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The Seventh Circle
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/03/2019 05:19:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure for Fear Itself clocks in at 78 pages of content if you take away the covers, editorial, etc., so let’s take a look!

First of all: This was penned for the first incarnation of the game, which means that you may need do some slight conversion work when adjusting this to the second iteration of the game. Secondly, it should be noted that the “Trail of Cthulhu”-header denoting an alternate system is not simply cosmetic or an indicator of a single page of information; the module does present quite a bit of advice on how to use it in conjunction with that game, should you prefer that cosmology to the criminally-underrated Ocean Game-setting.

My review is based on the print version, a softcover with glossy, nice pages. I do not own the electronic version of the book.

The book comes with 6 different pregens, and essentially can be summed up as two different scenarios: The imho more rewarding one is clearly intended for a regular playing experience – it hinges on the PCs being smart and doing their legwork from the get-go, and makes the whole scenario significantly most investigative in focus. The second way of playing this, is to basically throw the PCs pretty quickly into the main location of the module – in such a context, the whole story may end up being somewhat obtuse in its details, but the module can then be easily resolved within the frame of e.g. a convention. It should be noted that this adventure does a much better job at this convention-game-angle than many comparable modules released for Esoterrorists or Fear Itself.

Okay, and this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

So, this is the story of a man named Patrick Raleigh, and how he met the lawyer Valerie Irvine and thus was introduced into the per se not malignant Hermetic Order of the Seventh Circle. While, of course, not necessarily benevolent in the context of the world of Ocean Game, these occultists nonetheless are not per se esoterrorists – and when Raleigh found out about the island Eilean Mòr (situated in the Flannan Isles) and how mysterious disappearances happened there, he began investigating.

Wary of Valerie Irvine, he indeed confirmed that the remote island does seem to have something going on – and decided that he’d need to place a ward there to harness the power. This is where the famed architect Nathan Glaas entered the frame, who himself was in the midst of a nasty divorce with his soon-to-be ex-wife Audrey. Nathan was tasked to create a house based on the principles of sacred geometry, Indeed, much to my joy, the book comes with rather extensive cartography, an explanation of sacred geometry patterns, and provides player-friendly versions of the maps as well – this is, particularly for GUMSHOE-titles that often skimp on the cartography, a huge plus!

Anyhow, Nathan Glaas complied to the demands of Raleigh for secrecy – also to keep the profits from the construction off the books, after all, he was involved in a messy divorce. Soon after the building’s completion, Raleigh and the now properly in the order initiated Nathan traveled to the island, unearthing an ancient cave that showed signs of human sacrifice – and something truly dire – basically a tear in the membrane. Sealed for now, but yeah – the occultists pushed the circular altar to the side, and inadvertently opened let the genie out of the bottle – something emerged from the Outer Dark! Retreating into the house, the surviving members realized that they had a containment breach of the worst kind, but thankfully, the sacred geometry of the house left them with one final, desperate gambit – a ritual that would see the occultists all die but Raleigh, and see Nathan entombed in the center of the house, as a kind of supernatural ghost-guardsman.

Thus, Raleigh vanished, taking the alias of Adam de Brate (funny) – but he did not account for Valerie Irvine’s ambition or Audrey Glaas’ persistence. With her husband vanishing, divorce was stalled, and so the two women forged an alliance that saw Irvine masterminding the entry vector of the PCs. The pregens are members of the television-crew of a Ghost Adventures-like reality TV – perfect dupes to unleash the entity – and for Irvine, to harness the power.

Thus, the module has two vectors – if the PCs do their legwork, they will happen upon Raleigh and enter the island forewarned, while otherwise, just throwing the PCs inside can make the rather labyrinthine background a bit puzzling. My personal suggestion? Play this with OV-agents that research Raleigh, find him and before he explains what he knows about the horrid things that came to pass, cut to black. THEN use the pregens, play the second route of the scenario, and once things inevitable go down the drain, have the OV-agents show up. This way, you can play both scenario-progressions at once!

The island and its dilapidated lighthouse manage to evoke a sense of forlorn potency, and as the PCs experience the haunting of the ghost-turned Nathan Glaas, they will sooner or later find the prehistoric ritual chamber and their puzzling array of corpses – the PCs even get the chance to rappel down into basically the Outer Dark (hint: BAD IDEA!), and Valerie Irvine as a mundane villain and wildcard, makes for a nice tool for the GM to use if the PC’s finale is going too smoothly.

You see, once Nathan’s been taken care off (from the PC’s perspective, he is, after all, responsible for the haunting!) and laid to rest, the true horror emerges. Or rather, doesn’t. Why? Well, of all critters. Of all ideas. Of all the cool entities that the world of Ocean game offers….of all of them, the module opts for living darkness. Yep, ladies and gentlemen, whip out all of your Lost and Alan Wake jokes right now, the big monster is about as lame as can be. And yep, it can, big surprise, be driven back by light. You’ll likely need the appearance of Valerie to sabotage the PCs, and in the convention version, this can come rather far out of left field. This monster is the central failure of the module – it is not even remotely scary. It’s boring, cliché, and I strongly suggest that you replace it with something more interesting.

They can also use her to beat the adventure – for sealing the rift once more, you guessed it, requires a sacrifice – either one of the players, or some NPC – and the latter aren’t exactly available aplenty on the remote isle.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the two-column b/w-standard with really neat b/w-artworks provided. The cartography and handouts are similarly b/w and truly appreciated in their player-friendly focus. The softcover is neat, and I can’t comment on the electronic version.

