Dark Designs (1991)

Dark Designs is one of but two books of scenarios Chaosium produced for the Cthulhu by Gaslight setting. It is solid, but underscores some of the issues I mentioned in yesterday’s post.

There are three scenarios. The middle one is the most Mythos-y, featuring a weird fungus monster imported from Sumatra and also involves a lady with amnesia. It is a fine starter scenario for the setting, but otherwise unremarkable.

The other two scenarios form up an excellent two part campaign involving occultists trying to raise up entities tied to England’s ancient folklore. There are all sorts of delightful terrors, from the Green Man to a curious legend about Merlin to a mysterious wooden head to a great deal of antlers, altogether a fun mix of Hammer films and folk horror vibes.

Thing is, there’s plenty of Mythos stuff woven in there and I don’t think you need it. A high percentage of Call of Cthulhu scenarios position the Mythos as the secret truth behind everything, but that seems a bit reductive to me and this is no exception. The presence of mythos horrors actually diminishes the quality of these scenarios. They’re still pretty great, all things considered, but they’d have been even better as straight English folk horror. Though I suppose that is a hard ask for an RPG named after Cthulhu.

That cover is something special, though. Like, what the hell is it? I always thought of it as a shark corrupted by some sort of parasite, but there are no proboscis-sporting sharks present in the scenarios. I’ve come to terms with the fact that it is supposed to portray a Hound of Tindalos – weird entities that lurk in the corners of Time and punish those who would try to manipulate it. A pretty strong deterrent for time travel, if you ask me.

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