Posted on August 26, 2010 by spikexan
Available at RPGNow.com
Our Ladies of Sorrow by Kevin Ross
Call of Cthulhu RPG eBook
There are many ways to put together a Call of Cthulhu adventure, although so many of them have the same trappings. Our Ladies of Sorrow truly comes from a different place that is part Greco-Roman myth, part psychology (some of the game involves a common psychological condition), and, of course, part Lovecraftian Mythos. It feels so much more like older Cthulhu adventures mainly because it is so ingrained with investigation work. As the author suggests, a small party (3-5) is ideal for this adventure. The story centers around three sisters, be they the Fates, avatars of Nyarlathotep (for keeping with traditional Mythos flavor), or several other well conceived possibilities. This large adventure (154 pages/7 pages are ads) consists of a brief foreward and introduction before jumping into the first of four chapters. These adventures ride out the majority of the book (pages 13-125) before handing the reigns over to some thoughts on the nature of the Sorrows, various Appendices, a bibliography, an afterword, and enough handout to choke a horse.
The layout to the Our Ladies of Sorrow isn’t as inventive as some books I’ve read. There are no underlying graphics or bordering. I’m fine with this on two accounts. One, it makes for an inexpensive print run (remember that part about lots of handouts?). Two, I believe the adventure would get bogged down by needless details. An adventure this size needs all the attention it can receive. I feel like the late Keith Herber (who also edited this adventure) went back to much earlier roots when conceiving the look of this game. It feels like older adventures (and I promise I won’t repeat myself again). Sidebars are non-existent; however, handouts occur both within the adventure where they are needed to be used and at the end of the book in the large handout section. All in all, no distractions and a clean layout makes this game a smooth read.
Caruso’s cover artwork and Eckhardt’s interior pieces were very fitting for this book.
Some games offer artwork that matches the flavor of the game while others have artwork made specifically for the book. This adventure is the latter. The Three Sisters hotel, for example, is described as having two stories sectioned off and boarded up. The sketch of the hotel shows exactly that. There are many examples of this throughout the book and, honestly, is probably true of each piece within (except for some of the photos used in the Appendix). Eckhardt’s artwork is laden with details and you could lose Sanity points looking for hidden glyphs or hints.
Author Kevin Ross says this game is the creation of twenty years of inspiration and construction. It feels like the type of creation that requires that sort of dedication. Scenes are well-crafted with even bit players given statistics. Avenues of investigation are carefully considered and most (there are always exceptions) lines of reasoning have been addressed. It’s hard to break out of Ross’ story, but game-masters and players won’t feel railroaded by its dimensions. This adventure would take (I imagine) a minimum of four separate four-to-six hour sessions to complete. Due to its intensive investigation aspect, it could take more. There are moments of high adventure and sheer terror, but not all the obstacles can be combated with violence. I’m a fan of that.
Ross’ writing stays consistent throughout the book. Errors are well-hidden as I didn’t find any during my read. The write-ups for the two dozen or more NPCs also make sense. Readers will get a sense of appreciation from this book, especially one conceived in the late Eighties. Ross takes the reader on many different paths. Psychological problems like the Old Hag Syndrome, a common sleep-related condition runs as a possible solution to things as does the typical “monster-of-the-week.” This adventure impressed upon me the need the dig a bit deeper when running games. I like I like that uncomfortable evolutionary feeling.
I’ll throw one warning out there. The feel of the game is Cthulhu-like, but not Cthulhu. There are means, which are explained in the adventure, to make this a true Call of Cthulhu adventure; however, that isn’t the true feeling of the book. It is a story of Investigators versus Mad gods, but the Mad Ones aren’t your usual suspects. Gamers who are overly familiar with CoC may not appreciate this sudden change in their group’s personal take on the Mythos. My thought though is that these three sisters provide an excellent means to yank the rug out from under players. While they scramble for their footing, throw out all the sorrows upon them . . .and make it fun too.
My scores for Our Ladies of Sorrow are:
Layout: Five out of Five Dice (some may not agree with my love for the Spartan)
Artwork: Five out of Five Dice (I love when artwork is game-specific to the book itself)
Writing: Five out of Five Dice (This book took twenty years for the author to finish. It covers so many directions so effortlessly that only the silliest actions seemed to deviate from the wonderful plot. Three desolate scenes make for such a fine adventure)
Overall: Five out of Five Dice (Well Earned)
Review by Todd Cash