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Dead Leaves Fall

Authors: Simon Yee et al.
Art: Divers Hands
Publisher: Chaosium Inc. MULA Monograph 0406, October 2011.

Review by: Skyman and NeferSutekh
Dead Leaves Fall is the 2011 Chaosium Halloween Adventure Contest compendium. 136 pages. 8.5 x 11" perfect-bound paperback and PDF. Cover art by Verric.

The monograph contains the nine winning Call of Cthulhu adventures from the 2011 Halloween contest. Only one scenario (Lemuralia) does not happen on or has connection to Halloween but does involve a Roman equivalent. Because of new art, layout and submission expectations from Chaosium you will see more maps and art than in past Halloween monographs that look cleaner and do not have odd border issues.

In general, a lot of these investigations are tailored toward veteran characters that speak Aklo and have Cthulhu Mythos skills. As a Keeper you might also want to own supplements and sourcebooks like Arkham, Arkham Now, Miskatonic University, Cthulhu Invictus, Legacy of Arrius Lurco and the BRP core book. For the most part you can run the scenarios without them but they will greatly enhance your options and play experience. Only two of the scenarios really need the help from source books. Oscar's Lemuralia literally tells you to use a map plan found in the core Cthulhu Invictus book. Jeff Woodall's 13 Black Candles needs the BRP core book because the adventure lists weapons but does not have the damage listed for them for easy reference.

I don't mind the spelling and grammar of the adventures as long as they get to the point. Only one scenario (13 Black Candles) had some challenging English issues.

Fear in a Bottle by John Almack

Written by the author who did A Method to Madness from the Terrors from Beyond supplement. A background rich adventure and unique momentum flow of play gives this scenario its high points. Investigators are Arkham-based in the late 1920s and the author explains that this scenario will benefit from the Arkham and the Miskatonic University supplements (which it does). Yes this scenario has a map and it looks great and professional. A lot of the characters are fleshed out really well and the author has a section called Dramatis Personae that goes over each one and their motive of operating which I think is important for this adventure since there is a significant social aspect to the NPC encounters. The adventure has handouts for players.

The Lock-In by Jon Hook

Initially the scenario across as a mundane adventure about missing obese children but has a nice surprise as players delve deeper. The author refers to the Arkham Now supplement but it is not necessary. By the way it is nice to see the supplement get some attention. The investigation pretty much drives itself to the conclusion. The art and maps in this scenario are plentiful and well done. The author uses charts for the different levels of investigative success and they "pop" out for clear reference. The scenario is set on Halloween night but if you need to stretch it you could use any other holiday or event where there is large temptation to eat poorly like Thanksgiving or Easter.

The Ilsley Variant by Rick Hudson

Have you ever read a horror story where the main protagonist finds some minor thing curiously strange only to have it slowly peel away like layers on an onion to something horribly wrong…well that’s this adventure. The main "McGuffin" in this scenario is the curiosity in the investigators to uncover something academic/artistic in nature that seems off. If your players can achieve that level of drive to move the scenario along and don't need the traditional trappings like a murder, kidnapping, or finding something missing to beat them over the head, then they will appreciate this gem by Mr. Hudson. If not, well there are still ways around it but it would be a spoiler to tell…

The author leaves open some setting details so Keepers can move the scenario to fit their group. The Halloween element is light and almost unnecessary. I really like the climax and the trope that drives the antagonists. It would not be hard to cannibalise elements of this scenario and add them to another adventure. There are some suggested future adventure hooks but the one that I thought was obvious is not present.


The Confessions of St. Augustine, Chapter CCLXVIII by Tim Hutchings

Are you a Keeper with a group that had to retire several characters because they are so grizzled and low SAN that they are, in your mind, unplayable? Well Tim Hutchings has written something to finally put those characters to rest. Written in a tongue in cheek manner. With a great set up that was obviously thought through for a sand box play. Players get to create their own McGuffin and pretty much beer bottle a lot of aspects to the setting. There is only one major catch that the players do not have control over and it's pretty much the element that starts the domino effect. Keep in mind this is not horror in the Lovecraft sense but horror in the sense that these characters have been subjected to the Call of Cthulhu for too long. There are pregenerated characters for players and the first two are almost a must have. The portrait art is fun but there are no maps and it might be handy to have the R.J. Christensen monograph This Old Haunted House (too) to help players set up the house situation. The scenario is set for the 1950s but the date can be changed to accommodate your needs with little effort.

