Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Project Steel

Project Steel is an adventure trilogy for Traveller, the Science Fiction RPG from Mongoose Publishing. Originally published by Avenger Enterprises via Comstar Games, it is set on Steel, a frontier world in the Spinward Marches, part of Traveller’s classic background. Steel was recently exchanged with the Swords Worlds following the Fourth Frontier War and will be a new Third Imperium communications site. The heroes are hired by the Imperial Colonial Office to help survey Steel, in preparation for the arrival of the colonists. Characters need driving, first aid, light combat, survey, and technical skills, but not spaceship skills. Spaceships are kept off world in this adventure. It can be played with large or small groups, 3 or 4 being a good number. The book is rules light, so can be used with most Science Fiction RPGs. Serenity (Margaret Weis Productions), Star Hero (Hero Games), and Thousand Suns (Rogue Games) are good choices, as is any previous version of Traveller.

Links to other adventures are slight, but enough for the fans. Much of the adventure has the team travelling between settlements, conducting surveys, delivering supplies, exploring anomalies and possible routes, providing chances to make money with small jobs, and for interaction and roleplay with the few inhabitants. Anomalies drive the adventure, the team first discovering a hidden group of Swords Worlds colonists, who they came to rely upon when Steel is attacked by raiders! Eventually an ancient evil needs confronting, this slightly at odds with what is a satisfyingly dry adventure.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Aces & Eights: Shattered Frontier

Aces & Eights: Shattered Frontier from Kenzer & Co is an RPG set in an America of the Old West, broken in the 1850s by a long civil war that left the Confederacy, Texas, and Deseret independent, and New Orleans in French hands! The specific setting is The Cauldron, a contested region in Sequoyah, the independent Indian republic. Characters can be anything, from bakers to guns for hire to undertakers, the complex creation process resulting in lots of detail, including origins and family. Character advancement comes not from gunning down gringos, but from professional achievements. For example, opening a bakery, taking on an apprentice, opening more bakeries and so on.

Aces & Eights uses dice, cards, and poker chips, and can be played as a gunfighting skirmish game and as an RPG. Gunfights are built around a running Count Up in which every action takes a set time before it occurs and a Shot Clock, a clear overlay placed over a target silhouette used to determine where the target is aimed at and where he gets shot. It is possible to miss the aiming point, but still hit the target. Sadly only one target silhouette is included in the core book. Different, but detailed and complex, but still playable mechanics cover brawling, cattle drives and ranches, chases, gambling, horses, prospecting, and trials. Aces & Eights is all about the detail and the feel: its art is old school, its mechanics are old fashioned, its history feels authentic. It feels right.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Day After Ragnarok

The Day After Ragnarok is a Savage Setting book written by Ken Hite for Savage Worlds published by Atomic Overmind Press. Post-WW2, post-apocalypse, and post-Ragnarok, the setting begins with Harry Truman dropping the bomb on the Midguard Serpent to prevent Gotterdammerung, the serpent’s body and toxic blood falling to Earth, poisoning everywhere, dividing Europe with the Serpent Curtain, and causing a super tsunami that ravages the USA as far as the Rockies. Now much of Europe and the Near East is in Stalin’s fist, the British Empire is based in Australia, Japan still has her empire, and the USA’s capital is in California under President Earl Warren. Both magic and psionics are recognized, while speleo-herpetologists harvest parts of the Serpent and develop Ophi-Tec, advanced technology like Marconi Guns, Neural Stimulators, Ophiline (better than gas!), and the RRAF’s delta wing rocket planes. Stalin has his own arcane allies, including engineered man-apes, used to infiltrate British Africa.

Most Savage Settings offer a Plot Point campaign, but this book is too big for that, instead giving 4 suggestions and sample outlines. These have the heroes as freelancers, working for a patron, rebuilding after the tsunami, and protecting their home turf in a city. Support includes city and adventure generators, and the brilliant Top Five lists, like Top Five Places To Stomp Nazis to Top Five Place Secret Bases. Describing itself as Conan 1946 or SMGs and Sorcery, The Day After Ragnaroak is rich in gaming detail, superbly imaginative, arguably the best Pulp setting.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Steal Away Jordan: Stories From America’s Peculiar Institution

Steal Away Jordan: Stories From America’s Peculiar Institution is a self-published indie RPG from Stone Baby Games with a very strong theme. Drawing from “neo-slave narratives” like Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Octavia Butler’s Kindred, it asks players to take the roles of slaves before the Civil War, an uncomfortable prospect for some players. The game needs lots of d6s and a single die marked with a skull for the 1. A character is defined by descriptive attributes that determines a slave’s Worth (expressed as a dice pool), with strong, skilled male slaves being of higher Worth than female or children slaves. A character also has 3 Goals and Motivations, each with an associated Task. Complete a Task and a Slave increases his (self) Worth. Goals and Tasks are kept hidden from the GM, but in keeping with the genre/history, the GM has the powerful task of setting a Slave’s Worth and giving him his name.

