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

Monday 27 November 2023

Jonstown Jottings #86: The Bandit Den

Much like the Miskatonic Repository for Call of Cthulhu, Seventh Edition, the Jonstown Compendium is a curated platform for user-made content, but for material set in Greg Stafford’s mythic universe of Glorantha. It enables creators to sell their own original content for RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha, 13th Age Glorantha, and HeroQuest Glorantha (Questworlds). This can include original scenarios, background material, cults, mythology, details of NPCs and monsters, and so on, but none of this content should be considered to be ‘canon’, but rather fall under ‘Your Glorantha Will Vary’. This means that there is still scope for the authors to create interesting and useful content that others can bring to their Glorantha-set campaigns.


What is it?
The Bandit Den is a scenario for use with RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha which presents a simple, straightforward plot outline that the Game Master can run and prepare for a single session’s worth of play.

It is a two page, full colour 367.16 KB PDF.

The layout is tidy, the artwork rough, but serviceable.

The scenario is can be easily be adapted to the rules system of the Game Master’s choice.

The scenario requires some scaling to match its threat to the number of Player Characters.

Where is it set?
As written, The Bandit Den takes place in Hiording lands, but starts in Apple Lane. It takes place after the Dragonrise.

Who do you play?
The Bandit Den does not require any specific character type, but warriors of any kind are highly recommended.

What do you need?
The Bandit Den requires RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha whilst the RuneQuest Gamemaster Screen Pack will be useful if the scenario is set near Apple Lane.

What do you get?
The Bandit Den is a simple strike mission. The merchant Irella Goldfoot has been ‘taxed’ once too often and vows revenge. Consequently, she hires the Player Characters (or if this is played in Apple Lane, appeals to the Thane) to deal with the problem. A Divination reveals the location the bandit hideout, an abandoned hunting lodge. The scenario begins there, with the Player Characters attempting to get into the tumbledown building and attack the bandits. Their access is complicated by a couple of traps outside, but once inside, this a standup fight, either to the death or until the bandits, a desperate, sorry lot, surrender.

The scenario includes a map of the hunting lodge, complete with ‘sad furniture’, a set of stats to adjust match the Player Characters, and a little treasure. It is very easy to prepare and can be run in a single session. However, it is not an original scenario and the Game Master could easily come up with something similar of her own without any difficulty.

It does bear superficial resemblance to Jorthan’s Rescue Redux. However, The Bandit Den benefits from being vastly shorter, much simpler, and far easier to prepare, as well as having a shorter running time.

More scenarios in this format this would be a welcome addition to the
the Jonstown Compendium, but perhaps not as simple in terms of plot.

Is it worth your time?
YesThe Bandit Den is a short and simple, easy to prepare, and there for when a group is a few players short or the Game Master needs a scenario idea in a hurry.
NoThe Bandit Den is nothing that the Game Master cannot create on her own.
MaybeThe Bandit Den might be good to hold in reserve, but it really does not provide anything more special than a filler scenario.

Miskatonic Monday #247: The Secret Song of Lake Billings

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.

Publisher: Chaosium, Inc.
Author: Aaron Hawke

Setting: 1980s Virginia
Product: Scenario
What You Get: Eighteen page, 5.29 MB Full Colour PDF

Elevator Pitch: What if Bruce wasn’t a shark and it wasn’t set at sea?
Plot Hook: Tourism must go on, even as the killer beast strikes.
Plot Support: Staging advice, four pre-generated Investigators, five NPCs, two handouts,
and one Mythos creature.
Production Values: Decent

# More ‘creature feature’ than Mythos mystery
Straightforward, easy to run scenario
# Nice sense of small town issues and paranoia
# Decently done pre-generated Investigators

# More ‘creature feature’ than Mythos mystery
# Needs a slight edit
# More maps would have been useful

Easy to run, eighties ‘creature feature’ one-shot
# Sometimes the mayor is the real evil

Sunday 26 November 2023

A Campaign of Leagues

For over a decade, there is something that Leagues of Adventure: A Rip-Roaring Setting of Exploration and Derring Do in the Late Victorian Age! has been lacking. The roleplaying game of globetrotting adventure and mystery set during the ‘Gay Nineties’ at the end of the nineteenth century is published by Triple Ace Games and in its time has been very well supported with numerous supplements, including Leagues of Gothic Horror, which took it into the realm of classic horror and Leagues of Cthulhu, which took it into the far realms of Cosmic Horror. However, in that time, what it has not had, is a campaign. That all changes with the publication of The Great Campaign – A Globetrotting Campaign in Four Glorious Parts. Inspired by the works of Joseph Conrad, in particular, Heart of Darkness and The Secret Agent, as well as H. Ridder Haggard and Rudyard Kipling, even a little Indiana Jones, and a big fat serving of treacle sponge history covered in lashings of occult custard and radical political thought, The Great Campaign will take the Player Characters—or Globetrotters—from a missing persons case in Cambridge to the ‘Roof of the World’ via assorted assassinations, anarchy in the UK, a journey to the Russian Wild West, and the ‘Great Game’. Throw in a mix of steampunk technology and what you have in The Great Campaign is an over-the-top, unashamedly Imperialist, pulpy campaign that delivers murder, mystery, intrigue, corruption, and more, but ultimately, just one big ripping yarn.

The Great Campaign – A Globetrotting Campaign in Four Glorious Parts, published following a successful Kickstarter campaign, can be played using just the core rules for Leagues of Adventure: A Rip-Roaring Setting of Exploration and Derring Do in the Late Victorian Age! even to the point of playing using the seven pre-generated Globetrotters in the book, plus their followers. There are several supplements which will prove useful to run the campaign if the Game Master has access to them. These are The Globetrotters’ Guide to Expeditions, Leagues of Gothic Horror, Globetrotters’ Guide to London, The Globetrotters’ Guide to Dramatic Developments, and the character collection, Dramatis Personae. Of these, Leagues of Gothic Horror adds rules for Corruption and Sanity, the former earned and the latter lost for vile deeds and suffering the travails of journeys beyond the borders of civilisation. Both Corruption and Sanity are included as part of The Great Campaign, but only come into play if Leagues of Gothic Horror is being used. Their inclusion does suggest an interesting possibility though. Though The Great Campaign is not a cosmic horror campaign, through Leagues of Gothic Horror and then Leagues of Cthulhu, it connects to Cthulhu by Gaslight, the Victorian era supplement for Call of Cthulhu. Should the Game Master—or rather Keeper—have a mind to, The Great Campaign could be adapted to run with Cthulhu by Gaslight, though the use of Pulp Cthulhu: Two-fisted Action and Adventure Against the Mythos is highly recommended should she decide to do so. Another option would be run the campaign using the Ubiquity system version of Space: 1889, though the Game Master will need account for aerial vessels in the third and fourth parts of the campaign. Perhaps by having the Czar impose an aerial interdiction in the region?

