Hudson and Brand: Inquiry Agents of the Obscure
Authors: Robert Grayston, Stephanie McAlea, Hans-Christian Vortisch, et al
Publisher: Stygian Fox Publication
Page Count: 164
Available Formats: PDF and print
PDF (DTRPG) – $14.95
B&W Softcover Only or Softcover/PDF combo – $26.95
Color Hardcover Only or Hardcover/PDF combo – $49.99
Every Call of Cthulhu game needs a focal point in the swirling and chaotic lives of the investigators. Someplace where they can take refuge and recover from the shock and horrors that they are so likely to witness. This is where Hudson and Brand: Inquiry Agents of the Obscure comes in. If you’re running a Gaslight campaign, Hudson and Brand: Inquiry Agents of the Obscure provides a safe haven for the investigators, but it also serves as their place of business. The investigators can assume the business and continue the work of the previous proprietors, Mr. Hudson and Mr. Brand, Inquiry Agents of the Obscure.
Hudson and Brand: Inquiry Agents of the Obscure is not an epic Gaslight campaign, but rather it’s a sourcebook that provides Investigators with a base of operations for their own investigations into the obscure. The Hudson and Brand apartment at 33 Golden Square is the perfect location for an investigation agency. It is centrally located in SoHo near the heart of the capital of the British Empire. There are nearby shops, cultural attractions, ready access to medical facilities, and the nearby Underground. let’s not forget the seedy underbelly of London is not far away.
The book provides a rich history of the previous proprietors, Mr. Hudson and Mr. Brand, that just drips of Holmsian influence. In fact, I would swear this to be an alternate reality, Sherlock Holmes setting, but obviously, it’s not. Though it is heavily influenced by Sherlock Holmes and his 220B Baker Street apartment. With that being said, if you’re a fan of Sherlock Holmes, you’re likely to fall in love with Hudson and Brand. Let me get back on point here, the rich history of Hudson and Brand is told through summaries of their past investigations. From these, we can learn what the duo was up to, who their contacts were, and even what enemies that might have made over the years. Thier investigations abruptly end in 1888 with their untimely disappearance about the time of the Jack the Ripper murders. They leave behind their business, the apartment and the staff. Now, let’s enter the investigators.
It’s assumed that one of the investigators is a relative of either Hudson or Brand and it’s further assumed that this relative, turned investigator, will inherit the property and the business. There are other suggestions for Keepers that might like to use the location but at a later date. Needless to say, this is the easy way to bring the investigators in and together. The Keeper would need to decide how all the investigators know each other. It could be a simple as they had already formed a startup investigation business and this opportunity fell into their laps. Otherwise, a Keeper could simply have the inheritor hire the others to work for the new company. No matter what direction a Keeper takes, it will be easy enough to bring them all together.
So, what do the investigators get with the inheritance? Well, for starters the lucky recipient will receive the deed to 33 Golden Square? In addition to the physical location, he or she will receive all the furnishing that were left behind. This will include the well-appointed research library and curio collection. The apartment also features some other nifty things. Take for example the Safe Room! Located on the lower floor (below street level) the Safe Room is outfitted with a heavy metal door and discrete external ventilation should the investigators need to literally hide in plain sight. The lower level also includes a workshop that is fully functional and well equipped with tools. This is a great place for investigators to repair weapons, assemble various traps or contraptions. It could, with a modest conversion, be returned to its original function–an indoor gun range!
Let’s not forget about the staff that is already present and still employed at 33 Golden Square. First, there is Markham, a resourceful and discrete manservant that resides in a small bedroom on the lower floor. He oversees the day-to-day running of the house. Then there is Mrs. Levi, she visits three days a week to take care all the things necessary to maintain the house-cum-office and keep it in good order. Lastly, there is Stafford, a coachman, who is independent and not on the payroll but works out of the square and always seems to be available when needed. All three were loyal to the Hudson and Brand and would be equally as loyal to the new investigators.
