Shadow Alchemy (revised) is done(ish) and other news

Today I submitted my revised draft of “Shadow Alchemy”, my scenario for Forgotten Corners of Lovecraft Country vol. 1.  I revamped the plot the scenario, streamlining things by taking out a layer of characters, which allowed me to shorten it from about 18,000 words to 13,000.  While my target was 10k, I’m still mostly satisfied with how it turned out (save for losing the text of one of the handouts… where the hell is that notebook?!?).  I know there are a few places where I was less than economical with my words, so I’m sure Oscar will find ample targets for his editor’s pen.

In other news, yesterday was the birthday of one of my favorite Call of Cthulhu authors, Kevin Ross.  Kevin authored some of my favorite CoC books – Kingsport and Innsmouth, as well as great scenarios like “Dust to Dust” and the fantastic modern campaign Our Ladies of Sorrow.  Happy Birthday, Kevin!

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The Year in Cthulhu (gaming)

Now that 2011 has gone bye bye, I thought I might look back at the past 12 months and assess the state of Lovecraftian gaming. By the numbers we have a grand total of four (4!) in-print books for Call of Cthulhu, two reprints, five monographs, and two pdf only products; for Trail of Cthulhu we have two in-print books and eight pdf releases. I think this speaks to the vitality of Trail as well as Pelgrane’s embrace of PDF releases and the relative sluggishness (to be kind) of the Call of Cthulhu game line.

Let’s break this down company by company

Chaosium:

Chaosium put out but a single new book this year- the Cthulhu Invictus Companion. Clocking in at 64 pages it is rather a slight book (I’ve not read it and can’t really comment on the quality beyond noting it was authored by the same people who wrote Cthulhu Invictus, which bodes well). This release was followed by a reissue of Curse of the Chthonians, osteinsibly as a “second edition” but doing little more than removing references to out-of-date rules (no more Oratory skill checks!) and, apparently, doubling the font size. Even generous reviewers were openly surprised by this move. Unlike the Dreamlands book, also reprinted, the source material is painfully dated, with scnarios that are little more than expanded narratives with statistics.

Cthulhu Invictus Companion

Curse of the Chthonians (reprint)

H.P. Lovecraft’s Dreamlands (reprint)

As to the monographs, I confess I have only read some of them, so I can’t speak to the quality of each one. I did pick up a copy of The Sevenfold Path, entirely based on my enjoyment of author Jeff Moeller’s previous work. I’ve not yet finished it, but I am not disappointed so far. The same can also be said for Horrors of War; I’ve listened to a podcast version of the scenario “Goodnight Vienna” already and I think the book offers some interesting scenarios anchored around WW2. Finally I picked up Dead Leave Fall, a scenario collection and the latest installment in their annual Halloween scenario competition. I’ve only skimmed it, but there are a couple of scenario that look interesting.

The Dreaming Prince (monograph)

The Gods Hate Me (monograph)

Dead Leaves Fall (monograph)

The Sevenfold Path (monograph)

Colonial Terrors (monograph)

Pelgrane Press:

Pelgrane had one of (if not the) best books of the year in their Bookhounds of London, a sourcebook and, to coin a term, a campaign anchor for a game set among the community of occult book dealers in Depression-era London. What a setting! More than just a great idea, the book is a cornucopia of detail about London in the period, accompanied by beautiful maps of the city. I splurged and picked up the limited edition version, which came with a copy of The Occult Guide to London, an in-game resource book and prop AND murder-mystery all in one, as well as some period ephemera (ostensibly related to the murder-mystery) and a satchel dressed up to appear to be a possession of the murder victim. While we’ve yet to crack the case, I unreservedly loved this book.

As for their other published book, Out of Time, I haven’t picked up a copy yet but, I suspect it keeps up the same quality level of Pelgrane’s other releases.

Bookhounds of London

Out of Time

The Big Hoodoo (pdf only)

They also release a raft of individual scenarios (or discrete campaign chunks), dwarfing the competition in quantity if not total page count. I’m rather old-fashioned though, and really hate to get a PDF without a print edition as well, so I’m waiting to get these once they’re in print.

Cthulhu Apocalypse Pt. 1: The Dead White World (pdf only)

Cthulhu Apocalypse Pt. 2: The Apocalypse Machine (pdf only)

Hell Fire (pdf only)

Invasive Prodecures (pdf only)

Many Fires (pdf only)

The Rending Box (pdf only)

The Repairer of Reputations (pdf only)

Miskatonic River Press:

I must first note that I’ve written for MRP and am currently working on a project for MRP, so my comments are colored by knowing (and liking) the crew at MRP. With that caveat, I must confess that, while I generally liked The Legacy of Arrius Lurco (MRP’s sole release for the year), I didn’t love it. I think it comes down to a different sense of game style; Oscar Rios’ campaign is unabashedly ‘Swords and Sandals’ and I’m more a gritty, personal horror sort of guy. Obviously my mild feelings weren’t so widely held, because Lurco got very favorable reviews and, apparently, was enough of a seller that MRP released their first PDF only release hot on its heels. Lux in Tenebra (Light in Darkness) is a sort of spiritual twin of Chaosium’s Cthulhu Invictus Companion, covering different ground for the Invictus setting.