The campaign opens in late 1891 with ‘The Dreaming Spires’ which takes place in Cambridge (rather than Oxford and its dreaming spires). Sir Reginald Ponsonby and his wife, Lady Fenella, are worried about their son, Edmund, who has gone missing after having been sent down from Trinity College, Cambridge. Hunting for clues as to his whereabouts reveals that Edmund Ponsonby had got himself mixed with a bad lot—foreign radicals (but not French!) and Socialists to boot. The trail leads away from the college to a house in the fens and back again. By the time the first adventure is over, the Globetrotters should have stopped one anarchist plot—here in Cambridge—and gained hints of another, playing out far away in Central Asia, and gained the Ponsonbys as patrons. The last few scenes should ideally involve a race back to Trinity College and a desperate search for its hidden secrets, but there is also an exciting chase across the rooftops of the university to get the heart racing a little earlier.

If they are successful in ‘The Dreaming Spires’, by the time of the second part of the campaign, ‘The Emerald Scarab Conspiracy’ in late November of 1891, the Globetrotters will be famous enough to be invited to a grand Christmas ball to be hosted by the Russian Embassy aboard by HMS Hrimnir, the ice leviathan capable amphibious land and sea movement, especially on the ice. Before then they are asked to investigate the death of a prominent rocket scientist, which will draw them into London’s Russian immigrant community and bring them into contact with Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. All quickly too quickly, someone takes a violent interest in the Globetrotters’ investigation, but before they can find out the Globetrotters must attend the grand ball. With numerous members of different governments in attendance, the event does not end with the Prussian Princess Charlotte ending up dead and the gift she has just been given—the Emerald Scarab of the title—in the possession of one of the Globetrotters. If an international incidence is to be avoided the Globetrotters need to think and investigate fast. Fortunately, their good reputation should be enough for them to avoid incarceration, but that is not enough for the true culprit who will strike first at the Globetrotters in classic location before launching an even bigger attack elsewhere, hoping to bring the major powers of Europe to the brink of war and beyond. As with ‘The Dreaming Spires’, ‘The Emerald Scarab Conspiracy’ is a pacey affair which ends in a race to save the day, but much more scaled up.

‘The Emerald Scarab Conspiracy’ climaxes with the Globetrotters thwarting the plans of the anarchist cell in London and hopefully, defeating its leader. It leaves the matter of N.F. Fyodorov, who is somehow connected to the anarchists and their plot, but is far away in Central Asia. Of course, if that is the case and the man is dangerous, could India, the Empire’s jewel in the crown, be danger. As a part of a ‘Justice Expedition’, the third part of the campaign, ‘Journey to the Roof of the World’ quickly takes the Player Characters across Europe in comfort and style on the Simplon-Orient Express, but once in Constantinople, that is where the comfort and style ends. From Batum to Baku across Transcaspia, across the Caspian Sea—where of course, the Globetrotters might run into the ‘Pirates of the Caspian’—to Krasnovodsk, and from there fabled Samarkand, and beyond into the Pamirs, said to be the ‘Roof of the World’. Unlike the first two scenarios which were quietly tightly focused in their storytelling, ‘Journey to the Roof of the World’ opens up and is more episodic in nature, focusing on the travel and its possible difficulties, having to deal with both the region’s Russian overlords and the native peoples, and in the process discover some of the secrets of the region.

The campaign comes to a close with ‘Paradise Lost’, the title hinting at what the Globetrotters will find at the ‘Roof of the World’. Once past the native peoples protecting farther progress, they must climb the mountainous glacier high into the Pamirs. Here, in an isolated valley, the Globetrotters have the opportunity to locate and apprehend N.F. Fyodorov, hopefully discovering whether he was connected to the anarchist plots back in England, and possibly secrets that go all the back to the Garden of Eden. It is a classic climax to this type story, revealing the secrets to a big mystery like that of Eldorado or Atlantis.

Besides the seven pre-generated Globetrotters and their cohorts given in its first appendix, The Great Campaign comes with another four appendices providing further support. This includes sixty-one additional Followers, for the Game Master who needs a Bagpiper or a Mime; eight additional Globetrotters; Professor Pennyworth’s Catalogue of Gadgets, such as an Endless Chain Saw, Enhanced Itching Bomb, Targeting Monocle, Aquatic Tripod, and Clockwork Soldier; and More Leagues of Adventure, from the Alpine Horticultural Society and the Author’s Club to the Tobacconists Club and The Turkophile Society. In fact, not all of it directly supports the campaign, but Globetrotters and Followers are useful as a source of replacement characters and the devices for the scientist or engineer to design.

Physically, The Great Campaign is ably presented. Much of the artwork is decent and the cartography clean and easy to read. However, the layout is busy, often relying on a lot of bold text especially when presenting NPCs and interrogations of NPCs. This very much a case of the style for Leagues of Adventure, but it can be a lot to take in.

The Great Campaign – A Globetrotting Campaign in Four Glorious Parts is the campaign that Leagues of Adventure: A Rip-Roaring Setting of Exploration and Derring Do in the Late Victorian Age! wanted and needed. It certainly has plenty of opportunities for both rip-roaring and derring do, along with the investigation and the exploration. The Great Campaign – A Globetrotting Campaign in Four Glorious Parts is a classic campaign of Victorian adventure, torn from the pages of Victorian novels and the film cells of the silver screen.

