Goodman Games (the minds behind Dungeon Crawl Classics) have thrown their hat into the arena of Cthulhu mythos by offering up their (relatively) new Age of Cthulhu line: a series of investigations set in the 1920s for the use with Chaosiumís Call of Cthulhu RPG. Judging by their first offering, Death in Luxor, this series is going to be more than just hauntings in Arkham with professors from Miskatonic University. This series looks to have your characters going from Chicago to Egypt to quell cultist, or stop an unspeakable evil in London. Death in Luxor delivers a very detailed game with enough spit and polish to impress seasoned veterans while keeping it easy enough to entice new players to play with madness.
One thousand years before the birth of Christ, Ramesses IIIís kingdom thrived. Constantly battling back foes from all sides, Ramesses managed to keep his enemies at bay until an ancient evil rose from the sea to challenge his reign. Calling upon a power beyond his imagination, Ramesses put down this evil, but at a great cost to himself and his people. Now long after the death of Ramesses and his kingdom there are ancient secrets stirring.
A telegram from friend and colleague, Professor Aaron Bollacher, requests your presence in Luxor, Egypt to join the excavation of the tomb of Ramesses III. Shortly after your arrival you learn that a gruesome murder has occurred and the police are unable (or just unwilling) to help. It is your responsibility to get to the bottom of this mystery, and find out what Bollacher found, and why someone was willing to kill to keep him from it.
Not a bad way to kick off an adventure. Author Harley Stroh, has really put in his time on this one. His choice of setting is exotic and dangerous giving the characters an enhanced sense of unease (as if chasing down an unknowable evil wasnít tense enough). As soon as you step off the plane youíre accosted by crooked cops and thatís just the beginning. This sense of dread is amplified by Strohís attention to detail in descriptions. Though some come off as mundane (a perpetual storm is hanging over Luxor and the lightning crashes, illuminating the stately, yet ominous, mansion) a series of dreams that the players have get to the heart of the fear and alienation adding not only depth, but further menaceówhich, frankly, you can never have too much of.
The moduleís organization easy to follow and made game play exciting and transitions smooth. Strohís diligence in preparation is pretty impressive. Divided into six sections, the players can move from one scene to another without feeling like their being led by a carrot and they can jump back and forth so the investigation doesnít feel too linear. It appears as though there was extensive play testing, as he tries to anticipate every action the characters may think of, while providing an unobtrusive way to get players back on track if they run up against a wall. In addition there are five pre-gens with just enough story to hook you while allow players and keepers to fill in gaps as they see fit.
The book itself is 50 pages with a slightly ridiculous cover that both entices and misleads (who the hell shoots at a giant tentacled monster). The interior art sets the vibe more than the scene at times and is a little cartoonish, but what were really impressive were the maps. My group doesnít play modules often so our map is typically a pizza box with crusts as walls, bottles as columns, and caps as players. That being said, the maps provide a detailed space that enhances the mood. The handouts in the back are standard and with a little work on your own can be quite impressive. All of these elements are more of those details that really make this adventure a bit better than the sum of its parts.
Death in Luxor starts with a bang and doesnít relent until youíre safe inside the belly of an old one. A great adventure and a great way to kick off the Age of Cthulhu line. It invites new players by making it easy on them, while giving old hands a good time and a couple of new ideas; and the pre-gens make it ideal for a pick-up game. The Dagonís in the details with this one. Ultimately, itís old school without being tired, and for $12, youíre getting several gaming sessions for next to nothing. I am eagerly anticipating the next in the series.