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Call of Cthulhu Quick-Start Rules
by Dennis S. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/30/2012 17:59:08
The Call of Cthulhu quick-start rules are definitely a step in the right direction to get players started on the game. However, it feels as though an opportunity was missed to reduce the size of the game even more and still completely retain its essence when compared to newer games like Trail of Cthulhu. The Resistance Table is still a page-long ASCII art project, for example, and the stats could have been unified under a single simple rolling mechanic, rather than some rolling 3d6 and some rolling 2d6+6 and so on. The Occupations section could've used a bit less trimming than these mechanical elements. The inclusion of character sheets and a small adventure is quite helpful. For free, this is a great product, and a great introduction to Call of Cthulhu, but I feel that it could've been even simpler for newer players.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Call of Cthulhu Quick-Start Rules
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The Gaslight Equipment Catalogue
by Brian L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/18/2012 17:32:54
The Gaslight Equipment guide should be part of the library for any Victorian or Steampunk game. Cthulhu, Space 1889, Red Sands etc gamers should all have it for their group.

Sections are separated by topic. Only a few are directly related to combat or combat mechanics. Combat mechanics are written for Cthulhu/BRP. These you can easily replace with those of your used game system or make up stats for the mechanics in use.

Other sections give numerous entries. It shows alot of what things where available in the setting. For instance "backpacks" aren't what must of modern people would think.

The amount of desciption by item is enhanced by articles explaining things in general. This is exceptionally useful as the modern player hasn't lived in Victorian times so might not even know how men shaved or ladies pampered in the morning.

For roleplayers the articles, non-combat items, prices, descriptions all give you content to make use of in descriping your character's action. Pack-rats and combat-focus will appreciate being able to figure out what they really caring and the differences in weapons.

All in all ... you should have it for any game in Victorian/Steampunk setting. For a PDF you can print a copy or simply show it on a screen to the different players.

Personally I use a laptop now. So I like having PDF books that I can pop-up easily. The laptop with 100s of PDF is alot easier to carry to the game then a stack of merely 12 books.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Gaslight Equipment Catalogue
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Devil's Gulch
by Alexander O. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/06/2012 08:30:16
Devil's Gulch does double-duty as both a setting book and a genre sourcebook, and given a page count of only 92 pages, that's a tall order.

It delivers both, sufficient to kick off a short Western campaign set in Devil's Gulch for a while.

On the genre sourcebook end, it provides an all important one-page listing of various aspects of the 'Code of the West' in the Old West -- measure a man by what he is today, not by his past; never try on another man's hat; give your enemy a fighting chance, etc. It's great at evoking a real sense of the times and climes of that almost mythic era.

It also gives various character professions that add on to the other more normal (time-period appropriate) professions for the era -- with a particular 'weird west' bent to them. I particularly like the snake oil hustler and the hexmaster, though the medicine man is also a welcome inclusion as well.

As a setting sourcebook, it gives a respectable number of locations in Devil's Gulch that are easily extractable to your own setting if you wish. Each location has a map, a statted-out NPC or two if appropriate, and a short but detailed description of what if found within, along with telling details that reinforce the western feel of the setting. I enjoyed little things like the lists of supplies that can be found in the general store, and how easy fires can be started in the dry, almost-entirely-made-from-wood buildings of Devil's Gulch.

The NPCs are also memorable, worthy of stealing from when looking for a random NPC walking the streets to liven up the session.

That interior art is consistent and distinctive. It's not really a photorealistic approach, but a moody, evocative, slightly cartoony feel -- kind of like the art in the Weird Western comic book The Sixth Gun and the art in Alan Moore's League of Extra-Ordinary Gentlemen -- that captures and evokes the weird western feel quite well.

If you're looking for something to expand your Weird West collection of materials, or have been hankering to run a Weird West campaign using the BRP system, this would be a fine addition to your sourcebooks.

(from my review at armchairgamer.blogspot.com)

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Devil's Gulch
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Call of Cthulhu Quick-Start Rules
by Christopher B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/04/2012 13:49:05
A good all round intro to this system.
It could have done with some more detail particularly occupations

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Call of Cthulhu Quick-Start Rules
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Call of Cthulhu Quick-Start Rules
by Radosław G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/04/2012 08:59:09
This is very good summary of rules that you can hand out to Players who have never played CoC before. !EXCEPT! very nice adventure that they will for sure read and you will not be able to play it - which is a shame because I find this adventure very good as introductory adventure.