Upstream, Downstream

The Great River gives all that you need. Fish swim in abundance through the Silver Pits and rice grows thick and luscious on the Glas Road. Storms break on the riverbanks, leaving treasures to be found in the silt. Trade brings goods downstream and upstream, from far away. It is all that anyone would wish for, but for the curious. To the curious, the River simply flows by without answering the questions, “What lies at the beginning?” and What lies at the end?” For no one has ever found the Source of the River and thus the source of both its riches and the magic of the world. Likewise, no one has travelled to the mouth of the River. Anyone who would search for the Source is a fool, looking for faerie gold, whilst anyone who would go in search of the Sea is seen as already lost, drowned in the ravenous Sea. Yet there are such curious fools and you are one of them, for you and your crew has sworn a magical Oath to make the perilous journey to either the Source or the Sea, one that commits your very soul—even after death!—to reaching your destination or forfeit your souls and your ship to the water. This is the set-up for Upriver, Downriver, a roleplaying designed to be played somewhere in somewhere between four and twelve sessions’ worth of game play. At the end of that, the story of the voyage has been told and to play Upriver, Downriver again means setting out with an entirely different crew and boat and quite possibly in the other direction to that taken in the first campaign. In addition, the use of Tarot cards to determine the outcome of the crew communing with the River to receive either her Blessing or her Curse in combination with the twenty locations along the River do give it scope for replay. It is no surprise that Upriver, Downriver is built around limited play time, for the publisher has form with this with Odd Jobs: RPG Micro Settings Vol. I, a superlative collection of systemless mini-campaigns.

Upriver, Downriver is published by MacGuffin & Co. following a successful Kickstarter campaign. The direction of the sworn Oath sets the theme and tone of the campaign. An Oath sworn to reach the Source is for a crew looking for adventure, magic and secrets, pirates and treasure, monsters and the challenges of the natural world from white water rapids and waterfalls to canyons and mountains, whereas an Oath sworn to reach the Sea is for a crew looking for freedom and wanting to get involved with politics, revolution, and intrigue, escape and redemption, war and peace, and facing thieves and illusionists, soldiers and fugitives, and reparation and healing. A campaign consists of three steps. There is character creation, there is a Session Zero, and then there is the play. The Session Zero is not just about Safety Tools and setting the tone and content of the campaign, but also about setting who the members of the crew and building the boat. The latter is a collective endeavour, partly determined by where the crew comes from and player choice. Play consists of journeying to locations and exploring and adventuring at each one, communing with the River for guidance, and once the stories to be told at a location have played, navigating to the next. When the crew and its ship have reached their destination, whether Source or Sea, the story as a whole is done and any who died along the way and have completed the journey as ghosts can pass on. To play Upriver, Downriver, a group will need four-, eight-, and twelve-sided dice and a set of the Major Arcana from a Tarot deck.

A Player Character in Upriver, Downriver is first defined by Origins, or species. These are the Riverfolk or Naiads; the long-lived and intuitive shapeshifting Kiwi, the near immortal, but rare Elves, long ago defeated by the Human Empire; the Halflings, militant weaponsmiths and armourers who hide in valleys from the Human Empire for their support of the Elves; and Humans. Each species has an Origins ability and notably, there are no descriptions of the Naiads or Kiwi. It left up to the players to agree upon what they look like. A Player Character has three attributes, Swords, Spirits, and Tongues. These are initially rated between one and four, but can go as high as ten. Then a Player Character also has a Role and Path. There are seven Roles—The Captain, The First Mate, The Gunner, The Doctor, The Engineer, The Cook, and The Priest—and within each Role, three Paths. A Path is both a code of conduct and the values that the Player Character adheres to, each Path also representing a Face of the River and so connected to the Major Arcana of the roleplaying game’s Tarot deck. A Path grants special abilities and gives commandments that the Player Character must follow. For example, the Cook can follow the Path of Judgement, The World, or The Magician. The Cook of Judgement follows his Path by making amends and help others find peace, but cannot attack the innocent, make unprovoked attacks, or aid the powerful. The Cook of The World follows his Path when travelling or making progress on his journey, but cannot remain stagnant, turn backwards, or becalm an enemy ship. The Cook of The Magician follows his Path by trusting his instincts and using magic, but cannot break a curse, kill a magical creature, or reject his magic and intuition. A Role also grants a Knack, a skill or other ability, some equipment, a Ship Battle Move, whilst each Path also gives another Knack. A Path has four Levels and each Level grants a bonus or ability. Player Characters begin play at Level One. To create a character, a player chooses an Origin, Role, and Path, and then rolls a four-sided die for each attribute. He also chooses two other Knacks. Lastly, a Player Character has a Scar. This can be physical, mental, or emotional and when it comes into play, it forces the player to roll with disadvantage.

Origins: Naiad
Role: The Priest
Path: The Empress (Heal others and commune with nature. Cannot curse another or cause death)
Level: 1 (Add 1d4 to healing rolls)
Swords 1 Spirits 3 Tongues 4
River Sense: 2
Health: 11
Physical Defence: 7
Spiritual Defence: 8
Abilities: Charm, Create Comfort, Create Medicine, First Aid, River Sense
Ship Battle Move: Salt-Stained Pages

Scar: Failed to cure a plague
Equipment: Talisman of The Empress

Together, the players all create their characters’ ship. This can be the durable and manoeuvrable Schooner; light and swift Catamaran; a sturdy, engine-powered Narrowboat; or a versatile and balanced Barge. The origins of the crew, north or south of the River will determine the type of boat, but the players are free to describe characters’ their boat and its origins. Each player is also free to detail as much of his character’s background as he wants.

Mechanically, to have his character undertake an action, a player will attempt to pass a Difficulty Check by rolling a twelve-sided die and adding an appropriate attribute. This is Swords for all physical tasks; Spirits for knowledge and magic-related tasks; and Tongues for wisdom, instinct, and charisma-related tasks. An average Difficulty Check is eight, difficult is twelve, and very difficult is sixteen. If the result is equal to or higher than the Difficulty Check, the Player Character succeeds, less and the Player Character must find other means of succeeding at the action. Rolls can be made with Advantage or Disadvantage, but never more than the single extra die in either case. The Swords attribute is also the primary attribute used in combat, the aim being to roll above an opponent’s Physical Defence, but unless a Player Character has a Prowess Knack like Brawling, Swordplay, Archery, or Improvised Weapons, the roll is made at disadvantage. Combat, including battles with enemy ships and river monsters, is intended to be light and fast, a possibility within play, but nots its focus. That said, ship combat is more complex and more detailed than standard combat, and in general, the rules for handling ships are mechanically, the most complex part of the roleplaying game.

The River plays an extremely important role throughout the play of Upriver, Downriver. To move from one location to another, the crewmember assigned to Helm—and this can be any Crewmember as each has to take turns going on watch—rolls four-sided dice equal to the crew’s total combined River Sense. A location has a level rated between one and four, indicating how difficult it is to sail there, the aim being to roll a number of successes, or fours, equal to the level of the chosen destination location. Some Roles and Paths grant bonuses to this Navigation roll, but if failed, the boat is swept randomly to a location between the starting location and the intended location. Navigation rolls are made at the end of sessions to enable the Game Master to prepare for the next session.

