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Swamp Song: A 1920s Scenario for Call of Cthulhu $2.99 $2.39
Publisher: Chaosium
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by Michael R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/20/2023 10:15:58

This is the first, spoiler-lite, half of my review for Swamp Song. The full review can be found in the link below: https://mjrrpg.com/swamp-song-review-call-of-cthulhu/p>

Note: Review copy provided by the author.

In-Short: A investigation-heavy single-session scenario that makes full use of its setting and ambience and is well suited to ongoing or one-shot play, though it may benefit from having its teeth sharpened a bit.

Spoiler-lite for Players and Keepers:

Swamp Song is classic-style scenario set in the 1920s French Quarter of New Orleans during a massive summer storm, and tasks the investigators with hunting down a missing friend. The search should take only a single session without embellishments and takes the form of an almost The Hangover-esque caper as the party retraces their friend’s escapades of the night before. It is very investigation-focused, letting the players work their way freeform style through locations and social interactions.

The scenario makes full use of its setting. Every character and location is seeped in the French Quarter, letting investigators visit places from smoky absinthe clubs to subterranean canals used for prohibition-skirting smuggling, and meet colourful NPCs like an eccentric faux-French occultist bookstore owner or top-of-their-game jazz pianists. There are lots of asides and information boxes that explain the eccentricities of 1920s Near Orleans for added context. Add in the document itself having a thematic production style with plentiful period images, and Keepers shouldn’t have any problem getting into the right groove.

The downloadable file is 44 pages, with the main text taking up 22 pages, 3 pages for stats/tomes/spells, 4 pages of handouts, 11 pages for 5 pregenerated investigators, and the remaining 5 for front/back covers and copyright information. The layout and production is fantastic, courtesy of the Miskatonic Repository’s resident design polymath Alex Guillotte with every page being just a delight to look at and easy to read thanks to clean and varied formatting. Character art for NPCs and pregens by Giacomo Mascellani is stylised and cartoony without being silly, and the accentuated character traits give players easy references to remember (I would have also liked to have a few more character portraits, for instance, of the Count’s daughter, who ended up hanging around for a good portion of my run). The handouts are all functional text documents of some sort containing actionable information, but are still prettied up with aging effects and fancy design to place them in the setting.

(An aside here: having ‘actionable information’ in a handout sounds like it should be obvious, but I emphasise it to differentiate these handouts from ‘ooh pretty’ handouts. Those are still great to have, letting players visualise something in the scenario, but are not the same as a handout that contains a clue or information the players themselves need to parse.)

Plenty of background information, along with more of Mascellani’s portraits, make the pregenerated investigators stand out and give players an easy springboard for roleplaying their characters, and their backgrounds and stats are varied, letting each cover different bases both mechanically and socially. The scenario itself presents plenty of different challenges both skill roll-wise and character-wise, further making sure each investigator has some time to shine.

Without getting into spoilers, the scenario structure is also neatly laid out. With freeform investigations it can be difficult for the Keeper to keep everything in their head with regards to location relationships and where characters and clues are found. Swamp Song helpfully gives each location in the freeform investigation act a ‘Links’ box that points out which clues and locations are found in the location, and the .pdf goes a step further with hyperlinking. This is a slimmer version of what The Maw does with its full page ‘Setting & Key Information” summaries for each location, and the slimmer version works well here in Swamp Song with the lighter page count. I love this trend and highly encourage it in any scenario of this type.

Swamp Song makes great use of its New Orleans setting to tell a classic Call of Cthulhu tale that gives players freedom in their investigations, and thanks to well-considered writing and layout is smooth read and run for Keepers. Well recommended to any players or Keepers looking for a unique 1920s setting or just want a solid investigative scenario.

The full spoiler-filled review can be found here: https://mjrrpg.com/swamp-song-review-call-of-cthulhu/p>

Rating:

[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Swamp Song: A 1920s Scenario for Call of Cthulhu
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