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Call of Cthulhu: After Lovecraft: The Cold Case of Robert Suydam $0.00
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/01/2010 20:40:32

"The Horror of Red Hook" is a a 78 pages pdf.

1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, 1 page credits, 1 ad.

It also includes 4 pregen-investigators for the adventure, each taking up a page.

Being the first in the "After Lovecraft"-series, it also includes the short story "The Horror at Red Hook" by the master H.P. Lovecraft himself as a handout the players are supposed to have read. It clocks in at 18 pages and is a good read.

This leaves 52 pages of adventure for the Keeper.

This adventure has, like many of Lovecraft's protagonists, a terrible legacy to carry: In this case, that the prose of Lovecraft and the fear it evokes should be transported to an adventure and in this one, the legacy is heavier than in most others, being a direct sequel to Lovecraft's story.

Unfortunately, it falls short of this endeavor due to several aspects:

The reasons for the investigators to get involved and how they are supposed to have heard about the original happenings seem too contrived for me: Malone contacts the investigators and send them to a wealthy woman interested in hiring them. Both the woman and Malone don't serve any significant role in the story - wasted potential.

Thereafter, the investigators hunt down an old book. There is one lead, one follow-up, one bum who found the book (featuring the first semi-creepy thing to happen), follow up to Act 2. Linear as it gets. Some information from the short story can provide additional clues, though none of them are essential for the plot, one literally beats you over the head with the "This is the villain"-stick.

After that, we get a house full of cultists, which are red herring enemies. They are not the primary antagonists, but have to be killed none the less. They are generic boring "I cannibalize because I'm a cultist"-guys and even the final fight with the leader (who has no name or personal ambition) is...not creepy. There is no map of the house provided. Another problem. Investigators are prone to trying to get maps and the like of suspected, dangerous areas.

There, the Investigators find a dowsing rod for magic(yawn + potentially problematic in future adventures...) and strange gold.

Yep, that's supposed to be the next lead. It's obvious to follow up once the investigators realized, that this is the clue. If they have managed to pass the gold by, the keeper has to make them notice it.

Accompanying this investigation is a section on the tactics of the antagonists, but when to use them? There is no real room for the investigators to have these encounters. If they found the ingot, they'll have the lead almost immediately. If they miss it, they're screwed anyway and the keeper has to improvise. Problem is: The time it takes for the investigators conduct this investigation in-game may be enough for the attacks. The time it takes out-game is not enough. It's the classic "Ok, you check out all the stores selling x..."-scenario that you fast forward. No stats or names of the owners are given, which makes this section even harder on the keeper, having to create places, names and the like for routine work and trying to keep it interesting. Unless they don't manage to catch at least one assailant, the conclusion is more or less irrelevant. Thereafter, it should be obvious for anyone where to go.

The next act is actually the first one that manages to evoke a creepy atmosphere: Here, fast talking, a lingering sense of wrongness and a cool scene provide the first truly awesome scene of the adventure.

Thereafter, we get some shadowing work, fast talking, sneaking, whatever: Everything is possible. A map is not provided, though.

Shadowing the antagonists lead the PCs towards the conclusion of the adventure. How do they know that? Another ambush, this time again by bland run-of-the-mill-cultists like before. The battle is simple and boring and designed to make the antagonists get away. Investigators will feel railroaded.

Then, for no apparent reason, the adventure gets awesome for a brief time: Fast-talking past harmless people (who might even die in any kind of fight due to fragile constitution...), exploring dark tunnels, finding and hearing disturbing things - awesome atmosphere. And an awesome climax to boot -the battle is cool, innovative and tense. Although there is a minor spoiler: An aura does transform some people, but others not. No truly sound reason is given.

However: The final battle uses the constant theme of lost innocence that has been foreshadowed to terrible effect. SPOILER. I don't normally write spoilers in my reviews, but this may actually affect if you and your players enjoy this adventure. The investigators have to kill a child to stop the mythos this time. A child. No way for redemption, no possibility to use her as a sidekick, a responsibility, nothing. Flat out killing a child.The adventure suggests PERHAPS calling for a SAN-check for killing a child. That's the end of the adventure. I'm not faint of heart. I love sick, twisted stuff. I love mature topics and characters. I'd love darker, grittier adventures and purist cthulhu with its hopelessness and dread. I can't see this working. The investigators are the good guys. Forcing them to kill a child is even in my eyes unacceptable. A page with the option to use her as a morally ambiguous, dangerous ally/reliability, explaining abilities and the like would have been enough. And yes, I get the "Corrupt due to birth"-angle. But no choice? That's just not acceptable for me.

Conclusion: The investigation is bland and boring and fails to make use of some of its aspects like the cultists. The lack of maps hurts this very linear, non-sanbox-like adventure. Investigators get railroaded throughout the adventure and the climax, while cool, is soured by the child-murder.

If you need an idea for a climax and have money to burn, think about checking it out. If you need ideas for a creepy orphanage, it's worth a peek. Otherwise, I'd suggest you check out any of the other adventures by SGG - they are all VASTLY superior to this one. Especially "Snows of an Early Winter".

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Call of Cthulhu: After Lovecraft: The Cold Case of Robert Suydam
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