Before a Navigation roll is made, the Player Characters have the chance to Commune with the River. Mechanically, this handled via the random drawing of a Major Arcana card from the Tarot deck. If the card drawn is upright, the River has bestowed a Blessing upon the Player Character, but a Curse if it is reversed. For example, if a player draws The World, as a Blessing, it enables a Navigate the River test to automatically succeed, but as a Curse, it indicates that the Navigate the River test automatically fails and the ship is blown off course in a great storm to a randomly determined location. If a player draws the Blessing of his character’s Path, it is rare and quite specific in its effects. For example, if a Cook of The World’s player draws The World, the ship and its crew is guaranteed to survive an encounter on the River which might otherwise destroy them.

As part of its inbuilt limit on play time, Upriver, Downriver intentionally curtails a number of elements within the game. One is their Oath. It binds both crew and ship, preventing a Player Character from leaving his ship for more than seventy-two hours, from making any attempt to turn back, or end the crew’s journey before the intended destination is reached. Another is that a Player Character can only rise in Level a number of times, up to Level Four, gaining improved Path abilities, increased attributes, and more Knacks each time, so that a Player Character can quickly become quite capable. Further, a Player Character can only Commune with the River three or four times depending upon their Role and Path. Consequently, choosing when to Commune with the River is an important decision, perhaps at an important or emotional juncture in the story of the journey. In effect, it places the Player Character in the spotlight and gives both him and his player a chance to shine.

However, one aspect of Upriver, Downriver does not limit play as it would in other roleplaying games—and that is death! Journeying up or down the River can be dangerous, even deadly, but the Player Characters have the advantage of having sworn an Oath and this Oath is so strong that as long it is active, the spirit will remain as a ghost, tied to his ship and the River. As a Ghost, a Player Character gains an extra Commune with the River and gains access to certain abilities. These are divided between Ghost Abilities such as ‘Consult the Ancestors’, ‘Appear as Lost Loved One’, and ‘Grant Peace to a Restless Ghost’, and Secrets of the Dead like ‘Become Intangible’, ‘Fly’, and ‘Curse to Wander’. A Ghost is tied to his boat and can only remain on land for a few minutes. It is also possible for a Ghost to return to life, retaining the Ghost Abilities gained when he was dead, but losing the Secrets of the Dead.

The setting for the River is broadly drawn. The discovery of gold by Humans drove them to greed and violence, caused the pollution of the River, and the persecution of the Kivi in the belief that they could sense gold. In response to these atrocities, the Elves and the Naiads warred with the Humans, supported by the Halflings. The Human Empire won and the Elves, Halflings, and Kivi went into hiding. They are rarely seen even in this age of peace, the new Human Crown wanting peace and reparations made to defeated enemies of the Human Empire, even as their advisors are divided on this stance. Magic pervades the River, it is the source of magic and all life and dreaming, bubbling up at the Source and dissipating at the Sea, with each of the species up and down its length taking different approaches in the way they use it. In some places, such as The City, it is forbidden, with severe punishments for its use, especially for Human practitioners. The Human Empire is Downriver, whilst the bucolic, fen-like The Glas Road lies Upriver. In general, Human Empire distrusts anyone not Human, whilst the inhabitants of The Glas Road dislike anyone from the Human Empire.

The play of Upriver, Downriver takes place on River and at various locations along its length. The book details twenty such locations, ten upriver, ten downriver. Each location, like the Paths within the Roles chosen by the players during character creation is associated with one of the Major Arcana or Faces of the River. The last two of the Major Arcana, The Hermit and Death, are associated with the Source and the Sea, respectively. Each location is described in some detail, and includes several NPCs and a Tidesong, or adventure hook. Some locations are large enough to require more than a single session’s worth of adventuring there. Whichever direction the Player Characters are heading in, they begin play in Meadowbrooke, the midpoint between Upriver and Downriver. There are certain requirements which they must fulfil to travel in either direction, locating and verifying The Map to the Crystal Nets to go Upriver and upgrading their ship if going Downriver. As a journey nears its end in either direction, the locations narrow in terms of their descriptions, becoming more fixed in their details as they funnel the Player Characters to the endpoints that anchor the players’ choice of campaign direction. In between, there is scope for more adventure, limited, of course, by time, and this is something that the Game Master will need to prepare, whether one of her own design or the given scenario hook, prior to each location once the players have made a Navigation check, whether it succeeded or failed.

Physically, Upriver, Downriver is cleanly and tidily presented. It needs a slight edit in places, but the artwork is decent and the use of the Faces of the River as a motif is charming.

Upriver, Downriver fulfils a need that we often forget is there—that of the short form campaign. It is not though, a one-play-through and done campaign, as it can be played through at least twice, once in either direction, plus there is variation enough in the locations in either direction that Upriver, Downriver could be played again. Whether going upstream or downstream, Upriver, Downriver will take the players and their characters on a magical journey through enchantments, enigmas, and hostilities to discover the ultimate beginning and ending of the River—and their story in the process.

Saturday 25 November 2023

The Tenth Doctor

As we await the arrival of the Fourteenth Doctor—in just half an hour at the time of this review being posted—it seems appropriate that we return to
Cubicle Seven Entertainment’s celebration of Doctor Who’s fiftieth anniversary for the Ennie-award winning Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space roleplaying game by leaping backwards in time to examine the adventures of the Tenth Doctor, the longest incarnation yet of the ‘Nu Who’ era and the one who would cement the modern Doctor in our collective conscious. From the foundations laid done by his predecessor, as detailed in The Ninth Doctor Sourcebook, the Tenth Doctor would run full tilt at life—“Allons-y!”—with new found enthusiasm, proud once again to embrace who he is as both a Time Lord and the last Time Lord, prepared to do what is right and even save the universe. His adventures will see him finding both friends and enemies old and new, even falling in love with more than one of the friends (and they with him), before ultimately, the Tenth Doctor would have to let them go, and face the perils of his pride alone. His adventures though, are big, including big story arcs—story arcs that would grow very big indeed during his next incarnation, The Eleventh Doctor.