Other than that - I like this.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Masks of Nyarlathotep
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/27/2012 07:13:24
Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/04/27/tabletop-review-masks-o-
f-nyarlathotep-fourth-edition-call-of-cthulhu/

Wow. What can be said about Masks of Nyarlathotep that hasn’t been said before. It’s one of the longest published adventures of all time, regardless of systems. It’s one of the most famous adventures of all time. Having won many awards and is often cited as one of, if not THE best adventures of all time. As a long time Call of Cthulhu fan, it may surprise you to learn my first exposure with Masks wasn’t until the third edition, otherwise known as The COMPLETE Masks of Nyarlathotep as the Australian chapter was excised from the campaign since it was crazy long already and placed into Terror Australis: Cthulhu Down Under. Despite my love of Call of Cthulhu, I only ever picked up one boxed adventure and that was Horror on the Orient Express, which still remains my favorite Call of Cthulhu product of all time and it vexes me that it’s not in PDF. Maybe someday…

I love the third printing of Masks of Nyarlathotep, but it’s been out of print for wow…at least a decade now, so it’s wonderful to have it back in print and in PDF format. Let me start by saying I’m exceptionally pleased with the price tag. In the mid 1990s, this thing went for $40 for the printed version, so with time and inflation being considered, paying less than twenty dollars for this Fourth Edition is such an insane deal that every Call of Cthulhu gamer should be thrusting money towards Chaosium, begging for them to take it. Masks of Nyarlathotep is that good. It’s also THAT LONG. Masks of Nyarlathotep is a massive undertaking. It covers an entire year of in game time, which each of the six sections taking multiple play sessions to get through. If you game once or twice a week with your friends, expect to be playing this adventure for months if not a full year yourself! It’s an awesome experience, but for people who can’t make the time commitment to the campaign, you might be better off just reading the adventure and enjoying it that way instead.

Two other quick words of advice on actually running Masks of Nyarlathotep. The first is that the Keeper should make a lot of the random based rolls ahead of time to streamline things and keep the game moving. This is a long undertaking after all, so if you have everything prepared ahead of time, you won’t have to stop in the middle of a gripping scene and roll to see how many cultists there are, or how many people hear the Investigators breaking and entering. The other piece of advice would be to make sure players realize their original characters will probably not survive the full campaign. There is a LOT of PC death in this, so make sure they are prepared for back-ups based on the location where the PCs currently are in-game. Masks of Nyarlathotep involves a lot of globe-trotting so if a character dies in say, Shanghai, it doesn’t make all that sense to replace him with a Samoan cricket player. I remember one time, I actually had a player sacrifice his beloved character, so he could make someone new with a few particular skills they knew they would need to properly proceed. A bit too meta for my liking, but you’ll see things like this happen in order for the team as a whole (and the world) to survive the machinations of the Crawling Chaos. Also, it made for a great scene that evening. ;-)

This fourth edition of Masks of Nyarlathotep is wonderfully done. The artwork is amazing and there’s so much detail in the little things, from character statements to scrawled insane blathering meant to be written by one of the NPCs. The Keeper is going to have to print a decent amount of the PDF off as handouts for players though, so don’t try running it straight from your Kindle Fire, Ipad or other e-reader type device. It’s important to print these bits off as it really makes the game cover alive for the players. Masks of Nyarlathotep can be a very tactile adventure at time so have some paper and scissors ready in preparation for your trip around the world. The only downside to the fourth edition is the same as the third in that the box set was truly something to behold. The box set consisted of

2 business cards & 1 matchbox kit on glossy card sheet
1 booklet of handouts
1 New York booklet (blue cover)
1 London booklet (maroon cover)
1 Cairo booklet (yellow cover)
1 Nairobi booklet (brown cover)
1 Shanghai booklet (green cover)

…and of course the box. Everything is still here (along with the Australia bits), but from an aesthetic standpoint, the first two editions were just amazing for the level of detail and the all the different booklets. On the other hand, this fourth edition is much cheaper and far easier to keep a hold of everything, especially if you get the PDF. No worries about losing the handouts or business cards here! I do miss the first edition box art though…

So what is Masks of Nyarlathotep about? It’s hard to explain without completely spoiling the story. After all, a good deal of the fun is figuring out all the crazy conspiracies going on, which ones tie together and how, and then stopping the literal decimation of the planet. The stakes have never been higher in a Call of Cthulhu adventure, because if Nyarlathotep succeeds in its plans, not only does the world get ravaged by the Outer Gods, but by the Great Old Ones as well. This my friends, is a big deal.

