If there’s one area in which Call of Cthulhu supplements have shortchanged players, it’s in the realm of worldbuilding. That’s not to say that the Mythos doesn’t have gods and monsters and tomes and mysterious alien civilizations aplenty, but the lives of the investigators themselves often seem to lurch from one scenario to the next, with only mundane forays into training, reading tomes, and recuperating between. One aspect that enriches any RPG campaign is those recurring places and people that turn up throughout the campaign. The last supplements that really grappled with this, in my opinion, were Keith Herber’s Lovecraft Country sourcebooks. Now Super Genius Games has made its own contribution in this area with A Peculiar Pentad, a book detailing five places of interest to investigators. (This review is based on a solicited copy of the supplement.)
The book provides full details on each establishment – a bookstore, a repair shop, an herb shop, an art gallery, and a private club – including details on its physical appearance, its proprietor, its secrets, what casual customers will see, what long-time customers will find to be different, and so forth. Each provides scenario seeds at the end, but clearly these are locations to be used as the Keeper sees fit. Overall, none of these really made me excited, but none of them were clunkers either, so each entry was of similar quality. Also, I could see how each one of these might fit into a given Cthulhu campaign, so a Keeper is likely to find a use for a few of these in any game.
A few caveats should be added here. I found the various concoctions from the herbalist shop too powerful, but if Keepers take the list as suggestions rather than gospel, they should have little problem with it. One of the proprietors of a store has a name and a personality trait or two similar to a key character from the Delta Green setting; though they’re clearly different people, this could create some unanticipated problems. The one element I didn’t like from the book was the framing device of Pentagon Place, which really didn’t make much sense to me, but this is easily discarded.
One key area in which the supplement could have been improved is maps. Though a rich description is provided for each location, no floorplans are available. Given Call of Cthulhu investigators’ predilections for breaking and entering, this is an area where I wish more attention had been paid.
Overall, I found this to be a solid piece, useful for handling situations when your investigators want to go shopping and the Keeper has prepped nothing. I hope that this will encourage Super Genius and others to create more supplements like this and enrich our games thereby.