Saturday, June 14, 2014

(Review) Tales of the Sleepless City

For the longest time, Tales of the Sleepless City was my holy grail of my want list.  I believe that and the mousling tavern set sat there for the longest time, and at long last, both are removed.  

I wanted this book for two reasons.  First, I had read nothing but rave reviews from the other products at Miskatonic River Press, and second, with my Call of Cthulhu campaign moving to New York City, it only made sense to get as many quality scenarios to give me options as a keeper.

Sleepless is a varied anthology of scenarios from multiple authors for New York City.  Some are tied to actual historical events, others reinforce urban legends and myths of the era.

"To Awaken What Never Sleeps" by Daniel Harns starts with the Investigators getting involved in an actual historical event (a subway accident) and the slowly involve themselves with the inner workings of Megapoliomancy.  Yes, I didn't know what that was either before I read the scenario.  A good number of potential "ins" for the group besides being the heroic rescuers, plenty of potential harm, both in hit points and sanity, and a potential benevolent ally (more towards the city than the players) make it a solid scenario just outside the norm of CoC tropes.

"Terror from the Museum" by Brian M Sammons starts out very graphic, gets the group on the run, and involves a certain Egyptian god and their favored possibly running around in the sewers.  After reading this I realized that Keeper Murph over at the Miskatonic University Podcast used this with the serial numbers filed off to bolster his Masks game that had deviated, and the first two locations worked great.    Not tremendous risk, and accordingly not much reward.  Despite a few Egyptian links, only one skill check focused specifically on that, so any group can easily be fitted into it.

"The Fishers of Men" by Charles Michael Hurst deals with folk medicine and religion in Harlem in the 20's. The investigators may be dealing with a high-profile case, but they're also dealing with the day-to-day lives of Harlemites, and most investigator groups are a bit to white to handle that properly.  There's magic, rivalries, prestidigitation, and the chance for mass casualties.  There's also some potential for mass growth in investigators' Occult and Cthulhu Mythos skills.   A sneaky street level smarts is required to achieve success.  You ivory tower intellectuals leave this one alone.

In "The Tenement" by Oscar Rios, investigators are hired to investigate(!) a deplorable tenement in Hell's Kitchen.  It has a huge cast to track, tons of role-playing potential because of it, and a lot of (hopefully) non-lethal ruckuses to resolve.  A good mixture of academic and street characters is need and LOTS of social skills (perhaps some points in Medicine and Other Languages would greatly help as well). 

"A Night at the Opera" by Mikael Hedberg has the investigators getting box seats for opera's premiere, but a front-row seat to some otherworldly shenanigans.  This one I can imagine some pacing issues with, as the whole scenario takes place in less than seven hours game time.  Once the investigators are aware of the situation, it can go from containable to world-ending disastrous in just a matter of a wrong turn and a successful skill roll.   The scenario feels like a nice "filler" between longer campaigns, but the physical and SAN lethality are a bit much.  Taking into consideration what they're fighting, that might be understandable.

"The Child and the Weeping Mother" by Tom Lynch and Scott David Aniolowski takes the investigators deep into the politics, intrigue, and Mythos of Chinatown.  Lots of potential violence, escalating racial tension, Chinese gang violence and a game of  "Which dialect of Chinese is this crazy Oriental speaking?" make this a challenging scenario.  For the second time in this book, benevolent figure of mysticism is presented as a short and long-term aid to the group.  This one might require a bit more prep for the Keeper than "The Tenement" but the results with a good group might turn out tremendous.

All in all Tales of the Sleepless City is a great addition to any one's Call of Cthulhu library.  There's enough variety in color and style that most Keepers can easily insert 2 of the scenarios into any campaign and use the others for one-shots. 

This meets my lofty expectations and on the Gaming with the Gnomies Five-Gnome System, I give this book an illustrious five out of five gnomes.

Tales of the Sleepless City is 150 pages, plus a few more for ads, and originally retailed for $29.95.  I know my FLGS grabbed that the last physical copy from the ACD distribution channels, so good luck!

I also just broke down skill use, SAN loss, and some other tidbits about the scenarios here.

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