The Tenth Doctor Sourcebook
follows the same format of the previous nine entries in the series. It is divided into five chapters—‘The Children of Time’, ‘Playing in the Tenth Doctor’s Era’, ‘Torchwood’, ‘The Tenth Doctor’s Enemies’, and ‘The Tenth Doctor’s Adventures’—as opposed to the four chapters of the previous nine volumes. The first chapter, ‘The Children of Time’, opens with a discussion of who the Tenth Doctor is and a guide to playing him, along with his character sheet, before detailing his many companions. First, Rose and Mickey Smith, both carryovers from the Ninth Doctor, and then Martha Jones, Captain Jack Harkness, and Donna Noble, long term companions of the Tenth Doctor. Minor characters are included also, who only travelled for an episode or so, including Wilfred Mott, Astrid Peth aboard the Titanic, Sally Sparrow, Lady Christina De Souza, and more. The longest section here is the most surprising and this is dedicated to Ood and Ood Sigma. Their inclusion here does feel odd, but then they would feel out of place in ‘The Tenth Doctor’s Enemies’ chapter as the Ood are not that. Character sheets are provided for all fourteen of the Tenth Doctor’s companions, as well as his TARDIS.

‘Playing in the Tenth Doctor’s Era’ opens at the same pace as his adventures. Speed, curiosity, and switches in pace from action to emotion and back again, riding on waves of giddy joy and ebbs of introspection. The incarnation would also explore and build a family, looking at the effect of a companion journeying with the Doctor would have on the companion’s family and on having a wider circle of companions within the TARDIS. Another theme is that of the Doctor exploring the Earth of the twenty-first century and with its growing realisation that humanity is not alone in the universe, a range of responses by humanity, from altruism to arrogance (and worse). There is advice too on building story arcs, but this feels a little short at just a page in length, though the episode guides will show this in action. There is one new alien trait added alongside several gadget traits.

The Tenth Doctor’s era saw the return of several of his biggest foes—and more than once. ‘The Tenth Doctor’s Enemies’ focuses on the Cybermen and the Daleks at first, providing an overview of their activities and clashes with the Doctor throughout this era. Thus from the Cyber Contoller of John Lumic’s world to the weird Cybershade of 1851 London and from the Cult of Skaro and Dalek Sec to the Supreme Dalek and Dalek Caan. In-between there is the return of an old foe, the return of old foes being a hallmark of this era. Thus, for the Daleks, the returning figure is their creator, Davros, but for the Doctor himself, his greatest returning foe is the Master, first as Professor Yana (though he does not know it) and then back on Earth as Harold Saxon. The Master gets very full stats as befitting his importance, but much like the era of the Tenth Doctor, the last return is saved for the end. This is the return of the Time Lords whom the Doctor thought destroyed in the Time War and this marked with the inclusion of Rassilon as the Doctor’s last enemy here.

The fifth and final chapter in The Tenth Doctor Sourcebook is, as with the previous entries in the series, its longest. Here, some four fifths of the book, adding greatly to its length. ‘The Tenth Doctor’s Adventures’ details all forty-four of the Tenth Doctor’s stories, from ‘The Christmas Invasion’ to ‘The End of Time’. All open with a synopsis, include notes on continuity—backwards and forwards to stories past and future, followed by advice on ‘Running the Adventure’. ‘Changing The Desktop Theme’—a reference to the changed look of the TARDIS interior after some thirty or so years—suggests ways in which the story can be reskinned with another threat or enemy, and so on. Rounding out the writeups are full details of the monsters and NPCs appearing in the episode. Thus, for the episode, ‘School Reunion’, the synopsis describes how the Doctor and Rose investigate strange goings on at a school and encounter Sarah Jane Smith doing exactly the same. Unsurprisingly, the ‘Continuity’ section has a lot to cover with Sarah Jane’s previous travels and encounters with the first five Doctors, the adoption of her family (as detailed in The Sarah Jane Adventures), her relationship with K-9 and Mickey’s referring to K-9 as a ‘tin dog’ (which would later have his own significance for him), the numerous aliens that she has met (all linked to particular stories in The Third Doctor Sourcebook and The Fourth Doctor Sourcebook), and the mention of the spaceship hovering over London as seen in ‘The Christmas Invasion’ episode. All that and the use of lottery ticket by the Doctor for the first time.

Then, ‘Running the Adventure’ explores how ‘School Reunion’ is both a classic adventure and much more, in that it links back to the classic era of Doctor Who through a former companion. Not only that, it presented a way to tie lose threads left hanging from the companion’s last story and by bringing in a former companion, give the story more emotion and feeling. The writeup suggests that the story could also be used to start a campaign involving the students who have had a strange year with unbeknownst to both them and their parents, aliens in charge, perhaps leading to later involvement with both Torchwood and UNIT. Of course, strange activities at the school could also simply attract the attention of Torchwood. The villains behind the story are also detailed, including Mr. Finch and the Krillitane, along with the effects of Krillitane Oil, and there are stats for them and K-9. Lastly, there is a trio of further adventure ideas.

The Tenth Doctor Sourcebook follows this format again and again, detailing in the process some absolute classic adventures for ‘Nu-Who’. ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’, ‘Blink’, ‘The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords’, ‘Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead’, and ‘The End of Time’ all stand out as great episodes and it a pleasure to see them explored and detailed here, as both a guide to the episodes and the means to make them gameable.

Perhaps the most surprising and unsurprising inclusion in The Tenth Doctor Sourcebook is that of the third chapter, ‘Torchwood’. Founded in 1879 with the episode ‘Tooth & Claw’—Queen Victoria versus werewolves, oh my!—Torchwood has become very much part of Doctor Who, dedicated to protecting the Earth from alien threats, including the Doctor himself! There is, however, no sourcebook for it. The Tenth Doctor Sourcebook, of course, is not the Torchwood sourcebook, but it is the nearest to it that there is with just the five pages in this two-hundred-and-fifty-six-page book. What there is, is good, even at just five pages. It includes a history all the Battle of Canary Wharf, Torchwood 2.0, and beyond, discusses its relations with UNIT, and more. In terms of game support, there is a guide to creating a Torchwood agent with suggested traits and a discussion of the nature of Torchwood team and how to put one together, both before and after the Battle of Canary Wharf, and a handful of plot hooks. These are accompanied by character sheets for Gwen Cooper and Ianto Jones, to go along with the one given earlier for Captain Jack Harkness. It is a pity that this is all there is, as there is plenty of gaming potential in Torchwood, but what there is, is a good start.

