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

Saturday, 30 April 2022

Magazine Madness 13: Senet Issue 2

 The gaming magazine is dead. After all, when was the last time that you were able to purchase a gaming magazine at your nearest newsagent? Games Workshop’s White Dwarf is of course the exception, but it has been over a decade since Dragon appeared in print. However, in more recent times, the hobby has found other means to bring the magazine format to the market. Digitally, of course, but publishers have also created their own in-house titles and sold them direct or through distribution. Another vehicle has been Kickststarter.com, which has allowed amateurs to write, create, fund, and publish titles of their own, much like the fanzines of Kickstarter’s ZineQuest. The resulting titles are not fanzines though, being longer, tackling broader subject matters, and more professional in terms of their layout and design.

—oOo—

Senet
—named for the Ancient Egyptian board game, Senet—is a print magazine about the craft, creativity, and community of board gaming. It is about the play and the experience of board games, it is about the creative thoughts and processes which go into each and every board game, and it is about board games as both artistry and art form. Published by Senet Magazine Limited, each issue promises previews of forthcoming, interesting titles, features which explore how and why we play, interviews with those involved in the process of creating a game, and reviews of the latest and most interesting releases.

Senet Issue 2 was published in the Summer of 2020 and carries the tagline of “Board games are beautiful”. It opens with ‘Behold’, a preview of some of the then-forthcoming board game titles, such as Frosthaven—the sequel to Gloomhaven, Kanban EV, The 7th Citadel, Viscounts of the West Kingdom, and more. Given as much prominence as a full review, what is interesting about these is previews is that each give ‘What they might be’, so Viscounts of the West Kingdom could be the next Gùgong and The 7th Citadel could be the next The 7th Continent. Many, if not all, of these titles have since been released and been subject to their own reviews and analysis, so these previews can be read with the benefit of hindsight to see whether their predictions were right. However, they are pleasingly detailed and enjoyable two years on.

‘Points’ provides a selection of readers’ letters, whilst in ‘For Love of the Game’, Tristian Hall continues his designer’s journey towards Gloom of Kilforth. Here he talks about the difficulties and hurdles faced in its development, overcoming a flawed first version before pushing on to a proper prototype. This continues to be a fascinating path and it will be interesting to follow in in future columns.

The centre of Senet Issue 2 is given over to a quartet of four, lengthy articles. The first of these ‘Decks in Effect’, Alexandra Sonechkina examines the nature and explores the history of the deckbuilding mechanic, which it is surprising to realise is only a little more than a decade old. It goes back its origins in the Spiel des Jahres award-winning Dominion and goes forward to explore how the ground-breaking mechanic has proliferated in those years since. In the process it highlights how many Dominion-like games appeared in the years following its publication, before being used in more innovative ways in games like Mystic Vale. The article also tracks by genre the growth of the deckbuilding game over the course of its first ten years as a mechanic and it is surprising to see just how many deckbuilding games have appeared since. The article is also illustrated with some engaging pieces by Tom Gauld—who also drew the cover for the issue—and it is artwork that is the subject of the second article in Senet Issue 2. ‘Brush with Greatness’ is an interview with the much in demand artist Kwanchai Moriya, whose art has graced games such as Capital Lux, Flip Ships, 7 Summits, and In The Hall of the Mountain King. The interview is interesting, but the artwork is gorgeous and this is a lovely showcase for it.

Owen Duffy is the author of the most thoughtful and controversial article in the magazine. ‘The Empire Business’ explores the difficult subject of colonialism and empire-building and how it became a widespread and then contentious theme in board game design. Stemming from GMT’s cancelled Scramble for Africa, the article looks back to once widely regarded classics such as Puerto Rico with their expansionist mercantilism and casual disregard for its (plantation) workers and whilst pointing out how engaging these themes are, points out that in too many cases, these games are mostly designed from a decidedly European perspective. Even when moving to settings with no inhabitants to disregard, such as Mars with games like Terraforming Mars and On Mars, there is a still a sense of exploitation.

Duffy widens the remit of the article to gain the perspectives and opinions of other designers, who have either looked at the aftermath of colonialism and its impact, such as with Ragnar Brothers’ DRCongo: Hope Out of Horror, which is about building a better country or who are indigenous to those regions which were exploited. In particular, this is with the founder of NIBCARD Games, a Nigerian publisher of boardgames. This gives voice to a sector of the hobby which is only just beginning to be heard in the wider hobby—and barely that, given the dominance of the USA and Europe has over the industry. The article ends with a call for better research into cultures and peoples outside of designers’ own when wanting to explore themes outside of the European perspective. ‘The Empire Business’ is the sort of article that the hobby and industry needs, reflective and looking at itself from outside. More than the other articles in Senet Issue 2 this provides a snapshot of the hobby in 2020 and is not only a welcome snapshot, but hopefully similarly thoughtful articles will appear in future issues of the magazine.

