Review of The Keeper's Companion vol. 2
By Gauntlett, Sammons, Henrikson, Dietze, and others
After the success of the first Keeper's Companion, it's no real surprise that Chaosium would release a second volume. But does it hold up to its predecessor? I'm happy to say that, except for one glaring exception, Keeper's Companion vol. 2 upholds the standards set by the first Companion.
The book wastes no time in delving into an incredibly informative and well-written article about the Prohibition Era. This essay occupies more than 50 pages, easily about 1/3 of the entire Companion. It begins with the why's and how's of the beginning of the Prohibition law, giving insight to the politics behind the birth of the temperence movement. From there, we're given insight as to how bootleg alcohol was made and transported (we're also shown some of the more colorful personalities who were behind the creation and transportation), how it was sold, and the places that sold it. Included is a chapter on "Flapperese", a list of 20's slang, as well as sections on the unsavory types who ran rumrunning businesses, and the law enforcement groups that tried to stop them.
This first section...well, it just kicks serious ass. An amazingly put together piece that jacks up the value of this book considerably. It explains the Prohibition era in a concise way, and even offers some nifty trivia along the way (such as the origin of the "Real McCoy" phrase for instance). A treasure of an article.
Mr. Sammons is back with "The Keeper's List of Lists". Essentially, this article details what era, Great Old One, Cult, Tome, or location pops up in which Call of Cthulhu adventure. I'm not sure i want to even think of how he put this list together, but it's a damned valuable one. A great resource for any Keeper who needs to, say, find out which scenarios the Cultes des Goules pops up in.
Following this is another highly infomative piece on guns entitled "Iron". A select number of handguns, rifles, and shotguns are profiled, but even more importantly, a good portion of the article is dedicated to the realities of firearms, and the consequenses of shooting them. If you have a player who loves to Chow Yun-Fat everything in sight, read this, and then throw some cold hard facts at him. That .454 you just shot? Well, the recoil knocked you off your feet, and the sound can be heard for miles. You'd hear the cop's sirens, if your hearing wasn't just ruined...
"The Mythos Collector" contains descriptions of ten Mythos Tomes that have not been talked about in detail in previous writings. I honestly don't know if some of these are original creations of the author, or if they were worked on from source material. No matter, these little tidbits are great fun, and should fuel the mind of any imaginative Keeper. We're also treated some new spells created to coincide with the new Tomes, as well as two new races. Nice.
Next up is a collection of technological artifacts that have cropped up in previous Call of Cthulhu adventures. Broken down by the race that created them, we're given descriptions for such goodies as the Deep One Berserker Drug, the Great Race's portable force field, Baron Hauptmann's spectacles, and a Shan spacecraft. Like the previous "The Keeper's List of Lists", this could not have been an easy article to piece together, but it appears very comprehensive.
The last two articles involve Deep Ones. The first is "The Diary of Dr. Lippencot", a medical examiner who has the bad luck of having to perform an autopsy on a Deep One Hybrid. Written in a journal format, and taking place in present day, this would make for the perfect jumping-off point for a modern day/Delta Green adventure. Included in the piece is the acutal autopsy report. Good stuff. The second article is called "Notes on Human-Deep One Reproduction". If you can get past the rather technical slant on the topic, it offers up a rather disturbing theory on how Deep Ones and humans are able to mate and reproduce.
The cover is graced by another stunning painting by Paul Carrick, much in the style of the first Keeper's Companion. More of Carrick's illustrations appear in the main pages of the book. The layout of the pages are pretty standard, though not spectacular. At least they didn't repeat the same mistake from the first volume.
So what is the one "glaring exception" i referred to in the beginning of this review? Well, it's an article that i cannot believe Chaosium chose to include in this book. Seriously. I was so pissed off when i finished reading it that i *almost* tore the pages out, because it was so godawful and downright offensive. The article in question is called "LaVey, Satanism, and the Big Squid", and based on the back cover description, and the introductory first paragraph, it seems as if the topic is whether or not there exists real life worshipers of Cthulhu. Fine. Good topic.
What we're assulted with instead is a pile of steaming shit that stuns me with it's self-indulgence, ignorance, and arrogance. The author trots out satanists, Anton LaVey, and Aleister Crowley, and promptly mocks them for no reason other than to make himself feel superior. To wit: "Whether one agrees with them or not, the modern Satanist/Setians are not fundamentally much more or less screwball than any other minor esoteric religion." Y'know, i know of some Satanists personally who would hunt this author down and rip him a new asshole or three if they read crap like this. Does this mean, then, that major religions *aren't* screwball? How are judgements on ANY religion relavent to the article's topic?
Here's another pearl, discussing Crowley: "[Somerset] Maugham didn't like Crowley, whose personality was certainly caustic, and tar-brushed him for the future with a lopsided description of a young man who was probably no more or less offensive than any Goth poseur of our generation." As a Goth myself, i'd like to now offer up a hearty FUCK YOU to the author. Mr. Olmstead-Dean also seems particularly fixated on Crowley's homosexuality (although in the article, he refers to Crowley as bisexual as well- yet another example of the author's complete lack of brain cells. Being bi and being gay simply aren't the same thing); why? What point does this have to the overall topic at hand? Or bashing Goths and Satanists?
And that's one of the biggest reasons i have with this stunningly poor excuse for writing. The author spends only about one page actually discussing the existance of real Cthulhu worshipers; the rest of the time, he's ridiculing LaVey and Crowley. What's the fucking *point*? What relevance does any of that have to the proposed theme of the article? How is this going to benefit a Keeper? I have to now shake my head, as i see i've typed four paragraphs for a twit who isn't worth the energy i used to type these words out. But i had to vent, and warn you about this horrible essay. I cannot for the life of me think of what compelled Chaosium to include this.
Despite that, i highly recommend Keeper's Companion vol. 2. Keepers new and veteran will find plenty of information and goodies within. Just avoid pages 54 to 58 like the plague.
Rating: 8.5 Sanity Points