Thursday, August 16, 2012

Review: The Monolith from Beyond Space and Time

The Monolith from Beyond Space and Time is a response to the frequent complaint that the saturation of H. P. Lovecraft undermines Lovecraftian themes.  Lovecraft is ruined forever because someone made a plush Cthulhu.

This, of course, is a fallacy.

As Mr. Raggi says in the Author's Note, "But uninteresting is uninteresting no matter how original the topic, and interesting is interesting no matter how unoriginal the topic. Making it interesting is the difficult, but important, bit." So, The Monolith from Beyond Space and Time can be considered an adventure that reconstructs Lovecraftian tropes after the overworked squamous, tentacled, cyclopean stereotype.

The Monolith details a location that can be placed in any sandbox campaign: a forested valley ringed by mountains.  All told, it probably encompasses a square mile of territory.  The valley is Weird, though; depending upon the DM, it's possible that it's always been there, or that it just appeared one day.  Perhaps it even has a fixed location, but the adventurers stumble into about twenty miles away from where it's located on the map.  People who enter the valley tend to never return.

That's the setup.  The valley, of course, houses the titular Monolith and contains all the weirdness that the Monolith brings with it.  Traversing the valley brings one directly into contact with Things Beyond, and the entire place runs on alien geometries (it's entirely possible that the valley itself is millions of miles across, and that you'll encounter yourself from the future; it's equally possible that neither of these things are true).  As for the Monolith itself, well, it's entirely worth investigating, but as with most Raggi modules, you likely won't return the same as you left.  If you return at all.

This module emphasizes the "unknowable alienness" of Lovecraft and de-emphasizes the "fuck 'em and let Cthulhu sort 'em out" descent of Call of Cthulhu.  In that respect, it reads as though it's as challenging to run as it is to play, as one has to explain things that don't make sense as we understand them.  For example, assume there are two characters; there is a possible effect whereby one character might move, one character might remain in place, but both characters remain together.  As Mr. Raggi says, "Good luck describing that to your players!"

I'd recommend The Monolith from Beyond Space and Time if you want a dungeon crawl with minimal focus on combat, or if you want to give your players a strange and unnerving experience.  Or if you just want to mess with the players.  If you want something more straightforward, you might want to shy away from this one.

6 comments:

  1. You keep discovering or creating such awesome settings and modules, all of which I want to play. I don't know if we'll ever have enough time to do them all! PLAY ALL THE THINGS.

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  2. You should run this for us. I'm just sayin'.

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    1. I'm hardly opposed. Remember that Lamentations sandbox I was making with Renegade Crowns? I plan on seeding it with a bunch of modules, Monolith included.

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    2. Shoot: I actually thought I was responding to the Death Love Doom post. (The two are equivalent in my mind.)

      I actually agree with Raggi here, more or less: while a plush Cthulhu doesn't ruin Lovecraft, saturation and over-familiarization of Lovecraftian particulars, however, undercuts the themes, I think.

      I remember when I first started LARPing with y'all, and at one point something like, "But he was really a Byakhee, LOL" was put out during a wrap-up, and I thought... that's missing the trees for the forest. "Byakhee" isn't scary. "Interstellar wing'd moloid/crowish/buzzard things, etc" is.

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    3. Well, I'm putting Death Love Doom in there, too.

      I'm actually keen on running it, and several people I know seem keen on playing it. Fantasy fucking Vietnam. Accent on "fucking."

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  3. If you run this, I want in. If not, I am buying the hell out of this.

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