New Tales of the Miskatonic Valley (2008)

Keith Herber’s Lovecraft Country work is among my favorite material for Call of Cthulhu. For Chaosium, it consists of seven books. There are regional sourcebooks for the towns of Arkham, Dunwich, Kingsport and Innsmouth. Those are supplemented by three collections of scenarios: Tales of the Miskatonic Valley, Adventures in Arkham Country and Dead Reckonings. And then the line shriveled up, which is perplexing considering the sheer amount of material in the region sourcebooks.

New Tales of the Miskatonic Valley (2008) was Keith Herber’s attempt at a revival, a full decade after Dead Reckonings. Rather than for Chaosium directly, he published this on his own, under license, through his new company Miskatonic River Press. It was meant to be the start of something and in that lens it was promising. All these scenarios demonstrate the enduring appeal of the setting while feeling both familiar and new at the same time. So rooted to their setting, these scenarios could almost be short stories.

That implies a richness, which they have in spades. But that also makes them less approachable that some scenarios. My favorite is Herber’s “Proof of Life,” which is set in the new town of Foxfield and speaks pretty uniquely of that community’s history. But at the same time, if the investigators aren’t residents, how the devil do you ensnare them in the plot? It isn’t clear and speaks to something I had previously taken for granted about scenario design. All the scenarios here suffer from this problem to some degree. My other fave, “Spirit of Industry,” which involves a possibly haunted saw mill, is maybe the least egregious, though.

The art is all by Jason Eckhardt, who I adore from previous Lovecraft Country work, but there is something here that leaves me a little lukewarm. He’s still doing all the stuff I like, so I suspect it is something about the printing process.

The real bummer about New Tales is that it is a beginning and an abrupt end. Herber passed away in 2009. Too soon.

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