Matthew Sanderson’s “The Seventh Circle” is a per se great and versatile adventure; the investigative angle works slightly better than the one where you drop the PCs directly on the island, but the option to employ both in conjunction with one another as I suggested above adds some further replay-value and options. While the background story can feel a bit overcomplicated for the convention-game-style progression, it can be really helpful when the players are veterans, making the truth at least somewhat challenging to unearth. Indeed, I’d consider this a 5-star adventure, were it not for one thing: As awesome as the story, the atmosphere, the build-up, is, the payoff is hard to stomach – it is one of the worst disappointments I’ve seen in a horror module in quite a while, and it kinda sinks the module as written for me. Sure, a replacement is easy enough to pulls off, and sure, the Trail of Cthulhu option is actually better this time around, but ultimately, this drags the module down from a definite recommendation to a module that is certainly good, but not as good as it could have easily been. My final verdict will thus clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Seventh Circle
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The Dracula Dossier: Dracula Unredacted
by A customer [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/21/2019 08:38:13

A masterpiece. The research that went into this product, the art, the writing…. I have been playing and GM-ing tabletop RPG’s for over 25 years now and I have never seen anything as impressive as this.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Dracula Dossier: Dracula Unredacted
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Fear Itself 2nd Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/07/2019 05:54:02

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second edition of the Fear Itself horror game clocks in at 178 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 2 pages of ToC, leaving us with 173 pages of content. These include a two-page index and a 1-page character sheet.

After a brief introduction, we are introduced to the basics of the game, which is the first huge difference in comparison to the 1st edition. You see, where the first edition was intended for one-shots and as a kind of hack for Esoterrorists or similar GUMSHOE-based games, this edition is actually a full-blown stand-alone game. While this playstyle is still fully supported, the game now differentiates between angles from the get-go: The book notes that one-shot, mini-series and full-blown campaign are all possible, and also lists which sections in the book you should check out. Nice. The game is set in the same dark version of our world as Esoterrorists, meaning that the Outer Dark and its entities represent the primary antagonists. Books that feature this myth are tagged as “Ocean Game”, after the process by which one of the most formidable type of creature likes playing with mortals in a strange game, driving them insane.

Unlike Esoterrorists, this game does not assume that you have a benevolent organization or proper background to have at least sometimes a fighting chance against the Outer Dark – instead, Fear Itself focuses on more action-laden horror and a feeling of powerlessness; it’s less about uncovering full-blown wrongness of the universe, and more about survival, though themes can easily be mixed and matched. In one of my earlier reviews, I proposed kicking off a GUMSHOE-campaign with Fear Itself, and then, after the PCs have been recruited by the OV, using the Esoterrorist or Night’s Black Agents-rules (or a combination thereof!) for the next chapter of the campaign.

Fear Itself does not cast you in the role of heroes – the PCs are everyday people, and as such, there is a difference in focus and power-level that is reflected by the rules, but before we get into the details, let it be known that I do actually own the softcover of the game, as well as the pdf-version. I primarily based my review on the print copy.

Fear Itself deliberately restricts the use of combat/investigative experts and occult experts, which are considered to be out of the question unless this works in conjunction with your premise. Psychics are also restricted in a way – rules for them are provided, but they are risky. Unlike Esoterrorists, there is no OV guideline against these guys, so yeah – that’s a rather different angle. The Fear Itself game assumes the characters to be ordinary folks, and this angle is reflected in character creation: The number of players dictates the suggested number of build points per character, and there are capped abilities that are not available at character creation, unless you’re the group’s expert in the given field. Being an “expert” in a field means that you usually pay for your expert rank by some sort of drawback, which brings us to a crucial narrative angle that enriches the game and that can be rather fun: Risk factors. These represent, for example, a stern conviction in the scientific, a drug addiction, curiosity – all those behaviors that make characters die in horror movies. There are hard and soft risk factors, and resisting them requires a stability test, punishing the character for not giving in, while rewarding “risky” play and providing an incentive to creating tension.

But before we get to stability, let’s talk about abilities: Beyond a limit on aforementioned capped abilities, there are two survival abilities: Fleeing and Hiding. If your Fleeing is equal or higher than Athletics, you get 2 Fleeing for every build point spent, and the same holds true for Infiltration and Hiding. Infiltration and Athletics are universally better than Hiding and Fleeing, hence the discount – and this obviously enhances the emphasis on fleeing/hiding vs. direct combat. Concise lists of the abilities are provided – they are generally grouped in the categories Academic, Interpersonal, Technical, and General.

Stability, briefly noted before, is pretty self-explanatory – it’s the mental stamina and ability to resist sources of stress and mental breakdown. As such, the book guides you through the process of determining the cornerstones of your sources of stability. From neighbors to certain tasks to pets, these sources of stability are what keep you standing, and their development obviously provides means to attack the character; they are a catalyst for roleplaying, for saving them, for getting your character involved. The requirement, hardcoded into the game, ultimately, means that both GM and player have reasons to engage with the NPCs, be proactive in roleplaying.

Indeed, one of the things I very much enjoyed seeing, would be the salient advice provided for players, helping the game immensely. From embracing the flashbacks to roleplaying the mundane, to how to deal with being stuck in investigations, this section is really useful, particularly when dealing with players that are relatively new to GUMSHOE-based games.

A big difference to the previous iteration would be that we actually have the system explained in a concise manner: As you probably know about now, you can Spend points in your abilities to gain additional information – this game of resource management is crucial to how GUMSHOE works, and we have the process explained – and all abilities are noted with sample clues and benefits from the use of the abilities explained. This may sound obvious, it really helps GMing the game, and it makes it easier for players to know which abilities to choose. The ability-list has also been expanded, with new abilities getting a helpful “New”-tag, making conversion of older supplements easier. These new abilities also enhance the game in that they represent options that enhance the ability to play longer campaigns. Health now is just such an ability, changing that aspect.

