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Cthulhu Britannica: Shadows over Scotland $39.99 $19.99
Average Rating:4.9 / 5
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Cthulhu Britannica: Shadows over Scotland
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Cthulhu Britannica: Shadows over Scotland
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Herbert S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/04/2011 16:57:23
I have been a fan of all H.P.Lovecraft work since the 60's and I would put Stuart Boons "Shadows over Scotland as one of the best source books ever!The way he set this system up with Cubicle 7 is outstanding!I am waiting for more from them.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cthulhu Britannica: Shadows over Scotland
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/04/2011 15:09:34
When I had the chance to review Cthulhu Britannica: Shadows Over Scotland, I leapt at it. I actually have a Call of Cthulhu adventure to run in a few weeks and was impressed at the quality of the scenarios of the original Cthulhu Britannica.

Shadows Over Scotland is both a sourcebook for Scotland adventures, as well as a collection of six scenarios. Although the PDF is formatted like the book, I actually found the PDF format itself quite useful. Overall, on an ipad, while the size of an ipad is smaller than a book, the book was quite readable. On a laptop, I still found the two-column format inconvenient. I would scroll down the page to read the first column, scroll up to the second column when I was done with the first one, then scroll back down again to read the second.

The book starts off with a 30-page "An Introduction to 1920's Scotland". This section is divided into the non-fictional Scotland after the Great War, then a mixing of the Mythos into Scotland pre-history. The first section will be quite useful for Keepers to bring in an accurate atmosphere of 1920's Scotland (and Scotland immigrants) to a Call of Cthulhu game. The second section, which includes a timeline, may be useful if the Keeper needs to ad hoc mention any Mythos activities to Investigators diligently poking their noses about. Both sections are entertaining reading and are best read electronically rather than printed out.

The next sections, which I will call the sourcebook, detail in game stats the locations of Scotland: The Lowlands, The Highlands, and The Islands. Each section starts with some non-fictional information about the Geography, Culture and People, Flora and Fauna, and Climate. When applicable (eg. fauna), stats are provided.

It's when a section discusses The Mythos, things get choppy. The scope is "to supply enough material to allow Keepers to quickly build scenarios of their own or to incorporate these materials into ongoing adventures". In other words, while well-written and very imaginative, they're inomplete. Articles range from background-level scenarios, to only the climax of an adventure, to almost-scenarios. I reallly wished these bits and pieces were made into full-fledged scenarios. On the other hand Keepers who can develop scenarios from these vivid beginnings should find these pieces of writing rewarding.

The scenarios are top-notch. Some require a Keeper who's just as good as the writing. Keepers already know how important human NPCs are, and the NPCs in these scenarios are especially vivid. Many of the darker ones have personal motives and a Keeper will want to do them justice to make them more interesting to the players. For scenarios, I find the PDF format muchly superior to a book. A Keeper need only print out the scenario pages, can write on them for notes, and physically cut out the handout illustrations or important bits of text for the players.

Overall, highly recommended!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cthulhu Britannica: Shadows over Scotland
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Nearly e. D. P. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/22/2011 15:37:08
Being a resident Scot myself, Cthulhu Britannica and, especially, Shadows over Scotland were always going to be of interest and appeal to me. The first section of the book is a look at 1920's Scotland and the mood of the people, recent history including the role of the great war, what life is like for the different classes, politics of the period while also taking care to look at the positives of the time like in creative arts such as the works of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the success of J.M. Barrie and other literary works. Neatly, there are also sidebars for pre-decimalisation money (though oddly it doesn't specifically say it was 240p to the pound, the closest it gets is saying it was 12p to the shilling and 20 shillings to the pound) and some common Scots lexicon/lingo (with pronunciation guides for things like ceilidh and the sgian dubh) to help add a more authentic edge to dialogue.

