Author: John Dyer
Publisher: Chaosium/Miskatonic Repository
Page Count: 50
Available Formats: PDF
PDF (DTRPG) – $4.95
While the default period for Call of Cthulhu tends to be the 1920s, I have to confess to having a soft spot for the period just before it—the years just before, during, and just after the World War. John Dyer’s Call of Cthulhu scenario “Lucie’s Dispensation” takes place in France in late November 1918, mere weeks after the War’s end, falling within that range.
The premise behind the scenario is a Paris-based investigator receives a letter from a distant cousin, the 8-year-old Cate. She and her grandmother need rescue from the small village of Verlest. Much of the scenario centers around untangling the mystery of Verlest. It is dominated by Abbot Bouvier of the Abbey of Saint Barbara. None of the villagers will leave without receiving dispensation from the Abbot—well, none save Cate, though Cate will not go without her grandmother Lucie. And Lucie will not leave without said dispensation.
This scenario has two central mysteries interwoven with each other. The first is a supposed German attack on the village on November 1. While everyone agrees it happened, and many were killed during it, the specifics of it are (intentionally) odd. No German troops were known to be in the area. Everyone speaks about how Abbot Bouvier united the village after the attack.
The second mystery has to do with the founding of the abbey and its hold on the village. In 450 AD, knights battled necromancers and cultists in the village, and in the decades after their defeat, an abbey was founded. But the monks have been guarding horrible, unholy secrets for centuries.
Dyer provides extensive details about the village and its inhabitants. Many of the inhabitants have some unsavory secrets—and not just the monks. Over the course of the scenario, the investigators will likely run afoul of the monks and some horrors they guard.
This adventure is contained in a 50-page PDF. There are several handouts as well as a series of maps. The maps are mainly serviceable, showing the village, abbey, and some nasty places beneath. There’s not much in the way of artwork—a medieval-style drawing, a basic sketch of the center of the village, and a stylized skull—along with the cover art.
Is this adventure for you and your group? As always, it depends on what you’re looking for. However, I found it an enjoyable scenario with a lot of potential for interesting gameplay.
I’d be a little hesitant to recommend it to novice Keepers. This is a very open-ended adventure. It is possible to “win” it without defeating the horrors the village hides. There is a wide potential range of motivation for the various NPCs, with it being up to the Keeper what to emphasize. These are potentially great features, making it very adaptable, but also make it a little harder to run “as-is”.
The timeline is pretty strict. Setting the adventure within the World War would be possible, but much past the end of it would prove difficult. With some work, it could be moved to another period or location, though moving out of Europe might prove somewhat challenging. It does depend on the possibility of the village being raided by enemy forces. Oddly, I think it might make for an interesting Cthulhu Dark Ages scenario—either about the founding of the Abbey (likely changing the history of this scenario) or running the adventure just a few centuries after its founding as opposed to over a thousand years after. You’d also want to ensure you and your players are comfortable with supposedly Catholic monks doing many evil things.
With these caveats, I’ll say I liked the scenario a lot. The NPCs within it have complicated motivations, and there is a lot of flexibility for Keepers to tune them in a way they feel appropriate. The village itself, while having its supernatural horrors, also has the all too mundane horror of almost all its men of fighting age being lost in the War.
~ Daniel Stack
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