"Go to the sign of Harvel's Axe, a dubious inn on the edge of the Thieves Quarter, in the City of Greyhawk, and look to your own wrist. If you perceive a bracelet and dangling dice, watch for the next throw in the war between Law and Chaos and be prepared to follow the compelling geas." -Signal

Sunday, April 14, 2013

CoC - Sacraments of Evil






I had mentioned before that I tend to prefer my Cthulhu set in the period that the game was originally written for. Modern era Cthulhu just takes some of the air of mystery away for me. Sacraments of Evil is a set of six adventures for the Cthulhu by Gaslight setting. I know it is not the same era but this setting is in my mind almost the same. I know you lose some of the technology and that the world was a little more restrained than it was in the 1920 but the mystery is still there. There is not nearly as much material for the Gaslight setting so this book is a little essential if you want to focus on that period. The adventures are not sequential or directly interrelated but can be connected with very little effort. It also contains advice on creating Gaslight setting investigators.


Contents:

- Introduction (Ross)
- The Eyes of a Stranger (Aniolowski)
- The Masterwork of Nicholas Forby (Love)
- Plant Y Daear (Ross)
- Sacraments of Evil (Behrendt)
- The Scuttling (Woods, Ross)
- Signs Writ in Scarlet (Ross)
- 1890s investigators, a Guide (Willis)
- 1890s Character Sheet

 There is a great writeup on the adventures by Stephen O'Brien at rpg.net. I have copied those here but you can find the full information there:

The Eyes of a Stranger is a whistlestop tour of a pulp-adventure Victorian London, taking in Jack the Ripper, Freemasons, Spiritualism, Chinese gangsters, mind-swapping, opium dens, and, of course, Sanity-Blasting Horrors From Beyond. Starting at a fashionable St. John’s wood party, the investigators are soon thrust into a plot which threatens the Empire, if not the world. Depending upon the investigators actions, a variety of human agencies will be busy helping or hindering them. I like this adventure a lot: not only does it illustrate everything that attracts me to “Gaslight”, but it also looks like it’ll make a nice start to a campaign. 

The Masterwork of Nicholas Formby contains no Mythos elements, being instead a tribute to the Gothic horror stories of the 19th Century. A schoolfriend of one of the investigators is sick, and they are invited to his country house. Thereupon they become involved in the search for a family treasure, and skulduggery of both human and supernatural origin. This strikes me as a good investigative mystery, concerned with finding relevant documentation and studying NPCs. There may also, depending on some investigator actions, be a nicely gothic chill at the very end. 

Plant Y Daer takes place in the Black Mountains of Wales (the title being Welsh, rather than a crazy Mythos language), with the investigators exploring the murder of a retired Colonel (who also features as a minor NPC in “The Eyes of a Stranger”). They will encounter fairly standard Lovecraftian horror of genetic inheritance and ancient secrets. The “standard” tag is the problem. Players with much experience of “Call of Cthulhu” may not find much too much to grab the imagination. On the other hand, I can see this being fairly effective with inexperienced players. 

Sacraments of Evil is set entirely within the ancient Cathedral City of York. It also has the distinction of being a genuinely nasty Cthulhu adventure, which should be able to get at least a grimace out of even us jaded 21st Century-types. The all-too-human problems of serial murder and spiritual corruption are at the forefront here, although an ancient lurking evil is also present. This should contain a few surprises for even experienced players, and is one of the standout adventures of the book. Oh, and a note for non-British Keepers: your average Yorkshire Police Constable won’t have a cockney accent. He’ll have a Yorkshire accent (See Monty Python’s “Four Yorkshiremen” for reference). 

The Scuttling is a strange one, but could be an interesting change for a group. There are no Mythos elements here, but don’t fret, there are sanity-bothering beasts from beyond the Jurassic. Basically, the investigators are hired to travel to New York by a wealthy businessman (who again features as a minor NPC in “The Eyes of a Stranger”). There they are to complete a transaction for a medieval statue. The outward journey and the transaction are reasonably straightforward, but on the way back events take a stranger turn, and players will soon be aware that Something Nasty is on board (perhaps a nod to “Dracula”). If well run, this could provide a few good moments of tension – the Keeper should play up the need to make hazardous “runs” below decks in order to gather supplies. The out-of-the-ordinary location also makes this worth running: how many “Call of Cthulhu” adventures encourage you to make the players sing sea-shanties? 

Signs Writ in Scarlet is a complex epic of an adventure at some 29 pages long, and is recommended for experienced players and Keepers – it’ll probably be quite a while before I feel that I’m up to running it. The action takes place mostly in the danker parts of London’s East End. A serial murderer is on the loose, and there are a variety of ways in which the investigators can become involved. Although the players won’t know it, they will be working against a time limit. At the same time, they will have to contend with the police, the inhabitants of the East End, and several private interests. All of this makes the adventure hazardous to the investigators, with a variety of potential ways of them meeting their downfall, not least their own curiosity. Best of all, the evil here, as with “Sacraments of Evil”, is largely human in nature. The investigators will be placed in at least one major moral predicament.


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