Mechanically, the game has a simple resolution mechanic: If you have a point in ability, you can roll a six-sided die. The target difficulty numbers range from 2 to 8 (usually), and for each spend, you add +1 to the roll. The players do NOT know the target difficulty of the roll, just fyi. Other characters can piggyback on rolls – paying 1 point from the relevant ability, they can piggyback…but being unable to pay increases the difficulty by 2, which can be rather brutal. Contests follow an analogue mechanic, making that aspect simple to resolve as well. The narrative repercussions and how to handle the like are included.

When you exceed an opponent’s Hit Threshold, you may deal damage, rolling a die and applying modifier. Not having points in combat-relevant abilities locks you into the action you announce at the start of a round, decreases your damage, makes you go last and firearms have a chance of going wrong, big time. So yeah – if you have no combat training, you better be careful.., At 0 Health, you are Hurt; Starting at -6 Health, you are seriously wounded, and at -12 Health, you’re dead. Stability has similar thresholds, with effects like starting to close off, etc., despair, etc. Rules of thumb for different genres of horror are provided for your convenience, and indeed, particularly newer GMs and groups will definitely appreciate the vast array of pieces of advice contained within these pages.

Speaking of which: The GM gets a LOT of helpful advice herein, walking you through the process of designing a mystery, of how to use clues, determine core scenes, personalizing horror, when to use floating clues. A similar amount of guidance is provided not only for the process of designing a mystery, but also for the actual running of the mystery. Alternative rules like escape pools further enhance this section. Low and high-powered psychics, and some minor suggestions on running an all-psychic game may also be found within the pages of this massive book.

A couple of sample creatures that will mostly be familiar to Ocean Game veterans may be found, and the book contains stats for classics like slashers, werewolves, zombies, etc. Then, the book’s structure begins to change – as noted before, the game now has a broader perspective, and as such, features chapters for one-shots, mini-series and campaigns. For the one-shot, we get a sample adventure to accompany the general advice provided – it is a nice one, though the twist may be something the PCs see coming. The mini-series and campaign chapters have outlines provided instead of fully-fleshed out adventures – the latter two imho are more interesting, particularly the mini-series’ hook, but since that is very much a matter of taste, it won’t influence the final verdict.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a neat two-column b/w-standard, and the book features quite a bunch of nice b/w-artwork that ranges from inspired to solid. The softcover version has glossy paper, and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Personally, I think that going hardcover for the book would have been nice.

The second edition of Robin D Laws and Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s Fear Itself-game is superior to the first in every way; no longer simply a hack to slap onto a GUMSHOE game, capable of being used as a stand-alone supplement, Fear Itself is a versatile investigative horror game that is deadly, interesting and has an amazing world; I am a huge fan of the whole Ocean game mythology, and frankly, I don’t understand why these games don’t get more love from the gaming public, particularly when compared to the Cthulhu-mythos. There is but one aspect of this book where it falls flat of the first edition: In the sample adventure/outline. Fear Itself’s first edition had a BRILLIANT sample adventure, and while the options herein are well-wrought, they don’t manage to attain that same level of pure horror. That being said, this book now presents all the tools you need to actually craft horror mysteries for your group – which you’ll have to do. As per the writing of this review, there only are two modules released for the game’s first edition. I will cover both of them, but yeah – much like the criminally underrated Esoterrorists, this is one of the Pelgrane Press games that’d deserve more love. If you’re looking for a change of pace from the tentacles, give this a shot – chances are, you’ll very much enjoy it! My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fear Itself 2nd Edition
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RMS Titanic: The Millionaire's Special
by Stephen M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/26/2019 08:55:10

A really fantastic module. The Titanic setting is just ripe for horror and mystery, and its taken great advantage of here. It also suits the Trail of Cthulhu system/style really well. You can listen to an actual play of this moduel over at: http://thetabletopreview.com/podcast/?p=212



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
RMS Titanic: The Millionaire's Special
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The Book of Demons
by Ashe W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/20/2019 13:45:25

The PDF is broken; only about five pages out of the whole book load, and the rest are just completely blank. Is there a way we can get a fix for this? I love 13th Age, and I want to get my demon-summoning on!



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
The Book of Demons
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Cthulhu Confidential
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/24/2019 05:44:12

The following review was originally published in Mephisto 67 and translated from German (find orignal German review below).

Cthulhu Confidential

As a spin-off for the Cthulhu role-playing game Trail of Cthulhu, Cthulhu Confidential is a rulebook with an unusual twist: The system known as Gumshoe One-2-One is about one game master playing with exactly one player. The goal is that, similar to novels or films, a central protagonist stands in the center of attention and is therefore in the limelight. Cthulhu Confidential crosses the classic Cthulhu mythos with the atmosphere of the detective stories of the film noir and thus shifts the storyline to the late 1930s.

The opening is made by the rules, which are clearly different from the regular Gumshoe rules. A further point that applies here is the idea that the possession of the skill and the search in the right place, or the asking of the right question, is sufficient to gain decisive clues. However, a new system based on six-sided dice is used for action skills. Here a certain minimum value must be achieved by successively rolling the dice.

A new central rule element are edges and problems, which also replace life points and mental stability in their function. If a test is solved perfectly, the character usually gets a short-term or temporary advantage, called an edge and represented by a card. If the character fails completely, a problem is assigned to him as a card. At the same time the player can voluntarily take on a problem to win an extra die, but in the worst case this can lead to two problems in the end.

