Machine Tractor Station Kharkov-37
Product Code: CHA0310
Publishing Year: 2004 (minor revision 2007; corrected and expanded through the addition of character sheets for the major characters of the adventure)
Cover Price: $20.00
Author: Bret Kramer
Setting: 1930s (U.S.S.R.). Mentions Delta Green
Format: MULA Monograph
Released as PDF: Yes
A Scenario Set in Stalin's U.S.S.R.
Life for the average soldier in the Red Army is never easy, but it is a better life than for most Russians in the late-winter of 1933. You have a bed, steady rations, and place of security in a dangerous time. There are duties to perform, yes, and sometimes they are hazardous. They are the price you pay for what you have.
But now there are new orders — to repair the telegraph lines at a distant outpost. It seems like a simple task, but you have doubts. Why not wait until the roads have cleared? Why send the Army to do what prisoners should do, even if at gunpoint? Why haven’t our comrades at the station repaired the line themselves? Why are the Telegraph Agency men wearing pistols?
There are horrors enough in the Worker’s Paradise. The new collective farms have failed to provide as was promised, and famine stalks the land. A knock at the door might mean death in the gulag. In distant Moscow there are rumors of a coming purge of enemies, both real and imagined.
And yet . . . there are worse things to be found at Machine Tractor Station Kharkov-37.
Machine Tractor Station Kharkov-37 is a Call of Cthulhu scenario set in the 1930s era Soviet Union. It comes with six pre-generated characters and extensive handouts. It is intended for, at most, a few sessions of play.
Front Cover Text
A CTHULHU SCENARIO SET IN STALIN'S USSR
Comments / Trivia
The 2007 revision contains several changes: -Glossy cover -Removal of a number of typos and text errors -Improved character sheets, created by Patrick Murphy
Dedications: "For my father and his copy of Grof Conklin's Omnibus of Science Fiction.
Th first of these does not work, but the material is posted below under 'Keeper's Eyes Only'
- Review on Yog-Sothoth.com
- Review by James on Ideology of Madness
- Review by Matthew Pook in Pyramid (Subscription to Pyramid Online required.)
- Run-through by Kinnygraham
Spoilers - Keepers Eyes Only
Players should not read any further.
Comment here to Keepers about this book. Comments on specific Scenarios and Campaigns go on their respective pages. Keep DISCUSSION on the talk page.
Review of Contents This monograph does what it says on the tin; it gives us an unusual one-off scenario set in Soviet Russia in 1933. Pregenerated characters are provided with character sheets and detailed backgrounds.
The writing is sound and the material is well organised. The scenario is adorned throughout by flavourful imagery – Social Realist propaganda art and archive photos – as well as maps, handouts and illustrations generated for the project.
Review of the Scenario [SPOILERS] The characters are investigating the disappearance of an earlier mission to the remote agricultural station of the title under the cover of being communications men. This being Stalin's Russia nothing is as it seems with there being layers of secrecy to this mission (some characters are undercover), to the one they are investigating, and, of course, to the horrific mythos visitation in the area that has interested the state in it in the first place. What the investigators will find is bleak, disturbing, gruesome and likely to be fatal.
The scenario, playtested at least thrice, is well worked out. It uses an hierarchical beaucratic/military structure but allows it to play out in a way that doesn't result in the PCs ordering minions to do all the work. All the evidence is still there for the players to piece together what has gone wrong and how the first state intervention exacerbated the disaster. There is every opportunity for challengingly paranoid role-playing as the unearthly nature of the real threat becomes apparent.
The author has done his homework in every aspect of the scenario from the historical setting to checking all game connections and redeveloping the monster in line with the original Lovecraft story (The Colour Out of Space) in order to make it work more efficiently for the purposes of the scenario.
Perhaps a little more information or suggestions about running this setting would have been advantageous. Calling each other 'Comrade' constantly, as one YSDC poster suggested, would be a good start, but then the monograph never claims to be a sourcebook on Stalin's Russia. We are given what we need, with plenty of handouts indicating how this fragment of Stalin's Russia was meant to work.
Although this is quite an early entry in the monograph line, I have a recent copy with a glossy two-colour cover that looks good but which would look better if the cover image was sharper. Some of the handouts are a little blurred, too, though everything functions. The illustrations made for the book are IMHO substandard except for the adapted illustration on page 99 of Lenin sweeping the globe of Goomi GOOs which is hilarious. This is carping criticism because the standard of art I'm judging against is that of non-monograph publications. The majority of images are fine and the reproduction quality issues were probably caused by teething troubles in the monograph process. That these problems are still around is at least a lesson for monograph writers and designers that they will have to live with what emerges.
Summary [More Spoilers] This book has been reprinted numerous times (that is, it's well on its way to selling 200 copies rather than it hitting that target several times) and its sales, all to Keepers one imagines, are predicated on good word of mouth. This is deserved.
This monograph provides a great one-off scenario that will stick in the mind enough to make the Keeper consider the possibilities of a campaign in this setting. The feel of the piece is not unlike Delta Green set in the 1930s. The expressed intent, to create a scenario that is no more than survivable, does indeed follow the spirit of Lovecraft's inspirational tale and, through taking us into a society that is almost as inscrutable and deadly as the mythos, perhaps exceeds that spirit in that there is no homely New England to retreat to.