If you decide that this is a great base of operations for your next Gaslight campaign, the book also includes two scenarios for you to throw at your investigators and get them up an running in their new occupation as Inquiry Agents of the Obscure. I have put the scenario summaries below my signature and clearly marked for those that want to avoid spoilers.
The next several chapters provide Keepers with lots of resources to personalize their games. The “Populating London” chapter gives Keepers a cast of Dramatis Personae and the various organizations at work at this time. Should Keepers want to actually keep Hudson and Brand in the unfolding story, that is to say, they are not absent but perhaps retired, stats have been provided for resourceful Keepers. The chapter also includes several new mythos horrors to thwart investigators. Lastly, it includes a Victorian name generator for Keepers and players. The “The Weapons of Hudson and Brand” chapter describes and graphically portrays the myriad of mundane and exotic weapons Hudson and Brand kept in their arsenal. All game stats are provided as well. The last chapter of detailed resources for the Keeper is “Artefacts & Curios”. This chapter gives Keepers a modest array of curios to sprinkle into their game, but that’s not all. Several entries also include plot hooks to give Keepers ways to turn the item into the focus of a full-blown investigation.
The last chapter is entitled “End Papers and Other Ephemera” which includes a page-by-page copy of Beacon’s Portable Map of London. A copy of the “The Illustrated” a scandal-filled periodical, something that Hudson and Brand would have used for research. History Cards which act as an epilogue to find out the long-term fate of your investigators. A perfect way to close out a one-shot or convention game. There’s a collection of Allies and Adversaries written up as NPCs. The way in which they’re presented is novel; one side focuses on being an ally of the players and the other focuses on being an enemy. These also double as pre-generated characters should the Keeper need them. Lastly, blank character sheets with the same Ally / Enemy scheme.
What I Liked:
The rich backstory of Hudson and Brand and their investigations
The fully evolved and detailed apartment
The art and layout are fantastic*
The resources in later chapters are nicely done and presented well
“The Curious Case of Bare-knuckle Bill” scenario is nicely done
The ease with which Hudson and Brand is plug and play
* I would like to mention that one of our regular readers noted that the B&W printed imagery is muted and muddied in his copy of the book. I have reviewed the pictures he provided me and when compared to color PDF, he’s right. The images are muddied. That is not to say they are bad, just not as clear and crisp as the color images they’re derived from. If you elect for a printed book, I would opt for the HC (color) version.
What I Did Not Like:
I observed some editing issues, but they’re not too bad
The “Ophelia Rising” scenario leaves me flat
The first scenario, “The Curious Case of Bare-knuckle Bill” will pit investigators against an Irish gang that has become entangled with a “The Lady” and her pet. Investigators will search for Bill, a local street boxer, who has gone missing. The search will take them into the territory of “The Greens”, an Irish gang, and deep into the sewers of London. The sewers will lead them to a club nicknamed The Hall of Dark Mysteries where they will come face to face with The Lady and the gang’s leadership. If they are fortunate to survive this potentially deadly scenario they will also learn the fate of Hudson and Brand or will they? Depending on how this scenario ends, The Lady and the gang will make for great recurring trouble for the investigators. Overall, I really like this scenario even if it is deadly.
The second scenario, “Ophelia Rising” will have investigators confronting the proprietors of the Heligoland Company and their undead servants. The company and the Carver Brothers who own it are a recurring theme from the days of Hudson and Brand. In fact, it was Hudson and Brand who set into motion the potential rising of a young woman, turned zombie, turned ally. The scenario is rather straightforward with investigators learning about the Heligoland Company from the notes left behind by Hudson and Brand. By doing so, they might be compelled to look into the company and will eventually come to their warehouses. Here they will confront the Carver Brothers, a sorcerer named Dag Po, a load of zombies and depending on how the story unfolds they will witness Annie, the unwitting ally.