s set in the 1920s right outside Arkham. The adventure is meant to be a one-shot or stand-alone experience and it’s unusual in that, unlike most published CoC adventures where the dice tend to have the last say regarding combat, death and the like, the Keeper has almost complete control over who dies, how they die and when in this scenario. This means in the hands of a bad Keeper, say one who views the game as Investigators Vs. Keepers, this can be a bit of a disaster. In the hands of most Keepers, who tend to view the game as a collective storytelling experience with their friends, Dead Light can be an extremely satisfying experience because the Keeper can (and probably should) show mercy at times. Instead of having the character die in an accidental fashion or due to a bad roll, the GM can save that death for a more interesting and/or dramatic moment. In some ways, the control the GM has over life and death in this adventure reminds me of “Wrong Turn” in Cthulhu Britannica, in that the Keeper can (and will) predetermine the death of characters, thus making Dead Light more like an interactive film (or “on rails” if you are up to date with your video game vernacular) than your normal tabletop experience. This doesn’t mean the adventure is out of the players’ hands. If a player comes up with a really good idea for getting out of a situation, the Keeper should definitely reward that with a stay of execution. After all, Dead Light is more about thinking and decision-making than dice rolling and the person running this adventure needs to keep that in mind even if they really feel Character X’s death would be absolutely perfect at that moment.

I should also point out that due to the nature of how this adventure is designed to be run, Dead Light is a great way to bring newcomers into Call of Cthulhu, especially 7e. This way players can learn the mechanics and flow of a Call of Cthulhu experience without dying right away. Nothing’s worse than bringing a person into their first tabletop experience ever and having them die thirty minutes into the game and then just have them sit around watching other people play. With Dead Light, you can really teach a newcomer the basics and mechanics of CoC and keep them alive just long enough to get addicted to the game. Who knows? Maybe they’ll even make it through the game unscathed, form an emotional bond with their Investigator and thus begins a beautiful friendship…until a shoggoth finally eats them or they are sent to live out the reminder of their days in a madhouse.

The plot of Dead Light resembles that of a survival horror movie or video game, where characters are picked off one at a time by a seemingly unstoppable monstrosity bent only on death and destruction. In this case, Dead Light features a lot more human on human violence (and murder) than you might be used to in a Call of Cthulhu adventure. Worry not, because the 1920s actually did have a higher murder rate than we have nowadays in 2013 (soon to be 2014), so petty robbery and nonsensical murder makes sense, even in a time when America seemed on top of the world. Once the horror is accidentally released, it will start picking off people in the surrounding area one by one until it is either defeated or you have a Total Party Kill. The good news for players is that there are a lot of NPCs that can (and should) be devoured before them, heightening the tension and terror. As well, the Investigators don’t necessarily need to beat the antagonist in this adventure – they can always choose to just try and survive. If they make it until dawn, they can also “win” that way…although trying to last that long will probably ratchet up the body count. There’s not a lot of combat to be had here, as trying to do physical battle with the creature is all but impossible and almost certainly lethal to the Investigators. There are ways to hurt it/contain it, but whether or not the characters discover these methods depends on where they choose to go and what they choose to do. As such, the adventure is pretty investigative for one where there is also a lot of death and that juxtaposition makes for a very unique experience.

As mentioned earlier, Dead Light is pretty light on rolling the bones. You’ll have some Luck and Sanity rolls obviously and Spot Hidden will be a big help with this adventure, but honestly, the most rolling that will occur will probably be with Dodge and Drive Auto, the latter mainly due to the horrific storm that just happens to be occurring the night of the adventure. This means characters will live or die based on the decisions they make, so don’t be afraid to burn your Luck or ask for Idea rolls if you play this.

