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Embark on a Terrifying Journey in Call of Cthulhu’s The Children of Fear

The Children of Fear (leatherette) (PDF only) for Call of Cthulhu (PDF) ranges across 1920s Asia, spreading the fear and horror of the Mythos or the occult through multiple countries. The investigators (or heroes) decide the path their journey will take as they battle to stop the King of Fear from destroying everything they care about.

COCCOF1.png

The adventure is inspired by the journey of Hieuen-Tsiang in the Chinese novel Journey to the West. It can be played with core Call of Cthulhu (PDF) (review) rules or with Pulp Cthulhu (PDF) (review). Six pregenerated characters have optional Pulp stats. Chaosium was kind enough to send me a print copy to help in the review which I appreciate as the PDF I purchased cannot capture the quality and beauty of the book itself in physical form.

Spanning eight chapters, the adventure cannot be fully explored in this short review. Instead, I’m going to touch on three aspects: the travel, tools to make the adventure the Keeper’s own, and the Mythos/occult elements.

PCs travel to Peking, Tun-Huang, and Taklamaka in China; Gandhara and Sitavana in India; Dirge and Pemakö in Tibet; and to Nalanda, Patna, and Assam in India. A series of handouts help the players learn what their investigators know. An entire appendix is devoted to travel. There may also be extradimensional or extraplanetary travel depending on the Keeper. Detailed maps of the routes help the Keeper track the adventure and the investigators have plenty of options of which way to go along the way. A suggested list of skills is included for groups using their own characters. Language is discussed as well.

A large number of optional encounters are included to help the Keeper add to the campaign if she wishes. An overview, sidebars, and careful set up of the chapters helps the Keeper keep track of the action and travel. The Keeper also gets to decide the location of the city from which the King of Fear rules. This choice also helps the Keeper decide the exact nature of the King of Fear and what Mythos being it is or if it isn’t a Mythos being at all (purely occult). There is a list of new spells. Both Keepers and players are given a list of resources to consult if they want to enhance game play. Finally, the writer has a series of blog posts about how to run the adventure:
  • Part One: "Is this campaign just for experienced Keepers" (answer: No)
  • Part Two: First Things First
  • Part Three: Session Zero and Tools for a Safe Gaming Table
  • Part Four: Getting on with the campaign and Session Goals
  • Part Five: Have Maps and Handouts Handy
The book is filled with ways to customize the investigators/heroes and the adventure itself to each game group. The choice to use the Pulp Cthulhu is handled through sidebars. This aspect of customization cannot be under-emphasized. Keepers have a lot of support here to make this adventure their own. And PCs will have advice to help them succeed as well.

The adventure’s main antagonists include The Tokabhaya: the cult of the Children of Fear; The Triumvirate: the ruling council of the Tokabhaya and corrupt humans who host the memories of the original alien Triumvirate and all their successors; and The Lords of Shambhala: the regents of Agartha’s opposing kingdom, who rule in the Kulika King’s stead until he comes into his majority. This trio of evil doers will vex the investigators throughout their travels through Asia not just with physical threat but also with manipulation and deceit. The villains are complex with powerful motives and an intricate plan the PCs will have to work to unravel.

If monsters are your jam, the adventure delivers on those too. Rat-men, ghouls, demons, skeletons, mi-go, white apes, and more will challenge the investigators. Most of these monsters are not Mythos specific, making it easier to tailor the adventure in an occult direction instead of a Mythos specific set up. For Pulp heroes in particular, mi-gos armed with matter-dissolving horns and lightening guns could be an exciting challenge to overcome. The horn burns and twists flesh as well as inflicting Sanity loss through unearthly wailing.

The Children of Fear (leatherette) (PDF only) promises a multi-part player led campaign journey through parts of Asia that scales from occult level threat all the way up to the Outer Gods. The adventure delivers on all of its promises and offers the best of what Call of Cthulhu (PDF) has to offer: historical accuracy, world travel, monstrous foes, cults, grounded reasons for investigators to go on supernatural adventures, and plenty of Keeper and investigator/hero support. Chaosium goes a bit further with Lynne Hardy writing blog posts to help Keepers both new and experienced. In addition, the book contains evocative art, descriptive detailed maps, a snazzy silk ribbon, and a great use of graphics and layout to make it easier to use. Highly recommended.
 
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Charles Dunwoody

Charles Dunwoody


imagineGod

Legend
Thank you for this wonderful review. I am mighty tempted to get this, just that I do not play Call of Cthulhu.

I think I understand my problems with Call of Cthulhu. I never really liked those Chaosium game rules.
However, having purchased Sandy Petersen's Cthulhu Mythos for 5e, now that is a wonderful product.
sandy_petersen_cthulhu_mythos_5e.jpg
 


eyeheartawk

Works 60% of the time, every time
Looking forward to this. NUsium has yet to disappoint me. I think the entirety of the 7th edition line has yet to have a stinker. It used to be far more hit and miss with OLDsium.
 

Grendel_Khan

Adventurer
@Charles Dunwoody How do you think this campaign handled the ongoing business about CoC/Lovecraft presenting threats that are inherently scary because they're "exotic?" I'm not speculating or looking to start a dogpile, just wondering how it read to you, with that modern understanding of Lovecraft in mind, as well as the constraints of presenting this kind of story through the lens of what I'm guessing are 1920s-era Westerners tromping around in unfamiliar locales.
 

