Originally published at: http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product_reviews_write.php?prod
Call of Cthulhu has many different settings. The primary time period has always been the 1920s, but there are a lot of modern and Victorian era supplements as well, including the recently updated and re-released Cthulhu By Gaslight. That didn’t seem to be enough for Chaosium though, as in 2004 we were treated to two new campaign settings: Cthulhu Dark Ages and Cthulhu Invictus. Although I STRONGLY preferred the former, it’s the latter that seems to have become a cult favorite. Over the years it received two companion piece follow-ups and then in 2010, Cthulhu Invictus was re-released, upgraded from a “monograph” to a full supplement. In 2011, Miskatonic River Press put out a campaign for Cthulhu Invictus entitled The Legacy of Arrius Lurco and followed it up later that year with Lux in Tenebras. I reviewed Lux back in November of last year and found it interested, but a bit overpriced and really required Arrius Lurco and Cthulhu Invictus for a Keeper to get any use out of it. Now Chaosium has churned out a whopping six books in two weeks(Quick Start Rules, a fourth edition of Masks of Nyarlathotep, two monographs, Cthulhu by Gaslight and this) with a new Cthulhu Invictus Companion as one of the offerings. How does it fare? Let’s take a look.
To be honest, when I first heard of the Cthulhu Invictus Companion, I thought it would be a compilation of the two old monograph compilations for the original CI that was released back in 2004. Surprisingly none of the material from either Malam Umbra or Extrico Tabula show up here. Instead this Companion is actually a collection of three adventures, two of which originally appeared in the Cthulhu Invictus monograph. Now you’re probably wondering why two third of this book is a reprint. Well, it’s because these adventures were left out of the 2010 Cthulhu Invictus remake and it’s all but impossible to find the original monograph. It’s not even available in PoD or PDF formats. So this is really your only way of getting them, especially if you only have the 2010 version. Now if you own the 2004 Cthulhu Invictus monograph, there’s really no point in picking up the Companion, as you’re basically paying seven bucks for a single adventure. For newcomers though you’re basically paying $2.37 per adventure (with minimal artwork), which is a very good deal, especially for a Chaosium product. I found all three adventures to be rather interesting and although Cthulhu Invictus isn’t my thing, I think fans of the setting will have a lot of fun with these adventures. All three are geared for very experienced CoC player. They’re not very inviting to newcomers but then, I can’t think of too many fresh of the street gamers that would conceivably start tabletop gaming with Call of Cthulhu in an Ancient Roman setting.
The first adventure is called “Chuma Invictus!” This adventure heavily involves the Dreamlands. I know some Cthulhu players actively avoid the Dreamlands, but for those that enjoy it, this adventure should be right up your alley. It involves a secret society, a magical scroll and a crazy body jumping sorcerer whose goal is to merge our reality with the Dreamlands. This is a neat adventure where players won’t realize the true goal until it is almost too late. The adventure works best as a one-shot as characters will be forever changed by it. I also really liked that the adventure involves a lot of travel and is a nice way to introduce players not only to the campaign setting, but the ancient world in general.
The second adventure is “Morituri Te Salutamus,” which had me thinking of the old Strikeforce Morituri comics. It’s not very “Cthulhu-esque” but rather a creepy story about a crazy priest who kidnaps a lot of women for a mass sacrifice. A Dark Young is thrown in for the climax, but honestly, it feels really out of place and doesn’t fir the actual tone of the adventure. It’s as if the writers needed to justify this being a Call of Cthulhu adventure. The detective aspects of the adventure are neat, but the end of the adventure is unsatisfying and feels thrown together. It’s not at all satisfying.
The final adventure is “Bacchanalia.” This adventure also revolves around a deranged cult that engages in a mass kidnapping for the purposes of a sacrifice. It also involves servants of Shub-Niggurath. Really the only differences are the type of victims and the specific Shub-Niggurath servitors. As “Bacchanalia” is the only new adventure in this Companion, you can choose to look at it in two ways. The first is that the writers were plumb out of ideas and so they took the plot of the second adventure and tweaked it slightly for the third, hoping that no one would notice. The second is that “Morituri” is the rough draft of “Baccanalia” and this adventure is what “Morituri Te Salutamus” should have been in the first place. I guess it’s all whether you want to be optimistic or pessimistic about the product. Either way, this is my favorite adventure of the set. It has a great opening, a dramatic and memorable introduction to the creatures you’ll be encountering and there are some nice red herrings/side quests to go off on if the players choose.
Finally, the book contains information on five different cults scattered haphazardly throughout the book. None of these cults come into play with any of the adventures and their inclusion and their location within the Companion comes off very odd. I’m still not sure why they were included here. They’re interesting and informative, but the book would have been better organized to have all the groups in their own section for easy reference.
All in all, I give the book a thumb’s in the middle. The price is great, especially for a Chaosium book as they are generally more expensive than competitor products (including others that use their own CoC license). The problem is that two-thirds of the content is reprinted from the 2004 version of Cthulhu Invictus so if you have that, there’s no need to pick this up. As well, you can’t use the book without owning one form of Cthulhu Invictus and the core rulebook, so even though the price for the Companion is nice, you do still have to make an investment to even begin to be able to use it.Basically, if you’re a fan of the Cthulhu Invictus line AND you only own the 2010 version of the book rather than the 2004 monograph, you might want to pick this up – but then only if you use published adventures instead of making your own. For everyone else, you’ll probably want to pass on this. It’s just not something you’ll be able to use on its own. What’s here is neat but will only be of interest to an extremely limited audience.
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