Besides the unusual nature of how the adventure unfolds, this really is a standard style CoC adventure. You have a nameless horror that defies description, investigation is needed to discover how these events came to pass as well as how to end them, sanity will be dropping like rain and a good time will be had by all. The good news is that the adventure eschews all the standard tropes of Call of Cthulhu, so there won’t be any Mi-Go, Deep Ones or Serpent People. There are no cults to foil nor do you have to sit in a library for hours on end, hoping to find the one tome you need, containing a spell that will save the day. The only real tropes the adventure contains is exploring a spooky house and finding a diary that explains how these events came to be (and that also gives you some Cthulhu Mythos points). I’m really happy to see Chaosium giving gamers something outside the box with this one. Sure the adventure sometimes feels more Chill or Cryptworld than Call of Cthulhu at times, but it still keeps the mood and feel of the setting. If you absolutely have to have a Mythos creature rear its head in your adventures, you might be disappointed here, but I can safely say that the antagonist of Dead Light feels right at home with the eldritch horrors and nameless terrors Lovecraft and his contemporaries created in their day.

Dead Light probably isn’t an adventure for everyone –especially gamers who don’t like feeling as if they are “on rails” for an entire adventure, but a good Keeper can hide that aspect of this piece, and really make the adventure stand out as a memorable experience for all. I’ll admit I went into this going, “Survival Horror? Oh god.” and I came away really impressed with the layout, flow and plot of Dead Light. I’m especially glad I got this adventure for free and can easily recommend it for the $6.95 price tag it comes with if you didn’t back 7e via Kickstarter. Dead Light is a solid experience from beginning to end and my only caveat is that you really need a quality Keeper who can run this without turning it into a “players vs. Keeper” experience, because no one likes those. The vast majority of people that pick up Dead Light will have a lot of fun with it, and really, what more do you need from an adventure, right?

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Call of Cthulhu Quick-Start Rules
by Jamey J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/18/2014 17:55:55
The pdf are very well done. This is a really awesome game to play.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Call of Cthulhu Quick-Start Rules
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Advanced Sorcery
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/18/2014 08:07:36
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/04/18/tabletop-review-advance-
d-sorcery-basic-roleplayingmagic-world/

Advanced Sorcery is the first sourcebook for Magic World, which is a remake and update of previous Chaosium fantasy releases like Elric, Runequest and Melniboné. This means some parts of both Advanced Sorcery and Magic World are roughly thirty years old while others are seeing light for the first time. Why did Chaosium do this instead of just re-releasing the original games in a new edition? Well there are lots of reasons from the cost of licenses to a decision to just combine all the fantasy releases into a new overarching banner. If you really want the original games, you can pick up old Elric and Stormbringer releases on the secondary market or pick up Mongoose publishing new version of Runequest. For those that still want to stick with Chaosium’s new releases, you have Magic World.

Although Magic World came out in early 2013, Advanced Sorcery is the first (and only) new release for it. This isn’t a bad thing as Magic World contains everything you need to play the game in its single core rulebook and too many games put out a steady stream of unnecessary supplements that bog the core product down. Quality, not quantity is king with a system and the core rulebook for Magic World proved just that. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same thing for Advanced Sorcery. It just did nothing for me adding too many new optional rules variants that aren’t as good as those in the core release. It also doesn’t help that the first new release for Magic World is so laden with new and different rules that it feels like Advanced Sorcery is saying “Magic World isn’t very good. Use this instead!” I personally don’t feel that is true, but when your first sourcebook wants to reinvent the wheel, it gives off that sort of negative impression. It’s also worth noting that Advanced Sorcery feels like it belongs to a completely different system/setting rather than something that compliments Magic World. The spell systems, mechanics and terminology are so wildly different that the two books feel like they were competing ideas and Chaosium published them both instead of making a firm decision on which to go with. Again, I doubt that is the actual reasoning behind it but rather a good example of what happens when you try to put thirty years of rules and edition changes into a new unified product. D&D Next felt this way too in the early stages, which is fine for alpha and playtesting purposes, but definitely not for a final product. A truly great example of this is that in both books, certain monsters are repeated, but with completely different sets of stat blocks and descriptions. Why would they be that different from core rulebook to sourcebook? Again, the end result is that Advanced Sorcery feels like its own beast or a separate Basic Roleplaying supplement rather than a product for Magic World.

