A Look Under the Hood – Arkham Gazette #1

Arkham Gazette #1
Contributors: Aleolex, L. T. Barker, Evan Van Elkins, Dean Engelhardt,
Chris Huth, Bret Kramer, Ben Wenham
Publisher: Sentinel Hill Press
Page Count: 77
Available Formats: PDF and print
PDF (DTRPG) – $8.00
Print/PDF Combo – $13.00

A few weeks back I decided I wanted to acquire, read and review every Call of Cthulhu related RPG product published in 2017, no exceptions. Arkham Gazette, Issue #1, was re-released to the public the following day. Needless to say, I was off to a good start with this crazy challenge! What follows is my review of this specific issue of Arkham Gazette.

Some may recall that this issue was originally released in 2013, the 2016/17 version reprints the original articles and in some cases, it expands some of those original articles, but it also adds some new content as well. Readers should note that the everything is statted for the 6th edition Call of Cthulhu. There is a supplemental PDF with conversion notes and information. I was not provided this conversion guide, but it is provided to those that purchase through DTRPG.

Table of Contents
Deep Background: Locations in Greater Arkham
New Place: The Gladding School
The Biblio-file: Thaumaturgical Prodigies of the New England Canaan
An Encounter: Altercation on West Armitage Street
Deep Background: Arkham’s Markers: A History
Scenario Seed: The Case of the Missing Manhole Covers
Documentary Evidence: Report of Delusions of an Invisible Monster
Deep Background: Arkham’s Diners
New Items: Arkham Curios
Scenario: The Bosworth House
Annotated Scenario Bibliography: Arkham

Deep Background: Locations in Greater Arkham – This article presents some of the more noteworthy locations of Arkham that have been created in various scenarios over the years. The locations are described succinctly, yet rich with enough detail to draw the reader in. The physical location of these various sites is also noted to make inclusion that much easier for Keepers. The original source is attributed as well for those seeking more info.

This is a great article for Keepers wanting detailed locations to drop into custom made investigations or looking for inspiration.

New Place: The Gladding School – A new location for an Arkham-themed investigation, The Gladding School is well detailed with just enough information to allow the Keeper to incorporate it into any new or existing campaign. The author provides readers with 5 different hooks on how to use the school in their campaigns; each is provocative and should make it easy for Keepers.

While I liked this article and see lots of uses for it, it seems to have only been moderately edited. There are a few instances of poorly worded sentences. If you can overlook these, it’s a good article.

The Biblio-file: Thaumaturgical Prodigies of the New England Canaan – This is an alternate interpretation of the Thaumaturgical Prodigies of New England Canaan that shifts the date of original publications as Lovecraft had intended. Each of the three editions of the book is thoroughly detailed. Additional content is included that provides some background information on the author, Rev. Ward. Availability notes are also included for those that want to use the book in their games.

I really liked this article! I thought it was very well written and compelling to read. The writing style is such that I wanted to keep reading. Now I need to figure out how I want to use this book in a future campaign.

An Encounter: Altercation on West Armitage Street – This encounter is more or less a plug and play encounter. A local man of some renown in Arkham is killed in broad daylight by an unknown assailant. The question then becomes, who is the assailant and why did he kill the local? That is the crux of the encounter. The author presents three plausible reasons which will let Keepers weave the encounter into their investigations.

Not a bad little encounter. The integration options are interesting and gave me something to think about, but I am not sure it’s something I would use. It does have merit and some readers will find it has the right flavor for them.

Deep Background: Arkham’s Markers: A History – Arkham has a ring of boundary markers all around its perimeter and these are the focus of this article. There is a brief history of the origins of the markers and the state of the markers as of 1928. There is also a nice selection of scenario hooks for Keepers who may want to use them.

While this article is short, the markers history is very cool. The hooks are neat! Let’s face it, we all have some local folklore surrounding something so common as boundary markers in our towns. These hooks play on those same types of legends and folklore.

Scenario Seed: The Case of the Missing Manhole Covers – Need a light-hearted scenario seed? Well, if so, they have you covered with this. This can be used as a red herring or as part of a larger campaign. Mundane items can be used to good effect.

Ok, I can see using this as red herring or prankish type diversion. I wouldn’t use it as anything more than that. Stolen and returned manhole covers, who would have thought they could be the crux of scenario?