The fourth of the longer articles in Senet Issue 2 is ‘Tearing Ahead’, an interview with Rob Daviau, which explores two strands of boardgame design. One is the legacy genre, in which an outcome of game play can have a permanent effect upon on a game, which Daviau invented with Risk Legacy and has subsequently been seen in the Pandemic Legacy trilogy, as well as a slew of other designs. The other is the restoration and redesign of out-of-print classics, such as Fireball Island and Return to Dark Tower. It is a lengthy and interesting interview that explores both strands in informative fashion.

The ‘Unboxing’ section of Senet Issue 2 includes solid reviews of Europe Divided, Flyin’ Goblin, Monumental, Parks, Rome & Roll, and more, whilst elsewhere Anna Blackwell, designer of the solo map games Delve, Rise, and Umbra tells you ‘It’s Okay to Break the Rules’ in ‘How to Play’ and Jon Purkis, owner of the YouTube channel of Actualol, reveals his ‘Shelf of Shame’. This is a boardgame which has sat on his shelf which he has never played and in this case, it is the Broad Peak expansion for K2, the mountain climbing themed board game. Anna Blackwell’s article is thoughtful and interesting, looking at the benefits and pitfalls of breaking the rules to a game—primarily, not knowing a rule itself properly, and is the closest that Senet Issue 2 gets to touching upon roleplaying. Unfortunately, ‘Shelf of Shame’ is not as interesting, probably because its revelation is far from amazing, but it brings the issue to a lighter close.

Physically, Senet Issue 2 is very nicely presented, all pristine and beautifully laid out. Whether drawing on board game graphics and images, or the magazine’s own illustrations, the issue’s graphics are very sharply handled, living up to the issue’s motto of  “Board games are beautiful” as much as its subject matter does. 

Senet Issue 2 maintains the high standards set by Senet Issue 1. This is a lovely looking issue in its simplicity and its use of artwork to beautifully complement its content, especially the four meaty feature articles at its heart. Above all, Senet Issue 2 is not just an engaging and informative read which treats boardgames and their play in a mature fashion, it is a pleasure to read as well.

—oOo


Senet Magazine Limited will be at UK Games Expo which takes place from Friday, June 3rd to Sunday, June 5th, 2022.

Friday, 29 April 2022

Magazine Madness 12: The Warlock Returns Issue #01

The gaming magazine is dead. After all, when was the last time that you were able to purchase a gaming magazine at your nearest newsagent? Games Workshop’s
White Dwarf is of course the exception, but it has been over a decade since Dragon appeared in print. However, in more recent times, the hobby has found other means to bring the magazine format to the market. Digitally, of course, but publishers have also created their own in-house titles and sold them direct or through distribution. Another vehicle has been Kickstarter.com, which has allowed amateurs to write, create, fund, and publish titles of their own, much like the fanzines of Kickstarter’s ZineQuest. The resulting titles are not fanzines though, being longer, tackling broader subject matters, and more professional in terms of their layout and design.

—oOo—

Back in the nineteen eighties, at the height of the popularity of the solo adventure books which had begun with The Warlock of Firetop Mountain and Fighting Fantasy in 1982, there not one, but two solo adventure magazines. Warlock, published between 1984 and 1986 by Penguin and then Games Workshop, ran for just thirteen issues. Its counterpart, Proteus, was published by IPC Magazines Ltd. and then Wimborne Publishing between 1984 and 1988, and ran to nineteen issues. Although both published solo adventures, Proteus was not a Fighting Fantasy-oriented magazine, but a ‘A Complete Fantasy Adventure Game Magazine’, whereas Warlock definitely was. The focus of Warlock was fantasy with an emphasis on the Fighting Fantasy adventure gamebook series. The focus of its successor is much broader. Published quarterly by Arion Games, The Warlock Returns is devoted to Advanced Fighting Fantasy, the full roleplaying game based on the Fighting Fantasy solo adventures series and its Science Fiction equivalent, Stellar Adventures.

The Warlock Returns #01 was published in September, 2020. It presents a medley of things, from monsters to scenarios, from weapons to cartoons, from advice to settings, and more. It opens with Andrew Wright’s entry for the ‘Denizens of the Pit’ column. He details three types of Chaos Dragon—the swamp-dwelling, acid-spitting Yellow Dragon; the wilderness and ruin-dwelling, superheated wind exhaling Orange Dragon; and the jungle and ruins-dwelling, green slime breathing Purple Dragon. These are nicely detailed and tied into the history of Titan—the setting for Advanced Fighting Fantasy—when Death walked the lands and breathed Chaos into the hidden places where dragons were sleeping, mutating some of them into these three forms. They suffer from mutations today. All three are fearsome great beasts and not something that an unprepared adventurer would want to encounter.

