Miskatonic University...that renowned institution of higher learning made famous (or infamous) in the tales of the Cthulhu Mythos by H.P. Lovecraft and others, comes to life in this fantastic supplement for the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game from Chaosium. Within these pages you'll find everything you'll need to attend, work at, or investigate the hallowed and haunted halls of Miskatonic. This is without a doubt a long awaited supplement for this horror RPG. The designers of this supplement have brought Miskatonic to life and created a setting that will excite players for a long time.
The first chapter begins with a lengthy history of the university and its founding in mysterious Arkham, MA, in 1690. Noted is the role that the town of Arkham played in the witchcraft hysteria of 1692 as some residents fled Salem to come to Arkham. Even one of Miskatonic's founders would be accused of witchcraft. Miskatonic's history and expansion is traced from its founding right up through the 20th century. A campus guide and detailed map notes the locations of all the buildings on campus including the dilapidated "Witch House" at 197 E. Pickman St. There is a lengthy section on Orne Library, one of the most important buildings, which provides maps of each floor, profiles of employees and frequent visitors as well as the noted collections housed there. These include some of the most famous tomes of dark lore in the world including The Book of Eibon, the Malleus Maleificarum (Hammer of the Witches), Nameless Cults, and, of course, the Necronomicon. Stats are provided for each book that detail sanity checks for reading them, weeks to study, and the spells/benefits gained once the book has been completed.
Thinking of attending or working at Miskatonic? Then chapter two gets you started with details on campus life, where to live and dine, social life, student organizations, honor societies, academic clubs, and secret societies. For those looking to join the Miskatonic staff there are details on faculty tenures and salaries. Each school is briefly profiled along with the important staff members. Chapter three further fleshes out life in and around Miskatonic with detailed information on topics such as tuition, financial aid, student employment, grades and report cards, academic requirements, and more. New skills such Cryptography and Zoology are included as well. There's even a section on creating a student investigator character.
All this leads up to chapter four, the Miskatonic Secrets! There are mazes of sewers and tunnels under the school, many predating the schools founding. What lies within those tunnels is up to the players to find out. Tunnel maps and the various entrance and exit points are noted. Information on known occultists, secret cults such as the Esoteric Order of the Dragon and The Witch Cult, and various legends and mysteries are included and can make for great adventures. There are over a dozen adventure hooks in all in this chapter and the Keeper should have no trouble coming up with his or her own.
Chapter five is a lengthy introductory scenario as players, either students or faculty characters, investigate the mysterious death of a student who was found dead in the Orne Library. The adventure moves briskly and gives players a great feel for the Miskatonic atmosphere and its abundant secrets. Finally the appendices include over two dozen new spells, as well as additional skills and playing information.
One of the things I loved about the book is the interior art. Interior art in a role-playing game supplement is often unimportant and thus sometimes done haphazardly, but note here. The artists did a magnificent job of capturing the look and feel of 1920's/30's New England. Further, and maybe it's just me, but the character in most of the portraits look a bit crazy if not outright sinister which only adds to the dark mood of the setting. While the information is abundant, the designers didn't make it all encompassing. There is still a lot of room for the Keeper to improvise and shape Miskatonic anyway they desire. Bottom line: this is a fantastic setting that truly captures the essence of Lovecraft's work. Highly recommended!
Reviewed by Tim Janson