*This was originally written for The British Fantasy Society.
Vermont is one of the smallest states in the United States, but not only because of its size. It is one of the least populated states in the union, and with so few potential witnesses it is just perfect for an occult mystery. Chaosium’s A Time to Harvest sends investigators out into Vermont’s wilderness in the early 20th century to investigate an ever-increasingly bizarre and complicated mystery.
From cover to cover this is a well-crafted campaign with enough material to occupy players for a long time. Not only is the mission itself substantial, but there is also an abundance of information available from start to finish that can be reused for homebrewed missions. Locations are extremely detailed, and there is an army of great NPCs, as well as extras including maps and lore. It is entirely full-colour, easy to read through, and there are quality free supplements available for download. (See the publisher’s website.) There’s just a lot of material here.
Of particular note is how well-conceived the mission is. All of the different actors have clearly defined objectives. The investigators themselves, obviously, but also the antagonists and NPCs. Putting it all together makes the story work seamlessly as it’s easy to understand how all of the different parts are supposed to be working in concert.
None of this is to say that this is simple, because it isn’t. Reading through this left me with the impression that solving A Time to Harvest would be a real challenge. Not just for the players, but especially for the Keeper. I would go so far as to say that this is probably a poor introduction for someone looking to get their first taste of running a game. The campaign is very open, giving players a lot of latitude for decision-making, which is often a trait gamers like.
However, new Keepers may have trouble keeping everyone on track because even if there is a lot of freedom for the players, there are still objectives and checkpoints that must be arrived at. Failing to meet those won’t ruin the campaign, but will require modifications in how subsequent gaming sessions are run. Essentially, some consequences must be managed by the Keeper that is determined by player actions (or inaction!). People new to the role may have difficulty with this, unfortunately making it less accessible for rookie Keepers.
Despite the potential limitations for less-experienced gamers, this whole book left me impressed. It’s just a great book and fits the source material extremely well. I could very easily see this being a reference on its own, as much as the campaign is. For Call of Cthulhu fans, this is a strong addition to the game’s product line and will be a welcome addition to a collection.