The issue includes two lists of equipment. The first is ‘Jungle Mania’, by Stuart Lloyd. Just a page in length, it lists the sort of equipment that adventurers’ might want to prepare themselves with before setting out into the jungle. They include mosquito netting, mosquito repellent, the machete, blowpipes, darts, and poisons. All fairly serviceable, but with little tweaks here and there. For example, the machete is treated as a shortsword which is more effective against plants rather than creatures. Similarly, the weapons listed in Terry d’Orleans’ ‘Chinese Inspired Weapons for the Isles of Dawn’, are also tweaked. They range from the Gong (bow) and the flexible Qiang (spear) to the Liuxingchui (meteor hammer) and the Hudie Shuangdao (butterfly swords). For example, the Liuxingchui can be used to disarm an opponent rather than inflict Stamina damage and the Shengbiao (rope dart) to inflict a penalty to all physical actions rather than damage.

Terry d’Orleans also offers advice for the Director—as the Game Master is known in Advanced Fighting Fantasy—in ‘Sizing Up Monsters’, which explores ways of making encounters and combat more interesting and enjoyable by unbalancing them for and against the adventurers. The aim here is not to make them extremely easy or extremely challenging, but appropriate to the situation, perhaps to make a fight against minions slightly easier and that against their villainous master or mistress that much harder. It is a well thought out article, and solid advice for the new Director and experienced Director alike.

Adrian Kennelly provides two lists of twenty things to be found and read. ‘For the Bookworms’ is a list of books which can be used to flesh out bookshelves, so as to hide that all too important tome which the Player Characters might need to find, which ‘Notes and letters from Arion’ is a list of notes and missives which might be found in pockets (whether their owners are dead or alive) or dropped on the floor, and which might spur an encounter or adventure. There is a certain mundane to some of the latter, but both articles, written for the setting of Arion, would an extra degree of verisimilitude to any Advanced Fighting Fantasy campaign. They could easily be adapted to other settings if necessary.

The Warlock Returns #01 contains two specials. One is a new character sheet for Advanced Fighting Fantasy designed by Dyson Logos, whilst ‘In Their Element’ is a one-page dungeon designed around the elements and their alchemical symbols, along with those for the metals copper, silver, gold, and platinum. By Peter Endean, it is the first of two adventures in the issue and is serviceable enough, emphasising puzzles as much as combat.

Calfiero Risaliti’s ‘Welcome to Arion’ is the second and much longer adventure in The Warlock Returns #01. It takes low-experience adventurers from Allansia and the Old World to Arion, from where they plan to explore Khul. It is not suitable to more than the single magic user, and requires Travels in Arion as well as the standard rulebooks as necessary. It takes a while for the adventure to get going in which the adventurers, along with the rest of the city, find themselves under a curse. To solve the curse, the adventurers have to race round Arion to find and solve a series of riddles. It feels rather lengthy and could have done with editing for clarity. One notable issue is that it does not actually state what is going on for the benefit of the Director until three pages in, which is just too late.

The Warlock Returns #01 has its own comic strip in the form of ‘The Legend of Gareus: The Hero of Karn’. Written and drawn by Shaun Garea, this tells of the adventures—or rather, not-adventures-of the cowardly anti-hero, Gareus. This is quite fun and nicely done, and Gareus is a chancer and a git. Hopefully in future issues, he might even be loveable! Gareus returns at the end of the issue as ‘Agony Aunt Gareus’ with the sort of useless titbits and pieces of advice that you would imagine that only he could offer.

After all of that fantasy, Martin Proctor offers some Science Fiction with a setting for Stellar Adventures. ‘Tora’ is the first part in a series describing the desert world of the same name. Most of its inhabitants reside in clusters of cities where they toil in a strict class system maintained by the wealthy and the Enforcement, which imposes law and order. Travel between the cities—even the clustered ones, is limited; protests and riots by the poor are common; and any potential rebellion made all the difficult by limited access to arms and armour. However nomads do survive in the desert wastelands and smugglers conduct trade off world and between the cities. Guidelines are suggested for finding a home base for the Player Characters, hiring followers, income and prices for vehicles and other equipment, and multiple group combat. The inference here is that the Player Characters establish a base on world and then attempt to overthrow the various cities’ governments or become a criminal network, and so on. It is an intriguing campaign set-up, although not fully realised in terms of the setting here as descriptions of the world’s factions are saved for the next part of ‘Tora’. This though is a solid introduction which has a Mad Max/Blake’s 7 feel and it should all come together with the next part.

Physically,The Warlock Returns #01;is a bit rough around the edges. Although the layout is okay, much of the magazine would benefit from better editing—why every occurrence of the letter ‘l’ is in bold boggles the eyes, let alone the mind. The artwork is decent though.

