Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing a Day No.286: Ramsey Campbell's Goatswood

I'm conflicted about this. As a huge fan of Ramsey Campbell's Brichester Mythos tales, I was wildly excited about this attempt at translating them into a setting for the Call of Cthulhu rpg. Unfortunately, the execution didn't quite match the expectation. It's not that Ramsey Campbell's Goatswood is all bad, but the first section does comes across as a workmanlike - and at times lifeless - process of just adding appropriate stats to Campbell's creations. This may seem a little unfair, as effectively that's the job of rpg supplements; except for the fact that some go the extra mile and establish a standard against which its difficult not to judge other work. Delta Green (which does Campbell's mythos greater justice even in the process of transforming it) being a case in point. In addition to which, Goatswood followed a range of very good Chaosium supplements covering Lovecraft Country (Arkham, Dunwich, Kingsport and Innsmouth). Granted that in these instances the writers took liberties with Lovecraft's creations, but they often did so in engaging and interesting ways, also managing to maintain something of the Lovecraftian feel of those locales.

Except for his generous introduction, Campbell's influence seems oddly distant in the Goatwood supplement - and completely missing in some of its scenario. But, to give it its due, I still have a soft spot for Goatswood and retain a ghostly replica of it in pdf format (even if disappointment caused me to sell my hardcopy some years back). It's not even that the writing is bad; just that it feels rushed, with a bunch of mismatched scenarios jammed together rather badly into the approximation of a campaign-shaped hole. The art, overall, is rather nice and quite evocative, even if this also marks the point when Chaosium's production values begin to take a downward turn (the maps are very weak, and no sign of a long-hoped for fold-out map of Brichester). In many respects a missed opportunity - although I'd like to believe that Chaosium might return to this for 7th ed. Call of Cthulhu to bring us the book we deserve.

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