To resolve Conflicts and Goals opposed Worth dice pools are rolled to get Lucky Seven successes (paired dice that make 7). Winning minor Conflicts increases a slave’s Worth, empowering him for later major Conflicts. The Skull die is rolled for luck or desperation, but a bad roll (the Skull) can kill a slave. Playing Conjourers and ghosts is possible, but this optional supernatural element adds complexity. Designed to educate and promote historical awareness, this storytelling game needs a good GM and sensitive players to play. Underwritten, it needs developing to become a better educational tool.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Shadows Over Filmland

Shadows Over Filmland is an anthology of scenarios for Trail of Cthulhu, Pelgrane Press’ RPG of Lovecraftian horror designed by Ken Hite. Co-authored with Robin D. Laws, it presents 13 scenarios inspired by both the black and white horror movies of the 1930s and H.P. Lovecraft’s fiction. The movie inspiration is iconic: Dracula, Frankenstein, King Kong, The Mummy, The Wolf Man, and others. The fictional inspiration includes Lovecraft’s Under The Pyramids, Herbert West – Reanimator, and The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. For each scenario, the authors blend the two. For example, Death Across The Nile blends The Mummy and Under The Pyramids in a tale that sees Queen Nitocris reach across the ages for her lost lover.

The conceit of this collection is that each scenario takes place in the same place, the Backlot Gothic, a remote part of Europe or Albion in Hollywood and an in-game sub-genre. The GM should use and reuse the given descriptions to simulate the Backlot Gothic’s use of stock (clich├ęd) footage/imagery and enforce its similarity. Suited to irregular visits than an extended stay, this good collection does mostly pulp horror, but with psychological and weird diversions too. One scenario, The Final Reel has the investigators shutting down the filming of The Call of Cthulhu! As with other Trail of Cthulhu titles, this collection is easily adapted to other Lovecraftian RPGs. Whatever the system, the horror of Shadows Over Filmland’s Backlit Gothic is baleful and bucolic, a place to visit, but then get away from.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Starblazer Adventures: The Rock And Roll Space Opera Adventure Game

Starblazer Adventures: The Rock And Roll Space Opera Adventure Game is Cubicle Seven Entertainment’s Science Fiction RPG designed to do Space Opera from Star Wars to Star Trek and everything in between. Based on a black and white British comic of the 1970s and 1980s, it is both a sourcebook and an RPG, which comes as a big (600 page) book full of rules, examples, explanations, story hooks, and illustrations. Using the Fate 3.0 system (first seen in Pulp action RPG, Spirit of the Century), it promotes roleplaying and mechanical interaction between the characters and their environment. Characters have skills, stunts, and aspects. Stunts give bonuses (I’m on Top of It gives you initiative, for example), while aspects show who you are, your relationships, and your beliefs. For example, Scottish Engineer, I Know a Guy, and Seen It! Fate Points activate stunts and aspects to give bonuses, but are awarded when an aspect is compelled by the GM to complicate a story, making play collaborative.

Lots of good (if grainy) illustrations from the comic book that captures the genre of the period’s goofy feel and its sense of scale. Big starships, big aliens, big star monsters, big robots, big empires, big war machines, and big heroes, all with easy guides to create each. On first sight, Starblazer Adventures is an intimidating book, but it is well written and is always clear, even simple in places. Starblazer Adventures is incredibly broad and comprehensive; it is the best Space Opera RPG available.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Duty And Honour: A Game of Adventure and Romance in Wellington’s Army

Duty And Honour: A Game of Adventure and Romance in Wellington’s Army from Omnihedron Games’ is the RPG of fighting the Napoleonic Wars on the British side. It is primarily set during the Peninsular Campaign in Spain and Portugal, the player characters serving as infantry soldiers, NCOs, and officers in Wellington’s army. Character creation mixes player choice and random elements, the detailed result includes both combat and non-combat elements. It uses ordinary playing cards instead of dice to both generate characters and resolve challenges and tests. Everyone will need their own deck of cards. Before each test, each side states what they want from the test and the GM draws a single Card of Fate from his deck. Everyone involved (GM or player) then draws from his deck to gain successes by matching the suite and number of the Card of Fate. The outcome is determined by the winner’s intent.