Next we come to the Keeper's History of Scotland, covering Scotland's history in about 10 pages from the prehistoric and stone age, moving onto the ages of bronze and iron, Roman invasion of Britain (including a possible Mythos explanation for the disappearance of the Ninth Hispanic Legion) before moving to the rest of the first Millennium – Picts, Celts, Vikings, Angles and the conflicts between Mythos and Christianity. We then take a look at 1000-1500; the unification of Scotland under one rule and Edward I's attempt to claim sovereignty over Scotland and the Declaration of Arbroath. Next is 1500-1750 covering Mary Queen of Scots, her exile, religious reformation and Union of Parliaments, Jacobite rebellion (and a sidebar on the Glencoe Massacre), Industrial Revolution and Early 20th Century. And all this before we even get to the Mythos Timeline! The mythos timeline covers the whole period from Pangaea to 1920, giving the key events of Scotland in order with some of the non-Mythos events to help us piece it all together more easily and Shadows over Scotland then introduces us to about half a dozen notable figures of the 1920s including Alexander Fleming, Arthur Conan Doyle and also has a list of suggested further reading for more information on modern Scotland, the history and people that have made it up.

With the scenarios provided, there's a lot of interesting different ideas – some classic figures of Scottish history converted into Mythos beasties that'll still be around in the 1920s and possibly later still, some classic beings used in others and across a wide range of locations in Scotland. I've only ran one of the scenarios - The Forbidden Isle, set on the island of Rum – and reading through it I was excited. A fairly straight forward scenario that should work well for a group that was made up of players who had played Cthulhu several times before and others who had never touched it. It looked interesting and taking a quick look on google for extra research it seemed to be a well researched adventure and well laid out. Reading through it, there were some details I wish I'd paid more attention to when it came to running the adventure; red herrings that distracted the party and details they did notice (and some they didn't) that I simply didn't have an explanation for even after the scenario was finished (such as missed footprints in the dust in the attic that lead to a pile of clothing implied to belong to the victims – how did it get there? Was it the enthralled servant of the Mythos creature, was it a member of the household, was it coincidentally similar? I still don't know and I'm glad the party missed two sets of spot hidden rolls so I didn't have to explain that or have the party become more convinced it was some sort of inside job). It left me disappointed in the end, something I hate to say about an otherwise fantastic book.

Overall I'd say the book is solid – excellent background and characters. It could practically be an engaging, well written textbook for the information it has on Scotland and it's history. I've only ran or played one scenario, so I hope it's one of the lesser scenarios as it left me a little disappointed but there are still fantastic ideas for games and scenarios. I'd rate the book 5/5 – the information could possibly rival an academic book on Scotland and it has lots of good ideas but I feel the scenarios are disappointing without a lot of careful reading and note-taking to find out what are genuine clues, red herrings and how the red herrings can be explained if discovered after the scenario is over.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cthulhu Britannica: Shadows over Scotland
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/16/2011 06:58:15
Originally Posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2011/09/16/review-cthulhu-britanni-
ca-shadows-over-scotland/

When I reviewed Cthulhu Britannica back in late August, I gave it a thumbs in the middle as I liked two adventures, disliked two and found one to be merely okay. In retrospect I think I was a bit hard on it, especially after wading through two horrible Cthulhu adventures since then. Both Open Design LLC’s Red Eye of Azathoth and Trail of Cthulhu: The Repairer of Reputations were not only some of the worst Cthulhu related adventures I’ve had to look at, but they were some of the worst published adventures out of any system EVER that I’ve had the misfortune of coming across. Now however I’m back with Cubicle 7 and their third Cthulhu Britannica release. Shadows over Scotland differs from the original Cthulhu Britannica in that it is a sourcebook for running a campaign in Scotland as opposed to simply being a collection of adventures. Now the book contains six scenarios in addition to the source book info, which means all you need is this and a Call of Cthulhu handbook and you’re ready to roll. So how does Shadows Over Scotland stack up? It’s time to find out.

The sourcebook part of Shadows Over Scotland is roughly 135 pages. It is divided into four sections: “An Introduction to 1920s Scotland,” “The Lowlands,” “The Highlands,” and finally, “The Islands.” I love that the book gives you maps of the area and even url links to highly detailed maps of the regions for Keepers who want to really go in-depth. It also gives you information on what living in Scotland during the 1920s would be like based on your occupation and class. There is a lot of talk about the Great War and life after it. With over one MILLION Scots dying or being injured in the war, it’s easy to paint the region as a place that is both hopeful and downright depressing during this era. The sourcebook is a wonderful source for actual Scottish history and lore, with some fictional Mythos bits thrown in to pepper things up. I loves reading about the history of Scotland during this time, even while it made me really sad to think of the squalor and poverty than ran rampart in the country. There are quotes from actual historical texts about the time period, which not only helps the whole thing to come alive, but also provides those with a non-fiction bent (such as myself) with titles to look for should they wish to learn more. You get slang, currency conversions, timelines and more. This is a Keeper’s dream come true right here.

