On the Shelf Review: The Doom from Below

Super Genius Games has just released their sophomore effort in their line of Call of Cthulhu adventures set in  Bethlehem, New Hampshire, The Doom from Below (Drivethrustuff link).  I expressed some skepticism about the first release, Murder of Crows, but I was certainly wlling to pick up their next releases to see what happened.  As always, spoiler follow, and remember that I’m working for another CoC publisher.

The adventure opens with the discovery of a pit in the New Hampshire woods over a hundred and fifty feet deep.  The investigators, though inclination, following up on Murder, or as a mission, must plumb its depths and discover its secrets.

What this does, in game terms, is create a rather sticky situation.  A Call of Cthulhu investigator has a base skill of Climb of 40%, and a fall of even half the height here will be almost certainly fatal.  Further, from a gamemastering perspective, it creates some interesting problems:  what does everyone else do while someone is lowered?  Does someone need to guard the equipment at the top (and therefore be left out of any interesting exploration below)?  What if the first person down starts exploring on her own?  Finally, although rappelling is an acceptable way to get down, how will the group get back up?

Doom strives mightily to answer these questions through a mixture of setting details to ease the process and handwaving on the climbing rules to make sure everyone arrives at the bottom more or less unharmed.  I don’t want to sound harsh here; the scene is very impressive and features some excellent description of the descent and the encounters thereof.  Also, the isolation of the one making the descent could certainly provide some shivers.  Still, I’d be highly tempted to just have the investigators walk into a cave and bypass all of these problems.  Depending on how your group plays it, they might like it as written, or they might want something simpler and more consistent with regard to the rules.

At the bottom of the shaft, the investigators find the signs of an alien installation and interact with its surprising machinery.  This part I liked very much, possibly for a reason that the authors never considered:  the piece provides a low-key introduction to a classic Mythos foe.  Many Call of Cthulhu scenarios throw a group headlong into Mythos revelations instead of unveiling them slowly, and, to my mind, to maximum effect.  This is a wonderful example of how exactly to do this, and they deserve commendation for it.

(I should add that there’s a couple of minor inconsistencies with the original source material here, but that’s just an incentive for would-be Keepers to re-read aforementioned source material before running the scenario.  If you miss them, they won’t affect play, but it might disappoint diehard fans.)

I’m really happy with how this series is shaping up, and I will be buying the next piece.

(Campaign word count:  7,081 words.)

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Published in: on November 28, 2008 at 1:23 am  Comments (1)  

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