The Black Seal Issue 3 

The Black Seal Issue 3 

From: Brichester University Press
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

The Black Seal Issue 3 is part of a new Magazine from Brichester University Press.

The Black Seal is a semi-annual magazine put out by guys in the UK who are huge fans of the Cthulhu Now/Delta Green type horror.  For those gamers that want to explore the horror with their trusty sub-machine gun and high-tech gadgets at their side, this magazine appeals to the you.  Any fan of Delta Green or Cthulhu Now or any other conspiracy, intrigue, espionage, secret evil minion hunting society based game would like this magazine.

From the page 1: “ This planet is haunted by us, the other occupants just evade boredom by filling the skies and seas with monsters… – John Keel”

Issue 3, fresh off the presses for Spring of 2004, is comprised of Delta Green, Cthulhu Now and Call of Cthulhu d20 material.  It is a series of articles meant to inspire and instill horror at the same time.  This one in particular seems to be a series of articles ranging from informational pieces to adventures, from a comic strip to location descriptions that are primarily focused on harsh and foreign or alien environments.  This issue of The Black Seal promises to be as inspiring as the last one.

The magazine opens with Terra Occulta: An Atlas of Strange Places, an article on real-life strange and occult-related places.  This four page article includes fifteen different mysterious locations. All of these location involve either an artifact, a haunting, a legendary monster, a strange ruin or a UFO sighting.  It includes places like San Augustine, Colombia where a series of strange statues are found and Claphan Woods in West Sussex, UK where strange UFO sightings lead to further mysterious things.  It is true, sometimes, fact is stranger than fiction, and in these 15 particular cases, they are strange enough to base a good Call of Cthulhu game on.

The next article is a short one-page description of an Unusual Suspect – The Shragged Man. Stats are given in d20 and Basic system versions.  The Shragged Man is an interesting fellow who fell from greatness via the temptation of power that the Great Old Ones promised to provide.  He is now a shriveled and mutated version of his former self, playing music on the side of the street as a busker. He would serve as a adventure hook and a plot device because the songs he sings are tainted with mythos lore.

One of the largest articles is called A Road Less Traveled: A Rough Guide to Fighting Evil in a Hot Country. This seven-page article covers a lot of detail about traveling in less-civilized areas like the bush of Africa, deserts of Egypt, or jungles of Central America. From diseases and sanitation in these areas, road and equipment quality, and animal encounters to dealing with locals and authorities, this guide covers interesting and rarely thought of areas of hazardous exploring. Rules for both d20 and Basic systems are given.

From the back cover :“ The Black Seal #3 brings you Alien Cultures suitable for all tastes.. ”

Following up Issue 2 with more PISCES (Paranormal Intelligence Section for Counter-Intelligence, Espionage and Sabotage) material, the next article is an 8 page PISCES assignment adventure set in the Congo. It is a military focused adventure set in Central Africa where the players deal with self-mutilating African cults, a messenger of an Outer God, and Congo rebels.  It is an action packed and dark adventure into the hot and hazy jungles of Africa, revealing secrets that threaten mankind. The adventure is complete, with sharp looking art and maps, and includes d20 as well as Basic System rules.  

The next two articles pertain to the British Museum, apparently a place commonly used in Brian Lumely’s mythos novels.  The first article is a general overview of the museum complete with maps.  It includes notes on security, private access to special collections, and PISCES involvement. It also includes a long timeline of the history behind the museum dating back to 1753 when King George approved its charter.  There is also a NPC for the primary PISCES agent at the museum (in d20 and Basic rules).  The second article is a 3-page article on some occult artifacts found in the museum.  In it, there are 10 different items described, as well as 3 new spells and 1 creature.  I like this because it gives the museum depth and use for a Keeper wanting inspiration to explore it.

Seemingly out of nowhere, the next pages surprised me.  The next three pages are a comic strip-story pertaining to a raid on a prison for the criminally insane.  Lots of action, black-and-white gore and an interesting story – but I felt like I picked up somewhere in the middle of an already established story.  Seeing no sign of this comic in Issue 2, I have to assume it started in Issue 1, but there is no indication that it did.  So I could be wrong.  It’s well-drawn and looks great, but I am not sure what to make of it.

The next “strange place” we visit is an interesting take on Atlantis and Atlantean societies and their relationship to the occult and Cthulhu mythos. It is yet another article on an evil secret society that perpetuates the common-knowledge myths of Atlantis, the lessons and knowledge humans today can learn from the great Atlanteans.  However, at the same time this group in reality promotes the worship of the Great Old Ones and endeavors to rise up the Old Ones from their watery graves.  The group is  is called the International Society of Atlantean Studies (ISAS) and the article is called False Mythologies: How a Euro Cult Manipulates Memory for the Benefit of Ghatanothoa . The article explains what the ISAS tells the common people and then the truth behind the scenes – its organization, cult activity, and practices.  It ends with 3 new spells, a GM advisory on how to integrate the organization into a Cthulhu Now/Delta Green/PISCES campaign, and stats for several NPCs.  Once again, the stats are given in both d20 and Basic system.  For those that are deep into these type of horror games, it’s always good to have more and more secret societies and this one supplies plenty of fuel to the plot fires of any campaign.

One of the last notable articles is an interesting and inspiring essay on a  particular conspiracy involving Delta Green and an “off-the-books directive called Resolution Zero.”  It weaves a twisted tale of the discovery of an Elder Thing city in a great hidden mountain range in Antarctica in 1931 and the attempts to study it.  This leads to the creation of the Zero Station – a “neutral zone, claimed by no nation, near the two deadly mountain ranges.”  The UN established a secret base there in that neutral zone to study, guard and report activity in the mountains. Of course, this is a modernization of the Beyond the Mountains of Madness campaign and it’s well done.  It is a dark and cold place to send investigators, but a very cool concept with an inspiring set up and background.  The map is well done and well described and the art is somewhat disturbing, to say the least – but that’s a good thing.

The magazine ends with another “Dangerous Place” article, Dangerous Place: Timsddown West, and a short adventure called Contains: One Tibetan God.  

In conclusion: Once again, The Black Seal successfully inspired me while at the same time disturbed me with their imagination and dedication to the modern espionage horror game.  I realize this is a difficult genre to keep alive because of the limited following, but The Black Seal is definitely doing its part.  Excellent work, ladies and gentleman.

For more details on Brichester University Press and their new RPG Magazine “The Black Seal Issue 3” check them out at their website and at all of your local game stores.

The Black Seal Issue 3
From: Brichester University Press
Type of Game: RPG Magazine
Editor: Adam Crossingham
Cover Art: L. Abdul Bann
Additional Art by:
L. Abdul Bann, Neil Beattie, Brian Boyington, David Conyers, Robert Corcoran, Sarah Evans, Paul J. Holden, David Lee Ingersoll, Tim Joyner, Nick Lowson, Natalie Sandells.
Number of Pages: 100
Retail Price: $ ?? (US)
Item Number: 1476-1939

Reviewed by: Ron McClung