Documentary Evidence: Report of Delusions of an Invisible Monster – A prop document of a medical journal article that documents a series of strange cases of delusions in the Arkham area. Plot seeds, the mysteries of the article itself and hidden horror all contribute to a very cool prop.

I have to say this little prop document is pretty darn cool! Who needs a Star vampire in their campaign? I do!

Deep Background: Arkham’s Diners – This is an extensive article that focuses solely on what can best be described as a new England phenomenon. Ok, not really, but they got their start in the Northeast. Diners are a staple of New England and this article plays up to that fact. Readers are presented with a short history of diners, to include locations, cuisine, and other fun facts. The article details the four diners presented in Arkham Unveiled and adds two new diners to the list.

I like this article! I grew up in Massachusetts and diners were something I grew up with. I have fond memories of eating at diners as a child and I remember some of the cuisines. The inset “New England specialties” reminded me of my childhood, both good and bad. I miss American Chop Suey and hate Moxie! This is a great article for breathing a little more life into Arkham or any other town!

New Items: Arkham Curios – Every game of Call of Cthulhu needs “things” to tempt and bait investigators along. This article presents seven very distinct and unique items. Each has a history and dark secrets. Placement recommendations make it easy for Keepers to drop them into existing campaigns or even build a game around one of these items. These items are very diverse and will provide Keepers with some interesting options.

I love item catalogs and this article plays right into that. These can be used in a variety of ways to include plot seeds or to add some flair to an existing campaign. One editing note, the title in the Table of Contents is New Items: Arkham Curios, but the article is titled Scenario Seeds: Arkham Curios. Minor quibble on my part.

Scenario: The Bosworth House – The Bosworth House is a scenario for at least two investigators of any experience level. The scenario has a strong research and investigation bias, so investigators focused on physical activities may find little to do. This is a scenario of psychological horror and strangeness, not monsters. There is nothing to shoot and no physical threat whatsoever. The scenario is also inherently ‘unwinnable.’ If that is something that either you or your players would not enjoy, then the Bosworth house might not be the scenario for you. 

At its core, The Bosworth House is about alienation and the unreliability of our own memory and perception. The scenario draws on a number of sources, but the central influence is Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper”; it is freely available on-line and in many anthologies. The scenario also draws on elements of the Hastur/King in Yellow Mythos, as defined and re-imagined by John Tynes, among others. For additional information on the revisionist take on Hastur, consult The Road to Hali from The Unspeakable Oath #1 and Delta Green: Countdown, among other sources. (excerpt: “About this scenario”)

This is an interesting scenario to read through (I have not played it). The more mundane nature of the investigation may or may not appeal to some. I am one of those Keeper/players that appreciate a good non-mythos based investigation from time to time. Let’s not forget that a loss of sanity is a hallmark of a good scenario; it’s just not in the cards for the investigators. This scenario appears to be one that will scratch that little itch for me.

The scenario environs are well laid out and detailed. There is a myriad of handouts for your players and several nice images that could be used to enhance the players’ experience.

Annotated Scenario Bibliography: Arkham – the last remaining pages of issue 1 provide readers with what seems to be a pretty comprehensive list of published (online or in print) scenarios that are set predominately in Arkham. Each entry includes:

  • Title
  • Where it was originally published
  • Author
  • Summary of the scenario
  • Key locations
  • Entities
  • Tomes
  • Notes for Keeper’s consideration

49 scenarios are outlined. Hell, I had no idea there were that many! I am still moderately new to Call of Cthulhu. A fun read through and now I want to find some of these to add to my growing collection.

PARTING SHOTS
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this magazine. Everyone’s mileage may vary with the usefulness of the articles to them personally, but they were fun to read and most were thought provoking. All-in-all everything was well written, some better than others. If you can overlook the few minor editing issues I pointed out, I think you will enjoy this as much as I did. I would recommend you take a chance on this magazine.

My favorite article? The Biblio-file: Thaumaturgical Prodigies of the New England Canaan followed closely by Deep Background: Arkham’s Diners.

My least favorite article? Scenario Seed: The Case of the Missing Manhole Covers. I see very limited uses for it.

~ Modoc

Follow Modoc on G+ or on Twitter

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2 thoughts on “A Look Under the Hood – Arkham Gazette #1

    • Bret,

      No worries on the handouts. I know there were some technical issues with providing me with the issue for this review.

      ~ Modoc

      Like

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