At the end of the day, I just didn’t care for Advanced Sorcery at all and feel a Magic World game is better off without it. That said, my opinion and tastes are those of one man and not the be all and end all of the industry. Advanced Sorcery certainly has some intriguing ideas and some gamers will no doubt really enjoy the contents betwixt its covers. As we look through each of the eight chapters in Advanced Sorcery, perhaps you will find something more to your liking that it was to mine.

The first chapter is “Advanced Sorcery.” I know it’s always weird/awkward when a chapter shares the same name as the book’s title, but hey, that’s not my call. This is simply a list of new spells to use with Magic World. All of them are pretty interesting and well done, although many like Phantom Illness, Create Monster and Domination are Shadow oriented. Shadow was a lot more powerful than Light or Balance in the core Magic World game and these spells only increase that. Still, this is what much of Advanced Sorcery should have been – just a lot of well-designed spells that don’t require any new mechanics to use. 1 for 1.

Next up is “Deep Magic.” This is a new system of magic than can be used as an alternative to the core Magic World rules. This version of magic involved eight spheres of influence (Earth, Flora, Fauna, Water, Spirit, Fire, Flesh and Air) and then eight Glyphs of Power (Inhibition, Diminution, Summoning, Creation, Direction, Enhancement, Dismissal and Transmutation). You then end up having a mix and match of the two categories in order to cast spells. The rulkes for Deep Magic and nebulous, cumbersome and completely unintuitive, especially compared to the original BRP and/or Magic World rules. It’s also hilarious to note that part of casting the spells involves creating a personalized wheel of Spheres and a wheel of Glyphs. Each player picks on Glyph and one Sphere that they specialize in, which makes them much easier to cast. Everything else is more expensive based on the position on the characters wheel. However, the actual pictures of the wheels don’t always show up in the PDF version. I’ve tried it on different devices (Kindle Fire, laptop, desktop, iOS devices) and the wheels seem to only show up half the time. This is only true of this one picture in the entire book. Everything else shows up fine, so I’m wondering if it is a layering issue with the PDF. This is terrible beyond description because you can’t make Deep Magic work without it! When you can get the wheels to show up, they’re pretty bad in design anyway. The opposite of Water is Air rather than Fire for example. WHAT? The opposite of Flesh (man) is Fauna (animal)? Shouldn’t those be more closely aligned. Air is almost the opposite of Fauna too, because animals sure don’t need air. Oh dear god, this is bad. No, Deep Magic is pretty terrible in all respect and you are better off pretending it doesn’t exist. A bad idea with even worse follow through. 1 for 2.

Our third chapter is “The Summoner’s Art” and it revolves around summoning magic. Again, this is an alternative form of summoning magic that can take the place of the version in the core Magic World rulebook. Again, why introduce an entirely new way of doing something when your system is (technically) only a year old and this is your first supplement. This is just a bad business and system decision in every respect. This chapter is a little too rules heavy when it comes to summoning, and most gamers will instantly prefer the core rulebook version. “The Summoner’s Art” is pretty much for people who prefer roll-playing to role-playing and want far more mechanics than they actually need. It’s not all that bad though as the section does give you a lot of information on crafting demons as antagonists or NPCs and you are given a ton of powers to help flesh one out. The section also talks about elementals in addition to demons. While better than “Deep Magic,” “The Summoner’s Art,” just feels thrown in for the sake of padding the book out. The demon and elemental bits are nice, but the new alternative magic rules are just unnecessary. Still, two out of three aren’t bad so I’ll give this a point in the yay column. 2 for 3.

