Call of Cthulhu campaigns tend to come in two broad flavors. There are the globehopping pulp adventures of classics like Masks of Nyarlathotep or Horror On The Orient Express on the one side. On the other hand, there are campaigns set in “Lovecraft Country”, the New England countryside home to Arkham, Miskatonic University and other fictional locations. A Time to Harvest focuses on the latter style of campaign by introducing players new to Call of Cthulhu to strange goings on in rural Vermont. I received a review copy from Chaosium at GameHole Con to see how the story came together and how it stands up to other Lovecraft Country stories.
This review contains spoilers.If you don’t wish to be spoiled, here’s my takeaway. A Time of Harvest is a solid campaign that introduces players to some iconic Cthulhu Mythos threats but it might strike some Keepers as being a little action heavy for a truly classic experience.
A Time To Harvest was designed by Brian M. Sammons. Glynn Owen Barass, Mike Mason and Lynne Hardy. It was originally run as the Organized Play series created in 2016 to highlight the print release of the seventh edition in print. The six adventures in the book are written for that edition although there are guidelines for using the scenarios with Pulp Cthulhu. Keepers who run the game in the classic rules set are also encouraged to allow players to use the rules for spending Luck to give their characters a better chance of lasting throughout the campaign.
Players take on the roles of Miskatonic University students who head out into the hills of Vermont to take part in a field study. The players aren’t the only ones part of the expedition and they get a chance to mingle with some other students before things take a bad turn. Soon enough the students are caught between powerful forces of the Mythos and people who are looking to fight those machinations. The campaign ends with a daring raid on a mi-go operation where survival is far from guaranteed. My favorite episode was set at Miskatonic University where the players have to root out mind-swapped cultists planning to destroy the famed Orne Library to take one of the most famous resources in the fight against Cthulhu off the board.
It was nice to see some modern techniques applied to Mythos cases. Not just discussions of safety tools or content warnings but the motivations behind the movers and shakers in the campaign. Older campaigns often just kind of shrug when digging into the motivations of why cultists want to end the world and it was good to see some human motivations for those bad guys in this book. There’s a lot of faction intrigue in the campaign between different Mythos forces which smart players can use to point those eldritch blasts elsewhere.The book also comes with a PDF supplement that allows Keepers to print out not just the handouts but the character portraits of all the characters the players meet in the campaign. Having this in a separate document makes it easier to print out or drop onto a VTT.
The one faction that could be problematic are a cult that’s a riff on Stephen King’s Children of the Corn. Applying the usual shotgun and firebomb tactics popular with many investigator teams can bring a moral quandary when such things are used against kids and an extra bit of drama. But it also feels like an extra challenge for the keeper. Making sure the players are okay with going up against kid cultists might spoil one of the big reveals in the campaign but changing the cult to all adults robs one of the stories of a very unique flavor. I would have liked a more detailed solution to use with groups not into the idea of a kid cult.
The book’s compatibility with Pulp Cthulhu weakens the overall product. There are a lot more action beats in the stories which are befitting of a pulpier campaign but might turn off Keepers looking for something that focused on investigation by frail antiquitarians who would never be so crass as to put points into firearms skills. There’s also a sixth adventure included specifically for Pulp Cthulhu where the players take the fight to the mi-go on their moon base. The adventure seems like an homage to the delightfully loopy campaign closer “Bad Moon Rising” from The Great Old Ones. But it also might give Keepers pause to buy a campaign book with an adventure in it they seem unlikely to use. Keepers who want to run this in the classic mold should keep the moonbase adventure as a one shot to try out Pulp Cthulhu. Perhaps the survivors go to the movies to watch the film based on their adventures which turns out to be a bubble helmet adventure flick instead of their true strange experiences under the mountains?
A Time to Harvest offers a fine modern campaign in Lovecraft Country, though Keepers should take time to decide what they might modify to run it to their own tastes.
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