@Charles Dunwoody How do you think this campaign handled the ongoing business about CoC/Lovecraft presenting threats that are inherently scary because they're "exotic?" I'm not speculating or looking to start a dogpile, just wondering how it read to you, with that modern understanding of Lovecraft in mind, as well as the constraints of presenting this kind of story through the lens of what I'm guessing are 1920s-era Westerners tromping around in unfamiliar locales.

The pregens include three from Asia, two from Europe, and one from America. So people who are local are expected to be played in the campaign. One investigator spent her whole life in Peking so the west of Asia may seem wild to her but I suppose it depends on how she is roleplayed. No different than a New Yorker going to the hills of Mass I suppose. May fit right in or may be a fish out of water experience.

Unpleasant parts of both the 1920s and the horror genre are discussed with options on how the Keeper handles each one. A strong direction is given to have all players weigh in on this discussion.

Because players may not know as much about 1920s Asia as their investigators, a series of hand outs provides background.

This adventure isn't based on a Lovecraft story and his work doesn't even appear in the recommended resources. It is actually inspired by Journey to the West (the West being western Asia not Europe) which is a Chinese saga. Options are given to pull the Mythos entirely out if the Keeper so desires.

The word exotic shows up three times in the PDF. Twice to describe animals (those more exotic than horses or mules) and once to describe street life (color, noise, and chaos and mixture of rich and poor).

Hope that helps. I just couldn't cover everything in the review. But Chaosium and the writer put real effort into making this adventure simply an adventure and not a series of cliches, stereotypes, or worse.
 

Here is an example right from the book of how helping the Keeper ground things is done:
AVENUES AND ALLEYWAYS Unlike the Legation Quarter, much of Peking is built around two structures: the courtyard house, or szuho-yuan (siheyuan), and the alleyway, or hu-t’ung (hutong). Lines of szuho-yuan, built side by side, create the hu-t’ungs between the rows of houses. The resulting alleys vary in width depending on the affluence of the neighborhood. The term “hu-t’ung” can also be used to describe a neighborhood formed by a group of such alleyways, such as the Pata (Bada) Hu-t’ung, Peking’s red-light district.
 

Grendel_Khan

Adventurer
The pregens include three from Asia, two from Europe, and one from America. So people who are local are expected to be played in the campaign. One investigator spent her whole life in Peking so the west of Asia may seem wild to her but I suppose it depends on how she is roleplayed. No different than a New Yorker going to the hills of Mass I suppose. May fit right in or may be a fish out of water experience.

Unpleasant parts of both the 1920s and the horror genre are discussed with options on how the Keeper handles each one. A strong direction is given to have all players weigh in on this discussion.

Because players may not know as much about 1920s Asia as their investigators, a series of hand outs provides background.

This adventure isn't based on a Lovecraft story and his work doesn't even appear in the recommended resources. It is actually inspired by Journey to the West (the West being western Asia not Europe) which is a Chinese saga. Options are given to pull the Mythos entirely out if the Keeper so desires.

The word exotic shows up three times in the PDF. Twice to describe animals (those more exotic than horses or mules) and once to describe street life (color, noise, and chaos and mixture of rich and poor).

Hope that helps. I just couldn't cover everything in the review. But Chaosium and the writer put real effort into making this adventure simply an adventure and not a series of cliches, stereotypes, or worse.

Sounds like they tackled this stuff head-on, and did a great job of it. Appreciate the detailed response.

One more question, since I know you’re a big fan of Cthulhu Pulp—did you think it seemed more promising as a pulp or non-pulp campaign?

asking because this is the first time in a long while I’ve been interested in picking up one of Chaosium’s epic campaigns. The setting seems really compelling if handled well (which, again, sounds like is the case).
 

Sounds like they tackled this stuff head-on, and did a great job of it. Appreciate the detailed response.

One more question, since I know you’re a big fan of Cthulhu Pulp—did you think it seemed more promising as a pulp or non-pulp campaign?

asking because this is the first time in a long while I’ve been interested in picking up one of Chaosium’s epic campaigns. The setting seems really compelling if handled well (which, again, sounds like is the case).

Honestly, the adventure is so customizable rules-wise I think both options have equal weight and validity. I actually started out thinking Pulp but after reading through it, I am actually torn which way I would go.

The adventure was obviously lovingly written for Classic play and the box on page 22 confirms this.

However, China in the 1920s is really dangerous (per page 21) and even in Classic play guns are recommended. Also, some optional monsters are much easier to include in a Pulp game.

Right now, I'm leaning more toward low Pulp (Pulp Cthulhu page 8). No psychic powers or weird science. One talent (Linguist in particular would be really useful). If the extra hit points are kept in, the heroes can get in a few more fights though, so I'd likely keep those.
 


Azuresun

Adventurer
Sounds like they tackled this stuff head-on, and did a great job of it. Appreciate the detailed response.

One more question, since I know you’re a big fan of Cthulhu Pulp—did you think it seemed more promising as a pulp or non-pulp campaign?

asking because this is the first time in a long while I’ve been interested in picking up one of Chaosium’s epic campaigns. The setting seems really compelling if handled well (which, again, sounds like is the case).

They do seem to handle this stuff well. I was pleasantly surprised by the discussion of prostitution and LGBT+ culture in 1920's Berlin in one of the earlier books.
 

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