Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Review: The Ballad of Bass Rock for Call of Cthulhu

Over the last couple of years Cubicle 7 has surprised us all by releasing their Cthulhu Britannica line for Call of Cthulhu to great acclaim. Their most recent print publication for the line, Shadows Over Scotland, was very well received (I really need to finish reading that.) If you haven't read any of the line go and grab them, they're all available from DriveThruRPG in PDF format.

The Ballad of Bass Rock is an adventure for Shadows Over Scotland that was originally supposed to be contained in the original publication of Shadows Over Scotland, but was cut when the layout of the book resulted in the page count growing beyond what was planned. Cubicle 7 has now laid out this adventure and made it available for sale.

So what are we getting for our $3.99? First off the adventure is 14 pages. It is professionally laid out and looks like it would if it had been part of the original book. Except the adventure isn't really 14 pages. The first page is taken up by a cover with a nice enough faux oil painting of the island of Bass Rock, and the second page is completely taken up by the credits for the product and license information. So now we're down to 12 pages out of our 14. For $3.99 my feeling of value is already dropping fast here.

The adventure starts in a minorly contrived way, but hey we're Call of Cthulhu players we're used to that now, with the players on board a boat on a pleasure cruise off the coast of Scotland. A storm suddenly arises and smashes the boat on the rocks of Bass Rock. The players, and any surviving NPCs, are then faced with getting help and surviving the day on the rock.

Bass Rock is mainly a bird colony, and the only structures are a lighthouse, the ruins of an old castle and an even older chapel. Unfortunately it's only inhabitants at this point are 150,000+ birds and one huge shoggoth. The shoggoth has been here a couple of weeks, has devoured the lighthouse keeper and the crew sent to find out why they hadn't heard from him. It has also been pulling dolphins and orcas out of the sea and leaving their rotting remains in the castle ruins.

The only real objective of the adventure is to survive and try and contact the mainland to get help.

The bulk of the 0 pages of the adventure are taken up with descriptions of the NPCs involved and descriptions of the locations on the island. The NPCs, two crew members and a newly wed couple, are given sufficient information to be interesting characters in themselves and there is certainly enough information to make them memorable NPCs for the players. Unfortunately there are no illustrations of the NPCs.

Most of the description concerns the lighthouse, and it is fairly thorough. Descriptions of each floor of the lighthouse and what can be found on each floor is very helpful in bringing life to the locations.

All in all the adventure is very basic but could be fun as an introduction to Call of Cthulhu. It will provide a challenge as it is unlikely that the players will find any way to kill the shoggoth, so other solutions need to be considered. I will likely find myself using the adventure at some point.

Finally at the end the last 2 pages consist of reproductions of the handouts already contained in the text, and a plot map table. Considering how short the adventure already is for the money, spending nearly two pages reproducing the handouts again feels like a complete waste. Since this is PDF only we can easily print whatever pages we like and cutout the handouts as needed. I understand this is normal laidout process for an RPG adventure, but in this already short product it feels like padding and a reduction in the value for money.

Overall I don't think this is value for money. $3.99 is simply too much for what amounts to a 10 page adventure and this really should have been made available for free on the website for Shadows Over Scotland. So I can't recommend it from a value perspective.

From an adventure perspective it's enjoyable if a bit short. Not exactly the best adventure out there, but adequate for the size. It is however the kind of adventure you'd expect to see in a magazine or as a free download on a website rather than a sold product. If it had been included in Shadows Over Scotland it would have been fine, but here it's a little lacking. Maps of the lighthouse, ruins and chapel would have been appreciated, but aren't necessary.

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