Physically, The Tenth Doctor Sourcebook is as well presented as the rest of the line and is profusely illustrated with photographs from the series. The volume is well written and enjoyable to read. However, there are missed opportunities, though not really of the sourcebook’s own making, in that Torchwood is only covered slightly and The Sarah Jane Adventures not all. At least there is some detail about Torchwood provided.

Just as the Tenth Doctor expanded ‘Nu Who’ with a wider range of foes—old and new, and a growing family of companions and almost-companions, so The Tenth Doctor Sourcebook expands ‘Nu Who’ for the Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space roleplaying game. It is a great continuation of The Ninth Doctor Sourcebook, building on what came before, covering some classic adventures, and showcasing why the Tenth Doctor was so popular.

Quick-Start Saturday: Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game Playtest Rulebook

Quick-starts are means of trying out a roleplaying game before you buy. Each should provide a Game Master with sufficient background to introduce and explain the setting to her players, the rules to run the scenario included, and a set of ready-to-play, pre-generated characters that the players can pick up and understand almost as soon as they have sat down to play. The scenario itself should provide an introduction to the setting for the players as well as to the type of adventures that their characters will have and just an idea of some of the things their characters will be doing on said adventures. All of which should be packaged up in an easy-to-understand booklet whose contents, with a minimum of preparation upon the part of the Game Master, can be brought to the table and run for her gaming group in a single evening’s session—or perhaps too. And at the end of it, Game Master and players alike should ideally know whether they want to play the game again, perhaps purchasing another adventure or even the full rules for the roleplaying game.

Alternatively, if the Game Master already has the full rules for the roleplaying game for the quick-start is for, then what it provides is a sample scenario that she still run as an introduction or even as part of her campaign for the roleplaying game. The ideal quick-start should entice and intrigue a playing group, but above all effectively introduce and teach the roleplaying game, as well as showcase both rules and setting.


What is it?
The Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game Playtest Rulebook is not as its name suggests a quick-start. Instead, it is an introduction to and preview of the rules and a then chance to provide feedback to the designers of the roleplaying game, the fifth to be based on the Marvel Universe. It includes the rules combat and action as well as the means for players to create superheroes of their own, ten superheroes from the Marvel Universe, and a short scenario.

It is a one-hundred-and twenty-page, full colour softback book.

The book is lavishly illustrated with comic book art.

The rules are clearly explained, but more complex and detailed than would be found in a quick-start.

How long will it take to play?
If the pre-generated superheroes in the
Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game Playtest Rulebook are used, its, ‘Enter; Hydra’, can be played through in one session. If the players want to create their own, another session will be required.

What else do you need to play?
The ten pre-generated superheroes in Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game Playtest Rulebook consist of three six-sided dice per player, one of which should be a different colour to the other two.

Who do you play?
The six Player Characters in the Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game Playtest Rulebook consist of the Black Panther, Captain America, Captain Marvel, Groot, Iron Man, Rocket Raccoon, Spiderman, Storm, Thor, and Wolverine.

How is a Player Character defined?
A Player Character in the Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game Playtest Rulebook
and thus the Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Gamehas a Rank, Archetype, scores in six abilities, Health, Focus, Karma, Power Sets and Powers, as well as a Backstory and Traits. Rank ranges in value from one and ordinary human to twenty-five. Rank 5 is equal to Daredevil, Rank 10 to Spiderman, Rank 15 to Captain America, Rank 20 to Doctor Strange, and Rank 25 to Captain Marvel. Rank determines how many points a player has to spend during character creation and the values of various secondary factors. Archetypes include Blaster, Bruiser, Genius, Polymath, Protector, and Striker, and suggest how a superhero’s powers might work. The six abilities Might, Agility, Resilience, Vigilance, Ego, and Logic, their initials spelling out ‘Marvel’. Backstory includes Origin and Profession, which grant Traits that Traits cover talents, skills, circumstances, vulnerabilities, minor superpowers, and more.

What Does a Sample Player Character Look Like?
Heaven Granado is a struggling medical student studying in New York. To make ends meet, she volunteered for program of medical trials, thinking they were new vaccines. Unfortunately, Heaven had an allergic reaction to one of the drugs and was hospitalised and had to abandon the trial. In the weeks following her recovery she discovered that she was suddenly very stretchy and resilient to damage, the first when absentmindedly reaching across a room and the second when she was hit by a car. She still does not quite know the extent of what she can do, but wants to wrap her head around it.

Real Name: Heaven Granado
Codename: Wraparound
Origins: Weird Science
Profession: Health Care Worker/Medical Student


ABILIITIES – Score – Modifier – Defence
Might – 2 – +3 – 14
Agility – 2 – +5 – 16
Resilience – 3 – +6 – 17
Vigilance – 3 – +8 – 19
Ego – 4 – +9 – 20
Logic – 4 – +8 – 19

Initiative Modifier: +8 Speed: 27
Fight Damage: 3d6 Ranged Damage: 3d6+4
Health: 45 Focus: 55
Karma: 3

Plasticity: Extended Reach 1, Flexible Bones 1
Tactical Mastery: Battle Plan, Change of Plan

Clinician, Extra Career (Student), First Aid, Mentor, Obligation: School, Poor, Prescription Pad, Quick Leaner, Weird

How do the mechanics work?
Mechanically, the Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game Playtest Rulebook—and thus the Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game—uses
the d616 System. To have his character undertake an Action Check, a player rolls three six-sided dice, adds an Action Modifier, whether from ability or a power, and if the result is equal to or higher than the Target Number—which can range between eight and forty. One of the three six-sided dice is a different colour. This is the Marvel die. If the result on the Marvel die is a one and those on the other dice is any number except one, it counts as a Fantastic Roll, triggers a triumph result, and the one on the Marvel die counts as six towards the total. The Ultimate Fantastic roll is a six on both of the standard dice a one on the Marvel die. This means the task automatically succeeds and ignores any Trouble. A roll of one on all three dice is a Botched Roll and counts as a failure.

If the Player Character has the Edge or an advantage due to a special skill, ability, or the circumstances, the player can reroll a single die and take the better result. This often to achieve a Fantastic Roll. Trouble, whether due to lack of skill or equipment, forces a player to reroll a die and take the worst result.

Heroes and villains have Karma equal to half their Rank to spend each day. karma can be spent to give a Player Character the Edge on an Action Roll. The Narrator can reward more Karma for good roleplay.

