By Brayden Fiveash, Stars are Right Self Published Call of Cthulhu One Shot
On a bright summer’s day in Alaska, something is lurking at the edge of the investigator’s property, watching their every move. As the investigators sleep, their dreams are filled with horrific visions, and when they awake, they find themselves hooked up to an alien life-support machine with a blizzard raging outside. Has a blizzard hit Alaska during the summer, or have they been pulled through time?
This 29 page adventure uses six pages to describe a Groundhogs Day type time loop. It perfectly illustrates “the room issue” with most non-D&D adventures, and in particular CoC adventures.
Ok, so, first the adventure. You wake up, all members of the same family, in farmhouse in the middle of summer. Except it cold and dark outside. Then the lights go out. Maybe something eats you. Then the 20 minutes realtime (or, if you all die) timer resets and the time loops starts over again. There’s an elder thing in the barn (isn’t there always in CoC?) building a time machine, a caveman shows up, and two raptors eat you with routine. That’s the adventure. Either fix the generator and time machine or destroy the time machine to “win.”
That’s not very interesting. It’s a CoC one shot, and I think those are the BEST convention games to play. I’m sure this one will be fun also. It’s only about a six page adventure, with the rest being the pregens, handouts, and so on. CoC has a good tradition of supporting the DM through handouts, diagrams, and solid pregens for one shots … a kick to the player in a personality for the PC. Also, fun fact, the Keep Resources for this adventure, that you can download also, are for a different adventure. Meh, people fuck up, at least they are also in the main text.
And that main text is what I want to spend some time on in this review. It sucks ass. I find this to be the case with most adventures, for some reason CoC stands out … perhaps because they tend to be simple.
Everything is just thrown down on the page with little semblance to how a Keeper would use it. Information is just everywhere, in the text, with few to no cross-references and little through to anything other than the most basic formatting. Which tends to be poorly used.
The generator. The generator sits out back. “The gentle sound of the generator engine noise can be heard from all around the farmstead.” That’s a line in the description of the generator. But, it’s not mentioned anywhere else. This is, essentially, the same as noting, in room two, that the monster in it responds to noise in room one. We put this kind of shit where it’s needed, not deep in the middle of the fucking text for the DM to stumble over at a later date. “Oh, yeah, I guess you hear a generator. And have for a long time.”
Likewise the raptors. These are the things that push action most notable, as they attack the inside of the house at about the same time, fifteen minutes or so in the twenty minute time loop. They are described in the outside section. WHich makes sens, right, they prowl around outside. Except, you need to know them inside also. And, the outside section? It doesn’t mention anything about the cold and the blizzard … a major effect outside. That’s in a different section. Why would you do this? Stick in the information some place relevant .. like a section up front that’s easy to find called “The Raptors” and “Outside”, with everything you need to know. Or, stick it on the one page reference sheet you included with the timeline flowchart (great chart) which DOES have the outside effects on it. Instead we get a pick of the monsters. Great.
The bedrooms are generically described. There are hidden things in them. Except, the PC’s live here. It’s not bedroom 3. It’s Franks bedroom. And, presumably, Frank knows about the stuff under the floorboards. But there’s no indication AT ALL about any of this. (Although, to the adventures credit, it notes molotov and chemical component availability. But we’re not bitching about that here.)
Everything is just willy nilly thrown in. The actual room descriptions, and the relevant “general” information is essentially unformatted. Simple paragraph text descriptions, everything munged up together and hard to find. No use of bolding or bullets or whitespace. And, shit that HSOULD be noted elsewhere stuck in the middle of it. It’s very much a “the party will do this first, probably, so I’ll put that information there.” WHich is fine … except you need that information elsewhere as well. The DM must be able to quickly find it and reference it.
Thus it all comes out as a giant muddled mess. Information is everywhere. You have to hunt continually. You’re fighting the text for the information you need to run the place. THings are bolded that are meaningless. Oh great, Science(CHemistry) is bolded. I’m never going to need to spot that quickly.
This is the way. People just throw these things together with little thought of how they will be used. The adventure is useless unless the DM can run it. That’s why it exists. We’re not going to put a ton of effort in to fixing it. I’m not taking notes and highlighting. That’s the fucking designers job. If I have to fight the text then I’m going to turn to a different adventure to run, one in which I DONT have to fight the text.
This is $3.50 at DriveThru. The preview is six pages and just shows some general information … so not a good preview at all of what you can expect from this.
Thanks Bryce! Love the CoC, very helpful <3
This was highly rated in the CoC blogs / lists from recently.
Where do you go to find good new CoC stuff?
What is ”the room issue” mentioned in the beginning of this review?
I’ve read every post from 2019 onward and most from ’17 and ’18, but I also wondered what “the room issue” was.
It might by a reference to one of his most consistent complaints, that authors put stuff that’s needed in the current room PC are exploring in other rooms.
For example, the humming of the generator that can be heard in other rooms but only mentioned in the generator room.
(And, he’s absolutely right. This mistake is murderous to running an adventure.)
Bryce also has an issue with people describing “event” adventures as if they were a dungeon crawl, with room-by-room descriptions even though that’s not how the adventure is going to play out. Presumably the PCs aren’t exploring their own farmhouse.
(If they ask the GM if they have any materials to make explosives, the GM will have to read every room description to know what’s available; similarly if they ask about weapons. It’s a lot easier if there is a “weapons” section.)
I’m not sure if that is part of the “current room” complaint, or a separate complaint.
[Presumably the PCs aren’t exploring their own farmhouse.]
On the one hand, they’ve been pulled through time, so maybe there are new owners?
On the other hand, they are referred to as Investigators and since when do Investigators live together in a farmhouse?