Tabletop RPG Review: At Your Door

At Your Door cover

This is the third Cthulhu Now (Call of Cthulhu set in the 1990s) book I’ve read and it’s definitely the best.  It’s the first one that actually feels like it’s set in the 1990s, that actually deals with issues of that time.  Heck, it wouldn’t take a ton to update it to the 2020s if you were so inclined.  Where Secrets and A Resection of Time would only take a few tweeks to set them firmly in the 1920s, that can’t really happen with At Your Door.  While it is the best 90s set book I’ve read so far, it isn’t perfect, and it doesn’t really seem to be to my tastes.

The story is largely set in a fictionalized region of the Pacific Northwest (and briefly in Montreal).  It’s sort of a West Coast version of Arkham, I guess.  I wonder if the area has been developed in any other supplements, perhaps some 1920s set ones?  I’m not aware of it, but I could see the use of having another not-quite-real location for games to be set.

Issues of import from the early 90s (some of which are still important today) come into play.  Climate change and environmentalism play a key role.  Scientific ethics, bodybuilding and televangelists are all in the mix.  Other than the absence of ubiquitous internet and cell phones, it feels very contemporary.  Working in those bits of culture-changing technologies could easily update things to the now.

There is an element of sandbox to it all.  The investigators may follow things in their own way, finding or not finding various threads and revelations.  There are NPCs with the potential to become friends or enemies and which way they go could change everything.  There are seeds that could give rise to follow-up tales, as well.  However the players go about things, the finale is somewhat apocalyptic and dramatic to say the very least.

As is often the case with the published scenarios I’ve read, this one seems far, far too deadly with the potential of a total party kill rearing its head more than once, and not even just in the last act, where that sort of thing makes more sense.  My usual complaint about these published scenarios holds true here, as well.  There are simply too many disparate Mythos elements.  Multiple critters, at least two powerful beings, a couple cults, and more.  The book’s only about a hundred fifty pages or so.  That’s a lot of different powerful forces for your investigators to go up against in a fairly limited time.  Two different ancient, monstrous beings are disguised as humans, and for very different reasons, for crying out loud.  It’s too much.  If I were going to run this, I’d almost certainly fold a few of the factions/beings into each other and make most of them more tightly connected.  I think I’d also take a few of the things I like the most and expand on them quite a bit.  For example, the chapter Landscrapes could be expanded, perhaps dealing with something from the farm that got away and has been causing trouble in a nearby community, or some environmental activists coming to the farm to cause some mayhem.  The Tcho-Tcho could be the centerpiece for a whole danged campaign, but as they appear in this, they come off as…maybe not an afterthought, but a distraction.  Increasing their role in the story could give opportunity to get into some cool stuff, especially if you’ve maybe featured them in previous games or are thinking about using them in a later story.  

I’ve never run Delta Green, and I’m not sure that I ever will.  It’s a great setting, but I don’t think it’s right for me.  That said, if I were ever to run a contemporary Call of Cthulhu game, that’s what I’d use, and At Your Door could easily be folded into a Delta Green campaign.

If you’re interested in Cthulhu Now, you might want to check this one out.  If nothing else, there’s a lot of material to mine.  Heck, several of the chapters could probably serve as the basis of mini-campaigns all on their own.  Will I be running it?  No.

 

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