What starts off as a routine meeting with a friend of the Investigator(s) quickly spirals into a horrifying murder mystery with only snowballs into something much bigger from there. Players start off in New York City, but from there the adventure becomes amazingly free-form (especially for the time period in which MoN was originally written. This was light years ahead of what was being done for RPG tabletop scenarios). Investigators can find themselves visiting London, Cairo, Shanghai, Australia and Kenya (Not necessarily in that order) Each leg of the adventure contains red herrings and/or side quests to trip players up and keep the clock counting down to doomsday. Player death and Insanity are commonplace here and the end results is one of the most memorable adventures ever written for Call of Cthulhu or any other RPG system. Even if you don’t play Call of Cthulhu, you should be picking this up simply to see both how a large scale adventure is done and why so many people in the industry consider this one of the best things the entire industry has ever produced. If you read this review and don’t outright purchase the PDF or the physical copy of Masks of Nyarlathotep, then shame on you.

If you are looking for an adventure that will keep your players (and their characters) busy for months, the opportunity to save the world while fighting off legions of cultists (in proper Call of Cthulhu fashion), or you simply want to see why so many people consider this one of, if not THE, greatest adventures for an RPG system ever written, then go purchase Masks of Nyarlathotep the second you get done reading this. This will easily be the most intense, as well as the most memorable, published adventure you’ll ever experience. Just get it. Just get it and experience it. That’s all I can really say.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Masks of Nyarlathotep
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The Ghosts in the House
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/24/2012 06:19:09
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/04/24/tabletop-review-the-gho-
sts-in-the-house-call-of-cthulhu/

Ghosts in the House is the latest Call of Cthulhu monograph put out by Chaosium. For those of you who have never picked up a monograph before, these things are bare bones pdfs where the author of the piece has also done the editing and layouts. Sometimes they even do the art. Chaosium is pretty hands off on these, publishing the pieces for the sake of getting more Call of Cthulhu adventures and/or supplements out there. Sometimes this turns out wonderfully. This can be seen in pieces like the recently released Children of the Storm or The Abbey. Sometimes it goes spectacularly, horribly, awry like the awful train wreck Mystic Alliances. Usually though, you get a decent little piece that has merit but, in the end, really needed an editor to guide the piece so that it doesn’t fall short of its potential. Ghosts in the House is just such a monograph.

Ghosts in the House is meant to be a full campaign taking place in upper Wisconsin near the upper peninsula. The location for all four adventures? A sub-par nursing home. It’s an interesting location, but to set a full campaign around a single building is stretching things. It also risks boring the hell out of the people playing the campaign. Four adventures revolving around any single location, no matter how cool or outside the box it is, is going to get dull. A nursing home wears out its welcome pretty quickly.

An odd thing about this monograph is that, although it contains four adventures, the first fifty four pages of the monograph contains a single adventure, leaving thirteen pages for the other three. While the first adventure is pretty interesting, the other three adventures end up feeling thrown together without any real substance. This is especially true of the fourth and final adventure in the campaign, which feels like it belongs more in something like Shadowrun then Call of Cthulhu. I can’t see any party of Call of Cthulhu players wanting an adventure that is not only primarily about violence and little else, but one that is stacked in such a way that the players can’t “win.”

Perhaps the oddest thing about the monograph is how the first adventure is laid out. I’ve never seen a more disorganized or jumbled up adventure that actually made it to publication IN MY LIFE. The thing reads horribly – as if the person writing it for the adventure wrote it specifically for themselves, and so it all made sense to them because they knew everything already. For everyone else who picks this up, you’re going to be sitting here wondering why random events are mentioned before you have any plot synopsis, while important details about specific characters are mentioned before you’re even introduced to characters, and why the thing jumps around so much without any real cohesive writing. It’s as if sections were put into the pdf in the wrong order. Again, this is where we see the flaw in many a monograph. Ghosts in the House desperately needed an editor and didn’t get one. The other three adventures are lucky that they had such little detail spent on them; otherwise they too would have fallen prey to the same fate.



There are two big problems with the adventure, however. The first is that the adventure is geared primarily for "beginning characters." However, this and the proceeding adventure both really need the "Summon/Bind Ghost" spell in order to truly ensure success. The adventure even suggests having it at points. Yet, the adventure gives no real way for the Investigators to ever get this spell. That's bad planning. As the adventure proclaims itself to be for brand new characters, this means they won't have access to magic, or have any Cthulhu Mythos exposure. Yet it still wants you to have that spell. Catch 22. Again, more proof this thing needed a professional editor to vet this stuff out.