The Warlock Returns #01 sits at that point between fanzine and proper magazine. It is more a ‘prozine’ than a magazine. There is a certain scrappiness to it and much of it needs an edit to really make the contents easier for the Director to use. It is though a first issue, and its problems can be put down to that. Hopefully, The Warlock Returns #02 will be better in terms of design and presentation. Nevertheless, The Warlock Returns #01 is worth the time to read through and check out its content if you a fan of Advanced Fighting Fantasy and especially so if you are a Director of Advanced Fighting Fantasy.

Magazine Madness 11: Parallel Worlds #02

The gaming magazine is dead. After all, when was the last time that you were able to purchase a gaming magazine at your nearest newsagent? Games Workshop’s White Dwarf is of course the exception, but it has been over a decade since Dragon appeared in print. However, in more recent times, the hobby has found other means to bring the magazine format to the market. Digitally, of course, but publishers have also created their own in-house titles and sold them direct or through distribution. Another vehicle has been Kickstarter.com, which has allowed amateurs to write, create, fund, and publish titles of their own, much like the fanzines of Kickstarter’s ZineQuest. The resulting titles are not fanzines though, being longer, tackling broader subject matters, and more professional in terms of their layout and design.

—oOo—

The second issue of Parallel Worlds magazine was published in September 202o. Like the inaugural issue, Parallel Worlds #01, published the year previously, it contains no gaming content as such, but rather discusses and aspects of not just the hobby, but different hobbies—board games, roleplaying games, computer games, and more. Unlike later issues, for example, Parallel Worlds #21 and Parallel Worlds #22, this second issue is very much about games, and that is not necessarily a bad thing if something interesting is said about them. Where that was not always achieved in Parallel Worlds #01, the second issue is more balanced, which when combined with its selection of interesting articles and brevity serves to make it overall an engaging, even sometimes thoughtful read. Of course, Parallel Worlds #02 is readily available in print, but all of the issues of Parallel Worlds, published by Parallel Publishing can also be purchased in digital format, because it is very much not back in the day of classic White Dwarf, but here and now. 

Parallel Worlds #02 opens with an interview with Adrian Tchaikovsky, the author of the Shadows of the Apt fantasy series and the award-winning science fiction novel, Children of Time. It touches upon his choice of publishers and how alien spiders are, but it also explores his love of roleplaying, mentioning that he is the Dungeon Master for a Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition campaign and also that Shadows of the Apt fantasy series arose from a roleplaying campaign of his own. It is a fairly light piece to start the issue with and although a couple of years old, is intriguing to persuade the reader to check out Adrian Tchaikovsky’s fiction.

Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition is the subject of the first ‘Tabletop Games’ article in Parallel Worlds #02. ‘Box Half Full: Why D&D is so revered and popular’ by Ben Potts is the counterpart to Connor Eddles’ ‘Box Full of Knives: Why Dungeons & Dragons needs to step away from its wargaming roots’ in Parallel Worlds #01, and by far, very much the superior article. In his article, Eddles made the point that Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition is a ‘box full of knives’, that its mechanics are too focused on delivered the means to kill things and take their loot and not enough on providing the tools to provide stories. Yet whilst the points in his article are not without merit, Eddles completely failed to do anything to counter them. Fortunately, whilst Ben Potts both acknowledges Eddles’ points and accepts that many of them are valid, he points out the value of the shared history and storytelling to be found in Dungeons & Dragons, how that can be passed from one generation to another, how Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition has moved in terms of representation and diversity (but remember this article was written in 2020, so the roleplaying game is still on that path), how the sexism of fantasy artwork has been ditched, and how the rules have been streamlined. The article also acknowledges that the origins of Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition do lie in wargaming and medieval history. Overall, this article is everything that ‘Box Full of Knives: Why Dungeons & Dragons needs to step away from its wargaming roots’ is not—balanced, interesting, and informative. ‘Box Half Full: Why D&D is so revered and popular’ does not shy away from the issues with Dungeons & Dragons, but it explores and explains them as well as highlighting the changes made to make Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition a better game.

This followed by a second ‘Tabletop Games’ article, this time a review by Christopher Jarvis of Star Wars: Outer Rim. Published by Fantasy Flight Games, this is the board game of scoundrels engaged in smuggling, bounty hunting, scams, and more as they attempt to turn themselves in legends. This is a decent review which clearly captures just how much the reviewer had playing the game. The third of the ‘Tabletop Games’ articles is the second entry in the ‘Miniature Of The Month’ series, here ‘Miniature Of The Month: Uthred Steelmantle’. Written by Connor Eddles, this looks at a more modern figure, this time a Stormcast Vanguard for Warhammer 40,000. Accompanied by a piece of short fiction, this still feels like page filler rather than being anything interesting. Connor Eddles’ other contribution is ‘Beneath the Waystation’, a piece of ‘Original Fiction’. It is a decent enough short slice of Science Fiction horror. The other review in the issue is ‘Review: Dragonslayer’ by Allen Stroud. This is of Duncan M. Hamilton’s Dragonslayer, and is not wholly positive. 

