Horror comes in Threes—Glimpses of Terror [Call of Cthulhu]

Glimpses of Terror: Volume I

Author: Nikk Effingham
PublisherMiskatonic Repository
Page Count: 270
Available Formats: PDF (DTRPG) – $14.97

Glimpses of Terror: Volume One is a collection of three standalone PDF scenarios for 7th edition Call of Cthulhu roleplaying; “The Cabinets,” “The Chantinting,” and “The Works of I.G. Payne” published through the Miskatonic Repository and bundled for purchase through DrivethruRPG; each is available for purchase separately. Each is designed for one Keeper and two to six players for a single gaming session or convention play, except “The Works of I.G. Payne,” which can be run with one keeper and one player.

Note: a review copy was provided by the author to Rolling Boxcars for this article. If you have an item you’d like Rolling Boxcars to review, please visit our Product Review Request page.

The Cabinets

The first in the bundle, “The Cabinets,” is set in Thailand on one of its nearby islands. The scenario takes place in 2004, and the player characters’ play as college students attending a Moon Party at the invitation of Toby Gray, a student at Boston University, along with his fellow classmates. A group of students from the University of Bordeaux, France, and a young Japanese man also make the trip to the island with the group. Once they arrive on the island, it doesn’t take long for them to notice that they are on the wrong island. In fact, they have been purposely redirected to this island to aid in a nefarious act. The adventure plays out in a freeform fashion; players roaming where they may and the Keeper responding to their actions. There are numerous locations in which the players can explore to learn more about the secrets of the island and its inhabitants. The Keeper is provided with a not-to-scale map of the island with key locations for their reference. There are no pre-generated characters provided, but a handout guide for creating college students specific to this scenario is present. The scenario is 29 pages long and is expected to be completed in one session.

I struggled to get through the first three pages of “The Cabinets” due to the author’s writing style. I often had to stop and rework each sentence in my head to make sense of it. I could see the author’s ideas but not in the context of his sentence structure. I also encountered a few words that were not part of my vocabulary—requiring me to look up their definitions. Some words eluded my internet search—possibly misspelled or foreign language. I found the scenario lacked background information on what a moon party was though that was also cleared up with an internet search, which called it a Full Moon Party, an annual lunar three-day party celebrated in Thailand since 1985.

“The Cabinets” is not for an inexperienced Keeper. The nine NPCs always accompany the party, making it a tall order for any Keeper to juggle. This is on top of the other NPCs later encountered. Personally, I’d use the accompanying NPCs, who each have a motive, as player characters instead. Overall I found the overarching story and its uses of Cthulhu mythos creatures weak. The Mythos creatures inclusion in “The Cabinets” is secondary and has little to do with the horror in this scenario. This is not a scenario I would suggest running.

The Chanting

“The Chanting” is the second scenario in the bundle. This scenario takes place in a New York City apartment in 1988. The scenario opens with only one of the two to six players playing, Ash Wyatt, devisee to his aunt’s large Manhatten apartment. Ash arrives from Los Angeles and takes possession of the apartment, and arranges a gathering there for his east coast friends. The whole scenario, except an optional solo excursion by Ash at the beginning of the scenario, takes place in the apartment. The scenario plays out linearly with a series of timed events throughout the party. Six pre-generated characters are provided as well as nicely crafted handouts. The scenario is short—the estimated time of completion is two to three hours of play. It’s designed as a one-shot, but suggestions to turn it into a campaign are provided at the end.

The scenario opens with only one player participating, with sole access to the premise and a whole day before the other players have the opportunity to join. This could lead to revealing a lot of clues best kept hidden until the whole group has a chance to participate. A simple search or a successful skill roll early on could reveal the mythos threat by name and may drive the single-player to dive into a solo investigation. Even if the single-player wanted to involve the other players, it’s written in the scenario that the others will not be available to help. I find this setup problematic. It could easily be mitigated by having all the players as guests and the party host an NPC. As a result, the solo investigation is not needed as the players will have everything they need to figure out the mystery in the apartment.

The writing in “The Chanting” was better than “The Cabinets.” It still needs some touching up and better clarification in its introduction. The author uses British slang throughout. Luckily, I understand most of it but using proper English would have been preferred. In the introduction, it is suggested to the Keeper to use sound effects throughout the scenario. A list of sound effects is suggested, and a link to one specifically made for the scenario is provided, which is a nice addition. Six highly detailed pre-generated characters with relationship connections and attitudes to the other five pre-generated characters provide ample motivation for players. Though the scenario is linear in design, its use of horror elements and gradual escalation works very well to entertain players in this survival scenario. This is a scenario I would run as long as I have a group of players willing to be lead.

The Works of I.G. Payne

Rounding out this bundle is “The Works of I.G. Payne,” This scenario is set in the Gas Light era, England 1896. The player characters visit philosopher Ignatius Payne in Moseley at his last know location. Getting to Moseley proves difficult due to bad weather, but they do succeed eventually. Upon arrival, The characters find Payne focusing intently on his research into a bluish-white powder he has acquired. The power, when snorted, unlocks places in one’s mind yet undiscovered—different dimensions. At the same time, something is terrorizing Moseley and the characters. It’s up to the characters to solve the mystery. This scenario is designed for 1-6 players and could easily be completed in one session.

“The Works of I.G. Payne” is a mystery-solving Call of Cthulhu scenario. Unlike the other two in this bundle, extensive research and investigation play heavily here. It a race against time as there is a deadly threat against the characters and the townsfolk of Moseley. The first part of the scenario is linear and unwavering, while the latter portion allows the characters to move freely with their investigations. Six pre-generated characters are provided, each featuring backgrounds with connections to the other pre-generated characters.

There are several places to gather clues within Payne’s home and a couple other locations but not many. The clue trail is rather short due to the first part of the scenario being mostly set up. The first half is basically an info dump, while the second half involves direct action from the players to move the story forward. The scenario is set up well to run at a convention—player characters’ actions can affect other player characters. The threat within is not a mythos threat and could fall into a collection like the Blood Brother‘s series as a tale of terror that is mythos adjacent. It’s a decent scenario but not great. My largest issue is getting the players to care enough to stick around to solve the mystery since only one of the pre-generated characters is a blood relative of Payne. The others really have no stake in this game. After a set time, characters can simply walk away, leaving the mystery unsolved, and continue on their merry way.

Glimpses of Terror: Volume One certainly contains elements of terror, intentional or not. I liked “The Chanting,” hated “The Cabinets,” and am on the fence about “The Works of I.G. Payne.” With bundles, you get a variety of things that may or may not be to your liking. This bundle needs an editor to fix the issues I pointed out earlier with its sentence structure and vocabulary use. It could also use better-written scenario introductions that provided a clearer overview of its working parts without leaving it up to the Keeper to piece things together. It does have some bright points. The pre-generated characters are nicely detailed and invite interaction with other player characters. All three feature handouts that are well designed and aesthetically pleasing. Each scenario is available for purchase separately, alleviating the cost of purchasing the bundle. The scenarios within the Glimpses of Terror: Volume One have potential but need work and refinement to make it to my gaming table.

~Stephen Pennisi

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