The other problem is that the adventure feels like it is meant to be read rather than played. There is a whole bunch of information and back story that players will never encounter. Only the Keeper will know what is going on because they read the little "What's Really Going On" section. There's no way for players to ever learn this information unless the Keeper just gives it to them (which will ruin the adventure) and the way the adventure ends, the players, both in and out of character, will be left with more questions than answers, no closure and a sense of "well, that came from out of left field." It ends up being an unsatisfactory experience, and even afterwards, when you explain what actually happened to your troupe, the reaction is... less than thrilling. There's a lot of potential in this adventure and the majority of it is quite fun to run, but the ending is just terrible.

The second adventure is "A House Full of Ghosts", a direct sequel to "The Man in the Hat." How the adventure goes down depends on how "The Mat in the Hat" ended with your players. I loved that the adventure takes nearly all possibilities into consideration and gives you different ways to run it based on what your players did. This is exceptionally well thought out and is definitely the best adventure in terms of writing and cohesion. Playing the adventure though... that's where the problems begin. Again, you really need the “Summon/Bind Ghost: spell to make this adventure a success. However, the writers went a bit overboard and decided to throw TWENTY-THREE ghosts at you. What the hell? No Call of Cthulhu adventure should have that many paranormal creatures in it, especially in such a small location. What the hell were they thinking? Less is more with this system after all. It gets even weirder when the players are offered two $50,000 goals for this adventure. That’s an insane amount of money for a group of four to six players to spend a week or two in a nursing home. Honestly, I love Shadowrun, but the writers seem to think that they can write missions with monetary figures and the sheer number of enemies you encounter in that system and port it over to Call of Cthulhu without any problems. I love the idea of the story (much like “The Man in the Hat”), but there’s too much going on and at only three pages long, there’s really not enough for a Keeper to go off of. They’ll have to make up the majority of the adventure themselves, and at this point, they might as well make up something from scratch instead. Once again, this is a middle of the road affair. Great ideas, but poor follow-through. I like the emphasis on following up the first adventures and all the possibilities, but the writer really needed an experienced Call of Cthulhu editor to say, “Wait. Hold up.”

“The Hole in the Attic” is the third adventure that brings the players back to Oak Grove, and this time, it’s in an attempt to find a weird goblinoid creature. The adventure is pretty cut and dry. It’s very quick and the premise is simple. It wouldn’t be a “Ghosts in the Home” adventure without some big problems, however, and in this case, it’s about providing proof of the supernatural to the employer. Again, the adventure feels more like a Shadowrun affair. You have a Mr. Johnson, a specific extraction run, and some violence for the sake of violence. I suppose it’s fine for what it is, but “The Hole in the Attic” just doesn’t feel like a COC affair. Maybe a Chill adventure, but not something Chaosium would want its name attached to. It’s the best written of the adventures, but the least Cthulhoid. Like everything else in this collection, it’s a thumbs in the middle.

The final adventure is “The Last Gasp” and it’s outright terrible. I honestly can’t see any self-respecting Call of Cthulhu player wanting to sit through this. For an Monograph that says “The adventure emphasizes data collection and discussion over running and screaming,” they sure missed the mark big time with this one, as the entire adventure is once again, you guessed It, far more Shadowrun than Call of Cthulhu. Here players return to the “Yupper Pensinula” one last time into what will surely be their deaths. Investigators are given a MacGuffin and have to figure out what it is. Then a mysterious cult that is not given any back story (nor is even seen or heard from again) tries to take the item, by force if necessary. There are as many cultists as the players plus five and they all have twenty hit points (which is an insane number for CoC and almost impossible for a human to have). It’s almost a given that the PCs will die or lose the object and then… the adventure just ends. It’s violence for the sake of violence with no actual substance behind it. Not only is this contrary to what Call of Cthulhu is all about, it is also contrary to what the monograph espouses to be. It’s just a terrible adventure in every way possible.

All in all, I can’t really recommend Ghosts in the House. The majority of the piece is cluttered and unorganized, while the other three adventures are too short and bare bones. There are huge problems with each adventure that even a Novice Keeper will instantly see, and the overall content is just too weak. Now, there IS a lot of potential here. With a good editor re-arranging the contents of the first adventure, fleshing out the second, leaving the third alone and either excising or outright replacing the fourth, there could be something here well worth investing in. As it stands, Ghosts in the House is an example of where Chaosium’s monograph series falls short of its intended existence. For seven dollars, this isn’t a HORRIBLE purchase, but you can definitely find better CoC collections to spend your hard earned money on.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Ghosts in the House
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Masks of Nyarlathotep
by Jay S. A. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/23/2012 23:18:12
Masks is by far one of the most interesting and compelling adventures I have had the pleasure of reading and playing. I don't want to divulge too much of the plot for the sake of those who will still end up playing the game, but I will try to at least mention the high points of this adventure.

