Children of Fear (2020) is another hefty bit of proof that Chaosium of any era has a talent for massive RPG campaigns, whether elder gods are involved or not. As it happens, this Call of Cthulhu campaign doesn’t have to involve the Cthulhu Mythos at all. The main threat comes from the titular children of fear, who wish to see the gates of Agartha unlocked and the King of Fear released to unmake reality. This COULD be a face of the mythos (and there are mi-go and white apes here and there in the campaign) but it draws inspiration on non-mythos subjects like Vajrayana Buddhism, Theosophy, the fiction of Lord Bulwer-Lytton and Journey to the West.

The saga begins in Peking, where the investigators become entangled with a lama who senses the gates of Agartha are opening. In order to slam them shut again, he enlists the players to help him find the necessary artifacts that will power a ritual to save reality. To do this, they travel through China, India and Tibet, encountering wonders and wickedness both supernatural and mundane.

At 400 pages, it is quite the accomplishment by author Lynne Hardy (who, incidentally, wrote one of my favorite CoC one-shots, Scritch Scratch) — painstakingly researched, gorgeous (I love the inclusion of paintings by theosophist Nicholas Roerich) and terrible in turns (oh boy there is some deeply uncomfortable subject matter in here, including cannibalism, ritual murder and a variety of sexual situations). In terms of scope and complexity, it might be a bigger undertaking than Masks of Nyarlathotep. There are several places when reading the adventure where I paused and wondered if I could handle it (and the book isn’t quite flawless — there could be more support for GMs built in and some of the hooks that pull the story long seem wobbly as is). Still, daunting or not, an exciting effort in an unusual direction. Having read this, I’m very keen to see Hardy’s next project from Chaosium, Rivers of London.

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