Escape from Innsmouth (1992)

This is Escape from Innsmouth, by Kevin A. Ross, the culmination of the Lovecraft Country sourcebooks detailing fictional locales made famous in Lovecraft’s stories (the preceding volumes tackle Arkham, Dunwich and Kingsport). Each describes a town practically house by house – its residents of note, its landmarks, its secrets (and endless adventure hooks). Each captures the town’s unique atmosphere – Kingsport’s dreaminess, the isolated forelorness of Dunwich, the tension between the modern world and the superstitious past in Arkham. As great as those books are, none accomplish their goal as clearly as Escape from Innsmouth.

Based on Lovecrafts masterpiece “A Shadow Over Innsmouth,” this is a fishing town in decay, largely abandoned, with half its xenophobic residents actually half-human hybrids of the fish men – Deep Ones – that live beneath Devil’s Reef of the coast. The deal between the two groups was made generations ago through sorcery and lingers on as a curse of the blood.

Because the town is so depopulated, there’s room for a short two-part campaign that ranks among Call of Cthulhu’s very best. The first part takes place after Lovecraft’s story and partly reenacts it – investigators visit the town looking for a disappeared grocery clerk and wind up having to escape when the hybrids come for them at night. The second acts out the raid mentioned in Lovecraft’s story, where the federal government takes military action against the town and its Deep One allies. The raid has multiple objectives (with players shifting roles from their investigators to stock soldiers) that occur concurrently, with the action cutting cinematically back and forth. In terms of construction alone, it is a masterpiece.

The book’s art is fantastic as well, if subdued. Jason Eckhardt has a special talent for drawing gloomy, abandoned buildings. Those drawings provide much of the rich atmosphere for the first half of the book. Meanwhile, John T. Snyder’s line work creates evocative portraits and horrific action moments. It is one of Chaosium’s best looking books.

One final note – if the plot of the adventure sounds familiar, you probably played the Dark Corners of the Earth videogame, which draws heavily on this material and is one of the best horror videogames out there.

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