The problems are states and difficulties that can be returned under certain conditions or through appropriate recovery. Edges offer analogous advantages. Even if it is not intended that a character dies or goes mad in the course of the action (because then the game is over), the player must be careful to get rid of his problems at the end in order to survive the action undamaged. With this system, the player's character is clearly in focus and instead of simply losing abstract points, his actions have direct tangible consequences.

Since the game approach is very unusual and requires a lot of preparation from the game master (each story needs defined edges and problems), Cthulhu Confidential delivers three adventures as an essential part of the book, which take place at three different locations with three different characters and thus show an exciting cross section, which fits to the Cthulhu myth as well as to the movie genre.

From my point of view, Cthulhu Confidential is an exceptional highlight, because the concepts for the one-player-master-a-player-game are well thought-out. Together with the adventures you have very good starting material for exciting game evenings. With the right player this should offer a very intensive game - so that it depends here whether one wants to get involved as a game master and player in this party of two and play without the safety net of more player characters. If you don’t like off-topic discussions at the gaming table, Cthulhu Confidential is the perfect approach to concentrate completely on the game.

Deutsche Version

Als Spin-off für das Cthulhu-Rollenspiel Trail of Cthulhu ist mit Cthulhu Confidential ein Regelwerk mit ungewöhnlicher Ausrichtung erschienen: Bei dem Gumshoe One-2-One genannten System geht es darum, dass ein Spielleiter mit genau einem Spieler zusammenspielt. Das Ziel ist, dass hier ähnlich wie in Romanen oder Filmen eine zentrale Hauptperson im Mittelpunkt und entsprechend intensiv im Rampenlicht steht. Dabei kreuzt Cthulhu Confidential den klassischen Mythos mit der Atmosphäre der Detektivgeschichten des Film Noir und verlegt so die Handlung in die späten 1930er.

Den Auftakt machen die Regeln, die gegenüber den regulären Gumshoe-Regeln deutlich abgewandelt sind. Was hier weiter gilt, ist der Ansatz, dass bei den Ermittlungsfähigkeiten bereits der Besitz der Fertigkeit und die Suche am richtigen Ort, bzw. das Stellen der richtigen Frage ausreicht, um entscheidende Hinweise zu gewinnen. Bei den Aktionsfertigkeiten kommt jedoch ein neues System zum Einsatz, das auf sechsseitigen Würfeln basiert. Hier muss durch sukzessives Würfeln ein bestimmter Mindestwert erreicht werden.

Neu als zentrales Regelelement sind Edges und Problems, die in ihrer Funktion auch Lebenspunkte und geistige Stabilität ersetzen. Wird eine Probe perfekt gelöst, bekommt die Spielfigur meistens einen kurzfristigen bzw. temporären Vorteil, der Edge genannt und durch eine Karte repräsentiert wird. Versagt der Charakter komplett, dann bekommt er ein Problem als Karte zugeteilt. Gleichzeitig kann der Spieler freiwillig ein Problem auf sich nehmen, um einen Zusatzwürfel zu gewinnen, was im schlimmsten Fall jedoch dazu führen kann, dass er am Ende mit zwei Problemen dasteht.

Die Probleme sind Zustände und Erschwernisse, die unter bestimmten Bedingungen wieder zurückgegeben werden können oder durch entsprechende Erholung abgelegt werden können. Edges bieten analog Vorteile. Auch wenn es nicht vorgesehen ist, dass eine Spielfigur im Lauf der Handlung stirbt oder dem Wahnsinn verfällt (weil dann das Spiel zu Ende ist), muss der Spieler darauf achten, zum Abschluss seine Probleme losgeworden zu sein, um die Handlung unbeschadet zu überstehen. Mit diesem System steht der Spielercharakter klar im Fokus und anstatt einfach abstrakte Punkte zu verlieren, haben seine Handlungen direkte, plastische Konsequenzen.

Da der Spielansatz sehr ungewöhnlich ist und entsprechend viel Vorbereitung vom Spielleiter erfordert (jede Probe braucht definierte Edges und Problems), liefert Cthulhu Confidential als wesentlichen Teil des Buchs gleich drei Abenteuer, die an drei verschiedenen Orten mit drei verschiedenen Charakteren stattfinden und somit einen spannenden Querschnitt zeigen, der sowohl zum Cthulhu-Mythos als auch zum Film-Genre passt.

Aus meiner Sicht ist Cthulhu Confidential ein Highlight, denn die Konzepte für das Ein-Spielleiter-ein-Spieler-Spiel wirken durchdacht. Zusammen mit den Abenteuern hat man sehr gutes Ausgangsmaterial für spannende Spielabende. Mit dem richtigen Spieler dürfte eine solche Runde ein sehr intensives Spiel bieten – so dass es hier darauf ankommt, ob man als Spielleiter und Spieler sich auf diese Zweier-Runde einlassen und auf das Sicherheitsnetz der restlichen Gruppe verzichten will. Wen die Randdiskussionen am Rollenspielabend stören, findet mit Cthulhu Confidential den perfekten Ansatz, sich ganz auf das Spiels zu konzentrieren.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cthulhu Confidential
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Trail of Cthulhu: Cthulhu City
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/24/2019 04:00:33

The following review was originally published in Mephisto 69 and translated from German (find orignal German review below). More reviews can be found in the Mephisto 69 Online Add-On (https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/261389/Mephisto-69-Online-AddOn).

Cthulhu City

Great Arkham is a metropolis that includes illustrious places like Arkham, Innsmouth, Kingsport and Dunwich. Above all, however, it traps its inhabitants due to an alleged epidemic. Even those who can sneak past the feared transport police will not escape, because Great Arkham is not of this world, and here the powers of myth are omnipresent.

