Review of Unspeakable Oath #21

Review Summary
Comped Capsule Review
Written Review

October 3, 2012


by: kafka


Style: 5 (Excellent!)
Substance: 5 (Excellent!)

Pagan products and especially the Unspeakable Oath pushes the envelope in areas that Chaosium and some of the other licensees do not...whether it be in the path of the horrifying or just the unqualified disconcerting. And, that is what Pagan does unsurpassed, the writers just make one look at the world with a little bit more apprehension – for things are not quite what they seem which for me represents the best in Call of Cthulhu role-playing

kafka has written 132 reviews (including 4 magazine reviews), with average style of 4.61 and average substance of 4.58. The reviewer's previous review was of Solomani Rim.

This review has been read 1660 times.

 
Product Summary
Name: Unspeakable Oath #21
Publisher: Arc Dream, Pagan Publishing
Line: Call of Cthulhu, Delta Green
Author: Various
Category: Magazine

Cost: $9.99
Pages: 70
Year: 2012

SKU: ARC6004
ISBN: 9780983231394


Review of Unspeakable Oath #21
The Unspeakable Oath 21 includes:

“The Dread Page of Azathoth,” an editor’s column by Shane Ivey.

After genuinely almost breaking my heart in the description why Unspeakable Oath took so long to come out…a truly and indisputably human story…Shane explains why it is important to have attachment to characters. Even Cthulhu characters are worthy of building and treasuring – for the horror of the loss of character should not be treated lightly or that characters are merely shotgun shells dying for the greater good of slowing the advance of the Mythos. The universe does not care, but, players should for their own characters and that of one another’s for that is the essence of good story. This seems commonsense for other games and yes the attrition/causality rate in Call of Cthulhu is high but Shane gives excellent reasons - why that all is the more important.

“The Mock Auction,” a Tale of Terror by Adam Gauntlett.

A nice little seed that can grow in six ways (and hence can be reused 6 times), for Tales of Terror give a little morsel for any Keeper to grow an entire one-shot or Segway from part of a campaign to another. This one did not genuinely scare me but unnerve me sufficiently that I could see it as filler or just as away to drain away hit and sanity points before encountered the Greater and Lesser Evils that I would have planned for them in the main campaign.

“Saucer Attack 1928!: The Dunwich ‘Horror’,” a Mysterious Manuscript by Bret Kramer.

A nice little prop that can be inserted into any game. In the beginning one reads through the adventure seed and the tome that it is based upon with incredulity as you (or at least any avid reader of Lovecraft) knows a different tale. But, that is the essence of the madness, you uncover by the end. Kudos to Bret Kramer for making us think differently. Whether, we are wiser at the end of our madness or not, will be played out in the scenario that the Keeper devises.

“Engines Underground,” a Mysterious Manuscript by Greg Stolze.

A brilliantly executed manuscript that reminds us the presence of the Mythos and Hastur in particular can be configured as part of the everyday landscape not merely in old mouldy tomes from the Middle Ages. This along with the adventures reminded of the versatility and flexibility to run a thoroughly modern game without getting too corny (yes, I am looking at you – the fractal creatures embedded in computer graphic programs – that is so 1980s). For as Bookhounds of London (that great TOC product) that manuscripts come in all shapes and sizes and need not be restricted to a spell book/ grimoire, for as time progresses, literature advances, and within the advancement of literature comes new ways to drain one’s sanity.

“Ein Konto der Hexeraserei im Lindheim,” a Mysterious Manuscript for Trail of Cthulhu by Adam Gauntlett.

Nice little artifact that uses only Trail of Cthulhu ruleset with the new Bookhounds descriptions make an interesting side quest. However, as it did not inspire me to run with it, save, perhaps as red herring or side quest found it a bit tedious. Plus, I could swear I have read about a similar scenario somewhere or played in it...at some con...

“Das Teufelherz,” an Arcane Artifact for Trail of Cthulhu by Adam Gauntlett.

A little trinket that is bound to unhinge a few investigators…for it is not a magic item that one wants to keep (in fact, there are very few magic items that one wants to keep in Cthulhu…sorry children this is not D&D). As one reads through the description one immediately thinks of its placement within a scenario and let slowly corrupt and worm its ill intent among players and the party as a whole…knowing that artefact will long survive even after the party is gone. And, that is the beauty of artefacts in Cthulhu take something from the cultist and things are bound to very go very wrong.

