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Last Rites
by Ed S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/06/2015 12:53:10

My one star is based on the pdf scan. The pdf resolution is slightly blurry. It is insulting because I spent money on this to support the publisher when I could have just as easily downloaded a 'free' version that is bright, crisp and clear.

Seriously, this pdf looks like Chaosium chose to use some 3rd rate torrent or scribd version as their own.

Disappointing to say the least.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Last Rites
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The Green
by Andrew M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/01/2015 08:30:58

Typically solid work from Chaosium that takes a well-worn fantasy trope -- living in the trees -- and says "lets break that down and see what it would actually take to have a society there; why would people live in such a challenging way?" I mean there's a reason we don't live in the trees now. It's impossible. The Green shows us how it could work, given of course the existence of magic and goblins and ape dudes.

The presentation is very good. The photoshopped photographs are a bit funny looking, but the style is unified throughout so it suits itself just fine. The writing is clean and intelligent. All in all, a very good overlooked product for people who want a challenging, internally realistic take on this idea. Fully statted for BRP in the typical clear style of Chaosium.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Green
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Horror on the Orient Express
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/17/2015 09:56:39

Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/10/02/tabletop-review-horror-on-the-orient-express-digital-edition-call-of-cthulhu/

After more than TWO YEARS since being funded, a final version of the Horror on the Orient Express remake has been sent to the 1,374 Kickstarter backers that made it happen. Sure it was originally scheduled to come out in August of 2013, but it’s very rare that tabletop games make their estimated release date. It’s part of the industry. What matters is that it is here now – at least for Kickstarter backers who pledged at least $20 to the project. For everyone else, you can get this massive PDF collection for a “mere” $499.95. Now don’t worry – this price will drop after the official release of the physical product in a few weeks. This hefty price tag is to make sure that the Kickstarter backers (or those who have Sanity Points in the single digits) have a few weeks to themselves with this. Considering the physical product can be preordered for about $120, it’s safe to say the PDF collection itself will be under $100.

Now if you joined me back in January of 2014, you already know that I’ve extensively looked at the first four books in this collection (Chaosium sent me the proofs – that’s why I could cover it nearly a year before the actual release) and did a photo collection of some of the many ancillary items that can be obtained with (or separately from) the physical edition of the game. I won’t be rehashing those. Instead I’ll be covering everything but those parts of the collection in this review. For those interested in reading very long and detailed coverage of the first four books and some physical swag, here are the links:

Add-on & Ancillary Items (http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/01/10/tabletop-preview-a-look-at-horror-on-the-orient-express-ancillary-and-add-on-items-call-of-cthulhu/) Book I: Campaign Book (http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/01/03/tabletop-preview-horror-on-the-orient-express-book-i-campaign-book-call-of-cthulhu/) Book II: Through the Alps (http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/01/10/tabletop-preview-horror-on-the-orient-express-book-ii-through-the-alps-call-of-cthulhu/) Book III: Italy and Beyond (http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/01/17/tabletop-preview-horror-on-the-orient-express-book-iii-italy-and-beyond-call-of-cthulhu/) Book IV: Constantinople and Consequences (http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/01/24/tabletop-preview-horror-on-the-orient-express-book-iv-constantinople-and-consequences-call-of-cthulhu/)

I should also mention that I will also do a review of the physical product when that is finally release, although that will be more a pictorial of all the bells and whistles. I will review the story collection Madness on the Orient Express that was a stretch goal funded by the Horror on the Orient Express Kickstarter as well. Man, you are probably getting sick of all the Horror on the Orient Express coverage I’ve done this year but honestly, I’ve been waiting for a new version to go with my Fifth Edition version since I was in high school, so I’m even more excited for this than the Seventh Edition books coming my way. Now, let’s look at what else is in Horror on the Orient Express besides those core four books we looked at in January and February.

Book V: Strangers On the Train. This is the final core campaign book for Horror on the Orient Express. I didn’t cover it in my original preview pieces, mainly because Chaosium had not sent it to me. Now I have a copy and can delve into some detail about what you’ll find in this ninety-four page booklet. As this is the biggest piece I haven’t covered, expect this to be the largest section of the review.

Strangers On the Train starts off with a look at famous people who could be found riding the Orient Express. This two page brief is broken into three sections: 1890-1900, Around 1900 and After 1920. From there, the book goes into a list of non-essential NPCs to populate the train with. This list of over forty characters (more if you count the “entourage” each NPC has with them) includes both passengers and staff and also can make for potential PCs once one of the original characters dies in the campaign. You’ll have to flesh the stats out a bit in this case, but if there’s a particular NPC a player gravitates toward, this might be a fine option for you. The “List of Passengers” is quite long and it’s arranged not by page order but by alphabetical order. Of course alphabetical order is by first name or beginning of a title, so take a good long look at the list or you’ll get confused thinking the actual layout of this section is in alphabetical order as well. Much of “List of Passengers” is a direct reprint from the original campaign, although the list was in a small loose leaf (Unstapled) pamphlet. There is new art in this re-release of the campaign though.