With Great Arkham, Cthulhu City presents a city in which the mythos is almost openly present, but most people ignore it. Several cults operate barely hidden against each other in the city and work on a great ritual, the effects of which are not clear. Nobody really knows whether the ritual of opening makes the powers of the mythos finally break into Great Arkham or locks them out forever.

Cthulhu City deliberately leaves many questions unanswered: It is not clear whether Great Arkham is just an illusion, in the dreamlands or on a strange planet. Accordingly, there are several interpretations for the different places, people and other elements in the book.

The adventure Whisperer in the Light completes the volume. Even if this investigation takes place in Great Arkham, it could also be used in other campaigns.

Cthulhu City is an unusual source book. If you want to confront your gaming group with an extreme dose of myth and a really frightening starting situation, you'll find a well-filled construction kit here, but because of the abundance of characters, places etc. not only a longer preparation period but also many individual decisions are required. Cthulhu City is therefore an unusual hook for a campaign, which certainly doesn't fit to every gaming group, but from my point of view provides a very original (and dark) background.

Deutsche Version

Great Arkham ist eine Metropole, die illustre Orte wie Arkham, Innsmouth, Kingspor t und Dunwich einschließt. Vor allen Dingen schließt sie aber ihre Bewohner aufgrund einer angeblichen Epidemie ein. Selbst wer sich an der gefürchteten Transport-Polizei vorbei schleichen kann, dem wird es nicht gelingen zu entkommen, denn Great Arkham ist nicht von dieser Welt, und hier sind die Mächte des Mythos omnipräsent.

Cthulhu City stellt mit Great Arkham eine Stadt vor, in der der Mythos nahezu offen präsent ist, die meisten Menschen ihn aber ignorieren. Mehrere Kulte operieren kaum verborgen gegeneinander in der Stadt und arbeiten an einem großen Ritual, dessen Auswirkungen aber nicht klar sind. Denn ob das Ritual der Öffnung die Mächte des Mythos endgültig über Great Arkham hereinbrechen lässt oder sie für immer aussperrt, weiß niemand wirklich.

Cthulhu City lässt bewusst viele Fragen offen: So ist nicht klar, ob Great Arkham vielleicht nur eine Illusion ist, in den Traumlanden oder auf einem fremden Planeten liegt. Entsprechend gibt es für die verschiedenen Orte, Personen und andere Elemente im Buch mehrere Interpretationen.

Das Abenteuer Whisperer in the Light rundet den Band ab. Auch wenn diese Ermittlungsgeschichte in Great Arkham spielt, ließe sie sich auch in andere Kampagnen übernehmen.

Cthulhu City ist ein ungewöhnlicher Quellenband. Wer seine Spielrunde mit einer extremen Dosis Mythos und einer wirklich erschreckenden Ausgangslage konfrontieren will, der findet hier einen gut gefüllten Baukasten, der aber aufgrund der Fülle von Charakteren, Orten usw. nicht nur eine längere Einarbeitung sondern auch viele eigene Entscheidungen erfordern. Cthulhu City ist damit ein ungewöhnlicher Aufhänger für eine Kampagne, der sicherlich nicht zu jeder Spielrunde passt, aber aus meiner Sicht einen sehr originell (und finsteren) Hintergrund liefert.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu: Cthulhu City
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Trail of Cthulhu: The Black Drop
by Mike P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/30/2018 16:37:59

Holy cow! This is a beatiful piece of work. Centered around a real place with a slew of real-world informational bits, this bleak but inspired scenario is incredibly well-written. The kernel of the story is fairly simple, but the attention to detail, excellent characters, and well-developed encounters make for a memorable scenario.

I bought this alongside another adventure for CoC as two possible options for a one-shot and this module hits every single note that the other adventure didn't, providing a scenario that I couldn't have just written myself. It's sandbox with lots of potential exploration routes. And, the author has done the best job of SHOWING not TELLING that I have seen in a while. The author also has a wonderful vocabulary (I had a flashback to my early days reading Gygax et al and looking up several words in the dictionary [albeit with an iPhone instead of a book]).

My only criticism is that I wish there were some more zoomed in maps (of the village, the layout of the meteorologist camp, etc.) and that the pre-gens had an easily printable "sheets" to hand to the players.

It's dense with information and has a lot of moving pieces, so I'd recommend reading through this adventure a couple times to really grok the flow of things. But, I cannot wait to see it in play and let my players get rolling on this!

For the incredibly low price of $6, this is a must-buy.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu: The Black Drop
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Las Vegas: 1968
by A customer [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/24/2018 17:16:48

Excellent little summary of 1968 Las Vegas for use in gaming, especially for crime, espionage or horror campaigns. I particularly enjoyed the "Sources and Resources" section as a list of films and books to research further. Unfortunately it doesn't have a map of the city. Luckily there are period maps on the web - I found a 1968 Vegas map at http://vintagelasvegas.com/post/40666780188/las-vegas-map-1968. Another annoyance is that all the distances are in meters or kilometers and the temperatures are in degrees Celsius, which feels anarchronistic for a sourcebook on Las Vegas in 1968.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Las Vegas: 1968
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13 True Ways
by Brian B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/16/2018 13:07:52

13th Age is possibly the best RPG System I can remember since the First Edition of West End's Star Wars. The System itself is an amalgam of the best parts of OSR/3E/4E and each of the "main" Rulebooks (including this one) has indispensable guidance for advancing Creatures and making them your own. It's a clean, logical, AND immersive/evocative set of Rules that I believe you can do anything with. The writing and art are "Grade A" meaning you can tell right away that this is a product from some of the very best talents in the industry.