“Sukakpak,” a scenario by Jason Morningstar with conversion notes for Call of Cthulhu, Trail of Cthulhu, Cthulhu Dark, and Nemesis.

An excellent scenario that magnificently captures the Cthulhu vibe that is not just another monster, the vibe being the monster is unknown. Jason perfectly captures the isolation and atmosphere of Northern Alaska along with excellent PC intra-interactions. The horror is at first subtle but builds up with a great tsunami toward the end that players must act or die. The scenario is structured (as one might expect when it is partially coded for TOC) but sandbox enough to allow freedom for PCs to interact with the larger environment. So, while the ending is not a given…there is only one solution yet does not have to involve a TPK. The fact that this is coded for four different rule sets is also impressive – thus a Keeper not liking the rigidity of one can simply employ the freedom awarded by another. An excellent one-shot that I want to run at a convention in the near future and see how it actually does run.

“Unaussprechlichen Klutzen,” a Fiasco playset by Graham Walmsley.

If an adventure seed is a bit of text with 1D6 variations, Fiasco takes it one step further by constructing an entire adventure from 1D6 rolls. Fascinating seeds are contained within constructed around an interesting (although highly implausible event) that does involve a fair degree of mirth and cultists running around trying to bring a GOO from the bottom of the ocean back from his slumber. As one should be able to tell Unaussprechlichen Klutzen is a light hearted Fiasco adventure. However, even if you do not want play Fiasco many an enterprising Keeper can mine these nuggets to spawn their own adventure.

“The Man With a Thousand Faces,” a Call of Cthulhu scenario by Richard A. Becker.

Another excellent scenario, although a little bewildering at first involving investigators who are either PIs or do that type of flat footed work. A missing silent screen actor, a distraught wife and a pressing deadline makes one feel like there are in a Noir film. However, very quickly the investigation turns to the horror which turns into a bit of a chase, in which, players will at first be confused then quickly have to figure out. There is no world shattering consequences but the players are bound to lose their sanity in this one, as the horror multiplies and pulls them into the vortex of madness.

“Tradecraft Meets Lovecraft,” a Delta Green Directive from A-Cell by Adam Scott Glancy.

More “behind the scenes” details from Mr. Glancy giving us teasers for the post-911 Delta Green 2e that he and the good folks at Pagan are working on. Found these designers notes invaluable as I have tended to run Delta Green much like a Modern/Cthulhu Now game, Adam reminds us that Delta Green is grounded in the espionage sensibility thus more Bourne and less Arbitrage. I always like Game Designers notes but as we have to wait so long between updates…I always hope we can get more…so, I wonder if Mr. Glancy and company would like to start a blog… Hopefully, all these concepts, while excellent do get play tested as maybe I was not the only one who ignored Tradecraft’s importance in Delta Green

“She Had Everything,” a Message in a Bottle by Brennan Bishop.

A little piece of mood fiction that easily can be inserted as a player’s aid or just get a certain seed for an adventure. I could see both using this prose, not to mention the obvious use of personal enjoyment through reading a short story that is designed at the end to provide right level of fear/creepiness needed to run a successful Cthulhu game.

The Eye of Light and Darkness, with nine reviews:

Should a reviewer review reviews? I think not. ‘muff said.

All in all, this Unspeakable Oath pulls its weight and the adventures make it worth its weight in gold. The art is a high standard that one can expect from a Pagan/Arc Dream product. When one reads the editorial, one immediately feels for the life of a small publishing house – for this is a labour of love and the whole magazine reflects that. It pushes the envelope in areas that Chaosium and some of the other licensees do not...whether it be in the direction of the horrific or just the downright disturbing. And, that is what Pagan (as Arc Dream is their publisher) does best just makes look at the world with a bit more fear – for things are not quite what they seem which for me corresponds to the best in Call of Cthulhu role-playing – it is not you are chasing down cool monsters to take their stuff – but you are sticking your finger in a rather large dike and there is a storm brewing on the other side despite the seemingly clear blue sky (such is the nature of the eye of hurricane). Pity that we have to wait so long between issues but I get the feeling that if we did not...some of the awesomeness that Pagan does would be reduced to something more banal. Keep up the excellent work and look forward the next issue...

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