“Necromancy” is the fourth chapter in the book and this is another section littered with so many issues, I can’t believe it made it to print. This is the section where we see all monsters with stat blocks and descriptions that don’t match up with the core Magic World book. You would think there would be some sort of continuity between the two books, especially as they are the only two Magic World releases right now, but no. I’m not even sure why they reprinted so many of the same monsters. Those are pages that could have gone to new and/or different content. Anyway, the section of Necromancy is pretty bad. Of course, nothing really lives up to The Complete Book of Necromancers for Second Edition AD&D, which everyone should read even if they don’t play that version of D&D because it is THAT GOOD. This version of Necromancy is just terrible designed. The chapter starts off talking about how all necromancers are evil or power hungry and how each spell cast from this category ties you to the Shadow alignment. Then it gives you happy Light oriented spells like Spirit Shield and Exorcism. This just feels terribly done from beginning to end and is up there with “Deep Magic” as sections that really needed to make it through a more stringent vetting and/or editing process. 2 for 4.

Chapter Five is “Rune Magic.” This is another optional form of magic. Like “Deep Magic” and “The Summoner’s Art,” the rules for this Balance oriented magic are poorly devised. The rules are very vague and sparse, which means gamers are going to interpret them very differently and thus this will cause both confusion and consternation amongst Magic World players. Thankfully though Rune Magic is primary both defensive and touch based which should give people a common ground to work with. It’s not like a runecaster will be whipping runes at a demon or troll in any campaign. Still, this section really needed a lot of work before it saw print, which is sadly true of a lot of Advanced Sorcery. Some great ideas, but the end result just isn’t very playable. 2 for 5.

“Arete” is Chapter Six, and although you might start thinking of Mage: The Ascension with this one, the Arete in this game has nothing in common with the stat/play mechanic from White Wolf’s magic oriented game. This section focuses on what happened when a Magic World character gets more than 100% in a skill. Each skill gets a different ability. Brawl with a 101% or better gets an extra 1d3 to damage while a Swim with over 100% lets you move twice as fast. The rules and benefits are a little more complicated than this, but it’s a great idea well worth implementing. Of course it’s rare a character will ever reach this level with a skill, but it’s great to see someone thought this out. It’s definitely the highlight of the book and well worth spreading to other games that use the BRP system. 3 for 6

Our penultimate chapter in Advanced Sorcery is “Herbalism.” It’s a short chapter (five pages) that gives us ten plants that can be used to make potions and require no magical skill whatsoever to produce. It’s nicely done and can let even non-magical characters like warriors and rogues act as a healer for the party. 4 for 7.

The final chapter in the book is “Fey Magic for the Southern Realms.” Once again, we get a new type of alternate magic that can be used instead of or in tandem with the core Magic World rules set. Again, the rules for this new type of magic just aren’t as intuitive as the core rules and by introducing five new optional forms of magic, a less experienced or younger game is going to end up confused and/or overwhelmed here. God forbid some Keeper actually tries to implement all of these rules in a single game or you get a group of players that each wants a different bit in the game. This is just a pretty big train wreck across the board. Anyway, Fey Magic is the easiest to implement of the five as it’s essentially the same rules for Sorcery in the core rulebook, but characters spend POW instead of Magic Points. Why? Who knows! It’s completely arbitrary! There’s no reason why these spells need their own slightly different rules. Just put them under Sorcery spells with their specific caveats. I just can’t fathom the thought process behind much of this book and how multiple people thought it was a good idea to present all of this in the manner it saw print. 4 for 8.

If you’ve made it this far you can see that Advanced Sorcery needed a LOT of work before it was released to the general public for purchase. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and we have what we have. This will no doubt be a disappointment to Magic World fans who have waited a year for some kind of follow up release to the system/setting. At least the book isn’t a total loss as there are some part of Advanced Sorcery well worth reading and adding to your Magic World campaign. This is not a book I can personally recommend though, especially with its current price tags. I’d let it drop below ten dollars for the PDF version before considering picking this up and I can’t imagine ever being able to recommend the physical copy as only half the book is worth looking at, especially since it’s nearly twice as much to get. Some gamers might find the book for useful than me, and more power to them, but right now, the kindest thing about Advanced Sorcery that I can say is that there are some decent pieces to be had amidst the really terrible unfinished bits.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Sorcery
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