Book V then concludes with “Investigators.” There are twelve premade characters here for your use. The first six come from the Bradford Players recording of Horror On the Orient Express, which can be found over at Yog-Sothoth.com and the other six were created by Kickstarter backers. All characters are given Seventh Edition stats, so you’ll have to do a bit of converting if you want to use with an earlier edition.

Book VI: Handouts for the Investigators. This is a 196 page book and a new addition to the campaign from previous printings. Previously the campaign was only numbered up to Book IV and the handouts pamphlet was about sixteen pages in length. This is a greatly expanded booklet with a page count worthy of being considered a full campaign book in its own right. The production values are also greatly increased. It is all stuff you have seen before though. It’s just a collection of all the handouts and maps in the first four books, collected for easy use and printing. After all, you don’t want to show the players one of the handouts in a campaign book and let them see snippets of content they aren’t meant to view! I really like this addition, especially the PDF version, because I don’t cut up my books and I hate folding/creasing them on a Xerox machine or scanner to make actual handouts for players. This is a great move by Chaosium.

Le Guide du Voyageur: The Traveller’s Companion. This is another new piece for the updated and expanded 7th Edition Call of Cthulhu version of Horror on the Orient Express. This fifty-two page supplement is meant to really enhance the look and feel of the campaign for those that want a more immersive experience. The piece is written completely in-game and it acts as a little booklet from the Orient Express and its concierge to its travelers. You get travel advice, menus, information about the routes, sites to see and so much more. This is perhaps my favorite aspect of the Horror on the Orient Express remake as it’s so well done. Sure some gamers won’t appreciate or even make use of this, but this little travelogue is pretty fantastic and it’s something I’ll give to each player who takes part in this campaign the next time I run it to really help them get a feel for what the level of class and care the Orient Express was known for in its heyday.

Air Routes of Europe in 1923. This is a one page PDF and it’s exactly what the same suggests. It is a map of Europe complete with air routes that were used back then. This should help players who are trying to circumnavigate the region or who might have missed the Orient Express and are trying to catch up quickly. It’s worth noting that Italy, Portugal and Ireland lacked air routes at this time – at least according to the map.

Routes of the Orient Express. Another self-explanatory one page PDF. This is a full colour piece showing the routes of the five different Orient Express routes throughout Europe, along with a sixth “lesser services” route. Each route is assigned a different, distinct color so you should be able to follow the map quite easily. Unless you are colorblind or only can see in black and white. Then you’re screwed. The map also a nice little legend details major cities, capitals, and locations important to the Horror on the Orient Express campaign. There are also close-ups of three regions to let you and your gaming troupe better see these areas which will come into play as you go through the campaign.

Orient Express Bumper Sticker. Exactly what you think it is.

Sedefkar Simulacrum. A print and play version of the McGuffin that the campaign revolves around. A VERY different version from the one in my old 5e set. I like the new design.

Train Car Plans. Five pages of diagrams showcasing the layout of the Orient Express cars. You have a dining car, a sleeping car, a cathedral car and more. Everything you need to give a visual representation of the train is right here.

Scroll of the Head. This is a one page PDF describing what the Scroll of the Head is and how to use it in the campaign. It also gives some neat ideas on how to make the scroll look aged and weathered. It also references a “How to Use Supplemental Items” sheet that should be in the boxed set, but unfortunately, it’s not in my PDF collection. Boo-Urns.

Overall, the updated and expanded version of Horror on the Orient Express is truly fantastic. If you missed out on the original back in the day for whatever reason (Age, lack of funds, didn’t play the game), you really need to pick this up to see just what an incredible job Chaosium has done on this boxed set. Sure the original version was terrific in its own right, but this new expanded version really makes the overall experience that much more immersive and entertaining. Unless you are dead set against Seventh Edition for whatever reason. Even then, it’s worth picking up Horror on the Orient Express because it contains a conversion guide. It’s also cheaper than trying to buy an unused version of the original edition on the second hand market. Of course, you’ll want to wait for a price drop on the digital because five hundred dollars is insane, even for a terrific job like this, but once the Kickstarter backers have everything in their hands, expect the price to drop to something far more reasonable. Of course, you can still pre-order the physical version if you missed out on the original Kickstarter campaign. You won’t get as many bells and whistles, but it’s still a fantastic deal for anyone even remotely interested in Call of Cthulhu. I can safely say that Horror on the Orient Express has been worth the wait.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Horror on the Orient Express
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Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Quick-Start Rules
by Chris B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/12/2015 10:54:12

