A Little Holiday Cheer: Humbug! – A Miskatonic Repository Review [Call of Cthulhu]

Humbug!

Author: Steven Goodison
Publisher: Chaosium [Miskatonic Repository]
Page Count: 41
Available Formats: PDF
PDF (DTRPG) – PWYW

Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol is a holiday classic. It has been told and reimaged by Hollywood over the years. Set in Victorian England, it’s about Ebenezer Scrooge, a crotchety old miser who only thinks of himself and no others. That is until he is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve, showing him the errors of his ways. But what if Scrooge didn’t have a change of heart that night? What if something else happened? What if, instead of being filled with remorse and repentance for his actions, he became depressed and suicidal? What if on Christmas morning, instead of throwing open his windows and shouting with glee to have not missed Christmas Day, he jumped to his death? In Humbug! Scrooge did.

Humbug! A Call of Cthulhu twist on a Christmas Classic has three elder gods visiting Scrooge disguised as the three ghosts. Instead of helping Scrooge to change, they push him to take his own life. Thus, Tiny Tim will die, and his father Bob Cratchit to slip into a deep depression, keeping the family in poverty.

The player characters come into the story exactly one year after Scrooge’s death. They receive a letter from Scrooge’s only living relative, his nephew, Fred Harrington. Fred urgently requests a meeting with the investigators to discuss a very important matter.  Fred is the sole inheritor of Scrooge’s estate and needs to retrieve his uncle’s will. He doesn’t know where his uncle kept it and has no time himself to look for it. He’s called on the investigators to do it for him. Fred provides the investigators with his uncle’s address and his former place of business, Scrooge & Marley Moneylenders. With the two leads in hand, the investigators are off to explore Ebenezer Scrooge’s home and business, which have sat empty since his death.

The investigators are led from clue to clue until reaching Scrooge’s home, where the meat of the scenario occurs. There they will encounter the three ghosts, just like in the story. They will guide the investigators as they did Scrooge. If the investigators can solve the mystery, they may save Scrooge, Tiny Tim, and Christmas yet.

The author of the scenario, Steven Goodison, introduces two new elder gods of his own creating, Shalnaloon and Hilithicanth. Shalnaloon and Hilithicanth are brothers of a two-sided twisted coin. Shalnaloon feeds off the happiness of humans while Hilithicanth craves misery. Along with Nyarlathotep, the trio is the root of evil in this scenario.

As a repository product, Humbug! shares some of its shortcomings. The scenario needs editing. There are misspelled words, wrong words, incorrect capitalization, misuse of italics, and missing apostrophes. Luckily, the errors are not egregious enough to get in the way of enjoying the scenario. The scenario is linear, requiring the players to follow the lead of the Keeper’s clues. This shouldn’t be too difficult of a task since the players will undoubtedly know they are playing through a warped version of A Christmas Carol and willfully go forth just to see what happens next.

The layout of Humbug! is adequate. It uses two columns of text over faux-aged pages. The art used is domain-free illustrations that fit with the narrative. The handouts and maps are crudely drawn but get the job done nonetheless. All the monsters and NPCs required for the scenario are fully stated up.

There is one anomaly about Humbug! that has me scratching my head. For some reason, each page is A3 size (11.69″ x 16.54″ close to the America tabloid-size, 11″ x 17″). I can see no reason other than ignorance with the layout program used to create this document that each page should be this size. As a PDF, the document displays as if properly sized, as does the content on each page. Just note the size difference and scale appropriately to print out the scenario.

Humbug! is available at DrivethruRPG as a PDF only, priced as a Pay What You Want. It has the potential of being an entertaining scenario—perfect for the holiday season.  It’s short enough that a group should be able to complete the scenario in a single session. Gather around, roll up characters, play through Humbug!, have a fun time, and “God bless us, Every one!”

~Stephen Pennisi

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