Review of Escape From Innsmouth

Chaosium, 1992

By Kevin A. Ross

It always seems that the best Chaosium products are those that are most tightly connected to Lovecraft’s writings (witness the grand Beyond the Mountains of Madness if you want another example), and Escape From Innsmouth does well to support this theory. Based on the short story “Shadow Over Innsmouth”, which concerns an old, seaside town crawling with Deep Ones...a town where the most powerful families have interbred with the Deep Ones, and are in the midst of converting the whole town to worshipers of Dagon...this sourcebook/campaign book details the goings on of this corrupt, Deep One-infested seaside town, and drops the adventurers in the middle of the raid that was only briefly mentioned in Lovecraft’s story.

Before running any of the adventures contained in this book, I highly recommend that the Keeper read “Shadow Over Innsmouth”. Not only to get a better idea of the mood of the town, but to also see how well the authors of Escape weaved events, people, and places from Lovecraft’s story.

Also, I must note that this review is based on the first edition of this book. There has been a revised edition released, that contains another chapter in the Raid On Innsmouth campaign, as well as other goodies.

Nearly half of Escape From Innsmouth describes the town itself. The first twenty-odd pages deal with the public’s view of the town, and what’s Really Going On; the sinister history behind the town and it’s downfall; A chronology of events involving Innsmouth; and a general overview of what investigators can find once they arrive. Topics such as how to find Innsmouth, its climate, local government and so on, are covered in detail. In addition, Keepers are presented with a wealth of information on Deep Ones, the “Innsmouth Look”, the Esoteric Order of Dagon, and how this evil all ties in to the town, the powerful families that lord over it, and the connections to the Cthulhu gods.

The next section delves into the town itself, block by block. This is where the book starts to really shine; there are several locations within each section of town, and extensive write ups are given. For example, in the New Church Green and Old Town Square, you’ll find a great article on the Innsmouth jail, and those who are employed (and held) there; the details of St. John’s Church, one of many churches to fall under the sinister influence of the Esoteric Order of Dagon; a section describing what once was The Office of the Innsmouth Courier....and so on. And that’s just one small section of town. With all this exhaustive information on the town’s locations and residents, not to mention various locales scattered around the outskirts of town, a clever Keeper could run several adventures based this information alone. Some of the populous are obviously not on the investigator’s side; others are scared humans who could be convinced to aid them...yet others are not human at all.

But that’s not all. There’s a “starter” scenario, Escape From Innsmouth, that Keepers can use to introduce players to the decaying, rotted town. It uses locations and people mentioned in the “Shadow Over Innsmouth” story, which is a great touch. Before running this adventure, Keepers are advised to brush up on their vehicle combat rules, as they become prominent later on in the scenario. This scenario ties into the beginning of the Raid on Innsmouth campaign, so Keepers would probably want to consider (but by no means are required to) using it as a lead in.

The Raid campaign itself is an unusual beast, but one that any Keeper worth his/her salt should have no problem running. Because of the structure of the raid (5 assault teams all hitting different locations), and because of the timeline (all 5 assaults taking place at pretty much the same time), the campaign is broken down into 3 parts, with 5 chapters each. One takes place in the smuggler’s tunnels beneath the town; another involves taking over the Marsh Mansion; yet another details the submarine attack on the underwater city of Y’ha-nthlei; and so on. It is recommended by the writer that one main PC be assigned to each raid party, while the rest of the players take control of military personnel that comprise the rest of each group- that way, no player is left out of any scenario.

In my running of the campaign, this worked perfectly; indeed, because the soldiers were kind of throwaways, the players were less reluctant to take chances with their lives, and made for some exciting scenes. Be aware, however, that this campaign is not for inexperienced players, and there are plenty of opportunities for characters to lose either their sanity or their lives.

I should also mention that the artwork in this book is wonderfully disturbing, from the tense cover painting, to the creepy portraits and sketches of the town locales. Also included is a large, pull-out map of Innsmouth, and, in the back, some Sinister Seeds- ideas for other scenarios involving (directly and indirectly) Innsmouth.

All in all, this is a fantastic book, and a perfect example of what can be derived out of H.P. Lovecraft’s legacy.

Rating: 10 Sanity Points.

P.S. In case you’re thinking of ever running a Delta Green campaign, the raid on Innsmouth is one of the pivotal events in Delta Green’s history. Thought I’d mention that in the event that you’d like to try to tie the two together....