A supplement to the supplement Cthulhu By Gaslight for the Call of Cthulhu tabletop role-playing game, this is an exploration of the real life secret society, The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The authors explore the origin, the convoluted history, and the eventual collapse of the Dawn, as well as many key players in the various aspects of its storied life. Though many further sources are listed if a reader/keeper is interested in the various ceremonies and esoterica, the book is more about how to use the group in a game, how to loop player characters into the Dawn, and the various advantages and dangers of that.
Running Call of Cthulhu in the 1920s has always been the default, and it’s what I’m most comfortable with, but the possibilities of the 1890s are very intriguing. I’ve been kicking around the idea of running a game in that era, and making PCs members of a secret society has a lot of potential. It helps explain why they’re connected, helps provide reasons for getting involved, and provides a stable from which to draw new characters when things inevitably go catastrophically wrong. It also gives a sense of continuity, if a game were to continue forward in time, until the Great War, the 1920s, or beyond (though the historic Dawn did not make it so far).
The historic Golden Dawn seems to have been a fairly silly affair, as is typical of secret societies. It was, at least somewhat, surprisingly egalitarian, with both men and women serving in positions of power and leadership. I really do think it could make an interesting skeleton around which to build a campaign, but I also think a good deal of creative license should be taken.
There are three adventures provided, one introductory, one for somewhat more experienced characters, and one that will likely be a challenge, even for veterans. The first and third are connected, and tied to one of England’s most powerful legends. With a few tweaks, I think this could create a nice campaign-level recurring villain. The middle one is a bit odd, as it hews a bit too close to the source material it’s inspired by, though again, with some creative re-writing, I think it could work.
Is it a must? No. But it’s well written and has some pretty cool ideas.