Categorized | Reviews, RPGs

Pelgrane Week: The Dead White World Review

Posted on May 5, 2011 by Ray Frazee

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    The RPG Call of Cthulhu has always seemed, to me, to be a game that a lot of people have played, but few get right.  It’s a great game with a rich background, but the few times I’ve played it felt as if gamers had issues trying to fit their character into the world of the early 20th Century, and the efforts often resulted in hilarious incidents, like one player I knew whose character used a 19 year-old female NPC for point-blank .45 target practice and subsequent bloody blow-through wall spraying.

    The other thing that’s always felt difficult to bring into the world is the over-all veil of horror that was an intricate part of Lovecraft’s story.  Let’s face it: horror is hard to bring to the table.  It’s difficult to put into word in such a way that it doesn’t feel like an descriptive afterthought to a game scene.  As well, Lovecraft’s horror was not of in the nature where Yog-Sothoth was going to jump out of a closet and yell, “Booga Bogga!”; it was always more like a rat gnawing away at the woodwork of your slowly decaying mind.

    But these are only personal observations, and shouldn’t be used as a gauge against your own CoC games.

    The one time I ran a CoC game I had a great time, and my players got into their characters in a great way–though some might question killing a 16 year-old Indian prostitute in order to test a zombie spell “great”, but hey, no one say it was going to be good “great”.  It’s the nature of the beast, you know?

    So what to say about Trail of Cthulhu: The Dead White World supplement?  Lets say that where some supplements threaten the end of the world, TDWW (as I will call the The Dead White World) delivers.  The stars are right, and earthquake leads to a disaster in England, which in turn leads to a cataclysm along the East Coast of the United States that lets anyone reading that The Old One Balloon has finally gone up.

    This supplement uses the Gumshoe System, designed to make investigating clues a far more easy and interesting endeavor.  Though, at this point, I’ve not used it, opinions I’ve seen indicate it’s a good system to use, particularly in a genre such as the Mythos, where investigating skills are a given for the majority of PCs.  For now I will speak only of TDWW, and do my homework on Gumshoe.  Cross my heart and hope to die–

    What starts as a day trip to a lovely wedding in Late 1936 ends in horror, madness and death.  And that’s not hyperbole: the TDWW speaks of player characters going mad the same way gamers talk about popping out to pick up a pizza, and that’s very casually.  It’s easy to say it goes with the territory, and given that this is the end of the world, one would think your PCs are going to be bouncing off unseen rubber walls in short order.

    The three-part adventure takes you from the start of the disaster (which your characters conveniently miss by–well, you’ll see when you pick the supplement up, won’t you?), though a bit of deus ex machina that sets up not only the third act, but future adventures as well, and then the last episode that may make some players think of a John Wyndham novel, and that will lead up to a Lovecraftian event that tells you everything you want to know about this particular apocalypse–and leads the players to made a serious decision pertaining to the future of Britain.

    These are the first thee of twelve adventures that will take the player characters through the End of the World According to the Cthulhu Apocalypse.  It’s a good start for anyone looking to play this series of adventures all the way through, if I have any complaint, it would be that the the first two adventures have a touch of Brian Aldiss’ cosy catastrophe to them.  Lovecraft likes to make the normal seem “off”, and while everything around the player characters is dead, that doesn’t mean you can’t find yourself in a situation full of crazy people getting their freak on with booze and cocaine.  ‘Cause, you know, if you’re gonna go and fight for the fate of the world, why not enjoy yourself first, neh?

    Review by Ray Frazee

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