The Hounds of Salem – A Miskatonic Repository Review [Call of Cthulhu]

The Hounds of Salem

Author: Anthony L. Wolf
Publisher: Chaosium [Miskatonic Repository]
Page Count: 37 + additional handouts
Available Formats: PDF
PDF (DTRPG) – Pay what you want ($4.99 recommended)

I usually make a few trips to Salem a year, being the dad of a Wiccan and living about an hour away—though my daughter prefers to avoid visiting around Halloween when it becomes a bit of a carnival. So when the opportunity to review The Hounds of Salem presented itself to Rolling Boxcars, I was delighted to have the opportunity to give it a look. Salem itself is on the periphery of Lovecraft’s fiction, often being referenced, and it is usually, though not universally, felt that Arkham is based on Salem.

Note: Anthony L. Wolf provided Rolling Boxcars with a review copy for this article. If you have an item you’d like Rolling Boxcars to review, please visit our Product Review Request page.

Hounds of Salem is a Miskatonic Repository adventure for Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition by Anthony L. Wolf. It consists of a 37-page PDF, an accompanying MS Word document, and several digital handouts. There is also a supplemental product available on DrivethruRPG providing a map of one of the houses in this adventure—the supplement is free, just a little puzzling it’s not included in this as well. The investigators are contacted in the aftermath of a book theft at the Miskatonic University Library. Three occult books have gone missing. And, of course, the characters are involved in retrieving them. Given the title, I don’t think anyone will be surprised their investigation will take them to Salem.

The adventure consists of an introduction (with background for Keepers), the initial investigation in Arkham, closing in on the solution in Salem, and a final confrontation in the shell of a burned-out factory. It closes with an appendix with NPCs, monsters, and handouts. It is predominantly black and white with a few splashes of color and lightly illustrated—beyond the handouts; it has an illustrated cover and a full-page interior illustration.

At the heart of the story is a person seeking to get back what they lost years ago. However, in their attempt to do so, it costs them far more and unleashes otherworldly monsters —and adding insult to injury, the magic wasn’t even done quite right.

While this scenario is far from being a sourcebook on Salem (nor does it attempt to be), it does give exposure to a setting not often explored in Call of Cthulhu. I’d love to see further exploration of the setting.

I liked the idea of the antagonist performing horrible acts in the pursuit of something they considered good—it’s a nice twist on the insane cult leader. However, there are two things I would have preferred to have seen done a little bit differently, though your mileage may vary. Neither are showstoppers or things a Keeper couldn’t tweak.

  • Investigators are commissioned to find the missing tomes by an extremely unhelpful professor—perhaps bordering on unreasonably so.
  • The map of Salem provided is from the mid-19th century, several decades before the scenario (not that much will have changed). If you prefer more contemporary maps,  I’d suggest the Salem Public Library’s Online Map Collection.

I would describe the investigation as being a bit akin to following a trail of breadcrumbs. While not an entirely linear adventure, the clues will steer the investigators along their way to a final confrontation with an other-dimensional monster. Like most Call of Cthulhu investigations, this confrontation may very well prove fatal, though there are some in-game resources they might get to even the odds.

Is this adventure for you? It certainly can be! It would easily fit into your typical 1920s game, especially one based in Massachusetts. While I’d not call it freeform, it does require a bit of flexibility and adaptability on the Keeper’s part. Therefore, I’d not recommend it as an adventure for novice Keepers. However, it certainly would be suitable for one with a few scenarios under their belt.

Personally, I plan on adding this to my list of scenarios for my 1920s game. I’d love to see more visits to Salem.

~ Daniel Stack

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