It is mostly played out as a series of Missions, each broken down into several challenges. Missions are primarily military, but players can create Personal Missions too. Characters will participate in battles, but not die. Their deaths are not meant to happen randomly in battle. The skirmish rules focus on their participation and the battle’s outcome, determined by character successes. The game comes with rules for artillery and cavalry (including characters as cavalrymen), plenty of background, suggestions for non-Peninsular Campaign games, and GM advice. If there was an RPG for Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe novels, Duty And Honour would be it.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Savage Worlds

Savage Worlds is a generic rules set from Pinnacle Entertainment Group, designed to be light and easy to play and capable of supporting any number of settings and genres. It is descended from the publisher’s Deadlands RPG via the Rail Wars miniatures skirmish game and is much simpler than either. Most factors are described by die type, so d8 Strength is better than d4 Strength. Skills are broad, so the Drive skill covers all vehicles, Shooting covers guns and bows, and Fighting armed and unarmed combat. To do anything, the appropriate die is rolled, the target usually being 4 or more. Dice rolls are open ended, so higher targets are possible, and a result of 4 over the target is a raise and gives better results. Player characters are Wild Cards or heroes (as are some villains) and get to roll an extra d6 with any action. The highest die rolled counts. Characters also have Edges and Hindrances (advantages and disadvantages) that add flavour. Character progression adds more Edges and improved die types. Combat is fast, with initiative determined by ordinary playing cards.

Savage Worlds is supported by numerous campaigns from aerial fantasy (Sundered Skies) to post-apocalyptic post-WW2 Howardian horror (The Day After Ragnarok). Many have Plot Point campaigns that allow the heroes to explore the campaign’s setting and story. The inexpensive Explorer’s Edition is very compact with a pirate adventure, but lacks rules for playable non-humans. Savage Worlds offers fast, pulpy, uncomplicated fun and access to some great settings.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Hobby Games The 100 Best

Hobby Games The 100 Best is Green Ronin Publishing’s anthology of short essays that brings together many top names in the gaming hobby/industry to talk about games. They include designers and publishers of card games, CCGs, computer games, board games, miniatures rules, RPGs, and war games, as well fantasy authors and a cartoonist. Each writes about what he (there is only 1 female contributor) thinks is one of the best hobby games from the last 50 fifty years, from the types listed above, each entry being just 2 or 3 pages long. Although computer game designers contribute, no computer game is included. More board games are discussed than anything else, the earliest title being Avalon Hill’s Gettysburg from 1958, the latest being (excluding later editions) GMT’s Here I Stand and Rio Grande’s Thurn and Taxis (a Spiel des Jahres award winner), both from 2006. Later editions excluded, the earliest RPG discussed is of course, Dungeons & Dragons from 1974, the most recent being the self-published My Life With Master from 2003. It is also the only “indie” RPG to make the list.

The choice is fascinating. Discovering that Alan R. Moon likes the dungeon game Descent, that Jordan Weisman chooses Magic: The Gathering, and Squad Leader was Ray Winnegar’s choice is surprising. That Steve Kenson chooses Marvel Superheroes, and Larry Harris chooses Diplomacy is less so. Easily dipped into, Hobby Games The 100 Best provides a wonderful introduction to, history and overview of our hobby. Perfect on any gamer’s shelf.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sundered Skies

Sundered Skies is a complete setting and Plot Point campaign from Triple Ace Games for Savage Worlds. Like other Savage World settings, it presents an enclosed environment, here a series of islands that float in a constantly brilliant sky without night. Too much exposure to this constant light causes Glowmadness and will eventually send people into bestial rages. The highest isles have ice mines, and provide water for the very hot lowest ones. Other islands consist of seams of ore, deep forests, shattered islands, and tethered skyships. Travel between the very different islands is done by oar, steam, or wind driven skyships, navigation requiring a handful of soil from the destination island. Peace between the islands is kept by the Trade Council which ensures each island receives the necessary imports.

