This scenario compilation from 1992 was re-released in 2004 with a little new content, and I will be reviewing the current version. I will say a few things upfront. First, some of the scenarios have dated a little bit in the time since their initial publication, but they can be updated with minimal work. Second, while a few of these scenarios I am a bit indifferent to, this compilation has a few of my favorite scenarios of the entire game.
First Scenario: Love’s Lonely Children
This is a grim scenario, and while it is a good scenario to play through, it’s hard to say you’ve won at any given point. The players, and one npc are the ones at risk. We learn about the scenario after the death of a teenage girl, and her sad life was only complicated by the Mythos, which led to her death. This is sobering when you realize that this scenario is built from concepts that border on depressing clichés. Heroin addiction, prostitution, child abuse, the punk rock scene of the eighties and nineties all form the backdrop to this (and a sobering moment when, somewhat like the characters in Spider Robinson’s stories, you have to ask yourself ‘when did we let these things become clichés?’) The girl’s father has found Y’golonac, and the girl paid the price. There is a mystery to solve, there is a foe to fight, but as written, there is one npc at risk, and the party, unless the party ‘brings in help’. The level of overall threat is low, and the challenge high. But if you do beat the villain, you have a feeling that you’ve left the world a brighter place, even in a bleak world. I put this one as a plus, but it is a bleak one, and not to everyone’s tastes.
Second scenario: Nemo Solus Sapit
This scenario is good for all that it is. It brings up a recurring theme in Call of Cthulhu scenarios, specifically psychiatrists who have uncovered some level of dark and forbidden knowledge and ultimately become a new evil themselves. In this case, a patient who succumbed to madness while researching the Mythos taught his doctor things that led to the doctor becoming powerful, mad, and evil. Azathoth makes a brief appearance in the backstory, and if the party doesn’t solve and beat this one before the scenario reaches its conclusion, can reappear during the course of play, and the consequences should be avoided (naturally). Missing people, spells that confuse identities to a point, and abuse of power form the backdrop to this story. Not one of my favorites but very playable, and my issues with it are more just personal taste than anything else. A minor comment at this point. This scenario is largely set just outside the fictional city of Samson, California, the city which is largely the setting for the At Your Door campaign, which will be the third part of the ‘I love the 80’s and 90’s’ sequence.
Third Scenario: This Fire Shall Kill
This is one of my all-time favorites, and one of the few scenarios that deal with a cult to Cthugha that feels fresh and frightening. We do have another ‘abuse of power’ issue here, but the novelty of a team of firemen as cultists to a fire entity makes for a complicated and intense scenario. The scenario is set in San Francisco with a climax in the Bank of America building. A strong scenario, I can’t cite any weaknesses in this scenario, I enjoy it, and how it plays out.
Fourth Scenario: The Professionals
In spite of a pretty nice monster, this is not one of the high points of this compilation, the players get involved in an investigation into secrets surrounding a political campaign. One of the candidates hires the investigators to look into the background of the other. The fact that the other candidate is a shapeshifting monster wearing the form of a B-movie actress makes it strange. The scene is complicated by both candidates’ dark pasts, a group of terrorists with a peculiar agenda, and a rogue scientist with stolen technology and an obsession with the actress and a need to find her secrets. To be honest, this scenario is very linear, and this is one of its biggest flaws. Ultimately, there is little for the players to do other than be a witness to most of the action in the scenario, and they have little impact on what happens. Ironically it still has a sweet climax, and as I said a pretty nice monster, so I see this less as a scenario than a mine, a source to grab things to import into other circumstances.
Fifth Scenario: Fractal Gods
A good, albeit bizarre scenario (okay, I realize in Call of Cthulhu calling a scenario bizarre is a bit redundant, but bear with me). This scenario is more than a bit dated, dealing with fractal art, and with some computer technology and file distribution methods that are a bit ‘behind the times’, but a good scenario regardless. A computer user reading ancient journals learns of concepts that when he converts them to computer structures, uses fractal concepts to open a gateway, and allowing an entity access to our world, to our detriment. Using means of spreading files under misleading presentation, others are tricked into starting the program on their own computers, giving more power to the entity in question, who seeks to return home, but also is spreading its own kind on our world.
This scenario gets a bit convoluted in some senses, and I’m not too sure I completely buy into the fractal entities, but I can’t cite it as significantly more improbable than many other things that have manifested in the game. I leave this one in the plus column, but if I were to try to run it nowadays I may tweak it a lot, in addition to updating it.
Sixth Scenario: The Gates of Delirium
Here we have another psychiatrist gone crazy scenario, using his patients as guinea pigs, as he seeks to summon Daoloth, using chemical therapies that are pushing patients further into madness, and altering the reality around them. This is a good and weird scenario, and by the end of it the players have a good chance of questioning reality. Not my favorite, but given a choice between this one and Nemo Solus Sapit, I would pick this one.
Seventh Scenario: The Music of the Spheres
This one uses radio telescopes and a spread of madness to bring a very intense scenario involving insanity raging across a small town, destruction of object, and altering the wildlife. Even though communication is a problem, but ultimately the players’ best allies may not be humans in solving this one. A tough scenario, and quite possibly a campaign ender if things don’t go well, and very likely a campaign altering one if you put it into campaign play. The price of listening to some of the entities of the Mythos is high, and this town risks paying it if the players can’t stop it. I like this one and recommend it, but the stakes are high.
Eighth Scenario: Darkest Calling
This scenario is the first of two new scenarios for the 2004 edition, and is one of my favorites of all time. A bizarre death in the desert, and the realization that it is the second in what seems to be a sequence of deaths, the investigators are drawn into a dark story. We aren’t dealing with a Great Old One, or the end of the world, but we are dealing with a nasty type of monster, and an incredible storyline, as we are confronted with moral ambiguity on a level that we rarely see in a scenario. When murder is your best option, the more the players know, the more they have to make a difficult choice.
Ninth Scenario: The Source and the End
A small town in Colorado becomes the setting for this scenario, a place where evil runs rampant as spawn of Ubbo-Sathla are called forth and run rampant. A retired FBI agent, tracking down one last case, finds more than he bargained for, and the players are called in just a little too late to stop things from starting to go to a figurative hell. The players are the vanguard of an attempt to contain the evil, and another tough scenario wraps up this collection. A good one, but another one that is going to leave the campaign shaken if not broken by the end of it. A good time to roll up new characters.
Available in hard copy from Chaosium, and in pdf from Chaosium and DriveThruRpg.com