On the Shelf Review – Age of Cthulhu IV: Horrors from Yuggoth

There’s no way to talk about Goodman Games’ latest scenario, Horrors from Yuggoth, without spoilers, so I’ll give a quick break for those who don’t want to hear more to slink away quietly.

 

 

 

 

 

So, walrus men.

Really, there’s no way to get around the fact that this is a scenario with walrus men.  At this point, we can also peel off those readers who would never run a scenario with walrus men, and move on to the rest.

Or not.  The walrus men were the creations of the mi-go, who needed a servitor race for their Arctic experiments.  Frankly, I wish the authors had gone with a more uncanny creation.  It’s hard to understand why an alien species would come hundreds of millions of miles across the depths of space to create a species of walrus people.  Then again, Goodman gets a pass on this one, just because alien species in Call of Cthulhu have been doing some ridiculous things over the years, like creating squirrel-centipede hybrids and screwing with people’s toilet habits.

More troubling is that the mi-go really don’t seem to have anything to do other than create the walrus men.  We’re told that they’re busy with “goals to alien to describe,” but there’s few signs that they’re even working on anything but walrus men all the time.  It’s like they got so intent on creating walrus men that they actuall forgot everything they’d come to our planet to do.

Nonetheless, once you get past the walrus-man aspect of the scenario, it’s actually a piece with an interesting premise.  The group (likely composed of one-shot pre-gens, unless your group speaks Norsk) is part of a US rescue mission to save an Arctic expedition in a highly inaccessible location.  Other countries are sending their own teams, and one, featuring the noted explorer Roald Amundsen, is also missing.   The team flies out to the site of the camp to provide medical assistance and make the USA look good.

Shortly after the scenario starts, we have a plane crash.  Now, plane crashes are problematic as scenario starters, due to the unfortunate tendency for plane crashes to kill everyone on board.  I do appreciate the ingenious ways, involving more than a simple Pilot roll, to get the other players involved and invested in their survival as they’re going down, and I’d encourage scenario authors to read it for good examples on how to handle such a situation.  Still, if the rolls go badly, you might still find yourself fifteen minutes into the session with some or all of your characters dead and no immediate means of replacing them.

Once the characters are on the ground, however, we have a solid and interesting piece of investigation, in which the characters explore the icy camp and its environs to discover what has happened with the missing team.  There’s a good bit of interesting environmental hazards, though it might have been nice to see some local color that wasn’t engaged in threatening the characters.  (For example, the sun will never go down for the entire scenario.)  I particularly liked the Norsk-language handout, the alien nature of the walrus-man and mi-go bases, and the opportunities for roleplaying both within the investigator’s group and with the other teams.

I wish I could give the scenario better marks, as its problems would have been more simple to fix.  Substituting something alien for the walrus men, giving the mi-go a project (even an incomprehensible one), and finding a way to not let the plane crash derail the game would have brought about a great improvement.  It’s possible for a Keeper to come up with ways to make this work, but they shouldn’t need to do so.  If I were to make a general recommendation to Goodman Games, it would be to ditch the “scenes with transitions” approach to their Cthulhu adventures, as it tends to lead to adventures where flow becomes more important than coherence, good transitions, motivation, etc.  It’s not that it’s a bad approach in and of itself – Trail of Cthulhu scenarios are based along similar lines – but I think it might be something like shaving your head, insofar as only some people can pull it off well.  Nonetheless, what’s left after you look under that is pretty good.

Published in: on November 2, 2010 at 1:20 am  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Walrus men?

    Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

    That’s inspired! An absolute pulp classic!

    HPL would never have done it, but REH might have been able to pull it off. Maybe.

  2. Wouldn’t penguin-men have been more terrifying? Especially if they initially appeared as regular penguins, then grew to monstrous size and attacked any player who pointed out they didn’t belong in the Arctic.

  3. I think the walrus men are pretty cool – who can figure out what those crazy mi-go are up to anyway? I agree about the plane crash being a bad thing – Keeper will have to fudge the damage if the players aren’t smart or lucky. Big plot hole is the Russian plane. Where is it? Why didn’t it get iced? What was the rescue plan?


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