Besides the traditional fantasy RPG races of Dwarves, Humans, Orcs, and the part plant Elves (who are insular and hard edged), players can be the Dragon-worshipping Drakin (who can become dragon-like), the animal-like Wildings (escaped slaves to the Elves), and the Glowborn, humanoids with Goblinoid memories. Possible character roles include Couriers, Musketeers, Pirates, Scavengers, and Priests dedicated to peace, song, war, and wind. Sundered Skies’ Plot Point campaign consists of 30 Savage Tales (scenarios) which begin by giving the characters a skyship and then lets them explore the islands of the Sundered Skies and its secrets. Like other Savage Worlds’ settings, Sundered Skies is pulpy and swashbuckling in feel, but its British author has given it a grim edge too.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Terrors From Beyond

Terrors From Beyond is a new scenario anthology for Call of Cthulhu from Chaosium, Inc. It brings together 6 adventures set in the 1920s and 1930s (only technically, because one scenario is set in 1930) each designed as one-shots rather than for use with a Keeper’s own campaign. The scenarios need either 4 or 6 players with a strong stomach, some scenarios dealing with strong adult and in one case, distasteful themes. It opens without introduction to the very short Ghostlight, set on Scottish lighthouse with vanished staff and a single solution which will leave the investigators dead if not found. A Method to Madness is barely longer, and inventively has the investigators as asylum inmates beset by weirdness. The U.K. located Death by Misadeventure involves the traditional death of a relative and is the easiest to use in an existing campaign. Brian Courtemanche’s Grave Secrets is set in New England, does not involve the Mythos, but has the most tasteless theme.

Brian Sammons’ The Dig is about a Miskatonic University archaeological trip subverted by an insane cultist, with the players as students. It feels long and calls for the Keeper to be heavy-handed for the investigators to follow the plot. David Conyers’ The Burning Stars is the book’s best, set in Haiti 1930 and starts with the investigators waking up with amnesia. What happened in the last seven days? Terrors From Beyond is nicely illustrated, but poorly edited, and suffers without a theme. It feels rushed despite the long wait.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Freeport Trilogy

The Freeport Trilogy is a Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 campaign from Green Ronin Publishing designed to take a party of four plus player characters from 1st to 5th level. It originally appeared in three parts, Death in Freeport (which won the 2001 Origins Award for Best Roleplaying Adventure), Terror in Freeport, and Madness in Freeport. Its setting is confined to Freeport, a pirate city on the Serpent’s Teeth isles. Ruled by a pirate captain called the Sea Lord, it is home to many races, and keeps an uneasy peace with the mainland nations. So self-contained, it slots easily into most RPG fantasy settings.

The player characters come to Freeport for adventure, which they find after being asked by a cleric of the Brotherhood of Knowledge to find a missing priest, who had also gone missing years before after a personality change. Their investigations uncover ancient serpent men below the city, a cult that worships the Unspeakable One, a Great Old One, and something strange about Freeport’s towering new lighthouse, called Milton’s Folly after the current Sea Lord. Low on magic, but high on intrigue and conspiracy, The Freeport Trilogy is like a Call of Cthulhu fantasy campaign. It is a good campaign, but is let down by its slightly weak ending. Getting there though is great and The Freeport Trilogy setting is well supported with setting material and different rules such as Savage Worlds and True20, each having their own Cthulhu supplements, making it the best choice for Lovecraft-inspired fantasy.

Friday, June 26, 2009

50 Fathoms

50 Fathoms is a Plot Point campaign for Pinnacle Entertainment Group’s Shane Lacy Hensley’s Savage Worlds which mixes pirates, magic, fantasy, and a mystery. It is set on Caribdus, a world cursed to drown under a constant rain that has submerged nations and forced refugees to flee to other islands or to take to the sea. It is prophesized that a stranger from Earth will save Caribdus and its Thousand Isles, many humans having been transported to Caribdus from Earth’s Age of Sail (approximately 1500 to 1815) via great storms. Player character options include the crew, passengers and even live cargo from Earth, plus Caribdus’ own races: including the winged Atani, the Walrus-like Grael, Dolphin-like Doreen, and the Squid-like sorcerers, the Kraken. Caribdus’ magic is based on the four elements. A mage can only master one element at a time, but master all four and he becomes an ArchMage. Unfortunately, elementalists are hunted by Tomas De Torquemada’s magic-hating Inquisition.