Great Old Ones on the Great White Way by Joseph M. Isenberg
Despite how you might initially feel about the cross genre presentation this scenario is actually fairly involved with some nice touches that, to me, does not take away from the game play. This is a fairly straight 1920s investigation that takes investigators to a Broadway show in New York to find a missing actress. There is some reference to the Secrets of New York setting supplement but it's not crucial. Once again it's nice to see. There are a lot of Broadway show references and nods to H.P. Lovecraft with some of the NPC names. While there are handouts there are no maps or art. You're probably going to want to take a highlighter to this scenario to block off descriptive dialogue and bullet important information for ease in referencing. A suggestion by the author, not found in the monograph, is to make a copy of the NPC dialogue so players can either read or play it out for good effect.

The Costume Party by Tim Moriarity

Sometimes you need a quick scenario for your players. Well, The Costume Party might fit your bill. A quick and dirty 1920's scenario built around a Halloween party off the coast of Main. Despite the title there is little mention of actual costumes that the people are wearing. In general the writing itself is brief and to the point. The author claims that this adventure will only take 1-2 hours. The scenario does certain things to end certain actions that normally drag on. A layout of the house would have been useful but the descriptive text gives a fairly good idea.

Lemuralia by Oscar Rios

If you were wondering how you could get Halloween into a Cthulhu Invictus game… well this is how you do it. If there was anyone who was going to be able to do it, the author of The Legacy of Arrius Lurco would be that person.
I very much like this scenario. It is simple and engaging to play. Despite being based on a Roman event equivalent to Halloween instead of Halloween itself …it works. The author makes a nod to himself with the main character that collects the players together named Oscarios. The best way to describe this scenario would be Roman Ghostbusters. I've already mentioned the issue with the map but that probably would not stop most Keepers.

Oscar has had at least one or more scenarios in every Halloween contest monograph published to date and probably in the future. A tradition I hope he continues.

13 Black Candles by Jeff Woodall

Possibly as a taste for what is in his Colonial Terrors (monograph) Jeff Woodall offers a small All Hallows Eve scenario, 13 Black Candles. The scenario starts off at a party on All Hallows Eve and descends into a mystery that leads to a horror. It has some compelling qualities related to the mythos but it does seem to need stats for weapons that I would assume can be found in the core BRP book. The scenario comes with nameless pre-generated characters and yes any Call of Cthulhu player with any common sense is going to want the guy with the canon. Every period of time has its proverbial dynamite and in the colonial time period it's the canon.

The scenario has some nice pencil/graphite art work and a hand drawn map. Also there is a hand out. I would suggest using a high lighter on some of the info for easy reference. Despite of what might be thought of the writing it seems a good amount of effort was put into this scenario. As for the colonial period in Call of Cthulhu, while currently not my cup of tea, it has some momentum and I understand Sixtystone Press is coming out with a supplement for this period.

Some of the NPCs that can help the players (such as moving the canon) don't have names. They can be given generic names based on their occupations or left nameless as required.

Dead Leaves Fall by Simon Yee

This aptly-named scenario is another 1920s-era adventure set in Lovecraft Country, starting in Arkham and ending in the small town of Foxfield (a setting drawn from Keith Herber's Proof of Life, found in New Tales of the Miskatonic Valley by Miskatonic River Press). 

The players are tasked with recovering five pages (or "leaves") that have been "borrowed" from a mythos tome by an Arkham local and returning them to the book's owner in Chicago. The importance of Halloween (and another connection to the scenario's title) will become apparent as the investigation progresses. 

The scenario is well written and organised, with several illustrations and maps included, as well as detailed statistics for the specific NPCs encountered and new mythos creatures that may be used by the Keeper in their own games.

I hope this review gives you an idea of what to expect from this monograph.


This version of the review is missing the last three scenarios.


EDIT: Corrected now.

Good review.