The Sassoon Files
A Sourcebook for the Call of Cthulhu and GUMSHOE Role Playing Games
Authors: Jason Sheets, Dan Bass, George Sibley, Francis Acquarone, Jesse Covner
Publisher: Sons of the Singularity
PDF (DTRPG) – $19.99
Print – $49.99
It was a surprise to Kickstarter backers and others in the roleplaying hobby when the China Government enacted it’s right of censorship over the unreleased roleplaying book The Sasson Files. On March 22, 2019, the Sons of the Singularity announced via Kickstarter that the Chinese government which reviews all books printed, even those for distribution outside of China, destroyed the print order because of a sensitive issue with the content. Sons of the Singularity which launched its Kickstarter on September 19, 2018, found themselves in a unique situation. Luckily they were able to receive a refund from their Chinese printer and secure another printer outside of mainland China to fulfill their order. In a game in with unspeakable knowledge that is kept suppressed by those who uncover it, the twist in The Sasson Files Kickstarter was an ironic one. Did the Chinese government disapprove of the content presented or are they trying to hide the truth of the mythos? What secrets does The Sasson Files hold?
The Sasson Files is a 1920’s Shangai sourcebook featuring its history, personalities, points of interest, secret mythos threats, and four adventures for the roleplaying game Trail of Cthulhu with conversion notes for Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition. The history section is most-likey the reason for the book’s destruction by the Chinese government, for it does not cast them in a nice light. Beginning with the founding of the Shu Dynasty circa 2050 BCE the book runs through a brief history of China up to 1949 CE. Shanghai, the Pearl of the East, doesn’t become developed until the mid-1900s when tens of thousands of foreigners settle in the region. By the 1920s Shanghai is split with two areas of government oversight and laws. One ruled by the Chinese government and one by The Concessions, an area of foreign settlers who are not subject to Chinese laws. It is in this part of Shanghai in which the player’s investigator dwells as well as the book’s namesake Sir Victor Sassoon.
Sir Victor Sassoon, a true historical figure, is responsible for much of modern Shanghai’s development. He is the player’s hook into the city. The files from which each mission begins starts with a meeting with Victor Sassoon. Victor Sasson plays the patron/hook for the four adventures in the book, making it easy for players and Keepers alike to base their campaigns or visits to the city for mythos adventures. The four scenarios within the book are not a campaign with an overreaching arch but connect through personalities and locations. Each one has its own story and arc which allows them to be played as standalone adventures.
For this review, I received a softcover book as well as digital files. The softcover book is beautifully crafted and top of the line print quality. It’s professionally designed with an easy to use layout for quick reference at the table. Important game information is easy to find throughout with the clues listed as bullet points. The imagery throughout the books is consistent with other mythos publications of high-quality. Period photographs of Shanghai during the 1920s pepper the pages set the mood for the reader. Along with the four scenarios, the publication provides pre-generated characters for Trail of Cthulhu and Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition. The digital files are of equal quality with the added digital feature of extensive bookmarks.
Coming into this review I really didn’t know what to expect. Running a campaign in Shanghai never crossed my mind. I knew absolutely nothing of its history or setting. Thankfully The Sassoon Files has enough information for any Keeper with no knowledge of the area to run an exciting campaign within the city. The information contained not only augments the four scenarios presented but allows Keepers to build with their own stories. Truthfully, after reading through the book I can see myself comfortably running a campaign in this majestic setting.
The only issue I take with the book is from the perspective of a Call of Cthulhu Keeper. The scenarios follow the structure of Trail of Cthulhu which is different from Call of Cthuhlu. Trail of Cthulhu presents the players with important clues and information upfront while Call of Cthulhu lets the players discover these by themselves. A Call of Cthulhu Keeper can choose to follow the Trail format or add scenes, alter encounters, retool the overall scenario to fit their preferred style of game.
The Sassoon Files is a great sourcebook for any person looking to run a game in 1920s Shanghai. The background information about the city, its colorful history, occupants, and places of interest are all there to use at your leisure. Anyone looking for more info on Shanghai can turn to The Mask of Nyarlathotep Companion (out of print) which highlights Shanghai in 1925. The Sons of Singularity established a new corner of the Cthulhu Mythos world for players and Keepers to enjoy easily. I hope with the success of The Sassoon Files that there will by more supplements in the future set in 1920s Shanghai.
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