Call of Cthulhu is a great setting, and this is a simple yet solid rules system.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Quick-Start Rules
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The Strange Cases of Rudolph Pearson
by spiros s. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/03/2015 13:53:07

This was surprisingly well written. I enjoyed it tremendously. Just the right blend of Cthulhu mythos and mystery, with some very decent character development.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Strange Cases of Rudolph Pearson
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Machine Tractor Station Kharkov-37
by eric t. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/09/2015 23:20:11

This scenario reduces the colour out of space to something more to akin to a DnD monster. The inevitability and incomprehensible motives/nature of the colour, what makes it interesting, is ignored in favour of a series of repetitive encounters. Running the scenario my players very quickly picked up on what to look for and it became a game of avoidance.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Machine Tractor Station Kharkov-37
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The Xothic Legend Cycle
by Rodrigo C G R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/27/2015 14:34:26

It's really comforting to know that Chaosium fiction is now in electronic format. The Xothic Legende Cycle it's a good starting collection for the neophyte, and a fundamental reading for anyone exploring the Mythos.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Xothic Legend Cycle
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Halloween Horror
by Shannon M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/08/2015 23:16:35

Get this for the Oscar Rios scenario

One of the scenarios is more of an outline than a complete scenario and the other is a pretty standard investigation for experienced CoC gamers.

But the Oscar Rios scenario is the best hitting much of the New England folklore and allowing the players to play children on the eve of Halloween who must save their extended families. That scenario in itself is worth the price of admission. I've run it four times now and plan to keep running it as long as victims, errrr players, are interested.

OVERALL GRADE: B to B plus.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Halloween Horror
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Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Quick-Start Rules
by Michael D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/07/2015 07:01:41

Did you like Call of Cthulhu, Editions 1 thru 6? Did you buy the modules, and other products? Own Cthulhu Invictus, Achtung Cthulhu, World War Cthulhu, Atomic Age Cthulhu? Do you own Chaosium's Basic Role Playing Game? Did you like them all? Did you find that with a little tweaking here and there, you could run 1st Edition modules with 6th edition? Did you enjoy a system so universal that you could, quite literally, use Cthulhian horrors to "enhance" your Stormbringer, Hawkmoon, or any other Chaosium setting? Did you like having a system so incredibly universal, that it all fit, nearly seemlessly to other systems/worlds?

Well.... Get ready to THROW THEM ALL AWAY!!! It's a BRAND NEW SYSTEM!!! And it is NOT COMPATIBLE with the old stuff. So... you've got a library full of great products... now useless with the new system.

Along with the website changes (Like those?), looks like Chaosium is changing their system. This is NOT an improvement.

Hopefully, they will publish some form of FREE conversion guide.

But if you are a Call of Cthulhu veteran, who truly loved the product, system and world... give the new edition a miss.

This quick start guide is worth the money spent... Nothing.

7th Edition appears to be nothing more than a fleecing of fans of Call of Cthulhu.

In the immortal words of every Call of Cthulhu player.... RUN!!!!



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Quick-Start Rules
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Beyond the Mountains of Madness
by Brett D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/13/2015 14:34:01

This is a massive and complex adventure for Call of Cthulhu. Looks good, but Keepers will ened to do their homework to run it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Beyond the Mountains of Madness
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Dead Light
by Dan C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/23/2014 20:37:03

I found that this scenario served as a great introduction to the new edition of the COC rules. I ran it with the free quickstart rules for five friends who had never played an RPG.

The scenario provides numerous opportunities for roleplaying and allows the keeper to present the mechanics at whatever pace best suits his players; this was very helpful in my case as a steep learning curve might have turned off my players.

My players liked the plot, but I believe it was the atmosphere that really hooked them.

I was surprised by the quality of the writing and the editing. I have read perhaps a dozen or so collections published by Chaosium--and many more third-party products--which I'd describe as "easy reads". Here is an excerpt from "Dead Light":

"Looking out into the storm between the flashes of lightning, a farmer’s truck has just swerved to avoid hitting the gas pumps. The farmer babbling incoherently about a 'Dead Light' he saw on the road and who is now passed out at one of the tables, sweating feverishly with Sam, the station’s owner, and Walter the pump jockey fussing helplessly over him."

This is not an easy read. And a staggering amount of the text in "Dead Light" uses this sort of sentence structure. I found it very distracting. It made referring back to the text difficult during prep and gameplay.

