The Bottle Episode – A Miskatonic Repository Review [Call of Cthulhu]

The Bottle Episode

Author: Benjamin Wenham
Publisher: Chaosium [Miskatonic Repository]
Page Count: 24
Available Format: PDF
PDF (DTRPG) – $6.93

Joshua Abbott, a resident of Kingsport, MA, has mysteriously vanished from within his own home. His secret homosexual lover and boarder Samuel Stein is concerned for his partner’s well-being. Afraid to go to the police and have his and Joshua’s relationship discovered, Samuel reaches out to trusted friends of a similar kind, the player characters, to help solve Joshua’s disappearance.

Note: A review copy of The Bottle Episode was provided 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 Bottle Episode takes place in 1929 in the fishing village of Kingsport, MA. It surrounds the mysterious disappearance of Joshua Abbott. Mr. Abbott disappeared from inside his locked office in his home sometime in the morning while his partner Samuel Stein was not home. Upon his return, Samuel noted Joshua’s absence and the mystery of how one could disappear from within a locked room. Distraught, Samuel sought out the investigators to help him solve the mystery and return his love.

When the investigators arrive, they discover a mystery indeed. Neither the door nor any windows leading into the office are left unlocked. The key to the door is still in the lock. After gaining entrance to the office, the investigators begin their search for clues. There are many threads to follow, but a ship in a bottle is at the heart of the investigation.

The meat of the investigation is conducted within Kingsport with an optional side trip to other parts of Lovecraft Country. Keepers who own Chaosium’s Kingsport: City in the Mist will greatly benefit from its source material. The scenario uses several locations and personalities from within. Though not clearly stated, the scenario uses the publication’s corresponding location identification numbers for quick reference and NPCs with updated 7th edition characteristics. The scenario is designed for three to four investigators and a Keeper. It’s a short scenario with a flow of clues that allows investigators to take their own paths with no restrictions on time. To aid investigations in their sleuthing is a series of well-crafted handouts. For an evening of investigations and conversing with Kingsport residents, The Bottle Episode should prove to be entertaining.

There are, of course, some concerns that arise in the scenario. Some instances could prematurely bring the climax of the scenario, even within the opening scene. There is also a great risk that a player could find themselves removed from play from a simple mundane in-game action. A brief suggestion is provided in these instances, but it involves the Keeper improvising a second solo or group scenario not offered here, which would run concurrently with the ongoing scenario. This could prove to be too much for a novice Keeper to handle, especially if they are unfamiliar with the underlining elements surrounding The Bottle Episode, which require further reading from other sources.

Final Thought
The Bottle Episode is not perfect. It comes with some inherent flaws that the Keeper will need to prepare for. Play might end a lot quicker than expected, leaving con attendees and group members reaching for their phones for supplemental entertainment. A copy of Chaosium’s Kingsport: City in the Mist and H.P. Lovecraft’s Dreamlands will help mitigate and enhance the scenario. Other Lovecraft Country supplements could prove useful but may extend the scenario past an evening of play. Keepers should be prepared with additional scenarios that coincide with The Bottle Episode to prevent getting caught flat-footed. For an evening of adventure or a convention game, The Bottle Episode achieves its goal of being a quick scenario that should not last more than a few hours of play. Purchasers should note the scenario is investigation-heavy with little to no combat. On the plus side, if the scenario doesn’t deviate as feared, players should enjoy the extensive investigating leg work to solve the mystery of Joshua Abbott’s disappearance.

~Stephen Pennisi

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