The Long Reach of Evil is the fifth volume of Goodman Games’ ‘Age of Cthulhu’ series, for 1920s 5.6th Edition Call of Cthulhu. The book consists of three adventures in wildly disparate parts of the world: Peru, Sumatra and Tibet. Do these adventures ‘bring the excitement of heroic pulp-themed adventure to your gaming table’ as promised, and what do they have to offer beginners or experienced Keepers and Investigators?
The Long Reach of Evil is an 72-page staple bound book, with a glossy colour cover. The image is by Eddie Sharam, showing Cthulhu taking a big tasty bite out of the Earth. Yum yum. Bradley McDevitt produced the interior illustrations and NPC portraits, and Tom Martin the computer generated maps. Some of the illustrations are useful for showing during play, but most are there to set the mood for the Keeper, or to aid in describing certain scenes. Handouts and maps appear at the end of each adventure only. One set of pre-generated characters are included at the very end of the book.
The main text is in a double format layout, with shaded box-outs for some supplementary information. All the pages is shaded a sepia-brown, but is otherwise clean and easy to read. The maps and documents are not all so easy to read with this colour shading, so the Keeper may need to fiddle with a scanner or photocopier to get the best out of these sheets. Some of the handouts are in three columns for handouts. There’s a header and footer of squamous tentacles and forbidden tomes which is not overwhelming. Text to be read directly to the players is shown in italics, though not all italic text is to be read, so be careful. Although the layout of the adventures are not all identical, they share many common elements which makes it fairly easy to find similar information across the adventures. The contents are just a bare list of the introduction, adventures and appendices. Not unusually for a collection of adventures, there’s no index at all.
‘The Long Reach of Evil’ is the title of the introduction, which notes that the adventures were all designed as separate stand-alone scenarios. Some attempt to tie them together has been made by the inclusion of dreams which cross-reference the adventures, and may provide additional clues for investigators. The book also assumes that the the investigators are members of society affiliated with Miskatonic University, which sends out groups to collect occult information and tomes. No further details are given of this group, but as some of the PCs who work for it appear to have shady pasts it may be ethically questionable, at best.
SPOILERS FROM HERE ON
Fires of Sumatra by Richard Pett
The investigators are summoned by telegram to the Dutch East Indies, where they find their contact has disappeared and that a disastrous plot is underway to summon Cthugha. The default mode for the adventures suggests starting with the investigators already captured by the bad guys. They will also have been subjected to an unpleasant spell, that racks their bodies and attracts a deadly mythos creature to them. There is the option of a standard start with the investigators having a chance for some investigation before being captured, but the adventure does require the investigators to be taken to make this adventure work. I would think most Call of Cthulhu players would be OK with this, but consider your players if running this adventure.
Assuming the investigators escape from their initial trap, they must travel back to civilization and then infiltrate the cultists’ bases. Hopefully they will free their contact, learn the full plans of the cultists and gain some idea of how they may be thwarted. Nearly all they meet are under the sway of the cultists, but perhaps a few NPcs will aid the investigators in their final assault on the volcano summoning site. Fortunately for the investigators, the solution to their curse and to stopping the summoning is the same - target those leading the chanting. Former foes may become allies once the true form of the summoning is revealed, but there is still the small matter of an erupting volcano to escape... This is a pretty fun pulpy adventure, as long as the players can stand the ordeal their investigators face. It perhaps devolves into physical violence a bit easily, but clever players can still gain advantages by other means. The shading effects these maps the worst, and some of the floor plans are rather small to be much use.
Terror At the Top of the World by Rick Maffei.
This adventure sends the investigators to Tibet, on the track of just what drove an eminent anthropologist to madness and death. Joining an expedition in India, the investigators discover more confusing facts about the anthropologist’s death. They will also realise that something is very wrong in the region, and that a powerful spirit stalks those with secrets to hide. A series of interesting encounters, and shocking deaths, should lead the investigators to a secret house where a powerful gateway is being completed. The investigators should be just in time to prevent the completion of this mandala and dismiss the spirit.
This is fairly short adventure in the conclusion, with only one or two antagonists. There is a fair amount of investigation, and the adventure could be lengthened by playing up the travel to this remote region. There are rules included for handling the high altitude conditions, and the cultural traditions of the Tibetans seemed to be handled well and interestingly. The atmosphere is nicely conveyed in meetings with the monks (including a particularly obsessive anchorite), and with the locals. A good adventure, and not really very pulpy at all. The maps and handouts are all clearer, too.
Abominations of the Amazon by Mike Ferguson
The investigators are attracted to Peru by either the desire to find their lost archaeologist friend, or a great legendary treasure. They must brave half-human cultists and serpent men to locate the ruins, rescue as many of the expedition members as they can, and try to escape with as much treasure as they can. The scenes follow in pretty much a set order, so that the only significant map is simply a central chamber with 6 passages radiating off it. The style of this adventure is certainly pulpy - rescuing a fair maiden before she is sacrificed, saving the Professor from an alien fear machine, setting off explosives to destroy the serpent men temple and trying to escape with the gold before the temple collapses. There are some additional rules to cover a river boat chase and operating the alien machines, and some skill rolls have positive or negative modifiers to make them easier or harder than normal. There has been some infighting within the serpent men ranks, though it is very hard for the investigators to use this to their advantage.
Unless the investigators are defeated particularly easily, the adventure seems likely to end with a big bang. I’m sure you could have fun with this adventure. It seems straightforward to run, and is probably pretty good for novice Keepers and investigators. Some notes are given for those who want to create their own characters, with important skills listed. More experienced players have probably already investigated ruins in the South American jungle that had rather more Lovecraftian character, and may feel it’s all a bit old hat. An OK adventure, but the weakest of the three.
- One good pulp adventure, one good traditional one and a third adequate pulp one
- Well laid out in a similar way for each adventure with good summaries
- Mostly good maps, handouts and drawings
- The last adventure is probably nothing new to experienced players
- Poor legibility of some maps, sepia shading not that appealing
- Connections between adventures and pre-generated characters not very exciting
The Long Reach of Evil is a good collection of adventures, with a two-thirds successful strike rate in my opinion. For beginning Keepers looking for pulpy adventures in far flung locations I can certainly recommend it. Two of the adventures are above average with interesting features for even experienced players. Cthulhu himself may not have much to be with any of these adventures, but his reach still provokes interesting scenario ideas from many publishers, including this qualified success of a collection.
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