If you can get past the writing style then the scenario itself serves as a nice, quick introduction to the new edition of COC or to horror roleplaying in general. My group loved it. If you simply enjoy reading RPG material and doubt you'll actually have the chance to run it, I would not recommend this product.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Dead Light
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Ripples From Carcosa
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/09/2014 06:20:36

Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/07/23/tabletop-review-ripples-from-carcosa-call-of-cthulhu/

Ripples From Carcosa originally started life as a Monograph, which is a Call of Cthulhu piece usually done by a single person. The art is minimal, the editing and layout are done by the author and they are generally barebones pieces that cost a lot less compared to full-fledged releases, but quality on these things varies. Something about Ripples From Carcosa convinced Chaosium to re-release it with new art, edited and added content and a snazzy new full color cover. Now this isn’t the first time a monograph has been given an upgrade so to speak. Cthulhu Invictus, for example, started off as a simple Monograph and now it is a full-fledged setting! I actually own the original Ripples From Carcosa monograph and while I enjoyed it for what it was, I wasn’t really sure what they were going to do to it. Well, the fact the new version has twenty pages more content, new art, some editing and retolling, in addition to the new PDF being HALF the cost of the original Monograph – well, why wouldn’t I throw money at this thing???

Well actually, before we get to the positive side of the review (which admittedly sounds like a commercial for this piece), there are three minor reasons why you might not want to pick this up. Let’s get those out of the way in case they are dealbreakers for you. The first is that this new version of Ripples From Carcosa is done with Seventh Edition rules and Mechanics. Now, 7e isn’t out yet, which may make you want to wait to purchase this as. As well 7e has some very mixed reactions from the CoC fanbase, which happens with any game whenever a new edition comes out. So if you are interested in Ripples From Carcosa but don’t want to put the time into using the conversion guide in the back of this release, or you have no interest in moving on to Seventh Edition, considering getting the Monograph version. The second reason is that Ripples From Carcosa takes in three different settings: Cthulhu Invictus, Cthulhu Dark Ages and End Time. Because of these three different setting, you might feel like you need to buy all three books to play Ripples From Carcosa. You don’t, but as some publishers do like to do that passive aggressive hard sell of their other products in that fashion (Paizo, I’m looking at you), you might read this as a hard sell of these other books, which drives up the cost of Ripples From Carcosa a LOT. Thankfully, the book tries to alleviate this feeling by giving advice, tips and setting information about all three time periods. This helps, but not as much as if you were say, a Keeper that owned the three books Ripples From Carcosa references and are experienced with all three. You can still run Ripples From Carcosa just fine and you don’t need the three other sourcebooks to make it work, but I can’t deny you will get more out of the adventure with a keeper who has done his or her homework and is somewhat familiar with both Invictus and Dark Ages to make the imagery of the pieces come more alive.

Finally, anal retentive Mythos pursists might have a problem with the way Hastur and the King in Yellow are portrayed in this collection. Here you’ll find the Great Old One as extremely malevolent, cruel and downright evil. We’re talking supervillain or tying a damsel to a railroad track evil. Obviously this is quite different from how the original authors Ambrose Bierce and Robert Chambers presented these characters. It’s even very different from Lovecraft’s take on Hastur, which was different from the original authors of these characters, which is my point. This is one author’s interpretation of the characters and while it is very different from the creators, that doesn’t make it inherently bad. The adventures are still extremely fun and well designed. I mean, I’m a pretty diehard Chambers fan and I have enjoyed both versions of Ripples From Carcosa in spite of this interpretation of these characters because it’s a GAME. It’s not as if this version will somehow erase the original (correct) versions of these characters from the collective unconsciousness. Sure, this version of Hastur is similar to what Derleth did with the character but in the exact opposite direction (Derleth made Hastur kind of the “Good” Great Old One), but you know what, as diehard a Hastur/KiY fan as I am, I enjoyed Derleth’s very different interpretation of the GOO and I enjoyed Ripples From Carcosa even if the Hastur here is as far from the more benign god both Bierce and Derleth saw him as. If the thought of Hastur as sort of a mustache twirling Nyah-ha-ha’ing “I can’t pay the Rent/You must pay the rent!” evil-doer makes you angry enough to want to go to some message board and start venting with copious amounts of profanity, then man, just don’t buy this. Also, learn to take games less seriously.

So let’s talk Ripples From Carcosa. This collection features three adventures, each from a very different time period, roughly 1,100 years apart each time. The collection is designed to be a short campaign, although there is no real reason why you can’t play these adventures as stand alones if only one or two calls out to you. Each stage of Ripples From Carcosa features pre-generated characters. You don’t have to use them, but segments of each adventure were written with these characters in mind, so if you run different characters than the ones included, the Keeper has a bit of work to do to ensure things run smoothly. As well, all three adventures are interconnected with each time period using reincarnations of the previous characters. At certain points in the adventure, the characters can receive Cthulhu Mythos and Hastur Lore points earned from their previous incarnations. This is really neat and helps to make the campaign stand out as something really unique. Each adventure is very different from the last, so it’s not like you’ll be replaying the same thing three different times with only the backdrop changing. The end result is a very memorable campaign where even if your characters die horribly or go totally insane in one adventure, you’ll get another shot at stopping Hastur’s machinations down the road. Unlike a normal campaign where you are probably pulped by tentacles, locked away in an asylum or take your own life.

