Magazine in the Mist – Arkham Gazette Issue 4, Kingsport Dreams [Call of Cthulhu]

Arkham Gazette Issue 4

Kingsport Dreams

Authors: Various
Publisher: Sentinel Hill Press
Page Count: 120
Available Formats: PDF & Print
PDF (DTRPG) – $14.99
Print – $19.99

Just a few miles south of Arkham, sitting on the shore of Massachusetts Bay, is the port city of Kingsport. Once a thriving seaport and fishing community, its lack of foresight to modernize at the dawn of the industrial revolution left it stuck in the past. With its industries in decline, Kingsport revitalized itself at the turn of the 20th century by utilizing its old-world charm to attract tourists. Every summer, its population swells with the influx of guests. There is much to see in Kingsport. It has a thriving artist colony, quaint little shops, and rich history dating back to 1639. Its most famous spot is Kingsport Head, a towering outcropping of rock rising more than a thousand feet into the air with a strange little house at its peak. Further down the outcropping just above Illsey Shipyards is a crowned image of Neptune, the Greek god of the sea.

Kingsport is just one of several playable Lovecraft Country locations to receive its own sourcebook — Kingsport: The City in the Mist published by Chaosium in 1991, then updated and renamed to H.P. Lovecraft’s Kingsport: The City in the Mist in 2003. These publications provide extensive city details, covering influential personalities, businesses, communities, and more. It is a must-have book for keepers who wish to expand beyond written scenarios for the area. The Arkham Gazette Issue Four, Kingsport  Dreams, expands upon the misty city.

Note: Sentinel Hill Press 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.

Modeled after classic Chaosium publications, Kingsport Dreams feels of that era. Its clean two-column design with flowing black text only broken by its haunting visual imagery is refreshing nostalgic. The expansion of Kingsport’s fills me with glee, for it is my favorite classic Lovecraft Country location. Included in Kingsport Dreams, a licensed Chaosium publication, are seven new locations, twenty personalities, fully stated NPCs, eight detailed curiosities, and a shop full of, even more, four existing expanded locations, sixteen haunting tales, two sanity losing books, a scene to stumble across, a scenario by Kevin Ross, and an extensive bibliography of the fictional city in written works.

Kingsport Dreams‘ places, people, and other material builds upon already established written material. Many of the entries provide their source material. Some are from Lovecraft’s work, while others come from contributing authors and past published sourcebooks and scenarios.

Of the new locations, there are seven of them. The first one is The Birch Street Fish Market, located just south of the Old Town Square on Birch and Waters street. Local residents, hotels, and restaurants flock to its wooden stalls to choose from the first catches of the day. On the west side of the city lies The Bowler Family Burying Ground, now owned by the city. It is the resting place for many generations of the infamous Bowler family, from 1723 to 1819. Another burial plot is The Doll Graveyard, located in the Hollow. Children lay to rest their broken toys that are no longer repairable. There’s a mixture of crude grave markings, some with doll’s names scratched in stone. Also in the Hollow is The Pennywhistle Café which opened in 1902. Local artists, not yet ready for the Mercy Art Gallery, display their works on its walls. On the entertainment side, sitting in downtown Kingsport is the Florentina Theater. Modeled after the Santa Maria cathedral in Florance, Italy, it opened in 1878 and hosted all kinds of live performances until it closed in 1906. The building’s new owners are currently renovating it into a movie house. In the Hilltown neighborhood, The Convent at St. Francis’ Church has housed a small community of nuns since 1879. Most of the sisters are Italian immigrants or Italian descendants who don’t speak English and rarely leave the convent. Near the corner of Howard and Putnam Street in the South Shore neighborhood is the last of three windmills in Kingsport. The Old Quinn Mill has long been abandoned. Only three of the four blades are left, and none have any sail left. A seasonal artist created a series of paintings of the windmill at different times of the day, like Monet’s Rouen Cathedral series. Lastly, there is Namacknowatt Island in the Boston Harbor, about nine miles southeast of Kingsport. Once the forefront of the whaling industry, its population dwindled rapidly with its decline. It’s now a destination spot for summer vacationers looking for a quiet getaway.

The seven locations are extensively detailed, with a few providing rumors, scenario seeds, and/or hooks. The Birch Street Fish Market has an optional scene to spring on investigators involving a terrible crustacean that could be Cthulhu Mythos related or just one of mother nature’s weird creatures. A simple map of Kingsport pins each new location within the city for reference.

Four previously established locations are expanded in Kingsport Dreams. These are Hooper’s Pond, the Old Brick Powderhouse, The Hall School, and Neil’s Curiosity Shop and Other Oddities. Hooper’s Pond and the Old Brick Powderhouse are mentioned in Lovecraft’s “The Strange High House in the Mist.” August Olney notes passing by them on his way to find a path to The Strange High House. Kingsport Dreams features an extensive backstory for these two locations, their origin and original use, rumors, and shared knowledge. They even added fully stated up adversaries to encounter at these locations—fairy folk for the pond and a gang of thugs using the powder house as their own. The Hall School, an all-girl school for prominent Kingsport families and famous for its former alum, Asenath Waite, received an extensive expansion. Once again, it is given a comprehensive history and description along with rumors, an artifact, grounds layout, and eight fully stated and described staff. But Neil’s Curiosity Shop and Other Oddities gets the most significant expansion with 100 curiosities and oddities to find within, all numbered and easily selectable with a roll of percentile dice. There is also a full description and complete statistics for Niel Hazlitt, the proprietor. Just following this section are seven additional curiosities to discover around Kingsport. They included an account of Kingsport’s so-called “Black Dog,” The Old Boatswain’s Call, a ship in a bottle, a Burmese Kris, Captain Brewster’s Prosthetic Hands, The Arcane Barometer, and the Terrible Old Man’s Coins. These listings provide histories, secrets about the objects, scenario hooks surrounding them, and where they may be found.

