Long before I met Oscar Rios at I-CON, I was a fan of his work. The very first monograph I purchased was Ripples from Carcosa, and Oscar's prolific writing positions him at the forefront of the latest generation of Call of Cthulhu authors. Ripples from Carcosa is awesome. The Roman and Dark Ages scenarios are really evocative.
I pulled out all the stops for this adventure: cardboard props, music from Requiem for a Dream, chocolate coins, Mega Miniatures’ Town Folk (I used them in groups of eight) and liberal use of my Battle Box from Fiery Dragon Productions. Did I mention I love my Battle Box?
I didn’t tell the players that this was a Call of Cthulhu adventure, but it didn’t take long for them to become completely freaked out. I should point out that this adventure is fairly disturbing, which helped put our PCs in some moral quandaries. As my brother is fond of putting it, “this is SO Resident Evil.”
I tried a bunch of different writing styles with this story hour. There are references to several of Campbell’s King in Yellow stories (specifically, what happens to Cal and Kham). The descriptions of the byakhee are straight from Lovecraft’s “The Festival.” And of course, there are the verses from Blish’s “More Light” version of the play. It’s a bit difficult to understand what’s going on without the context of the play itself. After all, this adventure kicks off a horrible inevitability—the birth of the King in Yellow, a play that drives to madness all who witness it.
The end fight was a tough battle, but perfectly balanced…a rarity. Fortunately, they did not take on the Avatar of Has--I mean the Unspeakable One. But then, any day when you can put down two byakhee (two very large, advanced byakhee) is a good day indeed.
HERALD OF THE YELLOW KING
This adventure was originally created for Call of Cthulhu, so it's always an interesting exercise in converting it over to a D20 system. For one, Call of Cthulhu has plenty of combat (at least as much if not more so than Dungeons & Dragons), but doesn't deal with any details. So when insane villagers attack, they're just assumed to attack from nowhere. When the monster fights the PCs on a bridge, you have no idea how wide the bridge is, etc. To rectify this, I built the various villages from the ground up with paper miniatures. This helped tremendously, especially in the first encounter.
What's so refreshing about Call of Cthulhu adventures is that they're not afraid of putting characters into dire moral quandaries, often with no means of getting out of it. There is no "right" choice in many cases.
I did a lot to beef up this module for a party of 4th through 7th-level characters. Wolves became winter wolves, villagers became 2nd-level commoners with the maniac template (from D20 Modern), and the Spawnling of Hastur became a Chuul (which nearly ate the entire party).
Isolated, with almost no healing magic, no means of reequipping themselves, and alone in the wilderness, we learned very quickly that our party isn't just bad in dungeons--they can barely survive in the wilderness. With a relentless snowstorm dogging their every step, in a frozen land where losing your horse can be a death sentence, the party suddenly realized why it's so important to have a warm fire and a roof over your head. In that regard, I think the adventure was definitely a success.
HEIR TO CARCOSA
This scenario is innovative and reminiscent of Stephen King's It. I plan to play it when we shift the campaign to D20 Future.
That said, Ripples from Carcosa is in dire need of an edit, and the artwork is uneven, but that's standard for monographs.
[4 of 5 Stars!]