Masks presents a strong investigative / pulp adventure vibe, and while it is still the traditional and horrifying jaunt through the Cthulhu Mythos, there's plenty of travel, research and adventuring to satisfy the needs of many a gamer who enjoys the era of play. The presence of so many varied and interesting NPCs each with their own secrets and agendas that can run counter to the players in the most interesting of ways.

Masks is a tightly linked series of adventures that forms an entire campaign, and as such, it requires a lot of dedication from its players. This isn't a beer and pretzels adventure by any stretch of the imagination. Masks requires a lot of attention, care and note-taking to get through, and sometimes even the most careful investigator might end up in over his head.

I would highly recommend Masks of Nyarlathotep as an essential part of an CoC library. The campaign itself is long, and at some parts quite possibly unfair, but for a dedicated team of Investigators, it's all worth it for the memory of being able to take on Nyarlathotep and live to tell about it.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Masks of Nyarlathotep
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Children of the Storm
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/23/2012 06:43:17
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/04/23/tabletop-review-childre-
n-of-the-storm-call-of-cthulhu/

Sometimes a supplement or campaign setting comes along that is so elegant and ingenious that you have to wonder how no one had thought of it before now. Children of the Storm is just such a book. For use with Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu, Children of the Storm lets Investigators and Keepers play the game during the time period of The Great Depression through just before the dawn of World War II. It’s such an obvious fit. The Great Depression is a time period very close to the de factor 1920s setting that most Call of Cthulhu adventures and campaign take place in, yet it is so very different from the 1920s that it almost feels light years away. The Roaring 20s of course were full of gangsters, dancing, drinking and a general sense of upbeat positivity in America. The 30s were a time of melancholia, rampart unemployment, a general feel of pessimism and, for many, an uncertain future as to how they would pay their bills or where their next meal would come from. In many ways the bleak outlook that Lovecraft and his contemporaries predicted for mankind did indeed come about, but it was by their own hands rather than an alien creature from beyond the stars. For gamers that like taking the themes and system of Call of Cthulhu but prefer it in alternate time periods like Cthulhu Invictus or Cthulhu Dark Ages, you will more than likely fall in love with Children of the Storm as instantly as I did. For those that prefer things to be set in the 1920s, Children of the Storm is still of use to you and your players if have a long ongoing campaign. After all, you’re going to hit 1929 sometime!

Children of the Storm is eighty pages of pure awesomeness. It contains everything a fan of the 1930s could ask for…along with Cthulhuoid monstrosities to boot! The book starts off with an eight page introduction to the time period followed by four full-length, in-depth adventures. I was really surprised how much information about the 30s was packed into these eight pages. You’re given historical background about the time period, what led up to the Great Depression, how people coped and the technology of the time. You’re also given eight new character classes for the time period. These include Teen Hobo, Radical, Social Worker (two kinds), FBI Agent, Civilian Conservation Corpsman, PWA Construction Worker, WPA Artist and Documentarian. I literally squealed when I saw the section on the CCC as it’s my favorite part of the 30s and, without getting political, something I still feel should be done today when the country gets into bad spots. We’re also given three new skills: Sociology, Forensics and Cinematography. Investigators will no doubt find the first two of extreme interest. The intro then ends with eleven scenarios snippets that the Keeper can fully flesh out after they have played through all four adventures in Children of the Storm with their gaming crew.

“The Starving Ones” is the first adventure in Children of the Storm and it’s an awesome one. Travelling within a stone’s throw of the small West Virginia town my wife grew up in. Here the PCs will be investigating a rash of mysterious deaths where people seem to be…eating themselves to death. How are these deaths connected to a long abandoned home of a Confederate supporter? That’s for the investigators to discover. “The Starving Ones” is a very subtle and still very creepy adventure. Investigators have a pretty big mystery to unfold and neither the cause nor the solution are outright apparent. There’s only one possible Mythos creature that PCs might encounter, but even that is not a given. What remains is simply an adventure that really tests the player’s deductive and inductive reasoning skills. I love it. This adventure is just a great old school horror story that feels like it should have been written by Ambrose Bierce. “The Starving Ones” alone is well worth the cover price.

“To the Dust Returned” takes players to southern South Dakota near the Nebraska border. This is a very surreal adventure that involves the Dreamlands and our world converging on one sleepy little hamlet overwhelmed by dust storms. This is another adventure where the solution for success isn’t obvious and that’s part of what makes it fun. There are multiple ways to complete “To the Dust Returned,” but only two that lead to a happy ending for the majority of people involved. You get pretty much everything here. There’s redneck bigoted sheriff, a theme of religion vs. science, extremely creepy monsters which are never fully seen by the players and a weird fantasy-esque dreamworld that is superimposing itself on this little community. I’m generally not a fan of Dreamland based adventures, especially those with the cliché of the two realms merging idea, but this one is exceptional.

