Tabletop RPG Review:  Sorrow in Tsavo

The Ghost and the Darkness is one of those movies that came out in the 90s and nobody seemed to notice it.  I discovered it on video and came to be something of a fan.  Someone once framed it as a cool Call of Cthulhu scenario waiting to happen.  Well, here we are.  Bridgett Jeffries has created a one-shot scenario inspired by the same real world events that inspired the film.

Set in East Africa in 1898, Sorrow in Tsavo deals with some grim stuff.  Illness, killer animals, slavery, and imperialism are all wrapped up in an attempt to build a bridge for the railroad 

The scenario is short, at 31 pages, plus some pregenerated characters.  Intended for three to six players, it is meant to be run in under four hours.  Due to the sandbox nature of the scenario, I could see it taking longer, but I’ve also frequently gamed with more languid players.
There’s not a lot to the scenario.  Essentially, you are presented with the situation at the work camp, given backgrounds and motivations for several characters who are present, then given descriptions of several locations in and around the camp where various things might happen, depending on how the PCs go about doing things.  Then there is a turn, where something dramatic happens to kick things into the second half of the scenario, which is less sandboxy and leads right into the climax and conclusion.

For Keepers who want to know this sort of thing, the Mythos entity most tied to this scenario is Shub-Niggurath, which is great, because “she” is one that I use frequently in my own games, but doesn’t tend to feature heavily in the scenarios I’ve seen published.  However, I’ve given thought to modifying things a bit, and making it more connected to Nyarlathotep, and from there using this as either a sort of preface to Masks of Nyarlathotep, or as the background for one or more of the investigators.  This is, afterall, only about 25 years earlier, and takes place in Kenya, where important events in that venerable campaign also happen.

There are a few nice handouts, copious photos and illustrations, and generally a solid premise.  This is perhaps best for a more experienced and improve-comfortable Keeper.  Though Jeffries gives several bits of advice and notes on how her playthroughs have gone, it will be up to the Keeper to handle what the players do.  And they have a lot of options.  I really like that each pregenerated PC has specific goals and interests, and that they do not necessarily align with each other.  With players willing to get into character, this should create a good amount of tension and role-play, without turning into some bogged down player VS player nonsense. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m very glad that fully filled out character sheets are provided for the pre-gens.  I much prefer this to the highlights-sheets that have been appearing in many regular, Chaosium-produced scenarios.  

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