What a year (part 3)

And we roll on…

Chaosium
The Phantom of Wilson’s Creek (print version) {Monograph}

Haven’t read it. Sorry.

Atomic Age Cthulhu

I might not have an overwhelming urge to run a game set in the 1950s, but I think this book makes a strong case for that era as a setting for Call of Cthulhu. Of the scenarios, I think my favorite is L.A. Diabolical; they are definitely better than the recent Chaosium average.

The House of R’lyeh

I read one of the scenarios before release (and saw another when it was in Different Worlds #37) but I’ve not read the whole book. Terrible title, since R’lyeh doesn’t feature into any of the scenarios.

Missed Dues and Other Tales {Monograph; sold only at GenCon}

I wasn’t at GenCon, so I don’t have a copy.

Dark Crusade {Monograph}

Perfectly serviceable introduction to the Crusader States for non-historians. I may have read most of the source material in Grad school, but I suspect I’m not the norm in this. It was nice to see some additional material for Cthulhu Dark Ages since, to be frank, there is more action in the Levant than back in 1000 AD Europe. I do wish there had been a scenario.

Canis Mysterium

I reviewed this one already.

Horror Stories from the Red Room {Monograph}

Don’t have it.

Secrets of Tibet {PDF}

Ordered but it has not yet arrived.

Dead Light {PDF}

Not a classic, but an interesting scenario.

Horror on the Orient Express, ver. 2.0 {PDF, proof copy only; Kickstarter backers only}

I was excited to get my backer link and have a peak at the 2nd edition. I’ve not read it from cover to cover… there’s been a lot to read lately… but I was happy with what I saw. I do miss some of the character illustrations (some of my favorites in any CoC book) though, and I cannot get behind releasing 7th edition books before the damn 7th edition rule book comes out.

All in all, that was a lot of books for Chaosium. I really hope they’ve turned a corner, having had two very successful Kickstarter campaigns and appointed Mike Mason to head the Call of Cthulhu line.

Tomorrow – a few more comments, since I can’t stop blabbing.

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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.

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…