Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/06/27/tabletop-review-bryson-springs-no-security/
Bryson Springs is the first of five (six if you were a special Kickstarter backer) scenarios from the “No Security” line of adventures being put out by a brand new company, Hebanon Games. These adventures are meant to be used with a wide variety of systems, although it’s definitely apparent that they are best suited for Call of Cthulhu in terms of tone and style. Best of all? These adventures are free to the general public! I was happy to support the No Security Kickstarter campaign to get this set of adventures off the ground. Now I’m sure some would say it’s silly to have given money for something I’d eventually get for free, but I enjoy knowing that I helped a new company get their adventures out to the world and enjoy a few free perks like the bonus adventure and a little miniature. Best of all though is that the No Security adventures are set in 1930s America, which is a wonderful and underutilized period. The Dust Bowl, the CCC, the Great Depression, the WPA and so many other things are prime for horror storytelling hooks; it’s just so few people ever put anything out for that era. I was a huge fan of Children of the Storm, a Chaosium monograph full of Call of Cthulhu adventures set in the 30s and now No Security allows me to jump back into setting, with brand new horrors and eldritch abominations to boot!
Honestly, Bryson Springs felt like a continuation of Children of the Storm, which is an awesome thing. If you are running a 1930s Call of Cthulhu campaign, Bryson Springs can easily be fit in either before or after the adventure “ENTR’ACTE,” as both take place in California. Whereas “ENTR’ACTE” deals with the horrible racism dished out to Chinese immigrants of that era, Bryson Springs is more the type of adventure you come to expect from a Lovecraftian-inspired adventure. Your adventurers are sucked into what seems to be a mundane mystery (in this case, the death of a Chinese railroader in a WPA washhouse), but as things progress they discover that all is not what it seems and that the underlying cause is an otherworldly horror that tests the limits of both man’s understanding and sanity. Once the adventure is finished, the PCs view on reality will be drastically changed, never to return to the numbing ignorance they once knew.
All in all, that description sounds like one of dozens of adventures for systems like Chill, Call of Cthulhu, Realms of Cthulhu, Trail of Cthulhu, Age of Cthulhu and possibly even Pokethulhu. It is a very run of the mill plot when you look at the bare bones synopsis, but honestly, the devil is in the details. Caleb Stokes creates a very memorable story, complete with some new horrific adversaries for the players to encounter and gives the usual Cthulhuoid horror tropes a nice twist. There’s also the dust bowl setting and the realization that nearly every character in this adventure will be destitute…or worse. Bryson Springs might not be the most original of horror adventures, But I really did enjoy it and the creatures responsible for the bedlam in this near ghost town.
One thing that will make or break the adventure for most of you reading this is the fact that Bryson Springs does not have any game stats of any kind. It is pure narrative, so you won’t have any information about what to roll or when, the stat blocks for NPCs and most importantly – any sort of in-game mechanics for the antagonists. On one hand, this makes the game easily adaptable to any system from a modern day D20 campaign to Savage Worlds. Again, Call of Cthulhu keepers will probably have the easiest time with this since it really does feel tailor made for the 1930s stuff put out for it earlier this year. On the other, when a lot of people pick up an adventure, it generally means they don’t have time to do the leg work for an adventure, or simply don’t want to. The fact they will have to do this for Bryson Springs may keep them from playing it or even picking up the adventure at all. Of course that’s not true of everyone that does. I just like to read adventures (hence my 150 issues of Dungeon magazine, even though I rarely played AD&D) for example. Still, those running Bryson Spring should be made well aware that they’re going to have to sit down and make a list of things that will come up for situations where the dice will be chucked as well as stat blocks for characters. I personally would have liked some stats but the adventure is free, I’ll be getting NPC and pregen stats later as one of my Kickstarter rewards, and I totally understand why Hebanon games went this route, even if it meant less people playing and/or reading the adventure. It all just depends on if you look at running a game as something where the rules and rolls are tantamount to a good experience or if you view it more as improv theatre.
Basically, I had a blast with Bryson Springs. It’s an extremely well made adventure that is made all the more impressive by the fact Hebanon Games is just giving it away. There’s a lot of detail and substance crammed into these thirteen pages and it’s well worth your time just to read through it even if you have no intention to play it afterward. Plus – it’s free. It’s a no lose scenario! Sure some people will be put off by the lack of stats or ties to any specific system, while others will find the adventure has a very similar progression to a lot of other Lovecraftian inspired adventures, but the setting, locale and style should make up for the latter, while a good DM/GM/Keeper/Storyteller should be able to easily adapt the story to whatever setting he or she is using. I would strongly advise anyone running Bryson Springs to pick up Children of the Storm though – not only for the fact that would give you four more adventures with a 1930s setting, but because it contains a lot of helpful information on the time period that will go a long way towards making Bryson Springs an even more memorable adventure for you and your players. For a first release, I’d say Hebanon Park is off to a very impressive start and if the other adventures are as good as this money, I definitely got my money’s worth in helping to make them free to the general public.