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

Saturday 11 March 2023

Memories & Mystery

Published by Just Crunch Games, Thro’ Centuries Fixed is a scenario for The Cthulhu Hack, the elegant, stripped back player-facing roleplaying game of Lovecraftian investigative horror based on The Black Hack. It starts simple, using a classic storytelling situation, and then adds layers of mystery which hide an interesting twist upon another classic storytelling situation, this time of a Lovecraftian nature. Then it does it again. Veteran players of Lovecraftian investigative horror will quickly recognise the situation their Investigators are in and will quickly realise which entities of the Mythos are likely to be responsible for their current state. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Even as they keep the culprits in mind, the players have plenty of scope for both roleplaying and investigation as their Investigator try and work out what actually is going on. The set-up also means that Thro’ Centuries Fixed is suitable as a one-shot and would work well as a convention scenario. The nature of the set-up does mean that it would be awkward to add to a campaign, but it could work as a campaign starter. In addition, the simplicity of the mechanics to The Cthulhu Hack means that the scenario can very easily be adapted to the roleplaying game of Lovecraftian investigative horror of the Keeper’s choice since she will be working with adapting the plot rather than the rules.

Thro’ Centuries Fixed is set in the modern day and takes place in New England, but could easily be adapted to other times, if not necessarily places. As a possible campaign starter, it could work in Lovecraft Country given its geographical location. The scenario begins with each of the Investigators waking up in a strange bed. Everything is unfamiliar to them. Their bodies, the colours, the light, the place. When they get up, they each find themselves in an unfamiliar home filled with a family made up of strangers who in turn each tell the Investigator that they have been acting oddly, out of character. The Investigator cannot recall anything from before he woke up and all this is new to him. Which means effectively, at this point, the Investigator and his character sheet starts out as a blank slate. This will change as the Investigator explores the ‘new’ world around him. In game terms, this reduces the amount of preparation necessary to run the scenario and it lends itself to further ideas—perhaps the players could actually be playing and creating versions of themselves and perhaps in the opening scenes, the players could take it in turn to roleplay the family members of the other Investigators. In whatever way the opening scenes of the Thro’ Centuries Fixed are played out from player to player, Investigator to Investigator, there is potential here for some unexpectedly fraught and domestic roleplaying not normally seen in Lovecraftian investigative horror. One option here, would be for the other players to roleplay the various members of the mysterious families that each of the Investigators wakes up. Otherwise this will require some preparation beforehand, whereas with this troupe style play, many of these scenes can be improvised.

Investigation beyond their respective homes quickly reveals to the Investigators is that they live in the same location and they have been working together. This is in Maine, near the Acadia National Park which is on Mount Desert Island and is also home to the Black Woods Museum. In particular, the Investigators have been taking an interest in the forthcoming opening of the Peaslee Collection which will house the archive of Nathanial Wingate Peaslee, famed for explorations of Australia. Of course, mention of Peaslee’s name will be further indication to Lovecraft devotees of which Mythos entities are involved in the scenario. Fortunately, and even though it runs to only forty pages, Thro’ Centuries Fixed is a little more complex. When the now aware Investigators visit the Peaslee Collection, they find themselves oddly attracted to the curators as there is something fascinatingly familiar to them, though it seems that their actions, much like those of the Investigators before they awoke, are strange… And then, they get really strange as the scenario hurtles to its confrontational conclusion.

Physically, Thro’ Centuries Fixed is a slim digest-sized book. It is neatly organised with the rules pointers clearly marked and sidebars containing supplementary information or advice for the Keeper. It is lightly illustrated, but the artwork is decent and the map serviceable.

Thro’ Centuries Fixed draws obviously from H.P. Lovecraft’s story, ‘The Shadow Out of Time’, making much of it familiar to the Lovecraft devotee or veteran of Lovecraftian investigative horror, but is very much its story. Thro’ Centuries Fixed explores the horror of amnesia and disassociation in an interesting and involving way, nicely pulling the players and their Investigators into the unknown from the Investigators own unknowingness.

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