Canis Mysterium, a short review

Canis Mysterium (less mysterious thanks to the cover)

Considering my interest in Lovecraft Country scenarios, I was an easy sell for Chaosium’s release last week of Canis Mysterium, a scenario set in Arkham and Coldwater Falls.

I should note that this review is based on reading the PDF and not an examination of the print version. I shall spoil the scenario, so if you want to be surprised, do not read on.

Coming in at 32 pages and $10.95 ($6.02 the PDF) Canis Mysterium has the investigators contacted by the authorities in Coldwater Falls, a small (pop c.900) factory town on the Miskatonic between Dean’s Corners and Dunwich (about more see later), asking for their help dealing with a madman captured by said authorities who, it appears, have murdered and partially eaten a young girl. The scenario recommends the investigators have some connection to the psychology dept. at Miskatonic, but I did not see this as essential If you have ever read a Call of Cthulhu scenario (or taken a look at the cover) you can correctly guess that indeed there are ghouls involved, though not immediately. Once the madman is examined, he leads the investigators to a disgruntled local handyman, his scheme to destroy Coldwater Falls for the town’s imagined slights, and his (drumroll) ghoul ally.

Overall, Canis Mysterium is not a great scenario, serviceable perhaps, but certainly not exceptional. Ghouls are passe in scenarios, and while the ghoul in this one is not at the fore of the scenario, simply having one after so much hints of ghouls is a disappointment. The true villain of the piece – the cemetery caretaker with a score to settle – is a rather one-note villain. He hates the town and the town hates him, apparently with good reason. I was particularly surprised that the scenario made no allowance for the investigators being in town should the caretaker’s scheme comes to fruition, instead leaving that for a handout – a handout which rather blithely glosses over a catastrophe that would attract national attention.

From the point of view of the guy editing the Arkham Gazette, there are a few elements of the scenario that frustrated me. While I understand the geography of Lovecraft Country is intentionally vague, even a cursory review would tell you that between Deans’ Corners and Dunwich is sparsely inhabited hills and farmlands; Lovecraft himself described the trip between the two, should you miss your turn on the Aylesbury Pike. Speaking of the Pike, it is described as a rutted dirt road, which certainly does not jibe with the source material or RPG products (or historically, unless it had been abandoned). Coldwater Falls itself is very roughly sketched – there is no map – and isn’t particularly distinguished or vivid a setting though i suspect with some work it might make a reasonable addition to the secondary locations of Lovecraft Country.

(A minor point but I feel obliged to raise it- the author frequently refers to The Compact Arkham Unveiled for readers to refer to with questions about Arkham. I’m surprised Chaosium didn’t update that reference to their most recent printing of Arkham, HP Lovecraft’s Arkham (2003). I don’t know what that suggests about the editing process…)

Finally I must confess that I found most of the artwork to be amateurish and unappealing. I suspect that the artist might have been aiming for something in the style of woodblock illustration, but the overall effect does not impress. The cover is adequate but not inspiring and gives away a bit of background plot and further hits one over the head that there are ghouls in the offing.

Considering the price, the generally pedestrian scenario, and the off-putting artwork, I say that this one is for the completists only. There has a been a large output of great Call of Cthulhu and Lovecraftian RPG material this year that you will likely enjoy more.

DieHardGameFan has posted a dissenting review.

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London (Boxed Set) Calling (Soon) and more

It’s a grab bag here at TiP… some day I’ll finish up my NecronomiCon comments, but until then, here’s the news:

There’s a new episode of the Good Friends of Jackson Elias, concluding their discussion of “The Haunter of the Dark”.

Also for your listening pleasure, How Stuff Works podcast talks about the phenomena of the “New England Vampire Panic

Chaosium has released two(!) new books: Canis Mysterium and Horror Stories from the Red Room.

Cubicle 7 has released a teaser for the soon-to-launch Kickstarter for their London box set.  Awesome…

News from the Islands

Golden Goblin Press lead goblin Oscar Rios has been interviewed in the latest episode of the Miskatonic University Podcast, wherein he talks about not only this first release from GGP, Island of Ignorance, but the process of birthing that book as well, which I think is useful listening for anyone considering launching their own Kickstarter.

Speaking of Island of Ignorance, that book has had its second review, this time by Matthew Pook over at Reviews from R’lyeh.  Two positive reviews so far for “Island”, which bodes well.

Legend tripping with Pete and Pete (and more)

Things remain busy here at TiP central.  A few bits and bobs to amuse in the mean time…

The gents at Good Friends of Jackson Elias have released another episode, this one a discussion of HPL’s “The Haunter of the Dark”.

Golden Goblin Press has announced that Island of Ignorance is being printed even as I type this; the book’s also had its first review.

Venturing further afield, the two former Petes of The Adventures of Pete & Pete have started a podcast in which they go on adventures together (no, seriously) and in the most recent episode (NSFW) they tour around some of New Jersey’s most… haunted(?) spots as well as chatting with Chris Gethard of Weird New Jersey.  It is an interesting listen not just for fans of mid-90s Nickelodeon programs, but as an insight into the sociological phenomena of legend tripping.

Finally, if you’ve somehow missed it, here’s the ‘trailer’ for Hell No, a horror movie in which people act rationally and reasonably.

New Islands and Journalists vs. the Shan

Surtsey, rising from the Atlantic

Oh how the time flies, bat-like, ever forward. Let’s catch up a bit on the news-front:

  1. Golden Goblin Press have released the PDF for Island of Ignorance, with the book being sent off to the printer.  Well done Goblin Horde, you’re the first Kickstarter I’ve joined that released the product done on time.  I’ve had a chance to skim the book and it looks very good.  I look forward to reading it… eventually.  (I’ve got a stack by the bed that I need to finish for the Arkham Gazette.)
  2. Solace Games released Fungi Mine, a modern scenario for Call of Cthulhu.  I’ve not read it, but I note that they’ve hired Matthew Pook to proof-read it, suggesting an improvement of quality over their first book.
  3. There have been new episodes of the Miskatonic University Podcast and a pair from the Good Friends of Jackson Elias (Episodes 12 and 13).  I’ve only had a chance to listen to MUP’s latest, which includes a very interesting survey of the state of journalism in the 1920s, touching on topics like the centrality of newspapers, the importance of editors, the nature of radio reporting (i.e. reading the newspaper on the air), etc; definitely worth a listen.

More later.