Arkham Unveiled (1990)

Welcome to Lovecraft Country! This series of sourcebooks, edited by the late, great Keith Herber, is one of many high water marks for Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu line and heralds the start of its 1990s golden age. Disclaimer: I love these books so very hard.

Arkham Unveiled was first, written by Herber and published in 1990. It details, block by block, H.P. Lovecraft’s famed witch-haunted town of Arkham, MA, home to Miskatonic University and no shortage of terrible mysteries.

This is an ambitious book and I can’t think of any RPG sourcebook project quite on the same scale as Lovecraft Country. When I said block by block, I wasn’t being facetious – the book details every noteworthy building, person and secret within the city limits, from Keziah Mason’s Witch House to Herbert West, Reanimator. This is everything you need to run scads of games in Arkham, even after you’ve finished the four pre-written scenarios included in the back. The book also includes, in true handouts-loving Chaosium fashion, a lovely reference map for players and a copy of the local newspaper (this is silly, but it also blew my mind when I saw it as a kid).

That said, Arkham Unveiled is a touch on the dry side, perhaps necessarily so, as it is the first example in a new kind of sourcebook. It does provide a solid foundation for the other volumes in the series, which get increasingly wild (I should mention that I covered the final and perhaps best sourcebook in the series, Escape From Innsmouth, back in October).

Also of note: the series was revised, expanded and reprinted in the early 2000’s. In Arkham Unveiled’s case, it was reissued under the name H.P. Lovecraft’s Arkham. The 1990 edition is superior – the 2003 edition does switch out one of the scenarios, but is bogged down with a section that makes the book compatible with the loathsome D20 system and features hideous 3D videogame-style character portraits. Avoid.

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