Mansions of Madness (1990)

Mansions of Madness is a collection of Call of Cthulhu scenarios that’s so good it eventually wound up lending its name to a house-based Fantasy Flight Mythos board game (I don’t honestly know that for a fact, but it seems plausible).

As I noted yesterday, Cthulhu Mythos scenarios tend to get too cosmic to feel properly Halloween-y, which is definitely the case here – snake gods and formless horrors abound – but I think the house-based nature of the scenarios manages to tap into some of the same elements that make haunted house stories work so well.

The best is the classic “Crack’d and Crook’d Manse,” which has players investigating the disappearance of a millionaire from his mansion, a home with a long history of death and madness. The detective work in the first two thirds goes in lock step with an increasing sense of dread, which anchors the conclusion, making it dramatic and nightmarish instead of implausible. It’s also very gooey. It’s one of the best self-contained Call of Cthulhu scenarios out there.

I’m fond of Janet Aulisio’s illustration work here. She has a heavy crosshatching style that server Call of Cthulhu well, though to my knowledge this is the only Chaosium book she worked on. Shame. You might know her work from FASA lines like Shadowrun and Earthdawn. I can’t help but wonder if her super creepy Child Thing illustration (first one after the cover) served as inspiration for the climax of Playdead Games’ Inside.

Also of note: this is the 2007 second printing. Identical to the 1990 edition, but with an additional scenario (which looks…odd).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *