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Call of Cthulhu: Cthulhu Britannica

Cthulhu Britannica

Normally I don't pay much attention to cover art - I'm more interested in the contents of a book - but the adaptation of Constable's The Haywain to include a horse being tossed into the air by a tentacled something in the millpond is sheer genius. Cthulhu has come to the UK big-style, in the shape of five separate adventures set from Victorian London to a rather desperate far future when the End Is Nigh if not already here. The Introduction provides a brief summary of each and points out that every one comes with a set of pre-generated characters. A few notes on atmosphere and pacing complete this section, then it's on to the adventures themselves, presented in historical order.

The first adventure, set in Victorian times (1895 to be precise), is Bad Company. It's summer in London and 'society' is in full swing - but one young gentleman who ought to be taking a leading role has vanished from his home in the dead of night, missing presumed kidnapped. Upper-class investigators are best, either the ones provided or your players' own (especially if you want to use this as part of an ongoing campaign). The Keeper's Information explains what actually is going on and provides a timeline, then the game's afoot when young Arthur's father, Sir Godfrey Sommers Bt., summons the party and asks for their help. (Note how I've written his name: this is the correct form of address for a Baronet, you don't address or refer to him as Baronet Sommers as is done repeatedly in the text!) There are plenty of aventues of inquiry for the party to follow, with plenty of information - some of it useful - for them to discover and if that's not enough for you there are a few optional side-plots you can weave in. Neatly, there are two main routes to the solution of the mystery, the party may follow either or both to reach the adventure's climax through the squalid underbelly of London to an outwardly-respectable house in the Strand. Here the awful truth becomes evident and the party have the opportunity to put an end to things... or not. All possible outcomes are covered in the conclusion.

Next up is Darkness, Descending which is set in the 1930s, taking the party to a small village in Norfolk. Here some finds have excited the archaeological world (including the party, apparently). Again pre-generated characters are provided or your players may use their own. The adventure is designed as a one-off, taking up to three sessions to resolve, but could provide the starting point for a campaign presuming the party is successful - failure might make continuing rather difficult. Without going into too much detail, the dig has unearthed something it would be best to leave undisturbed. Once the party arrives, they are soon embroiled in the dig but will also be able to look around the village. Their arrival is set for the Friday, and a timeline of events leads to a climax at sunset the following Monday - the Autumn Equinox.

The following adventure is Wrong Turn, which involves a film crew in the present day who get trapped in a deserted location in a clausrophobic and horrific scenario. Designed as a one-off, it's the sort of horror survival scenario in which there's a slow dawning of what is going on even as the rest of the party gets picked off one-by-one... The core idea is that the film crew have come to an abandoned observatory to assess its potential as a location, being tasked to stay there for 24 hours. This will be a very long 24 hours, and very likely their last. There was but a single night's observing done here which went disasterously wrong, and which have left the place in an unstable state that is not conductive to spending the night there. The adventure takes place in three phases, the horror mounting as time passes...

Moving on, King is also contemporary, and designed as a visceral horror experience rather than an investigation. It begins when the investigators attend hospital as out-patients to receive treatment for a minor eye condition. Then they wake up tied to hospital beds with no idea of how they got there... and that's just the beginning. Intended as a one-off, for reasons that will become obvious once you read the plot, there are some interesting suggestions for how to continue the adventure.

Finally, we travel to the end of known time (or at least, just before) - or so the blurb would have you believe, in actuality it could be run in the present day - for My Little Sister Wants You To Suffer. Stuck on a spaceship, the investigators have no idea where they are or why... and the truth is quite different from what they might imagine it to be. Nothing, as they say, is what it seems. It's a delightful opportunity for the Keeper to really mess with the players' heads, and although the scenario is a linear one, there is a very good reason for what might appear to be rail-roading.

Overall, a nice selection of adventures to have to hand, a bit heavy on the 'bottle show' and 'horror' angles and, apart from the first two, not necessarily very Mythos-related. The first adventure does need London, but any of the others do not necessarily have to be in Britain if for some reason you'd rather run them elsewhere... Solid, horrific fun.

Return to Cthulhu Britannica page.

Reviewed: 22 December 2017