Game Review: Return to the Forgotten Village

ForgottenVillageby Ron McClung

 

H.P. Lovecraft’s Dunwich: Return to the Forgotten Village
For Call of Cthulhu (Classic & d20)
Chaosium, Inc.

H.P. Lovecraft’s Dunwich sourcebook is the first of the Lovecraft Country series to be revised for use in Call of Cthulhu d20. It is a dual system book, able to be used in either Basic or d20 systems. It is basically a sourcebook describing the town of Dunwich, its surroundings, its citizens and the mysteries that lie beneath the “forgotten town” appearing in H.P. Lovecraft’s classic The Dunwich Horror. Included is source material, complete adventures that take place in and around Dunwich, and several maps.

The book opens with a Table of Contents and an Introduction explaining the book’s use and contents, followed by a comprehensive map of the Lovecraft Country in Massachusetts as well as a listing of locations on that map with a paragraph describing their significance.

The meat of the book starts with the complete text of The Dunwich Horror. If a Keeper is going to tackle a Call of Cthulhu game, it is a real good idea to read some of H.P. Lovecraft’s works, and this is a good place to start. This story is quintessential Lovecraft. It gives you a sense of context and tone to the Lovecraftian universe.

Adding considerable value to the book, each location in the story is identified by a Location Number; some people and events mentioned also have a Location Number in parentheses next to them, indicating that they are associated with that location. This is a handy system that allows for quick reference.

Following the story is a chapter entitled “Welcome to Dunwich.” It is the start of a location-by-location description of Dunwich Township. It gives a short history of the township, as well as general facts and statistics of the town, and names and notes about the town leaders’ names. Also included are climate notes, flora and fauna descriptions, a timeline of the township’s history, notes on how to get to and around in Dunwich, as well as where to stay and notes on local laws. Interestingly, also included in this are notes about the telephone “system” in Dunwich, and it ends with a complete “Village Directory” of telephone numbers. Nice flavor!

The “Welcome” chapter is then followed by the “Secrets of Dunwich.” This section is probably best not read by players or it will ruin some deep dark secrets the Keeper could use. Revealed here are the darkest secrets of the Whateley Gold and the Believers, an ancient secretive cult that founded Dunwich. There are many cool nuggets of inspiration contained in these pages.

Inside the “Secrets of Dunwich” is a section about the village itself. This includes the first of many Dunwich maps, numbered to correspond to the Location Numbers mentioned earlier. These describe the central places the players would probably go first—from the Osborn’s General Store (formerly a church) to the Dunwich Cemetery, and other important locations in the village-proper.

After extensive descriptions of the village, Western Dunwich, and the Mill Area, the next chapter is called “A Guide to Dunwich Environs.” This chapter divides the area around Dunwich into nine regions. Each region is described in painstaking detail, noting specific sites and buildings of importance as well as listing important people associated with each site. Detailed here are the relationships, specific historical significance, and political plots of the Dunwich sites, people, and things. Nothing is left untouched—not even the loneliest abandoned barn.
If that isn’t enough, the following chapter, “The Underground,” as the name suggests, delves into the caverns, tunnels, and underground waterways that lie beneath Dunwich. These are no ordinary caverns for investigators to go off spelunking in if they get bored. Inside these dark serpentine tunnels are Things in the Darkness, and other immeasurable perils including The Black Beach and The Boat Dweller. The Underground is not just one set of caverns but several. Starting with the upper caverns, investigators can potentially be lead to the windy lower caverns and even deeper into darkness and secrets untold for centuries.

The book ends with adventures. A solid one-third of the book is dedicated to adventuring in and around Dunwich, including “Return to Dunwich,” and “Earth, Sky, Soul”—a short adventure/encounter first published in the Unspeakable Oath fanzine. Also included in this section are the appendices. The first is a chronology of the events that occurred in The Dunwich Horror to be used if the Keeper wishes to put the players through that actual story. The second is an invaluable tool for Keepers, “Mysteries, Legends, & Rumors,” a series of notes divided out by region that describe just what the title suggests. This is perfect for those red-herrings, creepy tales, and things that keepers like to throw at the investigators to keep their stress levels high. The final appendices are the d20 conversions for non-player characters, creatures, and spells. Also included in the end are the handouts for the adventures and a nice fold-out map of the entire region.

H.P. Lovecraft’s Dunwich: Return to the Forgotten Village is a book of rich material for any Keeper wanting to venture into an established town in the Lovecraft Country. It is full of “nuggets,” ideas for quick adventures or long campaigns. The value in the book comes in the numerous possibilities, the ease of use for a Keeper, and the fact that it is a complete sourcebook—beginning to end—giving veteran Keepers as well as beginners a chance to get the true feel of a CoC game.

 

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