Tom Grundy’s ‘Thinkpiece’ is titled ‘Ruling the World 20 – The sci-fi assumption of ‘Government Earth’’, which examines the notion of the ‘global’ or civilisation-wide government—including star spanning governments, how the world might get there, and the difficulties associated with doing so, primarily with how a country identifies itself. Numerous options are discussed, such as colonies pushing for independence from home governments, governments existing across multiple worlds, having a ‘mega-United Nations’ across multiple star systems and worlds, and more. The article does suffer from a lot of blank space and it would have benefited from a bibliography listing the various works of fiction, films, television series, and games where the various forms of government appear. Certainly some application and some pointers for the reader would have helped.

In Parallel Worlds #01, with ‘Events’, Allen Stroud took the reader on a guided tour of the United Kingdom’s biggest gaming convention with ‘UK Games Expo 2019’. In Parallel Worlds #02, he takes us to another convention, very different in nature to UK Games Expo—the 77th annual World Convention of Science Fiction. Attended by many of the biggest names in science fiction, fantasy, and horror, this is an even bigger event with its emphasis on Science Fiction and fantasy and fiction all culminating in the Hugo Awards. Stroud does point out that the event was not with its issues, but again captures the scale of the event, highlighting the number of attendees, the breadth of stalls and exhibitors present, and the array of events staged across the weekend. Supported by numerous photographs, ‘Dublin 2019: an Irish worldcon’ brings the event to life and really makes the reader want to attend, which again, post-COVID in 2022 will be a whole lot easier.

The other ‘Video Games’ article is Thomas Turnbull-Ross’ ‘Beyond the Screen: Are games becoming less immersive?’ which examines both whether games are becoming easier to play at a cost of immersion and whether their sense of escapism is being lost with the shift to social-focused gameplay. It is a lengthy piece which examines numerous online games and their communities, pointing to plenty of examples, before concluding that both issues are true, but not totally.

Lastly, Lastly, ‘TV & Film’ launches a two-part article dedicated to Star Trek. The first part of ‘Keeping Trek’ by Ben Potts looks at the origins and history of the franchise, all the way up the earliest films, with Star Trek: The Next Generation saved for the second part. The article is definitely for the casual or uninitiated would be fan of Star Trek as there is nothing here that the dedicated fan will not already know. For the casual or would be fan this is a solid introduction to the series from the sixties and to an extent, the films of the late seventies and early eighties, which whilst not ignoring the sometimes, but in keeping with the era poor portrayal of its female characters or some of the sillier plots, does highlight how the series was socially and inspirationally ground-breaking, as was the technology, and there were some great stories too.

Physically, Parallel Worlds #02 is printed in full colour, on very sturdy paper, which gives it a high-quality feel. As with the first issue, it does suffer from a lot of white space and one or two of the articles do feel stretched out.

Parallel Worlds #02 is better than Parallel Worlds #01—and that is how it should be. The issue has a better mix of articles, even if roleplaying does come off a poor third in comparison to other types of gaming. It does feel as if there should be more to it though. For example, one board game review or one book review or one miniature review just does not feel enough, especially given how much space is devoted to them, whilst other articles could have been improved with bibliographies all of their very own. Overall, Parallel Worlds #02 is a light, perhaps just a little too slight in places, enjoyable read.

Monday, 25 April 2022

Miskatonic Monday #119: Cold Hunger

Between October 2003 and October 2013, Chaosium, Inc. published a series of books for Call of Cthulhu under the Miskatonic University Library Association brand. Whether a sourcebook, scenario, anthology, or campaign, each was a showcase for their authors—amateur rather than professional, but fans of Call of Cthulhu nonetheless—to put forward their ideas and share with others. The programme was notable for having launched the writing careers of several authors, but for every Cthulhu InvictusThe PastoresPrimal StateRipples from Carcosa, and Halloween Horror, there was Five Go Mad in EgyptReturn of the RipperRise of the DeadRise of the Dead II: The Raid, and more...

The Miskatonic University Library Association brand is no more, alas, but what we have in its stead is the Miskatonic Repository, based on the same format as the DM’s Guild for Dungeons & Dragons. It is thus, “...a new way for creators to publish and distribute their own original Call of Cthulhu content including scenarios, settings, spells and more…” To support the endeavours of their creators, Chaosium has provided templates and art packs, both free to use, so that the resulting releases can look and feel as professional as possible. To support the efforts of these contributors, Miskatonic Monday is an occasional series of reviews which will in turn examine an item drawn from the depths of the Miskatonic Repository.