The core of 50 Fathoms is its Plot Point campaign, consisting of Savage Tales (scenarios) triggered when the characters go up levels, visit somewhere, or discover something. It reveals the source of the threat to Caribdus, three vengeful Sea Hags. The players can follow the campaign, but are also free to roam the world, letting the GM run the 40 other Savage Tales set across the Thousand Isles and explore the book’s material. 50 Fathoms is fantastically complete, enough character information, a good gazetteer, and an easy, pulpy, swashbuckling, piratical campaign.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Unhallowed Metropolis

Unhallowed Metropolis from New Dark Age through Eos Press combines a neo-Victorian future with an Undead Plague and Tesla-powered technology. Everyone lives in fortress cities, on rations and under ash laden skies, fearful of ghouls, zombies, and vampires, and even their recently deceased relatives rising again. Outside, the undead roams the countryside, sent out from the mysterious Sepulchres, possible headquarters for undead lords. This is a horror RPG inspired by Dracula, Frankenstein, and Jekyll & Hyde, with an emphasis on the Victorian way of death and the anatomy of the undead. Character options include Aristocrats, Dhampir (romantic half-vampires), Mourners (female undead killers), Criminals, Doctors, and Undertaker (professional monster hunters), all looking their best in the game’s “Gasmask Chic.” The latter also being the name for the book’s excellent artwork.

Unfortunately, Unhallowed Metropolis suffers from too few character options; an imbalance between social and combat skills (too many of the latter), and between high and low class characters (how do you bring them together?); and lethally clunky mechanics, which make doing anything even moderately difficult, actually very hard. Re-rolls are allowed, but only so many before a character suffers from Corruption, which with a hard resolution system demanding re-rolls, comes too soon. Also, outside of the undead, the setting is underwritten. More information should have been included about the mundane facts of this setting. Although it demands more options, better rules, an expanded background, and an index, Unhallowed Metropolis should demand the attention of both devotees of Victoriana and the undead.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Apocalypse Prevention, Inc.

In the recently self-published Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. from Third Eye Games, the characters are employees for the same named corporation, which has protected mankind for centuries from demonic and supernatural activity. They work as a squad from one of ten offices worldwide and investigate prophecies, miracles, and other weirdness. In particular, policing demonic immigration from other dimensions, most demons being illegal on Earth under the terms of the API Registration Act. Other demons, like Burners (Fire Demons), Changelings, Lochs (Fish People), Spectrals (Ghosts), Taylari (Vampires), and Wolf People are legal and can be employees. The detailed point-based character generation system lets characters have cybernetics, magic, and psionics. Mechanically, magic and psionics are treated the same, and each spell/psionic ability is easily customized with small upgrades during character generation or with experience points. The rules are straightforward, but combat is crunchy, its emphasis being on a fairly detailed martial arts system.

Apocalypse Prevention, Inc.’s setting is our world, but with demons and tight gun control in the USA! Which seems too fantastic. Otherwise, the setting is underwritten, focusing on the corporation over the real world. It also lacks a scenario, and has too few scenario ideas. A scenario is needed to show how the game works, but is currently only availabe in the supplements. The lack of a detailed setting means that the game’s intended humor is lost, while the horror element is poorly supported by an inadequate fear/insanity mechanic. Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. does not lack potential, but it needs support.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

HOT WAR: A game of friends, enemies, secrets and consequences in the aftermath

Hot War is a possible sequel to Cold War, both indie RPGs from Contested Ground Studios. In Cold War, the Allies secretly hunted down Nazi occult/technology in Post-War 1950 Berlin. In Hot War, the Cuban Missile Crisis went hot, both sides used monstrous Other Weapons based on Nazi occult/technology, and the British government barely hangs on in a shattered and faction ridden London. Characters are Special Situations Groups (SSG) operatives, an agency that hunts spies, saboteurs, and Other Weapons. Character options include soldiers, policemen, even underground staff, but all are driven by their agendas and relationships (both negative and positive). Agendas are hidden (coming from another political or military faction in London) or personal, and like relationships provide bonuses and penalties to die rolls as appropriate, including those of fellow SSG agents. Agendas only last so long before they have to be resolved, which pushes the story along and gives the campaign an episodic television-like structure.

Games can be played “Closed,” the Agendas kept hidden, or “Open,” with the players (not the characters) knowing everyone’s Agendas. This allows greater player input (and trust) in a game that asks the players to participate in describing the narrative and in deciding the consequences of a conflict. Hot War has clear rules, excellent examples, evocative art and in-game documents, and a brilliant bibliography that helps evoke the post-apocalypse of the 1960s. It needs a proper scenario and more Other Weapons, but Hot War is a fantastically grim game of a Quatermass-like future past.