As you might imagine, Shadows Over Scotland blends actual Scottish folklore with the Cthulhu Mythos throughout. The book touches on Skara Brae, the Loch Ness Monster, standing stones, Hadrian’s Wall and more. But then you’ll get something like a factoid about William of Orange feeding the MacDonald to a Shoggoth to remind you this is a RPG sourcebook after all. I have to admit seeing people like Lady Macbeath getting a Cthulhoid twist made my day. Each section gives a “Mythos Threat”breakdown for the region should you be inclined to create your own adventures. For example in “The Lowlands,” you get the Serpent People and Sawney Bean while in “The Highlands,” you’ll find Mi-Go and The Floating Horror of Glen Affric (my personal favorite beastie in the book). You’ll also get detailed information on specific Scottish cities to give you some ground work for when your players travel there.

Then there are the six adventures. First up is “Death and Horror Incorporated.” This first adventure is a murder mystery that takes place in Glasgow. What I really like about this adventure is that it is open ended instead of divided into scenes set in a linear fashion like most published adventures for RPGs tend to be these days. There are a lot of red herrings and it tests the mental mettle of the Investigators. Those are my favorite adventures to run, regardless of systems so I was quite pleased with this. My favorite part of this particular adventure is pretty much for Keeper eyes only, but I loved the frank look at the trials and tribulations of a ghoul society. The players will be working for the Lord Provost in an attempt to solve a plethora or connected murders which they will inevitably find linked to the aforementioned ghouls along with some unexpected human allies. This is a great adventure to introduce players to a Scottish campaign but also as an introduction to Call of Cthulhu itself as there won’t be any Great Old Ones to deal with. There’s also room for the Keeper to play the ghouls as good or evil, depending on how they want to interpret the story and the end ghoul they are searching for. When I did this adventure, I ran the ghouls more as a metaphor for the suffering and poverty the Scots were going through during this time period and that the Ghouls turned to murder and theft due to starvation, just like humans are wont to do when in dire straits. This threw the Players for a loop as it put them in an ethical/moral discussion more than once, making for great roleplaying. A really great adventure and well worth experiencing.

The second adventure is, “The Hand of Abyzou,” and it takes players to the city of Edinburgh. This adventure involves a friend of the investigators being committed to an insane asylum and an encounter with the serpent people. Like the previous adventure, there is a lot of detective work and critical thinking involved. Unlike the previous one, there’s no way you can shape the antagonists into something remotely sympathetic. The serpent people do want to subjugate humanity to their rule after all. The hook here is on how you play the friend of the players who has been deemed mad. If you play him too straight, the entire adventure is solved by an NPC and the players don’t do much of anything. If you play him like a gibbering lunatic, there won’t be enough of a hook to begin investigations. So the opening moments of how you present the adventure determine how much the Investigators will have to work for their success. Of course, by success I mean, “figure out what is happening.” Even when they do that, they still have to deal with an entire cult of zealous humans, a horde of serpent people and prevent both groups from awakening “the sleepers,” which are basically a vast quantity of serpent people in suspended animation. The downside to this adventure is the sheer amount of combat in it, which Call of Cthulhu characters simply aren’t built for. Because of the number of serpent people and the sheer power of the mages (they know EVERY spell in CoC!), it’s all but impossible for a party to triumph here unless the Keeper fudges some die rolls or the characters are Call of Cthulhu veterans with a lot of magic (and thus little sanity) behind them. A bad keeper will let this adventure devolve into a dungeon crawl full of hack and slash while a good one while make it a mix of survival horror and stealth.