—oOo—
Publisher: Chaosium, Inc.
Author: Paul Dimitrievich

Setting: Jazz Age Canada
Product: Scenario
What You Get: Seventeen page, 1.40 MB Full Colour PDF

Elevator Pitch: A missing persons case leads to madness on the tracks.
Plot Hook: Has a missing reporter on a magazine of the unexplained gone missing because of his current case? 
Plot Support: Staging advice, four handouts, two floorplans, 
seven NPCs, two monsters and Mythos creatures, and four pre-generated Investigators.
Production Values: Serviceable.

Pros
# Canada and no sasquatches!
# Straightforward plot
# Easily adapted to other time periods with trains
# Easily adapted to other northern climes
Solid pre-generated Investigators
# Wolves in winter inspired by ‘Pickman’s Model’
# Potential for Investigator versus Investigator action

Cons
# Plain handouts and floorplans
# No explanation of what the ‘CPR’ is
# Potential for Investigator versus Investigator action

Conclusion
# Serviceable plot ends in blood and desperate fashion which does not work as well if the Investigators are armed for bear
# Blood, madness, and dinner on the tracks in a straightforward plot at the horrifying height of winter 

Miskatonic Monday #118: Care Forgot

Between October 2003 and October 2013, Chaosium, Inc. published a series of books for Call of Cthulhu under the Miskatonic University Library Association brand. Whether a sourcebook, scenario, anthology, or campaign, each was a showcase for their authors—amateur rather than professional, but fans of Call of Cthulhu nonetheless—to put forward their ideas and share with others. The programme was notable for having launched the writing careers of several authors, but for every Cthulhu InvictusThe PastoresPrimal StateRipples from Carcosa, and Halloween Horror, there was Five Go Mad in EgyptReturn of the RipperRise of the DeadRise of the Dead II: The Raid, and more...

The Miskatonic University Library Association brand is no more, alas, but what we have in its stead is the Miskatonic Repository, based on the same format as the DM’s Guild for Dungeons & Dragons. It is thus, “...a new way for creators to publish and distribute their own original Call of Cthulhu content including scenarios, settings, spells and more…” To support the endeavours of their creators, Chaosium has provided templates and art packs, both free to use, so that the resulting releases can look and feel as professional as possible. To support the efforts of these contributors, Miskatonic Monday is an occasional series of reviews which will in turn examine an item drawn from the depths of the Miskatonic Repository.

—oOo—
Publisher: Chaosium, Inc.
Author: John Almack

Setting: Jazz Age
Product: One-on-One Scenario
What You Get: Six page, 757.70 KB Full Colour PDF

Elevator Pitch: Sudden forgetfulness brings fears of its own
Plot Hook: Who am I?
Plot Support: Staging advice, 
seven NPCs, one Mythos entity, and one pre-generated Investigator.
Production Values: Plain.

Pros
# One-on-one horror scenario
# Classic horror set-up
# Classic Mythos set-up made very personal
Easy to adapt to other time periods
# Easy to adapt to other cities
# Solid cast of NPCs for the Keeper to roleplay

Cons
# Potentially too personal horror

Conclusion
# Classic amnesia set-up made very personal in a one-on-one scenario built around a classic Call of Cthulhu plot
# Strong on roleplaying and interaction

Miskatonic Monday #117: Pilgrim’s Hope

Between October 2003 and October 2013, Chaosium, Inc. published a series of books for Call of Cthulhu under the Miskatonic University Library Association brand. Whether a sourcebook, scenario, anthology, or campaign, each was a showcase for their authors—amateur rather than professional, but fans of Call of Cthulhu nonetheless—to put forward their ideas and share with others. The programme was notable for having launched the writing careers of several authors, but for every Cthulhu InvictusThe PastoresPrimal StateRipples from Carcosa, and Halloween Horror, there was Five Go Mad in EgyptReturn of the RipperRise of the DeadRise of the Dead II: The Raid, and more...

The Miskatonic University Library Association brand is no more, alas, but what we have in its stead is the Miskatonic Repository, based on the same format as the DM’s Guild for Dungeons & Dragons. It is thus, “...a new way for creators to publish and distribute their own original Call of Cthulhu content including scenarios, settings, spells and more…” To support the endeavours of their creators, Chaosium has provided templates and art packs, both free to use, so that the resulting releases can look and feel as professional as possible. To support the efforts of these contributors, Miskatonic Monday is an occasional series of reviews which will in turn examine an item drawn from the depths of the Miskatonic Repository.

—oOo—
Publisher: Chaosium, Inc.
Author: Jazmin Ospa

Setting: Illinois, 1885

Product: Scenario for Down Darker Trails: Terrors of the Mythos
What You Get: Eighteen page, 844.50 MB Full Colour PDF

Elevator Pitch: Snakes at a show!
Plot Hook: Buffalo Bill’s Wild West tour of the USA gets a short, sharp snake shock!
Plot Support: Staging advice, one map, five NPCs, one creature, two Mythos monsters, 
and six pre-generated Investigators.
Production Values: Plain.

