One of the things I love about tabletop RPGs, which may seem strange coming from a natural recluse like myself, is the joy of sitting around a table with a group of people and crafting stories and memories. One of my very favorite games is Call of Cthulhu, which is inspired by the writings of H.P. Lovecraft (and many others of his ever expanding circle). The thing about most of Lovecraft’s stories, however, is that they often featured a single protagonist facing off against unfathomable horror. So it is a bit odd that generally speaking games of Call of Cthulhu revolve around groups of people who often form a sort of mutual support network. Obviously, that’s the nature of the very hobby itself. Still, what about games that center on a Keeper and just a single player?
There aren’t a lot of these “one-on-one” scenarios out there, so I was glad to see a couple produced by Chaosium. Translated from the Polish edition of Call of Cthulhu, this book has two scenarios designed for a keeper and a single player. This book makes me wish there were more such options out there, both because I think it’s a valuable avenue to pursue for the game, but also because more scenarios to choose from would make the occasional misstep less of a problem. Like, if there were a hundred one-on-one scenarios and two of them weren’t great, it wouldn’t be a big deal. But if there’s only three or four, and one isn’t great, that’s really bad odds.
The first scenario is Love You to Death. Of the two, it’s the most anchored in its particular time and place. Could you change things and set it in another time or city? Sure. But it would take some work. I find this scenario both intriguing and ultimately lacking. There are a lot of ways it could be played, exploring love in different ways (some toxic) depending on character relationships and how it plays out. As with both scenarios, there would have to be some clear discussions about comfort levels before play begins. I find the setting of Chicago on the day after the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre to be filled with potential. However, I didn’t feel like the scenario really explored that setting and concept enough. This feels like it could have used another five or six pages, including some more encounters that anchor it in time and space, as well as some Keeper advice for different ways to handle things. There are things I like a lot in this, but I feel like if I want to run it, I’m going to have to rewrite and expand big chunks of it.
The second scenario, Mask of Desire, has a lot of potential. Though as written it is connected to Hastur, and I think that has a lot of cool connotations, I could also see it written to be some kind of tie-in to a Masks of Nyarlathotep. As written, it takes place many years after that campaign, but perhaps it could be foreshadowed, or you could drop the mask in question into a scenario from that campaign, glimpsing a bit of its history. This scenario could play out in countless ways. Player choice can change a ton, even without them realizing it. Take too long, someone dies. Go to location A first and you’re too late to find something at location C. This might make the scenario fun to run multiple times. But it’s also a lot to juggle in-session. At every turn, your players could totally throw you a curve ball and you’ll need to figure out how to handle it. Granted, that’s always true, but it feels extra ture here. As with the previous story, there are some complicated issues of love, romance, obsession, etc. in here. This could also serve as a good starting scenario for a character who is planning to go on to a career in Mythos hunting.
Generally, I liked this book and I look forward to taking both scenarios out for a spin. I’d very much like to see more material like this on the market, and I wish very much that this book were larger, with perhaps five or six scenarios instead of just the two. However, it’s not a perfect book. The first scenario is linked to a particular time and place, yet that time and place don’t seem to actually matter to the meat of the story. But my biggest complaint is that there were no pre-generated characters and there are none available on Chaosium’s website. As both are written to work as one-shots (admittedly with potential to continue), I fully believe they should have had accompanying characters, at least two options for each scenario. It’s a weird oversight considering how much online resource Chaosium provides for their books, and as the book was so small in the first place.
Here’s a little “first look” video I did when I got a copy of this.
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