The first adventure, “Adventis Regis” takes us to the time of the Roman Empire. The Investigators are having a lovely time at a resort town, where they and their families are relaxing, playing and seeing the sites. One of the highlights of the trip will be a performance of a new play by Livius Carbo, who has been a bit of an eccentric shut-in as of late. If you’re a fan of Call of Cthulhu at all, you can probably connect the dots here. Anyway, as the date of the play’s first public performance draws closer, things start to get a bit creepy and people seem to be a bit out of sorts. No matter, you’re on vacation, right? Well, when the PCs get back from a scenic cruise, everything has gone to hell. An entire town has gone insane. Whoops. Can the Investigators survive long enough to discover what has happened and if there is a way to stem the tide of madness?

This is a really fun adventure that in some ways reminds me of a survival horror video game. It’s less terror oriented and more action-packed that most CoC pieces, and players will really have to be on their toes here. Stealth skills are VERY helpful here, but only one or two of the pregens has it at a decent enough level. Oddly enough the slave character has a higher Stealth than the professional Thief. Anyway, “Adventis Regis” isn’t necessarily a hard battle, but it is different enough from a lot of Call of Cthulhu adventures that the usual tropes of Library use and the like won’t be of much help here. The piece is creepy like a modern horror movie rather than filled with a sense of alien dread, and that’s okay as “Adventis Regis” is a fine way to start off this collection and helps set the stage for the two adventures to come, along with the eons-long grudge the Investigators will have with Hastur.

The second adventure, “Herald of the Yellow King” is our Dark Ages piece and it is somewhat similar to a few other King in Yellow adventures out there in that the players have to stop a local town (their own in this case) from melding with Carcosa. This is a pretty long adventure as character will be travelling all over the countryside to several small villages trying to piece together the strange occurrences in the fiefdom. It’s a very creepy piece and is by far the most traditional Call of Cthulhu adventure in the collection. The different villages and what befalls them are a great part of the fun and really helped to make this my favorite adventure of the three. There’s a lot of weird happenings, a mystery to solve and at the core of things, a truly tragic tale where all of this horror could have been prevented had people not been well…the kind of thoughtless jerks people usually are.

Although combat is a big part of the adventure, and there is a good chance the Investigators will thrown down with the King in Yellow itself, words and writing will actually win the day here (as opposed to the previous adventure) which really helps to showcase how different each piece in this collection is, even while they as so inter-connected. I also loved how the adventure has six different endings. Now that’s well thought out! This adventure also has the best artwork in the collection. There are some amazing KiY images here.

If you are only going to play a single adventure out of Ripples From Carcosa, this will probably be the one you pick. It’s also the easiest adventure to adapt to another system. I found this converts very easily to Dungeon Crawl Classics and Lamentations of the Flame Princess for example. It’s the right time period and it’s sufficiently weird enough that fans of those games would never know they were actually playing something steeped in BRP mechanics.

Finally we come to “Heir to Carcosa,” which will be the piece people will either really like or really hate. It’s set in the middle of the 22nd century in a reality where Earth has been taken over by Great Old Ones. The time was right, R’lyeh rose and things went quickly to hell. The Investigators are now part of a colony amongst the asteroids along with some Elder Things, a few Yithians and some occasional M-Go that act as trading partners. It’s an interesting concept but one that is more Derleth than Chambers, Bierce or Lovecraft so some people might dislike it on that grounds.

Anyway, the Investigators in this time period are happily living on the colonies when their Mi-Go trading partners let them know about a ship from Earth in the general vicinity. The colony orders you to intercept the vessel and prevent it from returning home, lest they reveal their whereabouts of the colony and risk it being conquered in the same manner as Earth. From there you get all sorts of craziness. You find out the earth ship is as insane as its crew members (almost HAL style), you get an unexpected and interesting tie-in with the first adventure in the collection. You get a slight flashback to our own current era (kind of) and you even get to encounter the daughter of Hastur and perhaps even kill her! This does not make pappy too happy by the way. “Heir to Carcosa is a bit of on-rails adventure compared to the previous two as it is very straight-forward without a lot of room for deviation. It’s perhaps the least satisfying as it just kind of peters out in the climax without any real resolution (run until Hastur gets bored or eats you), although you do get a schmaltzy end to the story and campaign as a while. The idea of all these races working together in space to avoid GOO detection was a fun concept and the adventure itself where you’re exploring a creepy lunatic spaceship, playing psychoanalyst to a computer via virtual reality and trying to take out the daughter of Hastur is all very outside the usual things you encounter with Call of Cthulhu adventures. Although it’s not something I’d want to play regularly, as a one-time end to a campaign or for a change of pace, this was a lot of fun.