Pros
Scenario for Down Darker Trails: Terrors of the Mythos
# Short , gun-toting one-session one-shot
# Emphasis on combat and a chase
# Easy to prepare
# Ophidiophobia
# The chance to roleplay members of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West tour of the USA

Cons
# Ophidiophobia
# Little investigation
# Why does the villain unleash the snakes at the show?

Conclusion
# A chance for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West tour of the USA to ride against the Mythos!
# Straightforward action-packed scenario sets up an exciting chase, but leaves the villain’s motivation unexplained

Miskatonic Monday #116: Tales of the Casket Girls

Between October 2003 and October 2013, Chaosium, Inc. published a series of books for Call of Cthulhu under the Miskatonic University Library Association brand. Whether a sourcebook, scenario, anthology, or campaign, each was a showcase for their authors—amateur rather than professional, but fans of Call of Cthulhu nonetheless—to put forward their ideas and share with others. The programme was notable for having launched the writing careers of several authors, but for every Cthulhu InvictusThe PastoresPrimal StateRipples from Carcosa, and Halloween Horror, there was Five Go Mad in EgyptReturn of the RipperRise of the DeadRise of the Dead II: The Raid, and more...

The Miskatonic University Library Association brand is no more, alas, but what we have in its stead is the Miskatonic Repository, based on the same format as the DM’s Guild for Dungeons & Dragons. It is thus, “...a new way for creators to publish and distribute their own original Call of Cthulhu content including scenarios, settings, spells and more…” To support the endeavours of their creators, Chaosium has provided templates and art packs, both free to use, so that the resulting releases can look and feel as professional as possible. To support the efforts of these contributors, Miskatonic Monday is an occasional series of reviews which will in turn examine an item drawn from the depths of the Miskatonic Repository.

—oOo—
Publisher: Chaosium, Inc.
Author: Michael Henebry

Setting: Jazz Age New Orleans

Product: Scenario
What You Get: Twenty-two page, 67.27 KB Full Colour PDF

Elevator Pitch: A missing persons case leads to nasty nuns!
Plot Hook: A convent of chills
Plot Support: 
Two monsters, five handouts, three maps and floorplans, six pre-generated Investigators.
Production Values: Plain.

Pros
# Straightforward plot
# Potentially pulpy plot
# Good background and history
# Vampire nuns
Solid mix of pre-generated Investigators
# Potential lead in to a Secrets of New Orleans campaign
# Possible campaign set-up with Investigators as new Knights Templars vampire hunters!

Cons
# Not vampire nuns!?
# Not enough made of New Orleans

Conclusion
# Straightforward plot leads to a dark secret hidden in New Orleans and confrontation in a convent

Sunday, 24 April 2022

Miskatonic Monday #115: The Strange Case of Mr Cardew

Between October 2003 and October 2013, Chaosium, Inc. published a series of books for Call of Cthulhu under the Miskatonic University Library Association brand. Whether a sourcebook, scenario, anthology, or campaign, each was a showcase for their authors—amateur rather than professional, but fans of Call of Cthulhu nonetheless—to put forward their ideas and share with others. The programme was notable for having launched the writing careers of several authors, but for every Cthulhu InvictusThe PastoresPrimal StateRipples from Carcosa, and Halloween Horror, there was Five Go Mad in EgyptReturn of the RipperRise of the DeadRise of the Dead II: The Raid, and more...

The Miskatonic University Library Association brand is no more, alas, but what we have in its stead is the Miskatonic Repository, based on the same format as the DM’s Guild for Dungeons & Dragons. It is thus, “...a new way for creators to publish and distribute their own original Call of Cthulhu content including scenarios, settings, spells and more…” To support the endeavours of their creators, Chaosium has provided templates and art packs, both free to use, so that the resulting releases can look and feel as professional as possible. To support the efforts of these contributors, Miskatonic Monday is an occasional series of reviews which will in turn examine an item drawn from the depths of the Miskatonic Repository.

—oOo—
Publisher: Chaosium, Inc.
Author: Raphael Merriman

Setting: Modern Day Birmingham

Product: Scenario
What You Get: Fourteen page, 793.88 KB Full Colour PDF

Elevator Pitch: Criminal suspicions expose an empty coffin and a missing body. 
Plot Hook: Did a criminal kingpin steal a body?
Plot Support: Staging advice, thirteen NPCs, and two handouts
.
Production Values: Plain.

