A 1920s Scenario for Call of Cthulhu
Author: Keeper Doc
Publisher: Miskatonic Repository
Page Count: 44
Available Formats: PDF
PDF (DTRPG) – $1.00
New Orleans or the “Big Easy” as it is known, is alluring, mystical, and seductive. From its early, dark days in the 18th century to its decadent periods in the 19th and 20th centuries, the city’s mystique is undeniable. Rich in cultures, battered by the weather, timeless, and progressive, New Orleans, particularly the French Quarter, is a wonderful setting for a Call of Cthulhu mystery. Over the years, several sourcebooks and scenarios have been published. The limited few I have encountered often miss the mark in setting the mood and tone of New Orleans and the French Quarter. Now enters Swamp Song: A 1920s Scenario for Call of Cthulhu.
Investigators are summoned to the storied city of New Orleans by an author friend and colleague for an upcoming symposium they are giving for an assembly of fringe writers, artists, and performers being hosted in the Big Easy. Their friend, using their extensive connections, arranged lavish lodging accommodations for everyone at the home of restauranteur Count Cazenave. Arriving in the Big Easy, at the home of Count Cazenave, the investigators find that both their friend and host are missing. Initial clues point to the pair partaking in a time-honored tradition of the French Quarter, attending a partying, and one should never pass up the opportunity to attend an event, especially an Avant-Garde event. The realization sets them on a path of inquiry that will have them rubbing elbows with city luminaries and shady characters alike, peeling back and looking into the city’s past, if only for a moment. Investigators will need to follow the clues to locate their friend if they are to salvage the symposium.
Note: Keeper Doc provided Rolling Boxcars with a review copy for this article. Please visit our Product Review Request page if you have an item you’d like Rolling Boxcars to review.
Swamp Song: A 1920s Scenario for Call of Cthulhu by Keeper Doc is a newly published Miskatonic Repository scenario taking place exclusively in the French Quarter of this amazing city. Set in the 1920s, the game’s Classic Era, it is designed to be a short scenario ranging between 4 and 8 hours of gameplay for two or more investigators. A host of interesting and diverse period-flavored pre-generated investigators are provided.
The scenario is a stellar example of what a great scenario can look like, from the front and rear cover art by Tom Brown to the always beautiful layouts by Alex Guillotte. The cover art is very evocative, hinting at what is inside without revealing too much and yet, leaving you with a sense of wonder. The layout is easy on the eyes, using two columns, enhanced by callout boxes for Keeper’s notes and other pertinent information. The artwork throughout appears to be an assortment of black and white, sepia-toned, and colored public pieces. With these, there are several full-color non-player character portraits by Giacomo Mascellani, similar in style to caricatures but far better.
The writing is spot on! Some portions may feel verbose to some readers. In particular, I found the Keeper’s Summary a little longer than I expected; however, I got so engrossed in reading it that I was through it quickly—in reality, it’s only 1.5 pages long. The writing is easy to read. In fact, it sucked me in, and I finished the scenario in one sitting, which is not something I do all that often. Accompanying the wonderful writing are several much-appreciated pronunciations of the French words used. This is something that is often overlooked and is a nice touch.
Each handout is period appropriate and drips with the themes found in Swamp Song. They are presented within the scenario proper and reproduced at the end for easy printing or extracting for online sharing.
Keeper Doc pitches the scenario as one that can serve as a one-shot, campaign interlude, or even a brief, linked adventure for several investigators. I think it works well for all of these purposes, but due to the low Sanity and injury potential, I think it would serve best as a campaign starter. There are plenty of ambiguities for the Keeper to flesh out if wanting to give the scenario more depth. For example, giving a name and details to the “author” and investigators’ friend can help establish a recurring character for a campaign game. Other areas can be fleshed out and positioned for campaign use, depending on how the scenario is resolved.
Two notable high points – The mystery they find themselves in is not entirely linear but does follow a line of breadcrumbs and offers enough variables to keep them on their toes. Many locations they can visit in their search for clues are interconnected, allowing for some freedom of movement. The other includes “links,” which inform the Keeper of what locations/scenes are directly connected to the current location—something we do not often see in Call of Cthulhu scenarios.
If you want to explore a small piece of the Big Easy that will have you fully engrossed in no time, Swamp Song: A 1920s Scenario for Call of Cthulhu is worth checking out. The author’s descriptions of places, the people, and the environment surrounding them, really captures the tone and feel of the French Quarter far better than I have come across in the past. The story is engaging and evocative, making you want to keep pulling on threads to reach its ultimate conclusion.
On a side note, be sure to check out Keeper Doc’s ramblings and ravings on his Prospero House Publishing Blog, where you will find original articles discussing the legendary campaign Masks of Nyarlathotep, and more.
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