“ENTR’ACTE” is by far the weirdest and creepiest of the adventures in Children of the Storm and considering the first two, that’s saying something. Here players are in Northern California, near the Oregonian border. Here players will have to investigate the disappearance and/or kidnapping of some children. As the players investigate further, they find a rash of disappearances all fitting a similar profile. Are a small group of Japanese immigrants behind the missing children? What about an odd theatre group? What about Nyarlathotep? Players will have to figure out what really happened to these missing kids and the answer is far worse than they had imagined. This adventure is probably the most physical and violent in the collection. It definitely has the most gore and the highest chance of Investigators not making it out alive. The adventure is also the only one that could easily be set outside the 30s.

“The Tractate” is a wonderfully blend of a good old fashioned murder mystery, Cthulhuoid terror, secret societies, and taking down the evil schemes of Nazis. You really don’t see the Third Reich come up in Call of Cthulhu very often unless it’s the remnants in a Modern Era adventure. As such, this may be the adventure the players have the most fun with as it is straight forward, has you dealing with the SS at the height of its power and the summoning of a godlike creature from 2,600 light years away. “The Tractate” takes place in good old Arkham, MA, which makes it easy to fit into most Call of Cthulhu campaigns. This is a fun little adventure to end the book on and it’s the only one that directly forces Investigators to do battle with an ancient godlike being.

All in all, I really loved The Children of the Storm. I think the idea of a Cthulhu campaign setting during the Great Depression is a wonderful one. There’s a nice amount of information here, some fun new character classes and skills and four really great adventures that any Keeper will enjoy running. Children of the Storm is a great example of why I love Chaosium’s monographs so much. At only eight and a quarter dollars, it’s almost impossible to think of a reason why any Call of Cthulhu gamer wouldn’t pick this up.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Children of the Storm
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Cthulhu Invictus Companion
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/20/2012 06:01:05
Originally published at: http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product_reviews_write.php?prod-
ucts_id=101277

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.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Cthulhu Invictus Companion
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Unseen Masters
by Rory H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/18/2012 07:27:11
Meaty interlocking trio of scenarios set in modern New York. The major selling point is the high level of psychiatric research that went into it, particularly the award winning middle scenario. Without giving the plot away, it's well worth buying for that one alone.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Unseen Masters
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Call of Cthulhu
by Rory H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/18/2012 04:33:43
Call of Cthulhu is a brilliant and influential RPG, as almost any gamer ought to know, and it remains as playable and adaptable to different eras as ever. The interior layout is nice and mysteriously atmospheric, and the writing style appealing if you like academia and conciseness over flowery prose (which I do). The original short story is also included, which is worth noting - and some of the artwork is excellent.

There are some glaring editorial issues, however - one of the pages (a full page piece of art) is missing, the title fonts are askew towards then end of the book and the character sheets are the missing lines need to be functional. All of these aspects are correct in the extra pdf copy provided from the original book (and don't really affect the game or the writing in any way), but this copy is a bit faded and disjointed as those pdfs usually are. Could do with an editorial update, in short.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Call of Cthulhu
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Publisher Reply:
This PDF for CALL OF CTHULHU was re-processed for better appearance and functionality. Thanks -- Chaosium.
Call of Cthulhu Quick-Start Rules
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/17/2012 06:30:52
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/04/17/tabletop-review-call-of-
-cthulhu-quick-start-rules/

I love Call of Cthulhu. Along with Shadowrun and Vampire: The Masquerade, it’s made up my holy trinity of RPGS since I was a child. I moved away from tabletop gaming for a while, but over the past year, Call of Cthulhu has been on fire. Between the gorgeous 30th Anniversary Edition of the game and the recent remake of Cthulhu By Gaslight, which is easily the best Role-Playing Campaign Setting/supplement I’ve read in some time, my love for this system and its setting has been reignited. So when I was offered a review copy of the quick start rules, I jumped at the chance to see how Chaosium was going to try and reel in new players.

