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Sunday, 4 September 2016

Fenworthy Hammer Horror

The Fenworthy Inheritance is almost, but not quite a Call of Cthulhu scenario. Published by MontiDots Ltd., it is a scenario set in the classic period for Chaosium, Inc.’s RPG of Lovecraftian investigative horror, the Jazz Age of the 1920s; its mechanics do involve percentiles and they do make use of a sanity-style mechanic; and it is a horror scenario. More specifically, it employs the GORE™ Open Game Content Rules published by Goblinoid Games—best known for the Old School Renaissance Retroclone, Labyrinth Lord—to which MontiDots Ltd. has added its own Horror Rating System. As to the horror, although there is certainly a nod to the Lovecraftian, it is feels more influenced by the works of Dennis Wheatley and Hammer Horror with perhaps a tip of the deerstalker to The Hound of the Baskervilles.

The Fenworthy Inheritance is a one-shot scenario set in and around the village of Fenworthy on Dartmoor, in the county of Devon in southwest England in the years following the Great War, specifically 1922. It is the destination for businessmen and Great War veteran, David Farrington, who has been instructed by their parents to take his sister Jinx on a walking holiday in order to recover from her having spent too much time in the company of the Bright Young Things. They will each be joined by various friends, enabling the scenario to be played by between two and seven players, though four to six is probably the optimum number, there being seven pre-generated characters provided to that end. Unfortunately, a sedate weekend is the last thing that they will enjoy when they encounter death on the road, rural superstition, village politics, and revenge from down the years…

The scenario takes place over the course of a long weekend. The set-up is fairly lengthy, but it should be enough to draw the player characters into the strange things that are going on in and around Fenworthy. This is very much a physical investigation. There is very little in the way of having to read through musty tomes and instead the player characters will find themselves relying upon interaction, perception, and stealth if they are learn anything. Of the seven pre-generated investigators provided, only one of them is a natural investigator, a journalist, so the others may have to be worked hard to involve themselves in the strange goings on in the village.

Although there is no advice as to using The Fenworthy Inheritance with characters other than the ones provided, the scenario does come with suggestions as to possible sequels. These push the events in The Fenworthy Inheritance towards a more Lovecraftian bent, perhaps even verging on Delta Green territory just a little...

The Fenworthy Inheritance is written for use with Goblinoid Games’ free to use GORE™ Open Game Content Rules, themselves based on a 1980s role-playing game. Parallels between GORE™ and Call of Cthulhu are certainly apparent, most obviously in the use by GORE™ of a Challenge Table that looks very much like the Resistance Table to be found in Chaosium, Inc.’s Basic Roleplaying and the other RPGs based on its mechanics. The basics of the percentile rules are explained in the opening pages of the scenario, including some notes towards character creation, though this explanation is not fully detailed. To this, the author has added a new set of rules for handling being exposed to the unknown and the supernatural and the shocking effect this has on the psyche. Every character—player character or NPC—has a Stability rating, a percentile score that represents his state of mind. If he encounters a horrific event, then a character can lose points from his Stability, leading to a deterioration in his state of mind. The strength of any horrifying encounter, whether discovering a dead body, reading a malignant tome, or being chased by something eldritch, is measured by its Horror Rating. This Horror Rating is compared against the character’s Power attribute on the Challenge Table—modified by the character’s Stability rating—to give a saving value he needs to roll under.

Over all, the Horror Rating and Stability mechanics are a rough facsimile of the Sanity mechanics from Call of Cthulhu. They are not quite as simple or elegant, being a bit more complex and fiddlesome, but they do get the job done. Together with the GORE™ Open Game Content Rules, they provide a familiarity that makes The Fenworthy Inheritance readily accessible for anyone who has played Call of Cthulhu—at least up to Call of Cthulhu, Sixth Edition. Then again, like all material published for Call of Cthulhu, it would not be a challenge for the Game Master to adapt The Fenworthy Inheritance to Call of Cthulhu, Seventh Edition.

Physically, The Fenworthy Inheritance is a study in contrasts. The spiral bound book is well presented with some excellent illustrations—all done by the author. Some are used over and over, but they are good pieces, the better being of monsters and buildings. The cartography is also decent, clear and simple, although perhaps lacking in flavour. In some cases, the maps are perhaps a little bigger than necessary. The layout is also clean and tidy, but… The scenario is in need of another edit at the very least, if not another round of development. The problem as such is not the content itself, but the way in which it is presented. In some places there is too much information, in others not enough, and not always in the right place or order.

For example, much of the scenario’s opening description meant to be read out to the players should have been subsumed into the backgrounds of the pre-generated investigators to make them stronger and enforce roleplaying ties and relationships which are otherwise underwritten. Elsewhere, NPCs are described in the order that the author would introduce them if he was running the scenario or writing a novel, so that the GM needs to give what is otherwise a straightforward scenario a good read.

Now this all sounds as if The Fenworthy Inheritance is a terrible scenario. This could not be further from the truth. There is everything within its pages for a good adventure and a solid roleplaying experience—a familiar setting, a reasonable plot, and decent support. Unfortunately, this is not always presented as clearly as it should be and for more experienced players, the plot may well too familiar, if not an out and out cliché. What this means is that the GM will have to put a little extra effort into understanding the plot and being able to present it to his players.

The Fenworthy Inheritance is a complete scenario, if just unfinished. It comes with everything necessary to play, but as written and presented, it just lacks the polish that the author wanted to achieve.


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At the time of publication, MontiDots Ltd. did not have a website. It does however, have a presence on Facebook and the author can be contacted directly via email: info@montidots.co.uk. As of September, 2016, MontiDotsLtd. titles are available on RPGnow, beginning with The Fenworthy Inheritance.