13 True Ways is critical as it has the "Good" Dragons, Lycanthropes, Mind Flayers (I mean "Flensers"), and Devils you don't want to miss.

Even though it's not advertised as a "Universal" Toolkit I honestly believe I could run ANY type of campaign with the 13th Age System. It's that good.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
13 True Ways
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Trail of Cthulhu: Bookhounds of London
by Mathew D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/28/2018 01:27:55

An in-depth depiction of the seedy and dishonest world of bookselling that is as accurate as it is entertaining. Beware the marginalia.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu: Bookhounds of London
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Trail of Cthulhu
by Mathew D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/27/2018 00:51:31

Maps the narrative drive (via Investigative Abilities) and pulp theatrics (via General Abilities) of the inheritors of Lovecraft with verve and precision, and communicates the existential atmosphere of He Who Lies Dreaming via supporting materials of great variety and thematic depth. A very fine game indeed.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu
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13th Age Core Book
by Dario T. N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/26/2018 02:07:09

A great game for introduce more story and less rules in D&D-like games. I wrote here a longer review



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
13th Age Core Book
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Cthulhu Confidential
by Todd C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/01/2018 17:44:52

Just bought this and started playing with a friend of mine that tends to like noir, 1 on 1 and problem solving. We started playing the first scenario where he is playing the hardboiled PI.

The story and background is amazing and we are having lots of fun thus far. We aren't using the system he prefers GURPS but that's of little consequence. We are also playing it as a modern day scenario not necessarily in LA, but that is fine also.

I'm excited to see how this folds out. I'm assuming this will lead to more 1 on 1 scenarios as we play thru more of these scenarios and then eventually get into the "Trail of Cthulhu" with another player or two. The material is great!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Cthulhu Confidential
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Albion's Ransom: Worm of Sixty Winters
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/16/2018 07:47:42

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The massive second part of the Albion’s Ransom-saga clocks in at 80 pages, 76 if you only count content and take away editorial, etc. The review is based primarily on the softcover print version of the adventure.

This review was requested by my patreons.

Now, first things first: This module does not require that the group has completed part I of Albion’s Ransom, “Little Girl Lost”; if the PCs were rather successful in the previous adventure, the Esoterrorists enact a contingency plan to make sure that the events herein take place. Considering the way in which the first adventure “cheated” to put the players in a serious disadvantage, that feels like a bit of a cop-out to me and may be something that rubs you the wrong way, big time. A triumph in adventure #1 ranks as one of the hardest things to achieve in an investigation scenario I have ever seen; the very least I expected was to see this adventure acknowledge the skill it took to achieve a victory by presenting a branching path of sorts or some kind of serious benefit. Alas, while success in the previous module does make things a bit easier, it’s not by much and the overall impact on how this module plays out, is pretty subdued. More on that in the SPOILER-section below.

It should be noted that, depending on the tastes of you and your group, this adventure may work actually better as a stand-alone, for the themes evoked in this adventure are radically different from “Little Girl Lost.”

If you’ve enjoyed the previous adventure for its subdued themes, is mystery-angle and slow burner tension build-up, etc., then you’ll be surprised to hear that this adventure is a rather action-heavy scenario that diverges pretty significantly from the themes and mood established in part I. In a way, this is closer to fantasy in a modern world than actual horror.

Now, there is one more note: GUMSHOE, as we all know, does investigation really well and is slightly less amazing regarding combat. However, this book was released a long time ago and the system has since come a long way. If you run this today, I’d probably suggest revising it for the rules established in Night’s Black Agents and Double Tap – and indeed, the adventure may actually work better in such a context than in the more down-to-earth Esoterrorists context.

In order to talk more about that, I need to go into heavy SPOILER-territory, though. From here on out, only GMs should continue reading. Potential players should skip ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great!

So, I already touched upon the structural issues regarding the transition from book #1 to #2. Since we’re in the spoiler-section now, let me spell it out clearly: Catriona’s fate is utterly meaningless. While the pdf begins with a detailed post-mortem and veil-out section for adventure #1, that should have been in the previous book. Similarly, the utterly grating idea of a compromised Mr. Verity, one of the big things that dragged down the previous adventure and made it unfair, is resolved as an aside – the character in question gets stats and all, but ultimately, he does not contribute anything of significance to the plot of this adventure.

You see, whether or not Catriona was saved, Isa Kenaz’ plan works. They had a contingency. Now, personally, I applaud that – smart villains are a good thing and the cabal would be pretty stupid if it didn’t have such a failsafe for their villainous masterstroke. However, I object to how meaningless the module makes…anything that was achieved in module #1. If she ends up as a brainwashed priestess, we get stats, sure. But her impact on the overall story? Pretty much non-existent. If the PCs managed to rock module #1, they won’t have to face an ambush-scene in the so-called Boggart Hole. That’s pretty much it.

Now, the remainder of the adventure represents a RADICAL departure from the first adventure. Wherein “Little Girl Lost” was very psychological and reminded me in parts of Twin Peaks or The Killing, this one goes a completely different route. One attack one could have made on “Little Girl Lost”, beyond the structural issues I complained about, would be that it’s not really a horror-adventure. It’s a meticulously-crafted, very difficult, but rewarding investigation with some mystery and conspiracy elements added. Well, if you liked that, if you enjoyed that aspect, there is a pretty good chance you’ll hate this adventure, or that you’ll at least get some minor form of thematic whiplash. It almost feels like the author tried to do the exact opposite of what he did in “Little Girl Lost”, falling off the bandwagon on the other side.