The third adventure is “Uisge Beatha ,” or, “The Water of Life.” Unlike the previous adventures which took place in large cities, this one occurs in a rural area in the northeast of Scotland. Here players will get to investigate a spooky old castle and encounter an entire town that will remind diehard Mythos fans of Innsmouth in more ways than one. I had a few problems with this adventure if only because of the potential of too many monsters. In this case, it’s the fact an underwater city of 50,000+ (You read that number correctly) Deep Ones is only five miles from the town where this scenario takes place. The key to a quality CoC adventure is not to overwhelm the Investigators with Mythos creatures lest they become mundane. Obviously, that isn’t happening here. There’s also several problems with the adventure as a whole such as whiskey tainted with water that turn people and/or their offspring into Deep Ones (many reasons why this wouldn’t work and was found to be far-fetched, even in a RPG. ) The problem here basically comes down to the fact that the Deep Ones are basically treated like supervillains out of a Marvel or DC comic book here and things lack the subtlety of “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.” This requires the Investigators to be played as superheroes thwarting a huge conspiracy, and with the CoC system and general characters, that’s all but impossible to do unless you’ve been running a Cthulhu version of a Monty Haul campaign. It’s also written is such a way that it feels like the writers tried to create an adventure where the players are set up to lose from the get-go. This adventure is a little too over the top and grandiose for me to recommend and due to the sheer number of Mythos creatures in it, I can’t see it being very much fun for players.

The fourth adventure in Shadows Over Scotland is “Heed the Kraken’s Call” and we get the token “Loch Ness” adventure with this one. Because of the location, players will probably jump to conclusions from the second they learn where this takes places. That’s actually a good thing as the adventure throws in a few red herrings and you never get an actual answer as to whether there IS a Loch Ness Monster – at least in the way we tend to think of one. Instead you’re getting a murder mystery, an encounter with the undead, the Scottish equivalent of hermitic hillbillies and a Great Old One. I won’t spoil anything further, but the particular Great Old One that shows up in this adventure is my second favorite one (Nyogtha is my #1). It’s rarely used and I have a soft spot for it, so I broke out in a big smile to see it here.
Like all Cubicle 7 penned COC adventures, there are a lot more Mythos creatures that your Investigators will have to deal with than normal, so make sure this is an adventurer your players have the experience to deal with. The good news is there are far less than in the previous four scenarios and they are far easier to deal with. The adventure is very loosely constructed, so a lot of it is left up to the Keeper in terms of the order of events and how the Investigators proceed. The adventure still gives you plenty of handouts, points of interests and story pieces, so there’s enough structure to keep things flowing while enough room for a Keeper to make this scenario his or her own. The adventure does end with a pretty large combat scene. Again, this is typical for a Cubicle 7 CoC scenario, but it might be jarring to both keepers and players who aren’t used to Call of Cthulhu being combat heavy.

The fifth adventure, “The Forbidden Isle” takes place on The Isle of Rum, so expect a lot of jokes about the location’s name. It’s a short adventure compared to the previous four, but it’s a neat location and it’s very fast paced. This adventure feels more like a thriller than all of the other adventures. On the Isle of Rum, a set of sinister disappearances has occurred and as the Investigators will discover, this isn’t the first time such an event has happened there. It’s up to them to stop the disappearances before they are next. The adventure features a lot of Mythos tomes. The cause of the disappearances was very creative and really makes “The Forbidden Isle” the spookiest adventure in the collection. If your players are Call of Cthulhu traditionalists, this will be the one they like best.

Now we come to the final adventure in the collection – “Star Seed.” This is another short adventure and one the book states is geared for novice Call of Cthulhu players. Folklore and history buffs will be excited to see Skara Brae. Miskatonic University will be referenced for the first time in the book as the players assist a professor from there named John McNamara who needs their help to protect the Island of Orkney from the Colours Out of Space. Again, this is a little more Dungeons & Dragons or action oriented than Call of Cthulhu tends to be, as well as pretty in your face with taking on a Mythos creature, but it’s also an introduction to the system for newcomers, so it needs to highlight combat mechanics along with the detective work. It even features a trip to the Dreamlands. The end result is a fun little adventure that gives newcomers a taste of everything Call of Cthulhu has to offer.

Across the board, Cthulhu Britannica: Shadows over Scotland is a wonderful addition to any Call of Cthulhu collection. For twenty dollars, you get an incredible detailed sourcebook and six adventures . About the only criticism I can levy at this piece are that the adventures are a little too prolific with Mythos creatures which can sometimes lead to the feeling of being too combat oriented for a Call of Cthulhu piece. Still, a good Keeper/GM knows how to balance these things and I’d happily recommend all but “Uisge Beatha” to people who want to try and run a campaign in Scotland. Again, the sourcebook itself is of the highest quality. Even if there weren’t any adventures to go along with it, it would be still be a great purchase. With the inclusion of half a dozen adventures, this is a wonderful deal that few Call of Cthulhu fans should pass up. Truly, each Cthulhu Britannica piece is better than the last.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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