So Ripples From Carcosa still remains as enjoyable as it ever was. I remember when it first came out I described it to people as, Hellraiser: Bloodlines with Mythos creatures instead of Cenobites and without Alan Smithee.” With an eleven dollar price tag for the PDF, this is a real steal. Sure it is VERY different from the usual CoC campaigns and adventures, but that’s kind of the point. There’s only so many times you can play the same old Deep One or Shaggai related adventures without things getting humdrum. Ripples From Carcosa takes a chance by doing something very different: allowing players to experience three different time periods in one mini-campagin and being different enough from the usual Call of Cthulhu pieces that it stands out as a truly memorable experience. Aside from the four potential dealbreakers I mentioned at the beginning of the review, this is a great way to not only test out Call of Cthulhu, Seventh Edition but also three other available settings besides the usual Gaslight/1920s/Now options we all tend to cling to.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ripples From Carcosa
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The Gods Hate Me
by Colin W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/26/2014 13:21:15

These scenarios for Cthulhu Invictus are all wonderfully laid out and well written. This isn't your typical MU Monograph, there's some nice production value here. If you're looking for some varied scenarios to round out your CI collection with, this is your buy.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Gods Hate Me
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Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Quick-Start Rules
by Jefferson D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/12/2014 12:07:53

This has really made me look forward to the next edition of CoC. Clearly written rules & even character creation is included. Definitely worth the price of FREE :)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Quick-Start Rules
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Horror Stories From The Red Room
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/08/2014 14:31:42

Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2013/11/05/tabletop-review-horror-stories-from-the-red-room-call-of-cthulhu/

Chaosium Monographs are pieces that are largely edited and laid out by the author(s) in question rather than by the actual employees of the publisher. Because it is generally very hard for a writer to edit or even see their own mistakes, Monographs can be very hit or miss in terms of quality. More often than not, they are filled with typographical, grammatical and editorial errors that would have easily been caught by a different pair of eyes. Now, this is not an across the board condemnation, but rather a generalization. After all, there are some great monographs that have been of a higher quality than some full fledged Call of Cthulhu releases. Just look at Mysteries of Ireland and Children of the Storm. I’d put those up as some of the best monographs, and easily some of the better Chaosium releases, in some time. Unfortunately, Horror Stories From the Red Room is one of those products that gives monographs a bad name, as the adventures are sub-par and the editing is just terrible. I think this is the first Chaosium release in two years that I have to say up front, “Wow, this is a stinker. DO NOT BUY!” to.

You know something has gone horribly wrong the second you go to the table of contents page. Now, the monograph is only 108 pages long, yet the table of contents seems to think this piece is over 150 pages long. “Dear Ladies,” the first adventure in the collection, is the only one listed as starting on the correct page, which is 5. From there on, it goes insane. “Horror Stories From the Red Room” supposedly starts on page 39. It actually starts on page 16. “Northanger Abbey and the Necronomicon” is listed as starting on pages 150-152, and then the next adventure, “Splatter Punks,” is listed as starting on page 154. The final adventure, “Three Maidens of Bingen,” is listed as starting on page 144. Oh my god, how did this get through publishing? There were seven authors on this thing, which implies seven editors, and not a single one noticed how messed up the Table of Contents was? It’s the first thing players and purchasers will see! Unfortunately, I bring up the Table of Contents in great deal because it is a perfect example of how badly done this book is in all respects, with the adventures generally being poorly written and edited with this same lack of regard for quality. I’d actually be ashamed to be one of the authors in this collection, which is sad, because there are some good CoC writers in the mix that simply just half-assed their way through this collection.

The first adventure is “Dear Ladies,” and it’s the best of the bunch. It’s the only one to stick to the original theme of the piece, which is Chaosium’s yearly Halloween offering, and it’s mostly free of errors. I should also add it’s the only adventure any of us found to be any fun to actually play through. “Dear Ladies” is a black comedy about two elderly ladies whose neighborhood feud has gone from petty comments and cruel pranks to a mutual decision to inflict homicide upon the other. One lady decided to just break in and beat the other one down. The second lady decides to use the power of the occult to summon a “demon” from another dimension to commit murder at her behest. A little bit extreme, but hey. This is where the Investigators come in. They’re here for a Halloween party thrown by one of the two women, so they have an alibi when everything goes nutty. Can the players keep both women from fulfilling their murderous desires while keeping a classic Mythos creature at bay? This is definitely a well laid out and potentially amusing adventure, and it’s the crown jewel of the lot. 1 for 1.