I’ll admit I was originally turned off and somewhat offended by the fact Chaosium was charging money for quick start rules. These are universally free as a way to bring new players into a game, so any money at all being charged for something that is normally FREE is not only a bit ass backwards but is probably going to be detrimental instead of inviting. I’ve said for a while now that Chaosium hasn’t adjusted very well to the digital age, charging more for PDFs than it should, especially compared to competitors, and this is a perfect example of their inability to adapt. The sheer fact they charge for quick start rules is almost enough for me to say, “Don’t buy it.” However, the quality of the product is so top notch that is eventually had me coming around to thinking, “Well, it IS only seventy-five cents…”

So what do you get with your quick start rules? Well, you get a black and white cover from 3rd Edition (The game is currently on 5.6, although they officially renamed it sixth edition a while back, even though nothing is different.), an introduction to the game system and Lovecraft’s writing in general, and then the basic rules for how to make an Investigator (player character). These rules cover attributes, skills and the like. The only thing missing are set professions. The character creation process only takes up two and a half pages and it gives you all a newcomer needs to make a character. It won’t be as refined as someone with the full core rulebook, but it’s meant to be quick and dirty, and so, it fulfills its goal nicely.

The next four pages are an amazingly concise set of the rules for the game system. Thankfully, CoC’s rules are light and straightforward to begin with, so this works rather easily. It also comes will a full Resistance Table and examples of gameplay. This section closes off with a set of books and films to help one get in the mood for a Call of Cthulhu game. The entire CoC core rulebook summed up in only nine pages? I never thought it possible, but this was incredibly well done.

The next seven pages are the adventure, “The Haunting.” This is a very common adventure, and generally the first or second that newcomers to Call of Cthulhu play. This alone is worth the cover price, as it’s always a fun adventure to play through, and I love that it has been retooled to have adventure hooks that lead to other Chaosium products. This way a new Call of Cthulhu Keeper (DM) can pick up one of those books and use the two for a campaign. Very cute. I especially love that you can run the adventure with just the quick start guide as it contains all the rules you will need, including spells and info on the Mythos tome within.

After a one page ad for the game, the quick start rules finish up with four pre-generated characters (two from the 1890s and two from the 1920s), and then a blank character sheet for players to print off and make their own. All in all, this is a wonderful product, but again, I can’t give it top marks simply because Chaosium is trying to charge for what is a free product in every other tabletop line, and that doesn’t sit well with me. If this was free, it’d be something I would be printing off and handing to anyone even remotely interested in RPGs. As it is, you have an extremely well done quick start rules set that no one is actually going to pay money for unless they don’t realize quick start rules sets are always free. Come one Chaosium… you’re better than that. Excellent quality, but it still feels somewhat slimy.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Call of Cthulhu Quick-Start Rules
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Publisher Reply:
Hi, Read your review. Made the CALL OF CTHULHU QUICK-START a free download. Charlie Krank Chaosium Inc.
Masks of Nyarlathotep
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/15/2012 02:02:46
Originally published over twenty years ago, in 1984, Masks of Nyarlathotep is one of Chaosium's best known campaigns for good reason. Not only does it provide a wide geographic variety of adventures players and Keepers will enjoy, it's also a very well designed adventure, avoiding many pitfalls other Call of Cthulhu adventures fall into. Masks was written by Larry DiTillio, whose writing credits also include executive story editor for the science-fiction series Babylon 5.

The adventure begins with the gruesome murder of a friend in New York. Investigators explore overseas to England, Egypt, Kenya, Shanghai, and western Australia. Locations range from London museums, to Egyptian pyramids, Kenyan mountains, Australian deserts, and Chinese import warehouses. NPCs run the gamut from high society to mysterious wisemen. Not only will investigators encounter cults dedicated to different aspects of Nyarlathotep, but will meet a memorable variety of mythos creatures as well.

From a Keeper's standpoint, the adventure is exceptionally well-designed. All too often, I've run a Call of Cthulhu adventure only to hit an unexpected dead end, as the players failed to find a critical clue called for by the adventure. Some fumbling improvisation usually moves the plot forward, but the author in Masks provides multiple ways to obtain the clues the investigators need to proceed in their tasks. For those Keepers who enjoy adding their own touches to an adventure, the author suggests various adventure seeds to enhance game sessions. Meanwhile, Keepers who do not will not be required to do so. Each country has three to five separate adventures, including red herrings, which investigators should encounter more often than they seem to do. If there's any caution to note, Keepers should be prepared to play the part of a very wide range of NPCs. If you have a co-GM, or a player who's joining for just one session, enlist them to play a few NPCs!

