Every Week It's Wibbley-Wobbley Timey-Wimey Pookie-Reviewery...

Friday, 3 June 2011

Swords, Sorcery, & Cthulhu

In publishing The Legacy of Arrius Lurco, the first campaign for Cthulhu Invictus, Miskatonic River Press introduced us to the House of Lurco, one of the major investors in the Reds Chariot Racing team in Ancient Rome. More specifically, it introduced us to the mystery of what had happened to family patrician many years before in Crete and to Arrius Lurco’s strange behaviour now. Delving into this mystery would take the investigators would take them up and down Rome’s social strata, all the whilst being chased by an ancient cult; to Greece to consult with the greatest of Oracles; and lastly to Crete to confront the cause of Arrius Lurco’s legacy. Though the campaign was spurred onwards by contact with the House of Lurco, the family does not figure in the later chapters as the investigators are forced to find other allies. In completing The Legacy of Arrius Lurco, there remains the unanswered question what happens to the family who drew them into the dangers at the heart of the Mare Nostrum?

This is a question answered with “Mystery in Sardinia – The Epilogue to The Legacy of Arrius Lurco,” which like “Naufractus Or Shipwrecked – A Prequel to The Legacy of Arrius Lurco,” was made available as a bonus for pre-orders placed with the publisher for the campaign itself. The adventure takes place a more than a year after the events of the campaign, with the investigators finding that House Lurco has not forgotten their efforts despite not actively supporting them. Invited to the marriage of Appius Arrius Melito, the brother who sought their help at the start of The Legacy of Arrius Lurco, the investigators are asked to help with another problem. As part of his young wife’s dowry, Melito received the gift of a plantation on the island of Sardinia. He and his wife plan to settle there, but the team he sent to survey the site has not returned, perhaps having vanished at the hands of the locals who refuse to work the land. So Melito asks the investigators to lead a second survey whilst also determining what happened to the first team.

Just as with “Nautfractus” and the campaign itself, “Mystery in Sardinia” is not an investigative scenario in Call of Cthulhu’s traditional sense. It lacks the typical paper trail, instead shifting its focus to interpersonal, exploratory, and combative play. In these “Mystery in Sardinia” is actually a very traditional scenario in a roleplaying sense. The location of the plantation is relatively isolated; it is surrounded by wary locals who know more than they are prepared to speak of; and its secrets are born of are magical doings. This makes it sound almost like the archetypal Dungeons & Dragons adventure, but then Cthulhu Invictus is flexible enough to support the “Swords & Sandals” genre, which The Legacy of Arrius Lurco also happens to feature. Plus if “Mystery in Sardinia” is a Dungeons & Dragons-style adventure, it is a much harder one in that the investigators, rather than adventurers, lack magic and magical weaponry. This in a sense is a pity, because in order to defeat the danger at the heart of the plantation, the investigators are going to need magical weaponry. The likelihood is that they lack such items in their arsenal, but fortunately, the scenario goes out of its way to provide some. Two options are presented as means of acquiring enchanted arms, both of which require a degree of negotiation and recompense.

Another difference with “Mystery in Sardinia” when compared to other scenarios for Cthulhu Invictus is that it does not make use of Greco-Roman myth. It owes more to the work of Ray Harryhausen and Dungeons & Dragons than anything else.

As with “Naufractus Or Shipwrecked – A Prequel to The Legacy of Arrius Lurco,” this 1.57 Mb, eleven-page PDF, is well laid out with a good map. It does lack illustrations, but for a free scenario given out for supporting the campaign’s release, this not a problem.

There is a pleasing reward to be had by the investigators if they successfully complete both tasks given to them by Arrius Melito, that in addition to the usual Sanity gains. Yet, the surprise is that “Mystery in Sardinia” is not just a sequel to The Legacy of Arrius Lurco, but a possible bridging scenario to further adventures. It hints at one more to come, though when that will be is a good question given the limited number of books that Miskatonic River Press is able to publish. In the meantime, we can only implore Oscar Rios to revisit Ancient Rome once again.

Whilst “Mystery in Sardinia – The Epilogue to The Legacy of Arrius Lurco” could be played as standalone scenario, to do so would mean that the investigators would miss much of its back story and an opportunity for everyone to enjoy a happy occasion. It also marks a change of pace after The Legacy of Arrius Lurco, one that is not as morally challenging as parts of the campaign, but is rather more straightforward and more physical than most scenarios.