The second story is the titular adventure for this piece, “Horror Stories from the Red Room.” Unfortunately, it’s not very well done at all. For example, the piece takes place in a two floor estate, and it provides you with a map of both levels. This is fine in theory, but not in follow through. You see, each room on the map is numbered on the map, but it does not list which room is which. Conversely, the text of the adventure gives a description of each room, but does not correlate to which number on the map they correspond to. Another example of sloppy editing. The adventure is also missing details like the approximate year the adventure takes place (although you can surmise it by reading the text and inferring the author’s intent), and there are some odd decisions, like having the Investigators being paid $20 flat to investigate the history of some paintings and their creator. I have a feeling the author has no idea how long authentication and historical research into little known figures actually takes, as twenty dollars for a group of people to do this would be chicken feed, even in the 1920s. The piece is littered with huge and obvious inaccuracies that a good Keeper can catch and fix before playing, but that should have been the author’s or an editor’s job in the first place. Finally, the adventure relies far too heavily on the idea that the players and/or Keeper have Secrets of San Francisco, and the adventure cannot be played to its potential without it. One of the big cardinal rules of adventure writing is never to make a piece so reliant on a single not core rule book that it can’t be played without it, but that’s the case here. With all the errors in this piece, I’m shocked Chaosium chose it for publication. It’s just bad in all ways across the board, both to read and to sit through. 1 for 2.

Next up is “The Inheritance,” and while it is a fairly standard, paint by numbers haunted house adventure, it’s well written (especially by the standards of this piece). It uses a lot of tropes such as time loops (It felt like I was reading about The 7th Guest at times…), an inability to leave once Investigators have entered the building in question and a ghostly mystery that only the players can solve. Again, all stuff we’ve seen before numerous times, but the adventure is laid out well, organized nicely and it flows properly. It might make a good adventure to start a campaign or to introduce people to Call of Cthulhu, but more experienced players may find it dull and too familiar. 2 for 3.

Our fourth adventure is “His Pleasant Dream Was Shattered” and it’s not very good. The premise is that an eccentric alcoholic millionaire has caused a bit of trouble and may be sent to Arkham Asylum due to what appears to be a tenuous grasp on reality. Investigators are hired to… well, do a lot of crap actually. They have to keep him out of the asylum, keep him from going to jail, break his ties with local mob affiliates and help him confront the root of his once subtle madness. This adventure is just far too busy and all over the place, with tasks that the Investigators have to accomplish. Worse, if the players fail at a single task, the adventure ends in spectacular failure, and that’s just nonsensical. So are some of the solutions to these tasks, one of which involves taking the client, somehow finding family remains that were eaten by ghouls FOUR YEARS AGO, and then killing one of the ghouls whose only offense was being seen by this schmuck and whose pack actually went out of its way not to kill him when they met previously. This is just so stupidly written, and the goals the author has set out to accomplish wouldn’t actually cure the client of his depression, madness, alcoholism and more. For the ghoul goal, why not just show him they are real? Hell, any experienced Cthulhu character would go, “Oh, there are absolutely ghouls in this crypt? Let’s bring some assorted meat based leavings and bargain with them to go somewhere else.” If only, because human on ghoul violence generally turns out very bad for the humans in this game. Randomly murdering something, even a Mythos Creature, that is just doing what comes naturally to it would be a sanity loss in any other adventure, but not here. No, this really needed an editor to straighten out a lot of plot incongruities and issues that are quite obvious just in reading the piece, much less trying to make it playable. This really needed two or three passes by an editing table before being considered fit to print. 2 for 4.

“Northanger Abbey and the Necronomicon” is adventure number five, and it’s in the same vein as the terrible mashups like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters or Wuthering Heights and a Werewolf that were all the rage several years ago and quickly burned out. Not only is this adventure riding on the coattails of an idea that has long since become passé, the author picked yet another Jane Austen novel to mashup with something horrific. If you’re going to ape an idea already done by someone else, why not pick an author from the same time period who has been overlooked? Even the Restoration period! That hasn’t been touched except for Samuel Pepys, who’s diary has already been used in numerous horror and mythos mashups. Edmund Burke, John Locke, Samuel Johnson, John Bunyan, William Blake, Hugh Walpole. Get creative people!

The adventure itself is loosely based on the novel Northanger Abbey, but mashed up with Cthulhu Mythos references like Hastur worship, byakhee summoning, vengeful ghosts from beyond the grave and mind swapping rituals. It’s interesting, but unless you know the book, the adventure loses what little charm it has, and if you or any of your players do know the book, you risk someone nitpicking the adventure to death or complaining about where and how the adventure deviates from the book. It’s kind of a lose-lose situation here, and the adventure is best read rather than played… but then that’s not a good thing to say about an adventure. I will say that the adventure can be a lot of fun if played with a very specific makeup of players and a Keeper that knows his or her Austen in addition to CoC mechanics, but that’s just too niche of a target audience to make this recommended. 2 for 5.