Pros
# Gloriously Poundland cultists
# Lots of NPCs to interact with
Easy to adapt to other time periods
# Easy to adapt to other cities
# Solid plot with decent amount of investigation

Cons
# Ghouls and a funeral director? A cliché seen before in Secrets and Realm of Shadow
# Multiple options for getting the Investigators involved
# A shoal of red herrings

Conclusion
# Decent if dense investigative scenario involving a host of nicely done NPCs, including some utterly naff cultists
# Primary suspect all too obvious and all too much a cliché

Miskatonic Monday #114: Annals of Flint's Detective Agency: The Case of the Stolen Golf Clubs

Between October 2003 and October 2013, Chaosium, Inc. published a series of books for Call of Cthulhu under the Miskatonic University Library Association brand. Whether a sourcebook, scenario, anthology, or campaign, each was a showcase for their authors—amateur rather than professional, but fans of Call of Cthulhu nonetheless—to put forward their ideas and share with others. The programme was notable for having launched the writing careers of several authors, but for every Cthulhu InvictusThe PastoresPrimal StateRipples from Carcosa, and Halloween Horror, there was Five Go Mad in EgyptReturn of the RipperRise of the DeadRise of the Dead II: The Raid, and more...

The Miskatonic University Library Association brand is no more, alas, but what we have in its stead is the Miskatonic Repository, based on the same format as the DM’s Guild for Dungeons & Dragons. It is thus, “...a new way for creators to publish and distribute their own original Call of Cthulhu content including scenarios, settings, spells and more…” To support the endeavours of their creators, Chaosium has provided templates and art packs, both free to use, so that the resulting releases can look and feel as professional as possible. To support the efforts of these contributors, Miskatonic Monday is an occasional series of reviews which will in turn examine an item drawn from the depths of the Miskatonic Repository.

—oOo—
Publisher: Chaosium, Inc.
Author: Mark Potter

Setting: Jazz Age Chicago

Product: Scenario
What You Get: Thirty-six page, 2.35 MB Full Colour PDF

Elevator Pitch: The Case of the Cosmic Golf Clubs!
Plot Hook: Detectives hired to investigate a theft which leads back to Egypt and beyond!
Plot Support: Staging advice, four NPCs, five handouts, seven maps and floorplans, and six Mythos Monsters
.
Production Values: Undermining.

Pros
# Solid plot with decent amount of investigation
# Easy to adapt to other cities
# Easy to adapt to Cthulhu by Gaslight
# Connects an Egyptian cult to a different Mythos entity

Cons
# A butler called Jives
# A professor called DeWho
# Really, REALLY needs an edit
# Underwritten staging advice
# No hue and cry for a missing baby?
# Requires more preparation than it really should
# Set in Chicago or the United Kingdom?

Conclusion
# Potentially solid investigative scenario undone by underwhelming production values and lack of editing which force the Keeper to decide which details are correct and which are not.
# Set in Chicago, but makes poor use of the city.

Miskatonic Monday #113: Sermon of Sludge

Between October 2003 and October 2013, Chaosium, Inc. published a series of books for Call of Cthulhu under the Miskatonic University Library Association brand. Whether a sourcebook, scenario, anthology, or campaign, each was a showcase for their authors—amateur rather than professional, but fans of Call of Cthulhu nonetheless—to put forward their ideas and share with others. The programme was notable for having launched the writing careers of several authors, but for every Cthulhu InvictusThe PastoresPrimal StateRipples from Carcosa, and Halloween Horror, there was Five Go Mad in EgyptReturn of the RipperRise of the DeadRise of the Dead II: The Raid, and more...

The Miskatonic University Library Association brand is no more, alas, but what we have in its stead is the Miskatonic Repository, based on the same format as the DM’s Guild for Dungeons & Dragons. It is thus, “...a new way for creators to publish and distribute their own original Call of Cthulhu content including scenarios, settings, spells and more…” To support the endeavours of their creators, Chaosium has provided templates and art packs, both free to use, so that the resulting releases can look and feel as professional as possible. To support the efforts of these contributors, Miskatonic Monday is an occasional series of reviews which will in turn examine an item drawn from the depths of the Miskatonic Repository.

—oOo—
Publisher: Chaosium, Inc.
Author: Bored Stiffs

Setting: 1970s Los Angeles

Product: Scenario
What You Get: Forty-four page, 18.37 MB Full Colour PDF

Elevator Pitch: End of Days and ‘high’ madness in L.A.
Plot Hook: Fringe science is about to get freaky!!!
Plot Support: Staging advice, nine NPCs and nine NPC portraits, fifteen handouts, five maps, one Mythos Monster, and 
five pre-generated Investigators.
Production Values: Fabulously freaky.

Pros
# Fringe science meets the end is nigh on the streets  of L.A.
# Entertainingly gonzo layout and art inspired by Gilbert Shelton
# Investigator sheets done as comic book small adds
# Easily pushed back to the sixties
# Connection to Plagues of Egypt hints at possible sequels
# Potential convention one-shot

Cons
# Period piece
# May need careful timing to run as a convention one-shot

Conclusion
# Thematically entertaining scenario
# Counterculture calamity as fringe science clashes with freaky faith in a downtown doom!