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    Terror $5.50
    Average Rating:3.5 / 5
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    Publisher: Chaosium
    by Jason C. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 03/03/2018 12:57:52

    A friend suggested I post some reviews of some underrated or overlooked gems for this year's GM's Day Sale, so I thought I would put up Terror, currently on sale for under $4 for your consideration. Terror is a Call of Cthulhu adventure originally published in 1997, though the procedural changes in the most recent edition actually serve to assist in getting over some of the bumpier spots. Essentially a retelling of John Carpenter's The Thing set in Stalin-era Moscow, the best part of The Terror is that the monster fits the mood which the historical milieu attempts to recreate, and vice versa. Lovecraft's monsters reflect his fear of an atheistic, multiracial world, and he situates his stories in the crumbling remains of the Victorian milieu he (correctly) feared was dying out.

    In Terror, the purges of the 1930s-era Soviet Union provide a backdrop for a monster who - like a cosmic NKVD officer - literally can be anyone or any living thing, and whose monstrous intent is the destruction of identity itself, to subsume the target in its own consciousness. This is a properly conservative fear to base a Lovecraftian horror scenario on.

    However, Terror has a couple of big holes in it. First, the investigators are state prisoners who are brought out of prison in order to dig into the mysterious events at the behest of a secret policeman. This is fine, but there are no pregenerated characters and not one word about what types of "criminals" they are, nor about what types of "crimes" they might have committed - literally the first thing that happens is an interrogation about this, so while that's a great, atmospheric way to start, neither the GM nor the players will have any real grounding for what type of situation they could be in. The opening also doesn't really give a strong direction to the group - in standard Call of Cthulhu, you make a character who is "an investigator", someone who digs into occult matters for some personal, professional or psychological reason. Here, though, there's a strong incentive for characters to abandon the investigation and attempt to escape, and only some fairly severe railroading keeps this from happening. I think the character creation sections of the new corebooks might help with this problem, but unlike 1920s New England, there really isn't anything in either the corebooks or Terror to get across what it is like to dig into this situation in Stalin-era Moscow. The GM and players will be left to do their own research and build their own scaffolding around the scenario.

    Still, Terror is worth mentioning, and worth looking at, for the close connection between the monster and the historical moment, an extremely Lovecraftian thing to attempt. In this, it beats out a number of other Call of Cthulhu "monster" scenarios that don't attempt to draw this type of tight connection.

    [3 of 5 Stars!]
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