The aspect of a Fantastic Roll, derived from a roll of one on the Marvel Die and any numbers other than one on the other dice, but the roll of one on the Marvel Die still counting as a six towards the total is, mechanically, counterintuitive. However, the Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game is set on the default Earth of the Marvel Universe, Earth-616, so thematically it makes sense.

How does combat work?
Combat in the Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game Playtest Rulebook details initiative, the various types of movement, use of firearms—mostly the province of NPCs and villains, numerous conditions, and damage inflicted to objects, including ploughing through them. It covers most of the typical eventualities that might turn up in a superhero roleplaying game.

How do Powers work?
Powers are divided between those organised into related sets and those not. A set suggests origins and effects, and within the sets, the powers are arranged as trees which the hero can progress along as he grows in his abilities. Every power has a narrative effect, the mechanical effect handled via the Action Check.

Power Sets included in the Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game Playtest Rulebook consist of Battlesuit, Blades, Cybernetics, Energy Control, Firearms, Martial Arts, Plasticity, Shield Bear, Spider-Powers, Super-Strength, Tactical Mastery, and Weather Control. These specifically support the pre-generated heroes included in the book.

Focus represents a superhero’s mental fortitude, but also has to be spent to activate certain powers.

What do you play?
‘Enter Hyrda (An Adventure)’ is the shortest section in Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game Playtest Rulebook. It is designed for three to six characters of Ranks 10 or 15—most of the pre-generated characters in Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game Playtest Rulebook are of the appropriate Ranks—who must face a squad of Hydra agents with powers remarkably similar to their own. It is specifically designed to showcase the rules, especially the combat rules, in practice. That said, it is a cliché and it is one note, good for a single session, but absolutely no more.

Is there anything missing?
Yes and no. There numerous types of powers not included, such magic, phasing, psionics, and teleportation. Beyond the ten heroes included, there are also no stats or details of actual Marvel Universe villains. Of course, space is limited in the Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game Playtest Rulebook, but the inclusion of a villain would have been useful.

There is also no PDF version available.

Is it easy to prepare?
The core rules presented in the Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game Playtest Rulebook are relatively easy to prepare. There is a lot of information in the Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game Playtest Rulebook though and it is tightly packed, so it require a close read through.

It helps that it includes a good combination index and glossary and a reference sheet for Action Checks for the Narrator.

Is it worth it?
Yes and no. Yes, because it does include everything necessary to play at least a single session and even a few more should the Narrator and her players want to create their superheroes and associated villains and run a few sessions of the roleplaying game. No, because it is not readily available in PDF. This is a shame because the Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game does need an introduction or quick-start and the
Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game Playtest Rulebook would fit that bill.

Where can you get it?
The Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game Playtest Rulebook is available through retail at comic book shops and on Kindle.

There is no PDF version available.

Friday 24 November 2023

Friday Fantasy: A Folklore Bestiary

In the time that they have been with the hobby—that is, right from the start—monsters have kept us busy. We faced them as obstacles to be overcome and guardians of treasure to be plundered, and then when we grew all too familiar them, our player knowledge gave us insights into how they could be killed or defeated, but mostly killed. In which case, the Dungeon Master would first surprise, then confound us with a new monster, one of her own creation or variation upon an existing monster or drawn from the pages of some supplement or magazine. Monsters scared us—and we even became the monsters to scare others—and they could be interesting and different enough to help enforce the feel of a whole new world. They became a means a create stories too, and again and again, new bestiaries of monsters have appeared to do one, two, or more of these things. In the case of A Folklore Bestiary, it will do all these things and more. The not quite forty monsters in this volume can serve as obstacles to be overcome and guardians of treasure to be plundered, but is the least of their usefulness. they are definitely going to surprise player, Player Character, and Game Master alike, let alone confound both player and Player Character. They will scare them too, but most of all, they will create stories, because these creatures and things come with locations, lairs, treasures, scenarios, and most all, legends. This is because they are all drawn from folklore.

A Folklore Bestiary is bestiary for use with Necrotic Gnome’s Old School Essentials. It is published by The Merry Mushmen—best known for the Old School Renaissance magazine Knock and the scenario, Nightmare Over Ragged Hollow—following a successful Kickstarter campaign. From the start though, it does not look like a bestiary, because inside the front cover and the back, are the stats for six Player Characters and it asks, “Want to play now?” In that case, the Game Master hands out the Player Characters, turns to page eighty-eight, and have them start playing the dungeon she finds detailed there. There is no denying that this is a little disconcerting, but turn the page and it is obvious that A Folklore Bestiary is a bestiary. And what a bestiary it is! All thirty-eight entries are drawn from local folklore from around the world. There are entries for creatures and monsters from the Basque Country, Serbia, Belgium, the Channel Islands, Ukraine, France, England, Brazil, California, Germany, Estonia, China, and Ireland. There are some entries which will be familiar, but there are a great many that are not. The entries range in Hit Dice from ½ to sixty, with the majority being under ten Hit Dice and a fifth being of five Hit Dice.

The collection opens with the Basajaun from the Basque Country, rustic giants known as Wild Lords, who sometimes like a joke and a play with intruders into their domains, but also fiercely, wildly protective of them. Their hair can be woven into strong ropes and bowstrings, though if they discover that the hair has not been freely given, they become enraged, and they have a love of games and riddles. The Kabouter is a gnome from Flanders with a love of good abbey beer or liquor that they will happily take in return for helping someone, whilst the Perelesnyk from Ukraine, a fiery serpent with a human face who takes the form of someone whom the viewer has loved and wronged, feeding on regrets and broken dreams. The Lou Carcohl is a snail as big as a house with eight tentacles secretly kept prisoner under the village of Hastingues in Gascony, France, lest it escape and slither rampant at snail’s pace! The Tartaro is another creature from the Basque Country, a one-eyed ogre shepherd named after a number (no-one knows why), ever hungry (especially for human flesh), that lures in victims with gold coins and somewhere to rest, whilst the Cucu is from Brazil, an old crone or crocodile woman, whose restorative potions require the purchaser to murder children for the ingredients required.