The Legacy of Arrius Lurco

Lux in Tenebras (pdf only)

Cubicle 7:

Cubicle 7, while only releasing one book, released a monster in Shadows Over Scotland, a guidebook to Scotland in the 20s, including six scenarios. A lovely hard-back book, Shadows was a fascinating read, stuffed full of fun ideas and more than enough to fuel a Scotland campaign. The only book to give Bookhounds of London a run for the best book of the year.

Shadows Over Scotland

Goodman Games:

Goodman continues to put out scenario in a pulp vein; I’ve not yet read their release this year, but will give it a look-see at some point.

The Long Reach of Evil

Everybody else:

A couple other folks put out a release this year. I probably won’t take a look at these (I don’t play Cthulhu Live and don’t usually get PDF only books), but kudos to these folks for getting a book done.

Cthulhu Live: the Island (pdf only)

The Red Eye of Azathoth (mostly pdf)

MIA:

Of course, it goes with out saying that there are books promised that are, as I write this at least, unreleased. Here are those books…

Chaosium: Pulp Cthulhu, Blackmoore Global Laboratories, Cthulhu by Gaslight, 3rd Ed., Atomic Age Cthulhu, the Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion

Cubicle 7: Folklore

Supergenius Games: Deep in the Heart of Texas

Miskatonic River Press: Tales of the Sleepless City

Sixtystone Press: Lost in the Lights, Ghouls: Eaters of the Dead, the Investigator’s Weapons Compendium: Classic Era

I mention these not to mock, but to suggest what, hopefully, is coming soon. 2011 was a pretty slow year for Cthulhu book. While the quality of the releases- save Chaosium’s weak tea- was high, I’d really like to see more releases of a wide variety. I’m glad the licensees are at least keeping up the standards of the game.

Here’s hoping for 2012?

Forgotten Corners of Lovecraft Country Vol 1

Zounds, two posts in a month?!

Indeed, for I am now able to announce one of my works in progress – Forgotten Corners of Lovecraft Country Volume 1; Aylesbury and Dean’s Corner, from Miskatonic River Press. The esteemed Dan Harms (The Encyclopedia of the Cthulhu Mythos) and prolific Oscar Rios (The Legacy of Arrius Lurco) have each tackled the eponymous two locales, giving them the same sort of detailed treatment of the original Lovecraft Country books edited by the late Keith Herber. Most of my work was done for Dan, doing some local research (trolleybusses!) and giving feedback but I have written the regional notes for the book and, fingers crossed, will have one of the scenarios. Having read the manuscript, I’m happy to say the book follows on in the grand tradition of the original Lovecraft Country series, presenting a compelling new location for Cthulhu gaming, loaded compelling scenario hooks, intriguing NPCs, and of course Lovecraftian horror.

See the Miskatonic River Press site for the official announcement.

General Update 12/9

After seeing others keeping up this sort of thing with much greater regularity (note the recently added link on the right to Badger’s blog about his own RPG writings), I figured I should post, a a minimum, a catch-all update for my various and sundry projects for the benefit of my reader(s?).

Fury of Yig playtest:  Still going great guns (though we’ve barely had any combat, mind you).  The investigators are about 2/3 finished with the campaign, perhaps even further along depending on a few soon-to-be-made choices.  I think the players are having a great time, even if they are a *bit* uncertain of what is going on.  I know I certainly am enjoying running the thing.  I think we’ll keep playing CoC even once ‘Fury’ wraps, perhaps some classic era gaming?  We still had no fatalities, but have have Sanity loss, poisonings, snake bites, gun shots, and a few very unlucky NPC hunters…

Sundry graveyard stuff: I’ve finished nearly all of the on-the-ground research for my Worcester Co. graveyards project and need to begin the volumes of correspondence I’ll probably need to cover all the logistical details I’d like to include (mostly contacting local communities to dig up additional information on cemeteries, getting contact info for local cemetery commissions, etc.  Winter will likely slow down my outdoors work, but if I find some very tempting new site to check out, I’ll no doubt put on the boots and a warm coat…

As for the Lovecraft Country graveyards/cemetery research and writing, I’ve done all the requisite reading of the RPG material and hopefully most of the important fiction, and now need to begin fleshing out my outline.  I’d like to have a draft of something done by say February so that I might get it proof-read and polished up for my target completion date of March.  This is mainly so I can offer it up again to MRP as a second-annual Keith Herber tribute freebie.  I don’t know if they’re interested in doing that again (a la last year’s “Turner Codex” article) but what the heck.  It is good practice for the non-fiction book.

As for the Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion, I don’t have much news but, as ever, remain hopeful of actually having something to report soon.  Adam has completed draft layouts for most of the chapters, the handouts appendix is mostly completed, two more maps are being worked on (thanks Steff!), and copyright free artwork unearthed (thank you Library of Congress digital archive!).  Now I wait for news from Adam.  It is tantalizingly close… but I’d rather be done.

Hmm…. I should probably figure out what my various project codes meant…

TTFN

Oh yeah…

A little while ago one of my works saw print- More Adventures in Arkham Country (from Miskatonic River Press) contains my scenario “Ghosts of the Florentina”.  Dreamy Kingsport collides with the harsh realities of property development!  Who will win in a clash of Lovecraftian horrors and escrow accounts?

More seriously, I am very happy with this scenario and enjoin everyone to purchase a copy of this book so that I might keep up my opulent lifestyle or rpgs and Cristal filled hot tubs.