Entry 37: Cthulhu Britannica

My first review of a Cubicle 7 product will start with their opening offering in the Cthulhu Britannica line. This is a collection of five scenarios set in Britain, both in place and mindset, each set in a different era, which is also reflected strongly in their construction. They have a one shot feel, but some can be used as a campaign scenario.

One: Bad Company

We start with Victorian society in the scenario Bad Company by Alan Bligh. A peer of the realm hires the investigators to find his son, who has gone missing under circumstances that risk scandal. As the scenario says, this scenario could be relocated to any time frame and situation where societal standing is of extremely high importance, but is largely dependent on that for the motivations of many of the characters in the scenario.

The son in question, Arthur Sommers, has fallen into the web of a creature preying on the fringes of society, luring young libertines with sex and sensuality, in a culture that hides both to no small extent, and fears scandal more than any monster. The creature posing as a European aristocrat is an inhuman monster, with ties to one of the few of the powerful entities that relates to humanity and humanity’s dark side.

An incidental complication by someone who misunderstands what he knows and hopes to blackmail his way into easy money makes the challenge more than it at first seems. A few ‘non standard’ monsters, with subtexts that evoke the more powerful entity, the players are on a race against time to try to save the young man, though he will not emerge unscathed. An excellent scenario in context, hard to transfer to any other setting, but I highly recommend this one.

Two: Darkness, Descending

We jump to 1930’s England, in a rural village in this scenario by Mike Mason. An archaeological dig with ties to Cyaegha has been compromised by the well-intentioned scientists. The locals are ignorant of the history behind the site, and everyone involved in the story, no matter how their actions have complicated matters, is an innocent at risk in this scenario (well, aside from a possession or two). A good scenario with a hidden ticking clock, it is not my favorite in the collection, but there is nothing wrong it it, it just is overshadowed by others here. IT is a good presentation of the environment and setting, and can be a lot of fun for a group of good roleplayers.

Three: Wrong Turn

John French gives us this scenario set in the near future in a moody and atmospheric piece in which attrition of the investigators because of an ill-defined threat is the course of events. The investigators are a recon team scouting an old radio telescope site for a possible film location.

This scenario is somewhat sandbox in how the keeper chooses to unfold it, but there is a structure of events, and they unfold in three stages. Things move from eerie to threatening to deadly in these stages, and everything unfolds in a somewhat subjective reality that has a resolution that will pretty much guarantee this remains a one shot scenario. It may push the roleplaying skills of some groups, but it is a nice scenario for players wanting a break from an ongoing campaign.

Four: King

This scenario, set in contemporary time is written by Keary Birch, this is the least specifically British of the scenarios in this collection, and one of the most unnerving in some ways. This scenario also stands as a potentially intriguing opening scenario for a group of investigators whose backgrounds don’t seem conducive to the party forming in the first place. It will, however, leave a mark on the party, and may not be to everyone’s tastes. It is recommended as a one shot, but I think that once the party gets to the ‘far side’ of this scenario, the possibility of keeping the players going may be worth bringing up.

The party wake up in a hospital, all of them having been the recipient of some unusual medical treatment, all of them initially equally disadvantaged, unable to see initially. The individuals were not consulted prior to their treatment, are initially ignorant of what has been done to them, and have to gather themselves together and work to escape the facility they are in. The doctor behind their treatment, and his associates, have found their own world a bit complicated by events, and the players have to use their wits to find out what has been done to them, escape the varying threats, and simply escape back to the world they knew before, if not the lives they knew before.

In a slight spoiler, I will state that we have one of those monsters that every keeper seems to love (I know I do), the star vampire, making an appearance, and the bulk of the more human opponents are either Tcho Tcho or Miri nigri, passing for human. This is one of many appearances of the former ‘species’, and as in most appearances, they are at some odds with how they are presented in some other scenarios. I defer to Keeper’s tastes on how they want to address that concern (I think my Keeper’s blog will address that soon), but the Miri nigri are largely under-represented, and this being that character’s origin is incidental to the role in the scenario.

The players getting through this one will find they have been modified in a way that will prove difficult, if not impossible to reverse, so if one does use this as a starting campaign, those adjustments will be part of ongoing play, both pro and con.

Five: My Little Sister Wants you to Suffer

This scenario is set in the future, postulated as a possible near future in some senses, in a far distant one in other senses (I will explain what I can without going into major spoilers here). It is described as an End Times scenario, but is not a part of the End Time setting, just more a matter of a point of view when our culture has reached a stage where it can permit something like the events of the scenario playing out. This scenario is written by Paul Fricker, and is designed as a one shot. In theory it could launch a campaign, but the flavor of the campaign would likely change almost immediately after this scenario.

The name of the scenario will only make sense at the end of play, and when it does, will be an obvious ‘in joke’ to the players, based on a current cultural phenomenon in ‘reality television’. The players wake with no memories of how they arrived in their initial situation, waking from suspended animation on board a spaceship that appears to have been launched in an attempt to escape some horrible disaster on Earth. The players begin with vague knowledge of self (to the point that the character sheets are not distributed at the start of play), and they have to piece some things together as they go.

They gradually gain knowledge of themselves and their lives, but in this very linear game, reality proves even more subjective than in almost any other scenario you will ever read. The players will face multiple crises on ship, mutants, infection, ship damage, and a cascading series of events that will turn the players against each other in a brutal struggle of survival where not all can survive, and the players have to decide who lives, and how.

After the scenario plays out, the linear nature is explained in a way that will stun most players, and the game takes on a new depth that I cannot reveal here without doing one of the biggest spoilers in Call of Cthulhu history.

I will say that I felt mildly annoyed at first when I sorted out the resolution, but I have to be honest and say that if I were a player in this, that annoyance would flare into an admiration for a game well-structured and well played. Not every keeper may want to run this one, and not every keeper could pull it off, but if you can and care to, I think it will be one of those sessions your players will talk about for years. And probably throw something at you on occasion.

Final notations.

Five scenarios, even the weakest is a good scenario, some with possible campaign connections, others definitely geared to one shots. This volume, along with the others in the Cthulhu Britannica series, are available in print copy at the Chaosium website, in pdf at DrvieThruRpg, and at Cubicle 7’s own site, http://www.cubicle7.co.uk/ (my browser tends to load this page very slowly, but it does load) -available in a Print+pdf bundle. At this particular juncture, the London Box set is pending release, and exactly where it will be available and in what formats has not been announced. Backers of the Kickstarter have just received the third book, however, and last I heard, there was at least a tentative November release scheduled. While I plan on covering the others in the Cthulhu Britannica series over time, I will simply state at this point that I highly endorse all of them.

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