Kingsport Dreams features two fully fleshed-out personalities for investigators to encounter. The first personality is Alton H. Blackington, a Photojournalist, and historical figure. Alton H. (“Blackie”) Blackington was a photojournalist who traveled around New England (Lovecraft Country), gaining a wealth of knowledge of its folklore. He is based in Boston but travels the countryside extensively. The other personality is Franklin Waite Price; a former fisherman turned artist. After retiring from fishing, Franklin moved in with his daughter and her husband. He is a long-time resident of Kingsport and is acquainted with Kingsport’s older residence. Franklin took up painting to fight off boredom and earn some extra money for the household. He paints his past memories onto the canvas—capturing scenes from his childhood. These new personalities have detailed backstories and histories that link them to the city and area. They hold a vast amount of knowledge that may aid investigators in their queries.

Roughly midway through Kingsport Dreams, the format of the publication changes into handouts. These handouts contain thirteen ghost stories, presented as a section of a larger book with poorly printed pages. The stories are from a presentation given by Dr. Roland Jaffrey to the Kingsport Historical society in 1919. The ghost stories incorporate many locations in Kingsport—a handy guide at the chapter’s introduction lists them. The stories themselves are not entirely original. A good portion pulls from old ghost stories or folktales and incorporates them into Kingsport. This section is very jarring to the eyes and looks out of place with the rest of the publication. It breaks from the magazine’s format, but it does make for an exciting handout to give to players.

Contributing to investigators’ loss of sanity, Kingsport Dreams offers an in-depth look at two mythos tomes, De Vermiis Mysteris and Visions from Yaddith. De Vermiis Mysteris is the most detailed of the two tomes. Both offer histories and quotes from the works, but De Vermiis Mysteris give a chapter by chapter description of its contents. This is by far the deepest dive I’ve seen anyone do into a mythos tome for gaming purposes. When an investigator sits down to read, the Keeper can actually give context to what they are reading. As with all mythos tomes, each book has supporting stats and a possible list of spells.

For some added fun, Kingsport Dreams incorporates a scene called “Dr. Goddard’s Rocket Test” that investigators might stumble upon. The scene features Dr. Goddard, a professor from Clark University (a skewed version of the historical figure), and Dr. Morris Bilings of the Miskatonic University testing a liquid-fueled rocket on Orchard Island. Though only a scene and not a fully developed scenario, it is filled with a newspaper handout, ways to incorporate the investigators, Keepers notes, events before, during, and after the test. There is also a section on Orchard Island located in Kingsport Harbor just under Kingsport Head. The NPCs involved have backstories and complete statistics. There is even a section about complications and last-minute difficulties to spice the scene up. There is nothing to investigate, but it does add flavor to those who go exploring.

For those looking for more than a scene, a complete scenario, “Bones of Contention,” will lead investigators to the mysterious “House with Old Bones.” A gruesome discovery was made by workmen replacing the floor in Henry and Mallory Malleson’s home—a complete set of skeletal remains wrapped in cloth was found under a flagstone slab. The investigators will find themselves roped in to investigate the bones’ origins. The scenario is written by Kevin Ross, the author of Kingsport: City in the Mist, and many other Chaosium publications. The scenario is fully developed with the same detail one would expect in any professionally published scenario. The scenario takes investigators through Kingsport’s long and infamous history.

Kingsport Dreams ends with the most comprehensive bibliography of Kingsport in written works. Anything relating to Kingsport that appeared in written works is listed. From Lovecraft’s original stories to published scenarios, it is noted. To give you an idea of the extent, there are over 70+ literary listings. It is a monumental feat and a challenge to anyone who wants to become an expert on Kingsport.

Final Thought
As a massive fan of Kingsport, it is hard for me to not sing Kingsport Dream’s praises. It is everything I want and more. However, it has a few aesthetic problems that I take issue with. The ghost story section is odd in relation to the rest of the publication. Its varying contrasting text, simulating a worn typeset, and presentation as handouts deviates from the magazine’s format and breaks the flow of the publication. Then there is the typesetting faux pas in Dr. Goddard’s Rocket Test with its justified text creating huge rivers between the type that should have been avoided. I found other typesetting issues in my printed copy: some serious and some not. Sentinel Hill Press has been made aware and should have them corrected as of now.

The Arkham Gazette Issue Four, Kingsport Dreams is the type of material Chaosium should be focused on instead of updating past publications to bring them up to today’s standards. Luckily, fans of Call of Cthulhu have loyal and dedicated authors willing to go the extra mile to produce exciting new material. Kingsport Dreams captures the feel of a Chaosium publication from its golden years—clean, crisp, well organized, and easy-to-read. If you plan on running or creating any scenarios in Kingsport, I highly suggest Kingsport: City in the Mist and The Arkham Gazette Issue Four, Kingsport Dreams. Together the two publications bring a rich history and content to my favorite city in the mist.

~Stephen Pennisi

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