In every case, the creatures are accompanied by the legends and lore related to it, as well as the stats, hooks, and more. For example, the Basajaun includes details of names, suggested use of their hair, and a new character Class, the Hachkos, the offspring of the Basajaun and a human woman, known for their skill with a quarterstaff and surviving in the wilderness. The Lou Carcohl is not just a snail as big as a house, but a dungeon that the Player Characters can explore. The Scucca, also known as Old Shuck, is a supernatural hound from reputed to straight from hell, but in Cambridgeshire, it haunts the county’s fens, its description including a mini-hexcrawl. The write-up of the Cuca includes tables of both what she wants and what concoctions she can mix, as well as a map of her lair. For the Lou Pétassou, a raggedy spirit which embodies shame and hatred, there is even a complete adventure, ‘Hard Times in Homburg’, set in a village whose inhabitants have fallen into fierce squabbling to the point the adventure actually includes the ‘Cattlesystem™, Peasant-Level Mass Combat Rules’! An old woman believes that if a Lou Pétassou can be found, it will save the village. Not every entry goes to such lengths to support the folkloric monster it describes, but a great many do. There is so much in this book beyond the mere description and stats.

Physically, A Folklore Bestiary is very well presented. It needs a slight edit in places, but the book is well written, the cartography is good, but the artwork is excellent.

A Folklore Bestiary is a bestiary unlike any other. Other bestiaries have drawn on folkore, but not like this. A Folklore Bestiary takes its source material and not only includes that, but develops it to present some incredibly playable content, making the supplement far more than just a simple monster book. A Folklore Bestiary is full of weird and wonderful monsters and a whole lot more. This really is a fun book and a good read to boot.

[Free RPG Day 2023] Heist at the Museum

Now in its sixteenth year, Free RPG Day for 2023 took place on Saturday, June 24th. As per usual, Free RPG Day consisted of an array of new and interesting little releases, which are traditionally tasters for forthcoming games to be released at GenCon the following August, but others are support for existing RPGs or pieces of gaming ephemera or a quick-start. Thanks to the generosity of David Salisbury of Fan Boy 3, Fil Baldowski at All Rolled Up, and others, Reviews from R’lyeh was able to get hold of many of the titles released for Free RPG Day, both in the USA and elsewhere.


Heist At The Museum! is a one-shot scenario for Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition published by Loke BattleMats. It is a preview for the publisher’s Big Book of Battle Mats: Rooms, Vaults, & Chambers, it comes with two battlemats from that book, four detailed pre-generated Player Characters, tokens for the scenario’s for the Player Characters, NPCs, adversaries, and monsters, and six handouts. It also includes ‘5E in 5 Minutes’, a quicker primer on Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition and there are several tips on how to run the adventure as well. A seasoned Dungeon Master will be able to prepare the adventure and run it in a single session. It could also be adapted to an ongoing campaign, especially for a group of thieves, rogues, and ne’er-do-wells, though that will require some adjustment upon the part of the Dungeon Master to fit her campaign.

The set-up for Heist At The Museum! is simple. The Player Characters are a gang of thieves known as the ‘Magpies’ which specialises in acquiring historical artefacts. They are hired Braurius Malifont, a wealthy collector of exotic antiquities. Four such items, known as the ‘Tetrad’, are being held by the ‘Storied Chronicles’, the city museum which holds and displays antiquities from all over the world. Malifont gives the four a guide to getting into the museum and the clues he has uncovered to date as to the location of the artefacts he wants. The adventure itself begins en media res, with the Player Characters about to break in. They can access various routes, but once inside they must search the main display area to locate the items and not activate the guards. Their most obvious problem is not toppling the complete dinosaur skeleton of a triceratops! The encounter involves a mix of stealth, combat, and a big puzzle. This relies very much on player general knowledge, but the scenario allows for straight skill rolls should they come up lacking. The scene is as tense as any robbery should be, and ideally, it should end as the guards swarm into the main display area…

The second scene is at the home of Braurius Malifont. He welcomes the Player Characters to his home and congratulates them on their success. There is meant to be twist here—and there is. It is, however, an obvious one. For starters, the surname of the Player Characters’ employer is ‘Malifont’. ‘M-a-l-ifont’. It just sounds evil. Then, Malifont’s other guests are all there at the reception party, sipping wine and enjoying cheesy nibbles, all wear scarlet robes. It is intentional and not designed to be particularly subtle, and of course, Braurius Malifont will turn the tables on the Player Characters and a big fight will ensue.

The four Player Characters in Heist At The Museum! are thieves, all of Third Level. They include a scholarly thief who can step into the shadows, a street blade handy with paired scimitars, a swift thief capable of hit and run attacks, and a trickster who can grant Advantage to his allies and Disadvantage to his adversaries. All four are clearly presented and easy to read, and they come with a detailed background and equipment list. Their portraits are also replicated on their tokens for the scenario.

Heist At The Museum! comes with two maps from the publisher’s Big Book of Battle Mats: Rooms, Vaults, & Chambers. One is a museum location complete with display cases, carpet, stairs, and dinosaur skeleton, the other is personal study and connected bedroom. Both maps are presented in full colour, in one-inch squares. The tokens—which the Dungeon Master will have to cut out as part of the preparation—are also done in full colour and fit the maps.

Physically, Heist At The Museum! is well presented and written. Coloured text is used to indicate that the Dungeon Master refer to the monsters and NPCs and magic items. The two handouts are nicely done.

Heist At The Museum! is quick and easy to prepare and run. If it is obvious in its plotting, Heist At The Museum! is at least short, serviceable, and exciting enough for a single session.

Monday 20 November 2023

Miskatonic Monday #246: Time’s Prisoners

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 Invictus, The Pastores, Primal State, Ripples from Carcosa, and Halloween Horror, there was Five Go Mad in Egypt, Return of the Ripper, Rise of the Dead, Rise 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.

Publisher: Chaosium, Inc.
Author: Stephen K. Stein

Setting: Regency-era South Atlantic
Product: Scenario for In Strange Seas: Horror in the Royal Navy for Regency Cthulhu and Regency Cthulhu: Dark Designs in Jane Austen’s England
What You Get: Twenty-six page, 10.17 MB Full Colour PDF

Elevator Pitch: Some doldrums are deadlier than any Navy man can imagine.
Plot Hook: “Trapped in the past, no escape from reality.”
Plot Support: Staging advice, seven pre-generated Investigators, ten NPCs, two handouts, four Mythos artefacts,
and seven Mythos creatures.
Production Values: Reasonable

# Elder Thing in a top hat
# Sail into danger and out again adventure!
# Easy to run
# Cannibals and zombies, oh my!
# Chapodiphobia
# Teraphobia
# Kinemortophobia

# Elder Thing in a top hat
# Sidequest left for the Keeper to develop

# Elder Thing in a top hat. Is this not a good enough reason for you?
# Straightforward, sail into danger and out again, easy to run adventure