That elaborate, smart Hell Haven safehouse system, the one that only really diligent investigators could even find out about or crack? Well, it’s handed to the PCs on a silver platter and the module spends the majority of its page-count dealing with the PCs trying to hunt down the leadership of Isa Kenaz, all while the Fimbulvetr is unleashed. Yes, this cheapens the achievement of cracking it in module #1. No, there are no benefits for doing so.

Which brings me to another aspect in which the module diverges greatly from the previous adventure in both structure and theme: As the mythical winter of Norse apocalypse is unleashed, Isa Kenaz is devoting time and resources to sacrificing for Níðhöggr (called Nithogg in the book, but as you know, I’m particular about that type of thing…) and Bergelmir, gaining the support of two types of supernatural goons: Ur-Mensch (German for: Prehistoric human) Svartalfr and Trolls. Yes, you’ll be duking it out with basically degenerate, magically-mutated creatures from myth. See what I meant with “modern fantasy”? In fact, close to the end of the adventure, optional scenes deal with Bergelmir and Níðhöggr manifestations. I’m not even kidding you.

The adventure takes on a distinct, post-apocalyptic notion the further it progresses: As temperatures plummet and society starts to fall apart, there are some genuinely freaky and spooky scenes to be found herein, but they are contrasted against taking all limitations off. PCs get uncommon vehicles and can drive them, the strict weapon laws of the UK fall away – where module #1 was devoted in a truly impressive manner to generate a sense of realism, this module kicks that all out. And it’s, to a degree, doing so intentionally – the contrast is intended to heighten the desperation and scope of what’s at stake. Unfortunately, the veil-out on a success and sheer scope of otherworldly incursions will be exceedingly hard to justify. This adventure, in short, doesn’t really allow the PCs to be good agents of the OV, instead focusing on damage control.

If module #1 was a smart, horrific, psychological thriller, then this is a popcorn-cinema action flick.

This 180° turn regarding themes is also represented in the structure of the module: The main plot, as noted before, focuses on hunting down the leadership of Isa Kenaz and on foiling their plans to further escalate the Fimbulvetr. Whereas module #1 required METICULOUS time-management skills on part of the players to succeed, this adventure does the opposite, putting the progression more or less in the hands of the GM. This wouldn’t be an issue per se, but after “Little Girl Lost” has hammered in, in both structure and consequence, time and again, that EVERY.MINUTE.COUNTS., this adventure does the opposite, which can be frustrating. The module can span multiple weeks in theory, and players will be conditioned after adventure #1, particularly if they failed to save Catriona, to agonize over every single decision. This puts a serious damper on the action-flick-like mentality of the adventure, as the detailed planning is often simply not required or has no significant consequences.

On a GM-side, it is nice to see a ton of floating scenes that can be used when the PCs travel through the icebound UK, and some of these, as mentioned before, offer genuinely creepy visuals. These are, however, undermined by the end-of-the-world survivalesque aspects of the adventure; what would be really disturbing and horrific in a regular context feels like just the consequence of the fantasy-apocalypse that has intruded into the world. Structurally, these floating scenes amount to dressing in most cases, but serve as a means to emphasize and improve the transitions from the respective hunting down of the Isa Kenaz leader of the week.

Okay, that sounded more vitriolic than it should. You see, the progression from leader to leader is per se nice; I also found myself enjoying the fact that a halfway capable GM can render the hunting down of these fellows in a modular manner. While the cult leaders themselves remain comparatively pale, the section has huge merits, even though I personally would consider this, the main meat of the adventure, to work better as a scavenging grounds, mainly due to the law of diminishing returns. You see, each of the cults is categorized by the same avid prose, meticulous research and compassion for its members. Take the Moravian splinter sect Adorers of the Wound. What another writer would have depicted as a sect of crackpot Christian fundamentalists gets a valid and rather nice background: The sect, born of anxiety towards ones own sexuality, in particularly homosexuality, has resolved this anxiety by basically connotating the desire to engage in same-sex sexual acts as a desire to pierce Christ’s wounds or be pierced like he was. There is some ideological background here that makes sense, that renders it plausible that its members follow such a creed. The same goes for the Covenant of Morrigan, a hardcore feminist group of green activists or the biker gang Sons of Satan. These groups are not depicted as condemnable beings, but rather as victims to Esoterrorist machinations and infiltration, and their respective members indeed are portrayed as plausible beings. And yes, the amazing Desdemona Reinhart character makes a reappearance and in fact may be crucial to stopping the downfall of more than one of these cults. It should also be noted that they all have wildly different themes, morals and that resolving the respective situations requires different strategies, in spite of the structural similarities. In that way, this chapter can be considered to be a resounding success that highlights very well the strengths of the author’s prose.

At the same time, the cults all suffer from the same problem, namely the somewhat opaque nature of their respective bases – the only maps we get are overview maps of the country as well as one of the final location of the adventure; the respective bases thus remain opaque and require some fleshing out by the GM, making that aspect needlessly work intense. And yes, GUMSHOE is less reliant on maps than other games, but the infiltrations thus, ultimately, feel just as opaque as the finale of “Little Girl Lost.” That weakness notwithstanding, one can consider this section of the module to be a success and GMs should, even if they don’t run the module in its entirety, find a place for these cults in their game.

As a whole, the structure of the module does suffer from the thematic overlap here: While the floating scenes can, and should obviously, be used to establish the worsening of the climate and to present a change of pace, they ultimately contribute to the thematic whiplash between pretty conservative and well-crafted investigations and the world coming apart in the frigid cold of the Fimbulvetr.