The CORTEX System Role Playing Game

Published by Margaret Weis Productions, The CORTEX System Role Playing Game collects the rules previously seen in the Battlestar Galactica, Demon Hunters, and Serenity RPGs. The system neatly rates attributes, skills, and traits (assets and complications) for characters, monsters, and vehicles, by die type (d2, d4, d6, d8, d10, and d12), with skills requiring specialization above the d6 rating. So Guns d6, Pistol d10 means a character can handle all guns, but is a crack pistol shot. Rolled against a target, skill checks will use different attributes depending on a situation; for example, Alertness plus Guns to spot a sniper, Agility plus Guns to shoot him. Plot Points are used to modify rolls and even the environment in small ways. Rules cover cyberware, magic, and psionics, but in a limited fashion, leaving the GM to develop them further.

Included are three settings. The Star Wars-like “Star of the Guardians” and Southern Gothic fantasy “Arcady” are too short and underwritten. The more accessible C.S.I./Law & Order-inspired “Trace” suggests the players take multiple roles, and is better supported by the rules. Although similar to the Savage Worlds system, the equally straightforward CORTEX System is gritty rather than Pulpy or slightly cinematic, and would be hard pushed to do really high fantasy or superheroes. Although its treatment of the classic genres is underwritten and under supported, with solid core rules and GM advice, The CORTEX System Role Playing Game is a good choice for the GM wanting to create his own game.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Lovecraftian Tales from the Table

Lovecraftian Tales from the Table is a DVD which collects two series of two-three hour podcasts from the Call of Cthulhu/H.P. Lovecraft fan site, Yog-Sothoth.com. The first series is the recordings of the classic campaign, The Complete Masks of Nyarlathotep, being played by the Bradford Players, a group of British roleplayers. The second is of the Bradford Players doing The Horror on the Orient Express. Both are recorded in a high quality MP3 format for listening on your iPod, computer, or in the car. Together they represent months of role-play. They are not radio plays, but game recordings, meaning the players/characters do fail and do dumb things. And they talk about non-gaming stuff, but not too much. You get to listen along, so it is almost like you were sat round the table, and laugh and groan with and at them.

The DVD is packed with extras. Interviews with the Bradford Players, the campaigns’ authors, with Sandy Petersen (Call of Cthulhu’s creator), the academic S.T. Joshi, and author Ramsey Campbell. Props, handouts, music, and standalone scenarios, including the Call of Cthulhu starter rules. The best extras are Green Ronin’s Freeport Trilogy of scenarios (a great campaign for Dungeons & Dragons) and Cults of Freeport (which shows you how much Mythos there is in the pirate city of Freeport); their inclusion makes this DVD a bargain! The campaign recordings might be too rough or English for some ears, but they give the listener plenty of fun and hours of dramatic listening.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Mysteries of Mesoamerica

The Mysteries of Mesoamerica is Pagan Publishing's supplement for Call of Cthulhu devoted to central America and the north of South America, detailing its ancient peoples (Olmecs, Toltecs, Mayans, Aztecs, etc.) and their cultures and religion, along with four dark and bloody scenarios. It is not a campaign book, the four scenarios being set in different years of the early 20th Century, but a Keeper can use them as precursors to a campaign that runs into the 1920s. Superbly and bloodily illustrated by Blair Reynolds, the book is information rich, but is not easily accessed. No index, and no easy organisation bar chapters, the book also lacks really useful information and maps for Mesoamerica 1914-1927, and worse, Keeper advice on using its contents.

A nice touch is the “P.C. R.I.P.” feature which describes
and illustrates the playtest investigators killed in each scenario plus their last words. The scenarios are as dark and nasty as any Pagan Publishing scenario, and are the book’s best feature, showing how the Mythos exploited Mesoamerican religions, instead of Mythos figures being equated to Mesoamerican deities. All work as one shots or as intermittent adventures for investigators who are Mesoamerican archaeologists, the early ones introducing them to the Mythos, perhaps ready for any campaign. Not an easy book to use, The Mysteries of Mesoamerica is more theory than applied knowledge, the sourcebook being an interesting read, but feeling under developed in comparison with the scenarios. Worth a Keeper buying it for the scenarios than the background.