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Valkyrie Magazine and RPGnet are happy to provide this review.


The Complete Dreamlands

Sourcebook for Call of Cthulhu

Chaosium Inc.

[sterling]??? - 192pp

As well as the horror yarns for which he is justly famed, H P Lovecraft produced stories inspired by Lord Dunsany's fantasy romances. For me, the "Dreamlands" stories are inferior stuff and, straining for epic effect, Lovecraft's execrable prose style is even more apparent. Never mind. Chaosium published a Dreamlands supplement back in '86 which promptly languished; now it's been rewritten, developed and attractively repackaged.

The Dreamlands themselves are a sort of parallel dimension that mystical characters can reach while asleep (or anyone else via certain portals, spells or magic artifacts) - the world is a topsy-turvy blend of Conan's Hyperborea and Alice's Wonderland (with a touch of Rupert Bear thrown in), all given a bit of edge by the brooding undercurrent of the Cthulhu Mythos. We get a taster in the form of a travelogue, adapted from HPL's Dreamquest of Unknown Kadath. It matches the Master's style perfectly - ie. it's atrociously written. Then there are maps and a gazetteer of this fantasy realm. NPC profiles follow, lots of 'em, including the stats for a couple of cats and people with names like Slant-Eyed Merchant Of Ill-Repute (presumably just Slanty, to his friends). Dozens of monsters get turned into statistics and rules are given for getting into and out of the Dreamlands, new Spells, Grimoires and Gods and the procedure for creating Dreamlands characters (a sort of simplified Runequest really).

Two scenarios conclude: Lemon Sails is a bit so-so but Pickman's Student has got some really grotesque touches to it and nicely illustrates how the Dreamlands can cross over with a conventional CoC investigation.

As a fantasy realm, the Dreamlands have some excellent macabre touches, alongside stuff that's pretty juvenile or just plain barmy. I can't really see GMs setting up a Dreamlands-only campaign, since much better (and more detailed) fantasy settings are available - and from Chaosium too, like the Young Kingdoms of Elric or good old Glorantha. As an add-on to your existing CoC campaign, there's potential here. The Dreamlands have a superheroic high fantasy feel, which players jaded on madness and paranoia might appreciate once in a while, and since you can't be outright destroyed in your dreams, the Keeper can throw in some outrageous run-ins with Great Old Ones that would bring the campaign to a sudden and bloody conclusion back in the Waking World. Investigating mysteries through the Dreamlands also provides another option for players sick of Library Use rolls.

Overall: The Dreamlands aren't to everyone's taste and this sourcebook falls slightly short of Chaosium's usual standards (the interior art, for instance, is less than inspiring). Nevertheless, if your Call of Cthulhu campaign's in a rut, this will enliven it no end and if your one of those who likes Lovecraft's Dreamlands stories, then here's everything you need to incorporate them into play.

Review by Jon Rowe

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