In my opinion, I think the PDF format is superior to the dead-tree version. Both hardcopy and PDF have a handout section that can be photocopied or printed out. However, with a PDF, a Keeper can do much more. The Keeper can print out maps and 1920's prices for players to refer to. The adventures contain atmospheric evocative artwork the Keeper can print out to show the players what their investigators see. Players inevitably forget the orally presented (and often critical) information their investigators discover. The Keeper can print and give this information to the players. And, when PCs also inevetibly expire, NPCs encountered in the adventure can become PCs. The Keeper can print out their stats and backgrounds to provide them to the players. If a player misses several sessions, or a new player joins in a few months into play, the other players can simply give the handouts to the player to catch up (assuming they're organized better than your typical Arkham professor's research notes).

I'm very happy to see Chaosium release Masks of Nyarlathotep in PDF format. Its $20 pricetag is also 2/3 the price of the dead-tree version. Not a bad deal for one of Call of Cthulhu's mostly highly regarded adventures.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Masks of Nyarlathotep
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Cthulhu by Gaslight
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/13/2012 13:38:48
Introduction: Andrew Lucard has written an excellent review of Cthulhu by Gaslight, 3rd edition, so I'll be taking a look at the PDF itself, which has been corrected since his review. The PDF was viewed on a PC with Acrobat X, and iPad 2 on Adobe Reader and other readers.

The PDF viewed is CHA23123book_rev.pdf, dated 4/5/12. On the PC with Adobe Acrobat X, I was able to view the document. I had problems viewing the document on an iPad 2, until I upgraded my Adobe Acrobat to the 4/10/12 version. iPad 2 apps that had problems viewing the document were previous versions of Acrobat, iBooks, PerfectReader, pdf-notes, PDFReaderLite, and Epson iPrint. The viewing problem is that the background on the boxed text is too dark to read the text.

Format: The PDF comes in a 196 page book, divided into Victorian Characters (player material), The Victorian World (player and Keeper historical source material), Strange Britain (player and Keeper occult and mythos source material, NPC stats, and adventure seeds), Gaslight Adventures: The Night of the Jackals (introductory adventure) and The Burnt Man, Appendix I: Suggested Sources, Maps and Handouts for the adventures, and Character Sheet. The PDF is in black and white, in a double-column format.

Price: The price of the PDF is $20 versus the MSRP of $28. That's only an $8 difference, and some online sellers may have the print version at lower than MSRP. If you *must* have a print version, you might as well buy it printed. However, the PDF version has some advantages over print, particularly for the player material.

Victorian Characters: The player material consists of the Victorian Character generation section and The Victorian World historical source material. A major advantage PDFs have over printed copies is that the Keeper can print several copies of player materials, so each player can have his own copy. The Victorian Characters section is about 20-some pages printed.

Victorian World: Based on historical England, the Victorian World source material can be used by both players and the Keeper. An advantage of the PDF format is that Keepers can easily share this information with the players. Avid players may read ahead of time this section before the game. Or a Keeper can print out the pages and cut out relevant information (eg. Underworld Slang or English law) as handouts to players during the game. This section is about 45 pages long.

Strange Britain: This section consist of Occult in the 1890s, A Gazetteer of Selected Strange Sites in Britain, The Cthulhu Mythos in Britain, Victorian Fictional Characters, A Compendium of Victorian Non-Player Characters, and Victorian Scenario Suggestions. Like the Victorian World, the Keeper can provide the occult information to players as printed handouts ahead of time or during the game, depending on their occult skill. The Gazetteer and Cthulhu Mythos are prevented something like one-paragraph adventure seeds. A crafty Keeper can definitely print this information as handouts for unfounded rumors and red herrings for gullible investigators. The remaining sections are Keeper material to add unique NPCs, stock NPC stats, and suggestions on running Victorian adventures.

Gaslight Adventures: Cthulhu by Gaslight includes two adventures, The Night of the Jackals, and The Burnt Man. The Night of the Jackals is an introductory adventure, still challenging for experienced players. Both come with handouts to print and provide the players. Both also include atmospheric art that can also be used as handouts to show players what their investigators see.

Suggested Sources for Victorian Roleplayers: This section lists further reading of and viewing Victorian fiction, Cthulhu Mythos fiction in Britain, and Victorian Roleplaying.

Maps and Handouts: Cthulhu by Gaslight provides maps and handouts for players for the game adventures, plus a map of London. A larger map is printed in black and white, with additional blue for railway and underground.

Character Sheet: The first page of the character sheet has the Call of Cthulhu stats, while the second page is for personal data and other background information. Unfortunately, I was not able to fill in the sheet in Acrobat.

Conclusion: The PDF format allows the Keeper great flexibility in providing Cthulhu by Gaslight to players. iPad 2 viewers should upgrade to Adobe Acrobat, version released on 4/10/12.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cthulhu by Gaslight
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