The sixth adventure is “Splatterpunks” or “Splatter Punks.” The name of the adventure changes throughout the monograph, again giving a nod to the terrible editing job in this piece. It’s an outside the box adventure, taxing place in the 1980s, and is a nod to weird horror movies like Ghoulies, Critters, Troll and other films from that era that had somewhat comical monsters wreaking havoc on a town. The adventure feels like it would work better with Chill or Cryptworld mechanics, but that doesn’t make it a bad fit for Call of Cthulhu – merely something that is very different from the norm, and as such, players may dislike it for its lack of anything relating to the usual CoC moods, themes and monsters. Now, while it’s not personally an adventure that would be my first choice (or even my second) to run for Call of Cthulhu, it is very well written, and I appreciate that it eschews all the usual done to death bits of the system and setting. I also had far more fun with this adventure than I thought I would, and this ended up being my second favorite in the collection. I also think this adventure has the best art in the monograph – such as it is.

The adventure involves a bunch of teenagers accidentally summoning a pack of murderous goblins to their town through the arcane ritual of playing a song backwards on a heavy metal album. What do you know – it actually worked! Of course, there is a little more to it than that, but it’s a cute take on classic 80′s urban legend (The only one I was ever able to make a hidden message appear on was by “Weird Al” where it said, “Satan eats Cheese Whiz.”) The investigators are either kids from the town or their usual characters that have the bad luck of passing through once the ritual has been completed. Players then have to try and find a way to send the goblins back to their own dimension, before they burn, pillage and murder everything in the little town. I will say the adventure had some unexpected comic relief, as one of the goblin summoning kids just happened to be named Matt Hardy. The adventure was then filled with constant jokes about his name, ranging from “Fat Hardy” whenever he ate, to people saying “Matt Hardy… WILL NOT DIE!” whenever he escaped a potentially dangerous situation. Note to authors: never name your characters after pro wrestlers, especially in a horror game, as the suspension of disbelief goes out the window entirely and cannot be rebottled. Still, “Splatterpunks” is a more comical adventure than most, so it actually fit the mood the adventure was trying to create. The biggest criticism I have about the piece is it refers to a previously published monograph but doesn’t give its name. Instead it just lists it as “CHA0404.” Most people don’t know a tabletop publication by its internal call letters. Some more bad editing. 3 for 6.

Our last adventure is “Three Maidens of Bingen.” Now, I have a confession to make. I have reviewed well over a thousand products in the past eleven years, and god knows that since I have been writing for and about the gaming industry, I have encountered some truly god awful adventures or video games. Things so bad that, without hyperbole, I have mentioned that I would rather face bodily harm than spend time with that product again AND MEANT IT. While “Three Maidens of Bingen” is far from being that level of awful, it is the first adventure that has ever been so dull, dry and boring that I FELL ASLEEP reading it. I’m a guy that reads extremely dry non-fiction for fun, so you would think I’d be immune to what was the equivalent of “Ben Stein in Ferris Buller’s Day Off” dull, but no. This was such a stinker I literally fell asleep trying to wade through this piece. It also didn’t help that, at twenty pages, this was the LONGEST adventure in the collection as well. Ugh. I’m sure the author isn’t normally this bad. I think he just got overzealous with putting every minute detail he could think of into the adventure, and it just magnified his already dry and dull writing style. Just be warned, if you do buy this, have some caffeine handy. Why am I allergic to caffeine, dammit?

“Three Maidens of Bingen” is for use with Cthulhu Invictus, a campaign setting taking place during the golden age of Rome. Thankfully, the adventure gives you enough information that you don’t actually need the campaign setting books to play through this. Unfortunately, you have to deal with the writing style to get the pertinent information. The crux of the adventure is that river shipping is being blocked, causing commerce to die down and tensions to grow. There are several possible red herrings as to what could be at the root of the problem, from River Pirates to supernatural entities. The players have to find out what is going on and stop it before anarchy reigns. Sadly, the idea is as dull and formulaic as the writing style, but there are some interesting ideas. I think that in the hands of a better writer, this could have been a lot better. Perhaps the author would work better as an idea man rather than a scripter? All in all, this was the worst adventure in the collection, and considering there are some real turkeys in here, that says something. 3 for 7.

So out of seven adventures, only three are any good, and of those three, there is only one that I think would be fun for a large cross section of Call of Cthulhu fans. Horror Stories from the Red Room is a perfect example of how a monograph can go spectacularly wrong. Bad ideas, bad adventures and certainly bad editing litter this piece from beginning to end, and I can safely say this monograph is not only the worst offering from Chaosium in several years, but is something to be avoided unless you foolishly agreed to review it. You know, like me. Save your money and your sanity points, dear readers, and pick up something else instead.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Horror Stories From The Red Room
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