And then, there would be the finale, which sounds pretty amazing on paper: After the Sons of Satan-chapter, the PCs will quickly see an escalation of potentially globally catastrophic levels, namely the fact that the Esoterrorists have a sleeper in the British military, atop the HMS Vengeance. That would a nuclear sub, capable of nuclear strikes. The PCs thus are faced with what feels like a James Bond scenario in the end: A race against the clock to get atop the sub and prevent a nuclear winter. The military base does not get a map, and, once more, remains opaque. The PCs stop the final agent and that’s it. The Fimbulvetr subsides, but frankly, at this point, a proper veil-out of all that can have happened should be nigh impossible…and is instead brushed away as “the cold did it.”

After literally nuking the fridge regarding themes, and figuratively in game, that feels like a bit of an insult. It also posits a huge logic bug within the module as a whole: While rising panic and global tension serve as a backdrop to potentially justify the race against the clock and the inaction of the sleeper in the sub, we have spent two whole modules highlighting how ostensibly smart Isa Kenaz is supposed to be. If they really were that smart, they’d have launched the nuclear component right after the triggering of the initial onset of the Fimbulvetr. The internal justification for this component not being employed sooner feels, at this point, flimsy at best.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, if not perfect, on both a formal and rules-level. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard and is nice. The b/w-artworks within similarly are pretty neat. Cartography is another matter – it is too sparse for its own good. If you really want this, I strongly suggest getting the print version. The pdf lacks bookmarks, which, at this length, is a grating comfort-detriment; if you only want a pdf, detract at least half a star from the final verdict.

I almost didn’t believe that the same author wrote these two adventures, were it not for the evocative and interesting cults as well as the depiction of organic, multi-faceted characters. Ian Sturrock’s prose is per se amazing and inspiring…but. This module may not fall into the traps of its predecessor, but one could have claimed that the first part of this saga failed as a horror module, due to being too psychological, too deeply-routed in the mystery. I didn’t, because, to me, that made it fresh and unique.

“Worm of Sixty Winters” misses the mark of being horrific on the other end of the spectrum, by burying relatable elements under the coat of the supernatural cold apocalypse. It’s too easy for players to stop caring about the details, and the structure of the module doesn’t help engender an adverse response: The lack of consequences from Part I can act as a huge demotivator, and the escalating state of Britain’s clime generally results in an atmosphere (haha) of cold indifference, where the agents do what needs to be done – i.e. kill ‘em all. In that way, the module almost feels like a precursor to Night’s Black Agents, but without the refinement and stakes of moving against a massive conspiracy. The horror and intricacies of Night’s Black Agents can be pictured as scalpels that are slowly twisted; in comparison, this adventure is a sledgehammer. It strikes once with blunt impact, but after the novelty of the escalation this represents has worn off, it’ll be rather hard to return to the covert, methodical playstyle championed by Esoterrorists.

In short: This nukes the fridge regarding the basic themes and tenets of the setting. An immediate response may be “Awesome!”, but in the long run, it hurts the game. And also, to a degree, the system. The opaque locations don’t help infiltrations and made me think that I’d rather be playing Shadowrun. The pretty much straight-forward fantasy-elements made me want to play a game that excels at portraying exciting combat. Instead on focusing, like the first adventure, on playing to GUMSHOE’s strengths, the module seems hell-bent on trying to depict a type of gameplay that can work in GUMSHOE, but which needs to be executed with the utmost care.

From the lack of true consequences regarding the first adventure to the sudden run-and-gun mentality to the unfitting finale, I, as a person, absolutely despised this module. In spite of liking some aspects of it, it is the first Esoterrorist book that I really wish I hadn’t bought. While “Little Girl Lost”’s unnecessary cheap shots at the players and narrative cheating regarding the big boss annoyed me, it absolutely excelled in the investigation angle. I was so stoked for this sequel, mainly because I wanted it to win; I wanted to see this develop the story further, develop the intricate web “Little Girl Lost” had spun. Instead, I got the equivalent of a Roland Emmerich movie with a thin coating of rudimentary investigation; almost as if this were a conciliatory note by the author for being too difficult, cerebral and challenging in the first book. If this was intended to be completely different from book #1, then it succeeded. The problem is, that it’s not different in a good way.

And this is where we come full circle. This is why I’d consider this to be functional, yes, but less so as part #2 of the series, and even less so in the context of Esoterrorists. Where “Little Girl Lost” is an adventure I’d love to run in pretty much any GUMSHOE-system, in spite of its flaws, this one falls short of capturing the high-octane espionage of NBA, the themes of Esoterrorists or the desperation of Fear Itself.

How to rate this? OH BOY. As a person, I absolutely despised this module. For me, this is one of those rare 1-star-“what were they thinking”-moments. However, as a reviewer, I am required by my own ethics to try to abstract my own biases from the verdict as much as possible.

In light of that, I can provide a limited recommendation for this adventure for the following things: The cults per se are interesting. If you want to scavenge them and run them on their own, then this may be worth checking out. If you don’t mind your Esoterrorists game mutating into basically fantasy against an apocalyptic backdrop, then this should not elicit the same visceral response from you. Similarly, if the relative lack of consequence, change of pace, etc. don’t mind you and if you always thought that Esoterrorists should be more action-packed, then this may well be a module you can enjoy.

I have rarely gritted my teeth to this extent, but I have to concede that I can see this working for some groups, and rather well at that. This leaves us with the structural issues and the opaque nature of locales as well as with the issues regarding the interplay between this module and its predecessor. Thus, while I as a person would not recommend this to anyone (get part #1, fix the cheating aspects, have fun), as a reviewer, I have to admit to this probably having an appeal for some folks. Hence, my final verdict clocks in at 2.5 stars for the module of Ian Sturrock and Matthew Sanderson, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



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[3 of 5 Stars!]
Albion's Ransom: Worm of Sixty Winters
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